An Esbat Ritual You Can Use for Empowering Your Magic
For many people, contemporary Pagan religions like Wicca offer us a way to connect with something beyond ourselves in a way both grounded in a cultural heritage modernity has otherwise sealed off and an applied transpersonal psychology that reminds us of our innate power in a civilization dependent on us remaining docile.
Specifically, the esbat (which usually refers to a Full Moon ritual, but may also refer to any non-sabbat gathering of Wiccans) offers an opportunity to engage in magical self-transformation. Unlike sabbat rituals, the esbat is not necessarily about honoring the myths of pagan gods, but instead allows for personal development in harmony with the Moon's cycles. The example esbat ritual given here is adapted from Wiccan practice for a solitary magician, however you may find that other magical traditions are better suited to meet your needs. Please feel encouraged to explore and experiment with different options!
Magical Tools you will need for the Rite
Besom (a small broom to be used for cleansing spaces of energy)
Cakes & Ale (any bread or alcohol will do when starting, but work towards making this an intentional part of your practice that is reflective of the kind of relationship you want with the unseen world)
Altar stone or table
Large altar candle
Bowl of sea salt
Bowl of water (preferably sourced from a natural spring or creek, or gathered during a recent rainstorm)
Herb bundle for cleansing with smoke
Athame (a small, traditionally black-handled knife to be used only in ritual)
Optional: small cauldron or dish for herb bundles to be placed in
Optional: length of cord--traditionally either 9' or 12' to trace a physical circle in your magical space
Optional: four small candles--one for each quarter of your magical circle
Preparing Self & Space
Traditionally, esbats take place outdoors under the light of the Moon. If this presents an accessibility issue for you, it is also possible to work indoors. Whichever environment you will be working in, your first step is to clear the space of clutter. If outdoors, this does not mean that you should uproot or clear any living or decomposing plant and animal life from your way. What it does mean is that you should find a location where you will not be disturbed by passersby, traffic, or light pollution. If indoors, your goal should be to clear the room of all distractions, including as many unnecessary objects as possible.
Using your besom, sweep the area and command any spirits present to take leave until you are through. In some pagan practices, it is customary to offer bits of bread and alcohol on the outskirts of your circle for these spirits to partake in as you are essentially entering their living room to throw a party. If indoors, you make leave a bit of bread and a filled shot glass on a kitchen counter.
Lay out a stone or small table to serve as your altar in the East of your circle. You want to arrange all your other magical tools here on this surface. Carefully light your altar candle and allow the energy of the space to adjust to this change. Next, you will cleanse yourself and then the circle space using representatives of each element. Traditionally, from this point forward, one is nude.
Add salt from your bowl of sea salt to your bowl of water, and then anoint yourself by touching your forehead, your heart, your belly, your genitals, both ankles, and both wrists. Using the altar candle, ignite the tip of your herb bundle and blow out the flame so that it only smokes. Using one hand and then the other, wave the bundle around each limb, then up and down over the rest of your body. Return the bundle to the altar, placing it in your cauldron if you have one, and pick up the bowl of salt water again. You will now walk the edge of your circle in a clockwise direction, stopping at each cardinal direction to pour out some of the salt water. When you have reached the East again, return your bowl to the altar, then repeat this step with the herb bundle, tracing a pentacle in the air at heart-level when you arrive at each cardinal direction.
You and your space are now prepared for your ritual.
casting the circle
Next, you will cast the circle. If you will be using either a length of cord or small candles for each quarter in your rite, remove these from your altar and place them appropriately around the circle. If possible, light each additional candle from the altar candle you lit in the previous section.
When this is done, stand in the center of your circle and face the East. Extend your athame at arm's length, pointing downward to the edge of your circle. Then move clockwise, tracing the shape of your circle in the air, three times around. Some magicians like to end this act by tracing a pentacle in the air over the Northeast, as a sort of protective knot, but this is up to your preference.
Enchant the circle with this incantation:
"In this place between places, and this hour between hours, my circle seals these spaces, and I conjure up the circle's powers."
