GUEST POST: Playing with the Senses During Ritual

by Eloise Martel

Something I find useful to immerse into the ritual experience (especially when you start and you don’t really know what to begin with) is playing with the 5 senses: Sight, Hearing, Touch, Smell, and Taste.

Playing with the senses can trigger specific memories and help you achieve your goal during the ritual. You can find correspondences (herbs, days, colours, stones etc.) in almost all the 101 witchy books, but don’t forget to ask yourself what associations make sense to you personally. If the goal during the ritual is to make yourself feel certain things, what you are going to use has to speak to you.

Sight: Many pagans create an altar or Focus. I noticed that while creating my altar, I was more drawn to certain colours: mostly tones of red and orange for fire and vitality, greens for nature. I would sometimes change the colours depending on the celebrated Sabbath. Classic correspondences can give you some ideas but don’t feel like you have to follow them. For example, the colour blue is usually associated with calmness, relaxation but maybe because of your past, this colour is associated with something stressful. Many pagans also feel a sense of wonder when they are out in nature, looking at the trees or observing insects for example. Rituals don’t have to happen indoors. You can use a witchy aesthetic, there is no right or wrong way to do it. What matters is that you create an altar that speaks to you.

Hearing: It might be a song that gives specific emotions that you want to feel for this ritual. It can be the sound of one of the classical 4 elements, the sound of waterfalls, rain, a fireplace, the wind in the leaves, someone gardening, walking on stones… It can be an instrument, I really like drums for example. You can also simply be in silence, which many people try to avoid even though it can be needed sometimes.

Touch: It might be a feather, stones or a fabric like velvet. I use a rosary, an item that is already used in several religions. I repeat a kind of mantra with every bead I touch. I also use an anointing oil that I make myself which makes it even more special. I draw some symbols that matter to me on my skin with it. I like the feeling and I imagine the oil spreading on my whole body. It makes the ritual more tangible.

Smell: A lot of people use incense during their rituals. I usually like to use frankincense because it reminds me of the incense used in churches so I already connect this smell with sacred places. It can simply be the smell of burning candles. When you see an old picture, it’s like you visualize a memory, but when you smell a scent that your brain associates with a memory, it’s like you live this moment again. That’s why I think smell has a strong power.

Taste: For example, I like to use honey for a sense of vitality and sweetness of simple pleasures, sometimes before eating honey I’ll say metaphors or phrases that I link with honey like “Pleasure of life. Energy of the Sun. Words of poets”. Honey makes me happier and more motivated. You might choose a kind of food that is particularly connected to the current season like squash for autumn, depending on where you live. It could be a beverage like a special tea for relaxation or wine to celebrate the autumn equinox.

These are just some ideas. Most of all, have fun.

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