Today I’d like to talk about declarations of intention and why we should say them before beginning ritual. Whether you’re writing your own ritual working or using someone else’s compositions, it’s always good to start your work by stating (out loud) what you’re doing and why.
For example, the first ten words of the Catholic Mass serve as a declaration of intention. We can begin with the first four words: “Introíbo ad altáre Dei.”
These words tell us exactly what the celebrant is doing: going to the Altar.
The next six words: “Ad Deum qui laetíficat juventútem meam.”
We can also consider an alternative form, found in the Neophyte Initiation for the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia: “I shall go unto the altar of God. To God who giveth joy to my heart.”
In both cases, this says exactly why the celebrant is doing it, though in a figurative way. “To God who gives joy to my youth” refers to a spiritual youth, and by extension to a spiritual renewal. We shall go to the Altar of God so that our spirits shall be renewed and kept youthful, with all the ideas of innocence and joy that entails. I once made a video explaining the significance of these words in detail, which I’ll link below:
Another declaration of intent is found in the Roman Missal, an optional “Formation of Intention before Mass” said by the priest before leaving the sacristy:
I intend to celebrate Mass and confect the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the rite of the holy Roman Church, to the praise of almighty God and all of the Church Triumphant, for my well being and that of all of the Church Militant, for all those commended to my prayers in general and in specific, and for the favorable state of the holy Roman Church. Amen.
How Do We Do It?
At this point, however, we’re still dwelling in the realm of theoretical approaches and flowery religious language. As a matter of practice, for the past 27 years I’ve always stated my intentions more directly. I open by saying “Hoc fácio quia . . . ” (“I do this because,” depending on what language I feel like speaking), and then use my own words to finish the statement.
We see this expanded in magical orders. For example, the Aurum Solis rite of “Evocation to Triangle” contains the following, which it calls the “Proclamation of the Rite” (Mysteria Magica, p. 343):
I proclaim a Rite of Evocation in the Element/Sphere of (name it).
This Evocation shall have relation to Time Present and present use.
It shall have relation to Mysteries far exceeding itself.
It shall have relation to a Purpose and Intent whereby the Majesty and Name of the All-Highest shall, and may, and of force must, appear with the apparition of his Wonders, and Marvels yet unheard of.
This proclamation is taken largely from John Dee’s De Heptarchia Mystica, where Dee attributes the words to King Camara:
This work shall haue relation to tyme present, and present use. To mysteries far exceading it: And finally to a purpose & Intent: whereby the Maiestie and Name of God, shall and may, and, of force, must appeare with the Apparition of his wunders, and mervayles yet unhard of. Dixi.
Combing through magical literature can provide other examples; so long as self-honesty is not hindered, I would encourage each practitioner to find and put into place what works for them.
Why Do We Do It?
The point of a declaration of intention is two-fold:
First, this gives us a chance to sort out what’s in our heads. Have you ever had an idea that sounded great in your mind, but you started tripping all over yourself the moment to tried to explain it to a friend or even say it out loud? Well, this gives you the opportunity to say it out loud and decide if what you’re doing is what you actually want, or even if it’s a good idea at all.
Secondly, making this declaration provides a rubicon. Since you’re saying this before the ritual begins, it gives you one last chance to turn back in case you realize this isn’t something you want after all. The importance of this cannot be overestimated, especially when you’re working for any sort of result that can’t be undone.
Perhaps just as importantly, making this declaration forces us to be honest with ourselves. Magic is primarily an exercise in individual liberation, and authentic individual liberation cannot happen without authentic self-honesty. By forcing ourselves to be self-honest in this aspect of our lives, we hopefully start becoming more honest with ourselves in other aspects of our lives as well.