Ritual answers a primal need we all have; it is a means of demonstrating our devotion to the Gods; and it is a way of demonstrating our sincerity and connecting with the divine in a meaningful manner. Ritual allows us to communicate with the Gods even when we have little to say. But more than this, it shows respect.
Traditional Witchcraft ritual is not standardized. The Gods that individual Crafters honour are as numerous as the way they are honoured. Nevertheless, while there is no set liturgy, there are standard rituals and informal guidelines that most Trads follow. Of course, many Gods have their own traditional rituals that should be done in addition to the ones we speak of.
The Issue Of Secrecy
Many Traditional Witches, or Crafters, tend to be a secretive lot, and that extends to the specifics of their rituals and spellcasting procedures. In fact, secrecy is a trait that is very common. Some family Trads and groups or covens even have an oath forbidding the disclosing of any information. This is in addition to the general desire to keep all things about the Craft as strictly personal. Suspicion of outsiders has been a strong influence for hundreds of years; and it does continue today.
After the central importance of Nature in the thoughts of those in the Traditional Craft, Going Within, or meditation and visualization, has always been central to spell workings as well as to preparation for ritual. See The Importance of Going Within for more on this topic.
To learn the process of Going Within, the foundation of magic, we provide a free 7-week Mini-Course on Traditional Magic.
Traditional Witchcraft ritual practices can vary a great deal from one Trad to the next. But all would agree that it is not the "saying of the words" in an exact manner that is important, but what comes from the heart. Crafters say spells spontaineously, and tend to do the same with other rituals. Of course, Crafters do not worship their Gods but honour them in a manner fitting to the Gods they honour. follow a set text. Each person should create their own wording for ritual and in spellcraft. All crafters do this.
I provide examples of what could be said for various rituals are in the eBook Course.
The Compass Round:
The laying of a compass round is a time-honoured tradition in British witchcraft. Because we consider the Earth to be sacred, experienced Crafters will not necessarily use a compass on a day-to-day basis. However, all seekers should use a compass for at least two years to get use to the ritual. Then do it as needed.
Why use a compass?
1) It is a vehicle for concentration and to cross over and be 'between the worlds'.
(Also known as deosil.) Within a compass it is a custom to always walk clockwise, or "deiseal" in order to enhance energy.
It is a custom to walk counterclockwise, or "widdershins" when banishing negative energy and in taking-up or closing a compass round.
During ritual or magical workings it is not appropriate to be unclothed, to be so-called "skyclad". For Full Moon and Festival celebrations, it is appropriate and respectful to bathe/shower and to dress with clean clothes.
Robes are usually made of wool and are used as a coat. Very few Traditional Crafters wear a robe inside the house, but of course, some do so during ritual and events out-of-doors. If you decide to wear a robe, know that a robe is worn over clothing- not instead of clothing.
There is no reason to avoid the wearing of leather during ritual or magical procedures.
In the old manner, one became a seeker in The Old Craft by doing and not by virtue of a ceremony. The most important thing is to start doing. By doing, you are what you are doing. There is no need for "deciation".
Nevertheless, some will want a dedication ceremony. While not really traditional, it is understandable that solitary seekers may view a dedication ritual as a watershed event. As it is more logical to have such a ceremony after reading, understanding, and beginning to incorporate The Old Ways into your thinking and daily life, a suggested ceremony is in the eBook Course, The Journey to Trad Witchcraft, along with other typical ritual examples.