Wiccan rituals are quite numerous and involve the full range of human life and experience. Some rituals serve as rites of passage or markers of major life events, while others are prayers or "spells" for mundane blessings and comforts in life, such as money, health, friendship, love, or good outcomes in business or other endeavors.
Wiccan rituals can be practiced by individuals alone or in a group given that some Wiccans practice as solitaries, while others join covens. Sometimes covens are limited to 13 people, after which they will divide. In some traditions, a grouping of multiple covens is called a "grove."
Wiccan rituals often involve "casting a circle" - that is, drawing a circle on the ground or delineating it in a group by everyone standing and holding hands. The circle may be marked with candles at the points of the cardinal directions, or with the 5 points of the pentacle. Everyone standing in the circle will face inward toward one another. The altar will be at the center of the circle.
Depending on the ritual or spell, a variety of implements or tools may be used. These include: a knife, a wand, a chalice, a cauldron, statues of gods and goddesses, a broom, candles, water, bells, herbs, stones, salt, essential oils, incense and more. The leader of the ritual may speak words, reading from a text or extemporaneously. Others in the group may or may not speak as well.
Rituals mark the main Wiccan holidays (mentioned on this page) as well as other events, such as:
- dedication - someone affirms interest in the religion or "craft"
- initiation - into Wicca or the "craft"
- handfasting - for some Wiccans, this is a marriage for a year and a day, at which point both parties decide whether to continue or not. For other Wiccans, this is simply a marriage ceremony for permanent partnership. Some Wiccans have been recognized by civil authorities as "clergy" and can perform this as a marriage. Also, some Unitarian Universalist ministers will perform this ritual
- parting of the ways - a dissolving of a marriage or handfasting
- wiccaning - welcoming a baby into life and into the family of the religion - this does not obligate the baby in any way to practice the religion
- funeral - a ceremony for the deceased, usually not the actual burial
Many instructions for rituals and spells are contained in The Book of Shadows, a text that exists in several different versions and adaptations. Gerald Gardner, one of the founders of modern Wicca, wrote his own version of this book in order to instruct new practitioners in the ways of the "Old Religion." Others have written their own versions, using adapted or customized spells. Some editions of this text - which is the closest thing to a sacred text found in Wicca - read like diaries or practical "how to" books in terms of providing instructions for various prayers, spells and rituals.
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