The Power of Ritual and the Science of Intention


The word connotes the occult, the weird, the religious, karma, fear.

At least it did for me initially and does, currently, for many who do not intentionally practice or who fear the underworld currents of the old pagan ways brewing beneath the surface of the culture.

There is a pagan counterculture dedicated to reclaiming the sovereignty of connection with the Divine not in a walled church built to demonstrate the extravagance of man’s abilities in God’s name. I do not deny the holiness of beautiful and grand or equally quaint and small churches. Also, I have felt the grace of sanctuary in churches and am grateful for those moments. But my god’s church is nature.

If I sound bitter, it might be because even though I was born in 1989, I was raised to believe my abilities, which are completely human and have belonged to humans for thousands of years, are necessary to hide. The fear of witch burning in old Salem has not been eradicated from communities of modern pagans in America. Despite a huge rise in the numbers of people who openly practice, the cultural context of pagan ritual is so associated with occult traditions that opposed our founding father’s religious statutes upon which framework the current constitutional structure is built, that to practice paganism in modern America is to actively engage in an American counterculture.

Now witch burning takes place in mental wards, with psychiatrists, pills, feeding tubes. This was my experience anyways. Some people benefit greatly from these practices and I need to remember that. For me, the modern methods of addressing mental health felt like being tied to the stake waiting for the flames only the flames never came. The waiting is maddening. All those doctor’s and therapists standing in the commons, waiting. Poking and prodding with needles and doing tests. Waiting. What’s wrong with me. Waiting.

Only to tell me I’m just hypersensitive and probably the testing and the stupid fluorescent lights in all these office buildings are making it worse. The hell stops when I embrace my pagan self.

Meditate, ritual, yoga, G.O.D. (Get Out Doors).

Rituals come in all shapes and sizes though. We practice the daily rituals, for instance, of brushing teeth, going to work, meal times, sleep schedule, etc. Each of us partakes in our own forms of daily ritual.

And the more we partake in these rituals, the more habitual they become until, eventually, the habit is nearly subconscious.

This is the amazing thing about ritual.

If you want to manifest something in your life, action is necessary, but sometimes we don’t exactly know what that action is. Ritual is the conscious commitment to action through subconscious programming.

I like to start here: write down every action you take today—not your opinion of them, not what they meant to you or others…just the actions. This happened, and then this happened, and then this happened. Write a summary of your day and make it as detailed as you can.

Alright. When you return home, look at those actions.

Does anything seem out of alignment to you?

Today I choose my morning meditation instead of a cigarette.

What I like to do here is pick one thing—only one—and decide what you will replace this thing with.

Sleeping in?

Get up early.



Out of shape.

Exercise (make it fun. Shoot arrows or something. It doesn’t have to be torture).

It’s best to start with something small. If you’re an alcoholic for instance and you want to go from guzzling a bottle of vodka a day to not drinking…that’s probably not going to happen in a day.

So trying to tackle your biggest demon right off the bat may serve to overwhelm you and set you back further. Little steps, little changes, build confidence to risk bigger changes. So maybe just eat more veggies today or something. I mean that kind of small.

Eventually, these little changes add up to a changed life. Changed actions that equal different results. But it’s a patient process. Do one thing and intentionally practice this thing until it is habitual. Then keep practicing it until it’s second nature. It does eventually become automatic, but since you are practicing new muscle memory and making new neural pathways, it takes a few trips down a new dirt path to make it a road.

See how long it takes. Hell, put the day you start on your calendar and note later how long it takes for you to repeatedly do something until you don’t have to think about it.

This is what you’re working with. The time frame will allow you to understand how long significant changes may take in your life so you are not disappointed when it’s not instant.

For me, it’s about three months. If I do something regularly for about three months, it becomes a habit I no longer have to consciously remind myself to do.

The thing is, whatever is replacing your “thing” should bring you joy (if that’s what you’re cultivating), but sometimes joy lays on the other side of fear.

