CREATING A RITUAL
A very non-confusing, concise step method to creating a ritual is presented in Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. I reprint it here not to steal from the book (you should definitely check it out if you'd like a nice introduction to Wicca, in my opinion), and I am not intending to infringe on copyright. I repeat the information in the book because I think Scott Cunningham did a great job and I'd like to promote his ideas as well as help anyone who wants to know. That said, here is Mr. Cunningham's list of steps to making a good ritual:
I will explain these a little bit for you, especially the "ritual observance" part since that is the only part not addressed elsewhere.
Purifying yourself is the first part of this . . . for rituals that's more important than any other time, as rituals tend to be longer than most other magick workings. Take a nice bath, maybe with scented candles burning, appropriate oils poured into the tub, washing yourself with scented soaps or whatever you'd like to do. You might have salt in your bathwater to represent the Earth, and of course scented oils are for the Air, candles around the bath are for Fire, and the water itself is for Water. It is good to refresh yourself somehow before you begin a ritual; it will enhance your experience so much! After you get out of the bath, you should say any special chants you have or play some music, maybe rub oil or scents onto your skin, and put on any magickal jewelry or clothes you will be wearing during the ritual. (Of course, if you're not going to be wearing anything, this can be disregarded!)
Purification of space and creating of sacred space are covered in the circles section. Shortly, your space can be purified by using the besom (broom) to sweep out negative energies, and you should cast your circle in any way that you like (refer to the circles page for more information on circle casting). Remember that you will need to have all your items for your ritual inside the circle before you cast it! This will require research and preparation, which I will mention in the "ritual observance" discussion.
Invocation is similar to other magickal workings. In a ritual, you are often honoring a specific deity or aspect of a deity, so your invocation might be somewhat different, addressing the deity or presence you are calling as a subject of special honor. You might take more time to greet Them or you might have offerings or special representations of Them for your ritual. If you usually use red and green candles for the God and Goddess, setting your ritual apart from "everyday" magick for a Sabbat or Esbat might involve using gold and silver candles instead, or even special candleholders. Whatever you like.
Now comes the biggie: Ritual observance. Rituals are designed pretty much by you, but you should definitely have inspiration from others. You will get the hang of creating rituals after you've done it a few times. You will want to RESEARCH your ritual's purpose. For instance, suppose you are celebrating Samhain; you would want to find out what Samhain is all about, first of all, by reading several versions of the Samhain story. In this case (in short), this is the passing of the God into the cauldron of the Goddess, and He will be reborn on Yule. You should think about what this stirs in you. Of course, it is similar to the idea of the God "dying." Therefore, this ritual might give mention to death; to acceptance of death, to pondering of the meaning of death, to honor loved ones who have died, to think about symbolic "deaths" like endings of relationships, et cetera. Also, this holiday is supposedly when the "veil" is thin between worlds; you might think of some way to take advantage of that. It is a time to revere and appreciate the night, to appreciate the cyclic nature of Nature (as are all Sabbats), and to honor the dark aspects of both the God and the Goddess. When you know these things, you think . . . what can I do? You can find out what others do, like what foods they eat to symbolize things; what sorts of practices you can do on certain holidays (such as lighting an orange candle at midnight on Samhain for good luck, carving a pumpkin or turnip, making resolutions, scrying). You should also decide HOW you want to practice; do you want to do a simple ceremony, an elaborate one; do you want to do it with friends or alone . . . it is all up to you. Ritual observance, of course, is the core of the ritual. It is all done to remind YOU of important things; make sure that whatever the original purpose of the ritual is, it is fulfilled through your actions.
Energy raising is mentioned here because sometimes you will want to include a spellcasting in your ritual, after the actual ritual's purpose has been observed (except in the case of the ritual's being held primarily to cast a spell or send energy for another purpose, like a magickal healing--then of course it is done as part of the ritual rather than after the purpose is over). Often this is a spell cast in the spirit of the event. Make sure that it is the correct moon phase to cast your spell. I must say that most times I would rather wait to cast my spells since my magickal time is better spent for the purpose of the actual ritual, but I have done it before . . . and supposedly, the three-day window around Sabbats and Esbats are very powerful times for magick, so you might do well to take advantage of them.
I must also say that I very much enjoy eating within the circle. Some people refer to the celebratory eating after a ritual or spell as the "cakes and wine ceremony" but I have never had cake (grin) and I prefer actually doing it inside the circle before I earth it, because I just like it to become PART of the ritual, sharing my happiness with whatever presences and good feelings I have invited and conjured.
Earthing the power, thanking the deities, and breaking the circle. Scott Cunningham suggests that this "earthing" happens to calm yourself down from spellworking and get rid of the extra "residual" energy that is bouncing around in the circle and in you. Eating actually helps to earth yourself and to settle your energy. As for thanking, I always express my thanks right before I shut down the circle for the night. And by the way, when I put out my candles, I always pinch them instead of blowing them out; if you blow them out, you are using the element of Air to quench the element of Fire, and . . . well, that's supposedly not so good. Usually, when I am getting rid of the energy that made up my circle, I go around three times: Once to pull in energy for myself, once to pull in energy to be stored in the handle of my athame, and once to return the rest to the Earth.
Remember that you don't necessarily have to follow these steps or do everything in a set order. Make it fun and make it your own. You can do a ritual spontaneously on a beach, outside under a full Moon, within a few minutes or over a couple of hours; it doesn't matter. Just remember that they are more expressions of joy, thankfulness, and pleasure than they are duties or serious ceremonies. You should "seriously" mean everything you do but you don't have to be bored doing it; in fact, you'd better not be. Be CREATIVE when you create a ritual. If a symbol that you've never heard of still strikes you as appropriate, USE IT. If singing is preferable to you than chanting a set verse you like, make up your own tune. Nothing can "insult" the deities or your ancestors if you honestly mean well and do everything with love. If you're looking to plan for a specific ritual on an upcoming holiday, see my Sabbats page.