At some point of the journey there comes a time when you feel like you're
ready to cut lose from just reading and talking, proceeding to actually doing
something - in this case, to performing rituals. There are plenty of pre-made
rituals available in books and on the net, so it's only the question of taking
the texts in one hand and starting to ritualize? Well, that is one approach
and nobody is saying that it couldn't be a workable and giving one. However,
this time the approach is somewhat different - one stating that it's good
to not only know how something is done, but also why.
When you're practicing your religiosity and magick alone you are lacking (out of your own initiative or simply due to the lack of a suitable group) people who would be there teaching you the basics hands-on. So, your own initiative is of prime importance. Texts and descriptions of rituals do tell much, but they don't always explain the backgrounds any closer.
To start a ritual project, you can head out to research with the help of various sources the very meanings of a ritual. Why you're supposed to say what is said in the ritual and why you're supposed to do what is said you should do. In every single better constructed ritual the words and gestures mean something and you will get so much more out of the ritual when you are aware of the meanings. Do not settle for knowing the right words - know why you are supposed to say them. Do not (for example) just call on certain deities - find out why you are calling them in this particular ritual. Do not think gestures are just gestures - know what they mean. All this may take time, but it is worth it.
You can do a ritual while holding the script in front of your nose, but it won't be that smooth.
You can split the ritual into suitable sized pieces, rehearsing them one by one until you know them by heart. This way you can eliminate the "but do I really remember what I'm supposed to do?" -factor by the time you move to actually doing the ritual and concentrate on the actual rite. Rehearsing and refining gestures can make a nice evening schedule and going over the texts in your mind can give you something worthwhile to do while you are, say, waiting for the bus to arrive. When the little pieces are going smoothly, you can combine them to larger fragments and finally piece all the fragments together to form a whole.
When you are at that stage, you can go through the whole ritual "without the spirit" - that is, without trying to achieve anything other than rehearsing - as many times as you need.
When you have actually performed the ritual so many times it goes smoothly and gives the results it is supposed to give; it's time to make the ritual yours. In this context, making the ritual yours doesn't mean developing your own versions of the texts and gestures, as writing your own ritual is quite another subject indeed. You could compare this to the world of acting, as rituals could be likened to plays. Psychodramas, one could say. The same play can be performed in a multiple of ways, even if nobody changed a single word in it. Each actor past the stage of mimicking another actor's style brings in his or her own interpretation, making the role alive.
When you're only starting out, you are always more or less a "mimicker" while doing rituals other people have written. With the confidence brought on by doing you can little by little develop into a "virtuoso" of your own religiosity and magick working.
Originally published in Finnish in Vox Paganorum This is a slightly re-written version.