We often find ourselves in empty rituals, monotonous rituals, or dissatisfying ritual routines primarily because we like comfort zones. Stagnation is a sign of one who has stopped in the face of fear, established comfort, and never opened the door again to conquer that ugly voice in the back of the mind that says you’re not something enough to bring it down.

Starting a business, for instance, is pretty manageable with hard work, classes, dedication. But if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s going to stop you from giving up on your commitments that day?

For my part, I noticed I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should or could be doing instead of doing it. This was my thing. Thought without corresponding action.

Fear was why. Putting myself online in video format was kind of terrifying. I’m an introvert with a history of disastrous encounters with stage fright.

So here’s what I did. I took the website offline, declared a redesign publicly to hold me accountable, and I recorded a practice video.

Guess what?

It wasn’t that bad.

The next morning, I woke up and made another video. And the next.

It doesn’t matter if they’re usable, if they’re perfect or if they completely fall short. I’m daily facing this fear and daily participating in the conscious action of creating something in my life that brings action to my hopes. And daily these hopes are manifesting because I am acting on them.

Furthermore I made a schedule.

I dread schedules. The creative in me raves against them, but there’s a lot to do to build one’s own way of life into the structure of a culture that doesn’t have a clear space where one fits.

But what if you can’t get past that initial block of fear? What if you don’t know what that leap or action is?

This is why I enjoy the Wiccan ritual methodology. It’s very similar, in some ways, to native rituals I’ve participated in.

The basic idea is that one uses tools to represent the elements—a cup for water maybe, a candle for fire, incense for air, a rock for earth. Engaging with each of these things creates more neural pathways in your brain associated with the intention you are setting forth; therefore you have a more likely chance of recalling that intention throughout the day or week (more pathways=more chances for association). This is how I understand it in a loosely scientific fashion.

In a more subconscious psychological sense, ritual trains the subconscious brain to engage with your intentions by using symbolic objects.

Symbolism is what Carl Jung used to understand the subconscious mind, and Jung even proposed that hallucinations could be subconscious projections of subconscious symbols, a waking dream essentially in which the subconscious talks to the conscious mind.

With ritual, we tell the subconscious mind how we want it to speak to us by choosing which objects or symbols we use to associate with our intention.

The subconscious, because it is not bound by the rational restrictions of the conscious mind, then alerts you throughout the day or week through “signs” that may seem like they come out of nowhere.

Say you do a ritual, for instance, for integrity and you walk down the street later that day and see a sign that says something like, “integrity is integral.” Furthermore, you use a yellow barrette for your ritual because you like the color and the wind in your hair.

You hear “wind in her hair” on the radio and notice little girls in town with yellow barrettes. You’ve set the reminder like an alarm clock. Please brain, remind me of my intentions. These signs are just your subconscious recognizing the set intention.

So what do you do with that?

You’ve set the symbols in ritual. Check.

You see the symbols and hear them in your life. Check.

Now you interpret them, and take action.

Sometimes the action is very clear and interpretation is not necessary. This is the action your subconscious brain believes will take you where you want to go based on what you’ve told it. Since it can draw connections you consciously cannot, it probably knows something you consciously do not. Actions are best taken with integrity and trust.

Sometimes, though, the signs are a bit trickier. For clarification I like to use tarot cards. Again, These are simply symbols. Say you pull a card with a yellow butterfly and it says something like: “you are holding onto the past because you miss innocence, but one does not have to be young to be innocent. The butterfly is the symbol of transformation and yellow is the color of the third chakra…will power. Take action to change your life, whatever that may be, and have the bravery to transform. Innocence is in the eyes of the beholder. Break free from your cocoon and witness.”

So you think back to that wind in the hair song, to the young girls in town who had yellow barrettes, and here’s where the connection could go: I just want more outdoor play in my life, maybe with other women my age.

I think what scares people about tarot and ritual is that many people associate such practices with the occult which connotes evil and demons and is a connotation left over from centuries of Christian slaughter and repression of pagan peoples.

