I might simply appear hypocritical if I said that ritual is important to a reading, after all I have said about the power being within the reader and not within the cards. But surely I must be contradicting myself if I go so far as to make this statement one of my 22 Principles! It might seem that way at first, but it turns out that these two Principles are not mutually exclusive. The power does indeed lie within the reader, but to awaken that power, we sometimes need ritual.
Let me first define "ritual" as I will be using it here. These days, the word often conjures up images of hooded figures chanting around a fire just before performing some religious ceremony. While this is indeed a ritual, one need not limit the use of the word to mysterious gatherings or religious ceremonies. A ritual is simply anything action, or series of actions, you perform on a regular basis. If you get up every morning at seven, have a shower and eat a bowl of cereal, that's a ritual. If you come into work at eight, check your e-mail and hit the coffee shop, that's a ritual.
When applied to Tarot work, a ritual is the umbrella covering whatever steps you use to prepare yourself to do a reading. As the 0th Principle suggests, this will be a highly personal umbrella, sometimes very large and sometimes very small. Whatever your ritual contains is entirely up to you, and early in your Tarot practice it's often useful to try several different rituals to see what you like and what you don't. But once you've found a ritual that suits you, it's important to stick with it. I advise playing around with the ritual only when reading for yourself or for fictional situations. You can ignore this advice but we'll now see why you shouldn't.
The biggest obstacle to one's intuitive side is one's logical side. Such an such an obstacle can be disastrous in Tarot work since, as the 2nd Principle has shown us, if our intuition is drowned out by logic and rules then it can not help us see the truth. The purpose of a ritual is to short-circuit the conscious mind and keep it from saying "Hey, you can't do that!" After the ritual is repeated enough times, the conscious mind will change its opinion to "Okay, maybe the cards do work, when you perform the ritual first." With the conscious mind placated, your power can emerge and work wonders.
A ritual can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be, and when first designing one, it's useful to ask yourself what kind of things you believe are necessary. Do you think prayer is needed? Include some, perhaps along with passages from an appropriate sacred text. Maybe some candles or incense to put you in the mood? Purchase whatever you think would help. If you believe in the power of crystals and gemstones then include a few in your ritual. Write the whole thing down as a flowchart and then attempt it to see how it feels to perform it. If something is missing, add it.
Once a ritual is solidly in your mind, then you might try doing a bit of gardening to trim out the parts you don't like using. Say that you run out of candles and want to see if they're really necessary to a reading. To do so, simply try a reading and see what happens. If the reading goes well, you don't need the candles anymore. If it doesn't go well, you might want to hit the mall before your next reading and buy more candles. It is due to this last case that I advise not messing around with rituals when a client is sitting across from you. If you remove something your conscious mind considers essential, the reading will probably not go well.
Above all, do not let a ritual limit you. If it takes longer to prepare for a reading than to do the reading itself, you are either doing the reading too quickly or preparing too much. So see what parts of the ritual you can remove without lowering the quality of your readings. Eventually, you will probably see that no ritual is necessary if you believe it's not. Doing nothing may then become your ritual, if you wish. I personally do not use crystals or candles or incense, but I do pray before reading. It reminds me that I can walk the path alone if I choose, but God is always at my side if I need Him. Such empowerment is the true goal of all ritual.Copyright 2000 James Rioux