Some would argue that the moment the witch begins to contemplate a rite, even if such contemplation were the result of gnosis, the magic of the rite has begun. Though the witch has not yet lifted their wand, nor lit the First Flame, the change has already begun to occur. Regardless of whether the performed rite matches the original vision (if performed at all) it has had an effect upon the witch and zer life.
However, for sake of simplicity, within the Stardust Compass the rite is spoken of having “begun” the moment the witch steps foot upon the path which leads to the space where it will take place. Take stock of all that happens before, during and after a ritual - noting what feels important (even if it’s meaning might remain enigmatic). A witch’s experiences before a rite’s first incantations can sometimes be filled with as much, or more, gnosis then the working itself.
Whether performing a working within a dwelling, or under the vaulted midnight sky, selecting the appropriate location for a ritual is a key factor in both the aesthetic comfort, and manifest success, in a witch’s magic. There are numerous elements which influence the appropriate venue for a working, but some key factors to consider are both the land’s proximity to other humans (both to avoid disturbing them, and to eschew interruptions); any signs, gates, omens, or barriers which would bar zer presence (either spiritually, mundane, legally, or more); lampposts, generators, noisy entities, or other potential sources of distraction; the terrain’s safety (or lack thereof); and natural features of of the landscape (which may, or may not, be in congruence with one’s intention).
Ideally, the witch should scout zer location prior to a working, done during the day or utilizing adequate illumination, in order to fully grasp the working area and its surroundings. Doing so also has the added benefit of helping the witch navigate to the ritual space in dark conditions (if applicable).
As witches, we can easily become so excited with the workings we are about to undertake (especially if we are focused on complicated logistics) that we entirely overlook the subtle energies & entities already present in (or surrounding) the working space. While we need not necessarily approach the area with a somber heart and silent tongue, it behooves the witch to act with intention during their ingress, congress, and egress.
Before the witch begins to approach zer space, ze should cleanse and focus zer energies (e.g.: utilizing the Arte of Prime). From here the witch should begin to sense the land around zer - both immediate and distant - focusing on both the ritual space ze is about to enter, the land upon which ze stands, and the path between them. The witch’s sensations of the land and journey will always be unique.
Some questions the witch might consider pondering are: Can the witch feel zer space from here? What about the land between? Do they feel welcoming? Are there barriers / hedges / boundaries that need to be crossed (either energetically, physically, or both) before zer arrival? Are there spirits intentionally standing between the witch and zer working space, barring the way and / or protecting it? Does the path one was planning to take to zer ritual space feel appropriate, or should an alternate journey be undertaken? Are there any warning signs (energetic or physical) which are manifesting right now (dogs barking, car alarms blaring, etc) - and do they resonate as an omen to the witch? Does this time, and this land, feel appropriate for the ritual that is about to be undertaken?
Even before the witch begins zer journey into the space, ze might feel called to leave an offering, light a candle / lantern (which may, or may not, be zer First Flame), or even to call upon deities / spirits of guidance and / or protection (e.g.: Herin Va’een / Herin Za’at, et alia). As always, allow gnosis to guide one’s actions.
During the journey into a ritual space, a witch may encounter one or more entities acting as guardians for the space, the land, the compass, or even the energies about to be stirred within the working itself. These entities will often manifest with or without a witch’s intentional summoning, barring passage into the working space for various reasons.
Note: while guardians may occasionally manifest as humans you encounter on your journey, often they will be non-corporeal in nature.
As with any spirit the witch may encounter, ze should initially respond politely - interacting as ze feels is appropriate based on zer gnosis. Truth and kindness are generally encouraged, but a witch should never feel required to engage, discuss, offer, or exchange more than ze is comfortable with. This holds true even if the guardian demands specific responses or items to allow the witch to move forward. If desired (or necessary), seek guidance via the current (including, but not limited to, Herin Tha’esh). Entities who oversee thresholds can be deeply beneficial in helping a witch to successfully navigate the interactions with a guardian.
Note: always be on the lookout for trickster spirits posing as guardians - the little buggers.
Entering the Space
Upon arrival at the threshold for the ritual space, the witch should pause and take stock. While there may be no guardian present at the demarcation betwixt path and working land, it remains a threshold nonetheless. The witch should assess whether there are any entities or strong energies already in the space, and request / inform them of zer intention to enter the area and prepare utilize it for a rite. This suggestion applies whether zer working is on a sun drenched beach, starlit courtyard, or private bedroom that ze sleeps in regularly. No matter how deep a witch’s bond might be with a working space, the witch should never take it, nor the energies / entities present within it, for granted.
Once a witch is formally standing within the bounds of the space, open a dialog with the entities and energies which may have remained. The witch should give them additional details regarding the forthcoming working, it’s desired goals, etc. After this sharing of information some entities may leave (or go dormant), while others may bolster their influence. Some of those remaining may request offerings for their assistance in the forthcoming work, and it will be up to the witch to grant or deny this request. Others present in the space, particularly those tied to the land itself, may request offerings in exchange for the use of their land (the common suggestion is to honor these requests).
Note: whenever gnosis is suggesting that a witch shouldn’t perform a working it is generally advised that ze stops, performs divination (ideally on the spot) to harvest wisdom from the gnosis at hand, and often to wait and perform the working at a later time and / or an alternate location.
Once entities and energies with a space have either vacated / become dormant, or are in congruence with one’s intention, the witch can begin zer preparation of the space itself.
The journey into the space could have been taxing on one’s energies, or caused the witch’s focus to drift from the work at hand, so ze may begin by performing another cleansing and focusing of one’s energies (e.g.: Arte of Prime) - setting zer intention upon the forthcoming rite.
One may simply begin by walking the bounds of zer working area, ensuring that it is clear of trip hazards, debris, and detritus (including energetic flotsam & jetsam). Remember to not assert dominance over the land during this phase. Additionally, some witches find value in scattering an offering at this time - partly for the land, and partly for the upcoming working. Ensure anything scattered onto the ground is non-toxic for both land and animal alike (this means avoiding salt, among other ingredients).
Next, establish the space aesthetically in concert with the ritual intention, energies / entities of the land, and one’s personal taste. Place tools where gnosis would dictate, rather than necessarily following hard-and-fast prerequisites you may hold steadfast in your head. Light sources of illumination as necessary.
The witch is now ready to begin zer rite.
Note: In the event of stubborn energies, or malevolent entities, that remain within the ritual space upon arrival it is important that the witch not assert dominance or authoritarian control over the land itself - especially at first. While the witch maintains ownership of zerself (and stewardship over zer tools) the land belongs to noone. Work alongside it, and any additional entities which would be appropriate to help the situation, in order to resolve conflicts which may arise ... or simply make offerings, depart, and return at another time.
Practicing a rite can provide immense benefit for the witch, as well as any others who might be present and / or participating in the working. It not only forms a stronger bond with any corporeal beings and the energies / entities taking part in the working, but it also generally reduces any anxiety before the final ritual performance.
The witch must always remember, however, that the way ze speaks of, or treats others - be they corporeal or not, present or distant - will always have an impact on their universe. The spirits are gods are always listening, especially when a witch is standing before sacred items or manifesting the current (even in a rehearsal). This does not mean that rehearsals must remain silent and dower - quite the opposite! A witch should laugh, have fun, and enjoy zerself - but ideally it should be done in a way that manifests the best parts of zer, zer path, and zer life... rather than at the expense of another.
Image: "Torched & Lit" by Owl's Flight (CC: BY, NC, ND)