Next, you will acknowledge each of the four cardinal directions and invite their associated spirits to aid in the magic of your rite. Beginning again in the East, use the quarter call below. Move next to the South, then the West, and finally the North, replacing the word 'East' in the incantation below with the appropriate direction. After each call, trace the shape of a pentacle in the air at heart-level in the direction you have called to.
"Eastward spirits and Eastward wights, I call upon you to guard these rites!"
Lastly, raise your athame to the heavens and proclaim:
"And to the spirits high above, in perfect trust and perfect love, stir from slumbering astral plane to guard my work in this domain!"
If outdoors, bring your athame down with force and allow it to stick in the ground at the center of your circle. If indoors, touch the tip of the athame to the ground and then return it to your altar.
The heart of the esbat ritual is the magic you have chosen to work with this Moon cycle. In this part of the ritual, it is the perfect time to consecrate new magical tools, charge and enact a new spell, reprogram the mind through entering an altered state of consciousness, or partake in some other magical working of your choosing.
For most beginners and experimenters, this will be a ritual focused around enacting a spell, and so I'll focus on that option for now. In my experience, magic is always the most effective when it is enchanted into the world using catchy rhymes (think: like a pop song or commercial jingle that gets stuck in your head). If this step holds you back or seems unnecessary to your work, just skip it!
You are the magician who matters in your ritual and your magic.
In addition to some sort of verbal or written incantation, many spells will include special herbs to be burnt, or a set of gemstones or images to be used in activating it. If using herbs, please do thorough research about potential toxicity, especially if you are pregnant or have other health conditions. For this example, let's say that we have: a written incantation, a set of safe herbs to burn which are associated with the spell's intention, an oracle card related to our intended outcome, and a set of gemstones to form a grid for activating the spell.
In this example, I would read the incantation aloud once. Then I would light the herbs on fire and set them in the cauldron to smoke while focusing on the intended outcome. I would flip over the oracle card so that its image is facing up (I would have kept it face-down before the spell work), and set up my crystal grid. I would read the incantation again, and then begin my energy raising.
For this spell specifically, I would begin walking clockwise around the circle while reading the incantation over and over again. In my experience, it helps to increase the rhythm of your movement and recitation as you move around the circle. As you are able, keep going until you become exhausted or have shouted the spell as loudly as you feel comfortable doing.
Return your focus to the oracle card and intended outcome of the spell. Re-light or blow on the herb bundles as necessary. Perhaps repeat the incantation again three times in a whisper. Finally, finish with the line: "As I have spelled it, so mote it be!"
Grounding & Releasing
After allowing yourself a moment to rest in the power of the circle, you will now dismiss the spirits you have called to witness your working. Work backwards in the order you summoned these spirits in, i.e., begin in the heavens, then to the North, then go to West, South, and finally East.
Start by retrieving your athame from the center of the circle, or by walking it from the altar to the center, and lifting it up to the heavens. Repeat aloud:
"Spirits above, go now in love!"
Then move to the North and dismiss each quarter, saying:
"Northward spirits and northward wights, I release you now to have a good night!"
If you have lit candles in each quarter, extinguish them as you release their associated spirits.
When the last quarter is released, metaphorically cut the cord of the circle using your athame. If you tied a pentacle knot as described above, trace over it backwards with your athame to do this. Repeat aloud:
"This place is again a place, this time is again a time. I release this magic space, and coil the cord that held the line."
Beginning in the Northeast and moving counter-clockwise, trace over the circle three times using your athame. Next, using your besom, sweep the energy clear from your ritual space. Extinguish the altar candle, pack up whatever magical tools you have used, and return the space to the state you found it.
If you still feel 'super-charged,' you may find it advisable to put your bare feet and hands on the ground in an area you didn't perform the ritual in, or to wash your hands in running water either from a stream or the tap faucet in your home.
Any remaining cakes and ale can be enjoyed at this point or left for nature's spirits and wild critters to partake in instead.
Be sure to record your experiences and any notes in a journal. Make a note of how you felt in different sections of the ritual, or what you may wish to change in the future. You may also wish to pay attention to any dreams or coincidences you experience in the remainder of the lunar cycle.
Remember this esbat is just a beginning. From here you can continue doing this kind of work or exploring additional techniques to achieve your goals.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to email@example.com