Ideally, in ritual we need to be in a state of calm and peace, even if we are there to express grief and loss for a loved one, or to release pent up anger, we should begin the ritual with our minds at ease.
This does not mean we are not supposed to be experiencing emotions.Communication with your subconscious, and through it, energies our waking mind cannot comprehend, is key to magickal workings. Our subconscious is where our emotions are centered, so we must not close this line of communication, but rather we must not let it rule us, nor break our focus.
There are two methods I use in combination before ritual to purify myself.
By meditation I do not just mean sitting in a quiet place, silencing your active mind, though this certainly is meditation. By meditation I mean the practice of setting your conscious mind at ease, allowing it to better communicate with your subconscious.
There are many ways to achieve this 'alpha state', where the conscious mind is at a reduced level of activity, just below the level of full consciousness.
The most well known method is to truly meditate. Simply sit (rather than lie) in a relaxed position, where your breathing is not restricted. Close your eyes and simply, breath deeply for several minutes, allowing yourself to relax and forget. Visualize breathing out the tensions and worries of everyday life. Now open your consciousness, allowing your conscious mind to be receptive and alert. Now proceed with your working.
There are other ways to meditate rather blanking your mind and breathing away the tensions and worries of daily life, which doesn't work for many people, because they have trouble slowing their mind. One that works for me is to find something to focus on, and focus on that to the exclusion of all else, until everything else ceases to be. The object of focus can be anything, it might be a candle flame, a stone, a song that is being played softly in the background (use soothing songs, energetic or loud music won't work), or even a visualized image.
Otherways to achieve an 'alpha state' do not require sitting quietly.
One of the most powerful ways I know to enter such a state is drumming or dancing to drumming. This actually works better with large groups of people than meditation ever would. And to me when a drum circle is in full swing and I am dancing before a fire I enter an 'alpha state' faster, and deeper than I ever do by meditation.
Another that works well with a group of people, or alone, is chanting. Saying a rythmic chant over and over until your awareness of your surroundings fades is something that scared me a little at first, when I experienced it not alone at home, but in a club environment at the local Witch's Ball, when we were all saying the goddess chant over and over to close the night's festivities.
Ritual cleansing can take many forms, but in all forms it symbolizes the washing away of negative energies.
A ritual bath is the most common form of cleansing but it can take other forms, most frquently a washing of the hands, which carries the same symbolism, but obviously is much easier to do when a working needs to be done quickly.
Finally there is the methd that many here in North america use, sage smudge sticks. Light the smudge stick and pass it near your body, in slow sweeping motions, allowing the purifying smoke to carry away the negative energies.
Finally another cleansing I have seen suggested is best done outdoors, where there is a breeze prestent. Simply stand in a rush of wind and visualize it carrying the negativity away from you.
Here is how to do a ritual bath for purification.
Tie up a mixture of purifying herbs in a four inch square piece of cheesecloth.Common mixtures used in the bath satchet are:- basil, fennel, lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme, and valerian.Light a white taper and take it and the bath satchet into the bathroom.
(use a little less valerian and a little more mint or lavender, as valerian has a strong pungent odor).
- anise, and bay leafOther mixtures of purifying herbs may be used, and if you wish simply sprinkling sea salt into the bath works as well.
Run a quarter tubful of warm water.
Toss the satchet into the water
Set the candle in a candle holder.
Step into the bath
Relax in the bath for several minutes, squeezing the satchet so that the herbs release their scents and oils.
Feel the tensions and negativity of everyday wash away.
When you feel cleansed, dry quickly. Don your ritual garb (or whatever you will be wearing (or not wearing) for the ritual)
Take the lit taper and go to your magickal space.
Use the candle to light the ritual candles.