“I’ve run into kids that can play ‘Wait’ better than I can, but what’s the point? Being a technician is only part of the equation, and I’m trying to study the other half–songwriting” —Vito Bratta
The quote is from Vito Bratta, the original guitarist of the hair-metal band, White Lion. His point is quite interesting, particularly in how it relates to what I manage to do in my own studies in Druidry, Paganism, and Polytheism. When I first started down this Path, I was focused on the intricacies of ritual methodology – how you called the Quarters, how you moved your wrist when you did this, or the “proper” inflection of your voice when pronouncing that. It was all about technique and the direct application. In other words, the technical aspects.
Technique and technical stuff is good – particularly for supporting frameworks, but focusing too much on all that stuff makes everything rote behavior, in my opinion. Step exactly here. Breathe this many times. Blink this many times. Wave your hand just so, while pronouncing things this way. Its important, definitely, but the real magic comes when you work off of that to create. When you improvise. When you extrapolate. When you add things that feel “right” that weren’t part of the original recipe. That’s when stuff gets real, in my opinion.
Vito’s point, particularly about songwriting, applies here. You have to understand the manner in which you make your instrument sing. You have to know the basics. You have to understand the technique, before you can improvise from it. Back in the late 1980s, when I was first on my Path, this was a concept I did not fully grasp. As a result, my rituals felt stilted, my magick work suffered. I needed to spend more time grasping the basics.
In the late 1990s, I finally turned my attention back to doing just that. I scraped everything I knew about ritual, as I practiced it. I worked on the basics – the wording, the structure, the gestures, the inflection of the voice. I discovered what worked for me, as well as what didn’t. I spent time working out why things didn’t work, and then experimented with changes until I found what worked. But before I got to that point, I had to understand the concepts. That meant working with each aspect that I wasn’t grasping, mulling over it in my mind, and examining it from every angle. It was work. But it was necessary.
The result is a framework that I work my rituals around. Certainly, over the lengthy study period of my Bardic grade with OBOD, I added elements and concepts from what I learned; but the framework remains nearly the same as back in the 1990s for me. I have added concepts, thematics, and structure from OBOD’s materials that have altered my ritual process slightly. But prior to making those changes, I studied what I was doing – both what I was changing to, as well as what I was changing from – to be sure that I wanted to keep the change.
Changing things, particularly those related to some of your core beliefs, is not an easy task – nor is a short process. Time, effort, study, practice, observation, contemplation….all of that needs to be taken into account before a decision to change is made. And there’s never a reason to make a change for the sake of change. From my perspective, if you are approaching the concept of change out of that need, you have already doomed it to failure. Or watered it down enough to where it holds no meaning.
I am passionate about using my rituals to connect to the environment around me, utilizing it to connect with the Gods. I understand that others may not see ritual from this perspective, but it is where I am coming from. I am not trying to provide a be-all, end-all concept or process. Merely proposing a thought about how to approach a potential change. Your mileage and warranty will definitely vary.