What is a Pagan ritual?
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines ritual in this way: “A ritual is a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community by religious or political laws because of the perceived efficacy of those actions.” In other words, a ritual is something you do that has a specific meaning and which is often prescribed as part of a religious or cultural practice. Actually, I think the definition of a ritual is much simpler than that. A ritual is really any act that is repeated on a regular basis. Everyone has rituals. There are morning rituals that help you get ready for the day. There are bathroom rituals — things that are done every morning to prepare for the day. There are evening rituals that help you get ready for sleep and there are countless other things that people do on a regular basis. These are common every day rituals, but when a repeated activity is assigned special symbolic meaning then that activity becomes a sacred ritual. Sacred rituals are often part of a religious practice because the actions taken are meant to help the practitioner personally relate to the principles of that practice's ideology.
My rituals are focused upon the idea that all things are part of the same sacred energy or fabric of the universe. The assumption is that all things, all people, all creatures, and Earth herself are equally sacred. Paganism is a nature based religion. Therefore, Pagans tend to follow and honor the natural cycles of the Earth, Sun, and Moon. The rituals are meant to celebrate those cycles. Seasonal rituals that follow the changes between Earth and the Sun are called Sabbats and occur about every 40 - 50 days in the calendar. The appearance of the full moon is celebrated in a ritual called an Esbat and when the moon goes fully dark there is a celebration called an Astor. There are also other rituals that can be celebrated on a regular basis and some that mark major milestones in life.
Some Pagans recognize several deities in their practice. Usually the number of deities can range from one (often The Goddess), to two (often the God and Goddess), to several (often as part of a historical pantheon). There are other Pagans, however, that do not recognize any deities at all in their practice and rituals. The rituals do not include the names of any deities. Instead, I use the words “Spirit” and “the Universe” to mean the one thing that is the source and essence of all things.