All the steps in your preparation for ritual are vitally important to the success and safety of your ritual and spell casting. None are more important, however, than your spiritual and psychic preparation. This final step in your preparation, if done carefully, and with consideration and thoughtfulness, will enable you to control the energies that you call forth. First prepare yourself through ritual cleansing. Take a ritual cleansing bath, using bath salts, or whatever makes you feel most peaceful and comfortable within your own skin. It’s not about cleansing the body; it’s about cleansing the mind and spirit. Once you are done, stay in the tub while the water drains, and let all the stresses of the day drain away with the water.
It now comes down to your actual ritual. Think about what you want to accomplish in your ritual. State your intention. Are you seeking love, money, understanding, health, or protection? Determine this before you choose your ritual. Write it down. Do research to discover which deity governs your chosen area. Learn something about them. What do they prefer in ritual? This is not always easy to discover, but if you do your research and listen to your intuition, you will most likely do fine.
Once you have done the basic goal setting and learning about the deity involved, you can begin to prepare your invocation. Your invocation is how you ask for the help of the god and goddess. Some people find it helpful to write down a step by step structure for their rituals to keep them on track and within the limits of what they have chosen to do. As I’ve mentioned before, just as not all people are friendly, not all the energies in the universe are friendly either. You don’t want to allow your ritual to go outside the limits of your ability to control, and having a written structure can help you in that area.
A written structure can also help you know when and how to end your ritual. You will need to have a specific and firm ending to close the ritual, and release the energies you have been dealing with. Do not end your ritual without this.
Once you have done this, and after having made sure you have cleansed and prepared your ritual space, you will need to set a circle of protection. You can use something physical such as candles, or salt, to set the stage for your visualization of your circle, or you can choose to only visualize your circle only. Either way, you will cast the circle as well as setting it up. There are a number of rituals that will include setting your circle as part of the instructions. I generally use my athame to set the visualization; however, if you are new to ritual, you may want to have something physical to help you with the visualization. Most people see the circle as a pure blue or white light. The circle will help you gather energies and it will serve as your protection as well.
Be assertive in your rituals. Never take a tentative approach. If you are not sure of yourself, and your goals, do not practice alone. Work with a group of experienced witches if you need to until you are more confident. You must know what you hope to accomplish, and how you hope to accomplish it. Half measures allow for unwelcome energies to enter your rituals, especially if you are unsure when casting your circle. When you are sure of yourself and your goals, proceed with respect for the universe and the God and Goddess, and you will be fine.
On a last note, make sure you are grounded before you start your ritual. There are many different ways to ground yourself, and grounding in this case is simply a way of connecting your subconscious to the energy of the earth. The method I use is to visualize a tree growing down my spine and into the earth, connecting me to that energy. Grounding is another way to protect yourself during ritual work.
The specifics of the ritual will be determined by the path you choose, and your goals, but these basic steps should get you started. Rituals don’t have to be complex. You can start simply if you choose and work up to more complex rituals. If you are new to ritual and spell casting, you should definitely start with a simple ritual, or work with a group of experienced practitioners.
As you work your rituals, whether simple or complex, always remember the first law of magic. What you send out, whether good or bad, will come back to you threefold. Take responsibility for your actions, and it harm none, do as though will. Always work with positive intentions. Also remember in all your preparations, the first key to magic is to understand yourself and the basics of the physical world around you. Then you can learn to work with the energies of the universe.