Many times I hear a lot of people asking what an esbat ritual is like or should be like. The answer is that there is no one-size-fits-all description of what an esbat is or should be like, however many times there are commonalities among rituals. This essay, and the sister essay to it about group esbat rites, is not meant to say how it always will be, but to give an example of what it could be like, from my experience.
In general, solitary esbat rites are as unique as the individual performing them. There are no requirements for what must be included, how the ritual is to be performed, or how long or short the rite is. What should always be considered, however, is practical concerns and safety.
Unlike a group ritual, where there are often altars at the four quarters with elemental representations plus a main altar for the rite, most people opt to have only one altar, if they use one at all, for a solitary rite. If elemental representations are desired, they can be placed on the main altar, however I personally prefer a simple and clutter-free altar for my personal workings.
Before beginning a ritual, even in the privacy of your own home, you’ll want to make sure that you’re “in a good way”. Don’t try to do ritual when starving, overtired, dehydrated, or if you feel too sick to stand. And by all means, whether for group ritual or for solitary ritual, do not engage in ritual when under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. In a group ritual, this is considered a major faux pas, but in a solitary ritual, it can be dangerous to have lessened awareness, especially if you are using candles in your rite.
I advise people who are going to do ritual in their home to spend some time beforehand cleaning up the physical area where the ritual is to be done. At least for me, I notice an energetic difference between a clean place and a messy place, and this tends to bleed over into ritual.
Some people work with a spontaneous ritual, and others like to script their ritual out beforehand. Before you get started in your ritual, take a few moments to mentally run through what you have planned to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t forget “simple” things like matches! Also, if you are planning to do ritual with candles, make sure you have easy access to a fire extinguisher. If you are going to do a ritual with heavy amounts of incense, especially loose incense high in oils or resins burned on a charcoal, you might want to turn off your smoke detector. Just remember to turn it back on when you are done.
Once you’ve got the space set up as you want it, take some time to prepare yourself. You may opt to meditate, take a ritual bath, smudge, or do something else.
Now, with the space ready and yourself ready, you can begin whatever rite you have planned. What should you do? A quick search of Google
for esbat ritual brings up tens of thousands of results. And, of course, you
could use your Gods-given creativity, too!
Remember, if you are casting a circle, take it down and send home any elemental beings that you’ve called up at the end. Be respectful and
thankful to whatever deities you’ve called in. Make sure to enjoy the work you’re doing. If something funny happens…laugh. If something doesn’t go according to plan…adjust. In ritual, whatever is meant to happen will happen.
After ritual, make sure you take some time to rehydrate, ground, and eat something. Doing ritual work is a form of exertion, and you may feel
negative effects the next day if you don’t take care of yourself.
And one other note. In my view, there are two things that a solitary practitioner will not do in an esbat rite: Drawing Down the Moon and
raising a Cone of Power. Contrary to what some books hint, Drawing Down the Moon is more than just meditating on or feeling the presence of the Goddess touching you. For a brief explanation of what it is, see the sister essay to this one. As far as raising a Cone of Power, an individual can and should raise energy in their rituals if that is what is needed. Raising energy from one person can be very potent, however because there is only one person sending the energy, it does not form an energetic cone. (Instead, it is more like a pillar or arrow of energy going from the self to where it needs to go.) Aside from that, experiment. Learn. Live. Laugh. Push your limits and find your own magic. But by all means, stop reading about it, and just do it.
Thank you for posting. What you have said makes a lot of sense and will help those who have a lot to learn. My own esbats tend to run much as you describe and have done so many a year without change. It's good to know I'm not alone in the way I approach things. MoonCrone -x-