Liturgy 1.1 – Describe the purpose and function of ritual.

16 07 2017

Describe the purpose and function of ritual. (minimum 300 words)

Isaac Bonewits defines a ritual as “any ordered sequence of events, actions, and/or directed thoughts, especially one that is meant to be repeated in the same manner each time, that is designed to produce and manage one or more altered states of consciousness within which certain results may be obtained.” There are many different purposes and functions of ritual, but in my view, there are six main ones.

The first, and most important, purpose is to Honour, serve and strengthen the god/esses and spirits. When we do a religious ritual, we give honour, praise and worship to deities and spirits. We show them (and others) that they are important to us, we acknowledge that there is something bigger than ourselves, and we show reverence and respect. If one believes that the deities or spirits gain strength from our praise and offerings, then we are also feeding them. Alternatively, we could just be thanking them. But either way we are taking part in the gifting cycle and giving something of ourselves to the deities and spirits to honour them.

The second purpose of ritual is Connection. Through ritual we seek to create or maintain links and connections between humans, deities, spirits and the land. We acknowledge that we are mutually interdependent. As Ian Corrigan puts it, by engaging in ritual we are “reweaving the links between human-kind, the natural world and the gods and goddesses and spirits who support both.” We have become a very materialistic society and that is dangerous, people are living lives of “quiet desperation” and we all seem to have an innate understanding inside that there is something wrong or something missing. What is missing is our connection. When we reconnect with the land and the powers through ritual, honouring both their physical realities and the spirit within them, we can recreate this connection and overcome our materialistic indoctrination.

The third purpose of ritual is Blessing. We do ritual to seek blessings, both for people and the land from the deities and spirits. We often ask for the traditional blessings of health, wealth or wisdom. We can also seek spiritual fulfilment, healing, magic or anything else that participants need in their lives. We ask for blessings for ourselves, our families and our communities, and then, through the return flow and the blessing cup, we open our hearts to the flow of that blessing from the deities and spirits. It is the other side of the gifting cycle – the deities and spirits give to us.

A fourth purpose of ritual is Community. By engaging in rituals with others we can build a sense of community, we can create group unity, we can form friendships and we can serve the pagan community at large. We form social bonds with each other and strengthen ourselves as a group. It is very important that groups share the same understanding and goals in ritual.

The fifth purpose of ritual is Training. Most ritual contain the same steps and worldviews. By repeatedly doing rituals we are training ourselves in the cosmic pattern and the elements of our beliefs, internalising them, and reconstructing our worldviews to be in accordance with them. Much of our daily life is taken up focused on our own problem and narrow sphere of interest, however when we engage in ritual, we remind ourselves and others of something more, of the bigger picture. We step back and acknowledge our place in the grand scheme of things. We train ourselves to look at the world with a new perspective and hopefully some of that leaks back into our every day lives.

The final purpose of ritual is Celebration. Often ritual is designed to “commemorate a deity’s actions during an especially sacred time”. These are rites of intensification – rituals associated with seasonal celebrations and periodic events for societal groups. Similarly, there are rites of passage such as baby-namings, coming of age ceremonies, weddings and funerals, which celebrate transitional changes in an individual’s life.

To achieve these purposes, rituals help to create altered states of consciousness that open us up to other realities, or larger realities, and therefore allow us to fulfil the goals of ritual.


Bonewits, Isaac. Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work. Minneapolis: Llewellyn Publications, 2007. Print.

ADF. “Standard Liturgical Outline.” ADF. Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “Step by Step through A Druid Worship Ceremony.” ADF. Web.

Brooks, Arnold. “A Druidic Ritual Primer.” ADF. Web

Brooks, Arnold. “Goals of Group Ritual.” ADF. Web.

Corrigan, Ian. “The ADF Outline of Worship: A Briefing for Newcomers.” ADF. Web.  

Corrigan, Ian. “The Intentions of Drudic Ritual.” ADF. Web.

Corrigan, Ian. “The Worlds and the Kindreds.” ADF. Web.

Paradox. “Sacred Space, an Exploration of the Triple Center.” ADF. Web.

Thomas, Kirk. “The Nature of Sacrifice.” ADF. Web.



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