Rituals Versus Habits


I just recently finished “Rituals for Beginners,” it’s a fairly quick read and has some important things in it like correspondences and discussions of appropriate timing for one’s rituals. However, it starts off with a premise I take a little bit of issue with.


Habits and rituals, according to the author, are essentially interchangeable. Anything that you do on a regular basis is a ritual. I disagree. I think things done with true intention are rituals and other things you do regularly are simply habits. This is not meant to downplay the importance of habits or make anyone think they should go through and ritualize everything in their lives. I just think that there is a fundamental difference between the two and that difference is intent.


What is Intent?


Intent is, according to Webster’s, something you are resolved or determined to do. I can see where this would seem like it falls into habit territory, but hear me out. However, resolve or determination is something that requires thought. Habits, by their very nature, are things we rarely think about. Therefore, a ritual, as an occurrence with intent, falls into a category of its own. In some religious structures, things we would consider simple habits become rituals because they are done with the intent to worship, particularly in Eastern religions. This can even be true in Christianity which says one should do all things as if doing them for God. However, the intent of worship still defines the difference between that as a habit or a ritual.


Again, this is not to say that habits are bad things to have. According to some scientists, habits make up a good 90% of what we actually get done during the day. This is only to point out a fundamental difference between habits and rituals.


Ritualizing Your Life


All things do not need to rise to the level of ritual; however, everything can. Again, it requires thought and perhaps preparation in order to perform a ritual. In the magical realms, there are certain things which are expected such as crafting a circle of protection around one’s self to insure the magical working does no harm to you. Preparation or setting the stage for things to happen is very important. It moves your mind into the appropriate sense and feeling in order to truly perform the ritual.


So what three things does one need in order to create a ritual?

  1. Forethought/Intention

  2. Time

  3. Action

Why do I include time as something you need in order to create a ritual? Because you don’t want to rush or be rushed when it comes time to commune with a power greater than yourself. All rituals don’t have to be long drawn out affairs, but they should take up some of your time which draws you into the correct headspace.


One of the simplest rituals I know is a prayer before a meal. It can easily become a rote action, but if you take a moment between bowing your head and beginning to pray to put your mind toward the divine, it returns to being a proper ritual. That moment of intention elevates the simple action.


It is through that minor elevation we are brought closer to divinity and magic.


In conclusion, habits are habits and rituals have the added element of intention. It is possible to raise anything to the level of ritual given the right mindset and a little time.


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