Come on. We are smarter than that people. We are smarter than fearing some old world magic. I’m fact, if we were smart we might figure out what made the controlling Christian military forces so afraid of it that they crushed it down at all costs for thousands of years.

If they feared evil and destruction and greed, that’s already here.

Check this out: the Roman Catholics stole pagan rituals, assigned their own religious symbolism to these rituals and gave it a different god, and set up churches where the stolen practices were preached to gain control of state through the church. It was the only way they could convince pagan people’s to bow down—take the gods they believed in, turn them into one god, and tell them there are punishments if they do not follow that god. Enforce those punishments harshly using resources of state (armies if necessary) and withhold knowledge from the people so they do not learn any better. The priests of Rome, scribes, and rulers were the only people who were literate. Taking away knowledge was an amazingly easy way to control people—especially superstitious people. Superstition without the ability to gain knowledge is a sure recipe for being manipulated by someone who know better.

Herbalism’s story is an excellent example of this systematic genocide since herbalism was passed down primarily through word of mouth and the recipes were often individual to the household though based on the basic properties of plants. Plant knowledge is an old shamanic knowledge and shamans are the most ancient of the practitioners of ritual. When scribes and priests became the master holders of knowledge specifically because they were literate, the ways of the people, the pagans, and their shamanic roots were changed in the history books by those who could write, held as highly valuable knowledge belonging to church and state, and the knowledge was prevented from being perpetuated in the populace by witch burning, crusades, and the intentional withholding of knowledge to promote superstition and therefore complacency in a slowly and newly converted peoples.

Witches were condemned for their healing Magicks and rituals which were essentially knowledge of herbs and of how to be whole as a person in connection with the divine through nature and ritual. these individual connections with the divine threaten the ruling authority of the church, since if one could talk to god in his or her own practice, what need was there for a church? How then should the state rule the thoughts of its people?

Christmas, Halloween, Easter, May Day, and others have their origins in ancient pagan rituals. Christmas was a Druidic ritual held in a grove of oak and involving the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb, the lighting of candles, and the collection by of mistletoe to spread the blood of the lamb. It was celebrated under a different name obviously, and eventually became known as Yule. It’s the mistletoe that gives away its Druidic roots. The druids used the mistletoe to spread the blood of the sacrificed lamb on a tree I believe.

The role of plants in changing a polytheistic peoples into a monotheistic peoples must be fascinating. Look what marijuana did for us.

All that being said, I do not by any means hate Christianity or the Christian god although I did spend time in my teenage years doing so. I’ll be the first to admit that I wanted to hate Christianity for its complicity in destroying the credibility of my gifts which I saw as curses. I wanted to hate Christianity for motivating me through fear for so long. But it was the interpretation I was exposed to which made me fear it and interpretation others were exposed to which made them condemn. The concepts are not the practices.

I believe that, like any religion, it is the practitioner’s interpretation of the religion and the practitioner’s corresponding actions which makes the concepts of it good or evil. I know many godly Christians who I would trust with my everlasting soul, and many who I wouldn’t trust with my spork at the lunch table.

So now we get into interpretation of the meaning of symbols in your ritual. If you are getting evil symbols and feedback…I hate to tell ya, but this is your interpretation of these symbols. What’s worse…if you’re interpreting symbols in a negative light, this is indicative of a general practice of doing such, which means the action you’re looking at changing is that of changing your mind. And that’s a lot easier said than done.

Yesterday I did a meditation for presence and DJ and I had a long lunch. Afterward he said, “That was nice. We should do that more often. Just be present.”

He didn’t know about the meditation, but a small five minute meditation in the morning allowed that moment to occur and a sign came back to me in the form of his comment. This is the feedback loop of the universal flow. We change the feedback loop by changing our actions, and changing action, as far as I know this far, is greatly mitigated in difficulty by engaging in ritual.

In fact, I believe it was the effectiveness of pagan ritual in connecting us with the divine that made it so condemned.

Anyways, a ritual can also be something as easy as making a practice of doing the or at regular intervals. So what is your same thing every day? What are your rituals? Why do you worship?

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