Generally speaking, one of the most basic activities of a magickal group is the performance of ritual. In the following essay, I will attempt to describe for the newcomer to cyberspace how it is that we hold rituals and do magic on-line, at least in my tradition.
In the physical plane, ritual is characterized by ten elements:
1. The gathering of people in a designated space with a specific intent or purpose.
2. The creation of a sacred circle.
3. The calling of the Guardians/Elements to protect the circle.
4. The ritual invocation of the Lord and Lady.
5. Raising power.
6. Sending/releasing the power.
7. Thanking the Lord and Lady for their Presence.
8. Releasing the Guardians
9. Opening of the circle.
10. Cakes and wine.
In a cyber coven, the steps are similar, but the execution of them is different.
Online, we gather in a ritual room on IRC (internet relay chat) at an agreed upon time. Before doing so, we individually cast circles around our computers. That is, our computers and desks become our altars, although for some, the circle encloses the entire room. Each of us creates our circle according to our own, eclectic tastes, but when our High Priestess calls us to order with the words “Mighty Mother!“ we become one circle. A shining globe of linked spheres, united worldwide. The four quarters are called to protect us and the Lord and Lady asked to be with us and bless us in our circle. Then the ritual begins.
In a physical coven, chanting and drums are often incorporated as a method of altering the participants’ consciousness, and raising power. This power is then directed toward a specific purpose and sent in a final surge towards a goal. Online, we also raise power, and it is a skillful High Priestess who is able to feel and direct the power raised worldwide. Tricky, yes, but completely possible.
During Sabbats, instead of raising power we call down either the Lord or the Lady. They manifest themselves in the physical presence of our High Priestess or High Priest. We, the coven, then speak directly with the God/dess and ask for guidance. It is through this direct contact with the Divine that we make our desires manifest and ask that our needs be fulfilled. In Esbats, we generally use our skills of visualization to cast spells toward a specific purpose. In this case, we use physical symbols — a red cord, a piece of paper — to represent our need. Directed by our High Priestess, calling upon our own energies, we visualize our desire and release the energy. As a group, we perform these actions individually in our sacred hoops, and the power is increased exponentially.
To close, we thank the Lord and Lady for the blessing of their presence, release the Guardians from their protective stance and open the circle. Cakes and wine are left to individual preference — we all eat and drink with reverence, but not within the circle.
As in physical covens, the ability to alter one’s consciousness is a learned skill and individual experiences can be vastly different within the same ritual (i.e., your mileage may vary). Some members feel strong currents of energy flow through them throughout the entire ritual, others feel waves and surges of energy, and still others feel nothing. Outcomes of ritual also vary, as it does in physical covens, with successful consequences being frequent, but failures do occur. One nice thing about cyber rituals is that an automatic log of the ritual is kept and so the Book of Shadows grows fairly quickly. As well members who were unable to be there can share in the experience, even if only through reading the log.
What is clear to me is that there are times when I am aware of sitting in a darkened room staring a (essentially) a TV screen, waiting for something to happen. Other times I have felt energy flowing through me and my hair standing on end as the hands of the Lady touch my forehead in blessing and tears run down my face.
What makes a successful ritual? Another way to ask this question is: How can I maximize my on-line ritual experience? The most important thing you can do is to take cyber ritual seriously. Just because no one can see you doesn’t mean you can sit in front of your computer, eating Fritos, drinking a Coke and toggling between IRC and Solitaire.
Here are some specific steps you can take to improve your online ritual cohesion:
1. Take a ritual bath or shower. Cleanse yourself of the day’s residue. Say a blessing as the water flows over you, put rosemary and salt into the bath water as it fills. Start over, fresh and clean.
2. Make sure your ritual time will be undisturbed, Just because you are physically ‘there’ doesn’t mean you are available to other members of your household. Be very clear and firm about this.
3. Wear your ritual clothing. I actually have two sets of clothing which I wear according to the air temperature. Silk in Spring and Fall, cotton in Summer with socks in the winter. Unlike a physical coven, it can get very cold sitting in one place.
4. Cast your circle around your altar and include your computer. See it as a blue or white sphere glowing on a map of the earth.
5. Visualize the opening and closing of the circle, see the athame in the High Priestess’s hand, linking together all of the members until the world is encircled in shining jewels of light.
6. If, during the ritual, you feel your attention wavering or your energy flagging, take a moment to regroup. Human energy fluctuates. Pause and center yourself . Chant the words on the screen out loud. Meditate for a few moments on he purpose of the ritual. Ask the Lord or Lady for a ‘boost.’
7. Allow humor into the circle — the world works in mysterious ways. Typos happen and some of them are truly hilarious. Let them be, we can always spell check the log. (Water towers anyone?)
Remember that if you get ‘pinged out’ or disconnected, remain calm. Log in again and re-enter the circle. If you aren’t allowed in (sometimes we ‘lock’ the door), DCC the ritual Guardian and s/he will open the circle for you to be re-admitted. Sometimes an uninvited guest will show up and not leave. In this case, let the Guardian kick/ban them.