Ritual or Spell?

What is the difference between a spell and a ritual? This question has been tickling my brain for weeks. A spell is an action that elicits an outcome or a change. A ritual is anything performed with intent. But a spell also needs intent to work, and a ritual can also elicit an outcome or a change.  So what is the difference?

Many rituals contain a spell as the central working – this might be the raising of energy for healing, or to manifest a named intent. But not all rituals contain a spell. Some are celebratory, performed to honour a chosen deity, or a ritual celebration of one of the major sabbat festivals. Some rituals mark the passing of the Wheel, connecting with the lunar cycle in an esbat rite, or the turning of the seasons. And some are community based and are performed as rites of passage, initiatory rites, or simply coming together with one’s group or community. Ritual is simply a structured action with a defined intent, and are repeated each year, or multiple times within the year. Ritual can be complex or simple. It can be lengthy or short. It can be performed as a group or as an individual.

So what about spells. Modern media would have us wearing pointy hats and dropping bits of small animals into a glowing cauldron, but spells are all about intention. A spell directs energy towards a goal, much like a prayer, or a wish, but usually accompanied by an overt action, like lighting a candle, burning a sigil, constructing a poppet, or some other physical representation that acts as a focus for the spell. That focus holds and directs the energy of the intention and helps the outcome to manifest. So yes, you can include a spell at the heart of a ritual. Groups raise energy and direct it to heal a sick community member, to find a lost pet or valued object, to find new coven members, to direct the spiritual growth of the members of the circle, or for many other reasons. Certainly, when groups do spells, they usually construct a ritual around them.

On the other hand, individuals might just do the spellwork without any complex ritual, depending on their preference. Spells to find a new job, to bring a love interest into a solitary life, to create abundance, to heal – the list of reasons is endless. A spell is the Pagan version of prayer. We ask our deities to intercede and bring us what we ask for, but often those requests include mirrors, or herbs, or sigil or some other physical anchor for the energy put into the request.

A dear and clever friend clarified it in a simple way. All spells are rituals but not all rituals are spells.

Just in  case you ever wondered.

Consent and Ritual Nudity

Pagans everywhere are still in a bit of an uproar. Paedophile and predator, Robyn Fletcher was released from supervision after serving 10 years in jail and another 10+ years under a supervision order. What is most upsetting are the headlines. “Paedophile witch” “Sex witch” “self-proclaimed sex witch”…

Let’s be very clear – there is no room in modern paganism for paedophilia, sexual violence or rape…or indeed any other non-consensual act. Fletcher might consider himself a witch but what he did was not witchcraft.

Consent is a challenging issue – not just for pagans but for society in general. Some groups work sky-clad (naked) in ritual but this is not to be confused with an invitation to sexual contact. Nobody has the right to touch you unless you specifically invite it – and taking your clothes off for ritual purposes is not an invitation to be touched. Holding hands is one thing. Accepting being anointed with oil is even ok (as long as you are advised beforehand, and the anointing does not touch any intimate areas).  Remember that, even if you initially said yes, you can change your mind about working naked if, at any stage, you become uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter how far into the ritual you are – if things don’t feel right, if you are touched without your consent, or if you are asked to do something that you didn’t agree to or don’t wish to do, then it is ok to take action – like putting your robes back on again, or removing yourself from the circle altogether.

Many people don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want to make a fuss, stand out, or be difficult. Especially when we aren’t sure if we have understood the situation correctly. But this is what predators count on. They beguile, they charm, they manipulate. Little by little you are nudged towards situations where you might comply simply because you don’t want to make a scene or because their intention is ambiguous.

This is not paganism. This is sexual predator behaviour. Sadly, the pagan community is a place where sexual predators can hide behind ritual nudity and more liberal attitudes towards sex and intimacy. We want you to be safe in the circle.  Read our Safety in the Circle brochure for advice on how to ensure your safe space.

Oh – and one last thing – don’t be afraid to report an assault, regardless of how you think it might look to someone in authority. If you don’t want to do it alone, let PAN help.


Remembering Peace

Peace isn’t easy. Peace comes at a price. Today is ANZAC Day where we remember the price paid for the peace we enjoy today. We can let ourselves be ruled by Mars, God of War. Be combative, difficult, rigid and judgemental; Embrace conflict and make aggression the first stop. Or we can remember that there is always another way. Let the Goddess of Peace in. Be flexible, assertive, willing to listen, and capable of change; Choose compassion and tolerance. It isn’t easy. It isn’t allowing bad behaviour,  either. It’s about choosing peaceful ways of resolving conflict.

May we always remember the cost of our choices.


Release of new PAN website

It’s all very exciting. The PAN website has had a makeover. Now you can locate an event using Maps, and download our full colour brochures. Plus regular blog posts will highlight what’s been happening around Australia in the Pagan community. We will even be introducing a new Members Section with some special treats just for our supporters. Let us know what you think about it!