This ritual preparation is a basic outline of the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca. Other traditions borrow extensively from this method, but they do have variances. What follows is a representation of the steps that may be followed in carrying out a ritual -- like any religion, different sects have different methods, and there is no single "right way" of holding a ceremony.
- Purifying The first thing witches do is purify a circular area to get rid of any unwanted energy or forces. A witch may use a broom (besom) to sweep the area and/or burn a bundle of sage, holding it over his or her head while walking in a spiral pattern around the circle and then pausing at each of the four quadrants (north, south, east and west). Each witch participating in the ritual is also purified by waving incense around his or her body.
- Setting up the Altar The altar is set up at the east side of the circle with candles to represent the God and Goddess, salt and water for purification, the athames of the High Priest and Priestess and incense. They place quarter candles at each of the four quarters of the circle.
- Casting the Sacred Circle The High Priest and Priestess cast the Sacred Circle. The Sacred Circle is considered to be a spot that is without place or time. The circle is cast by marking its edges with an athame or other tool such as a staff, sword or wand. They purify the area again with salt and water. They place three pinches of salt into the water and stir it nine times with the athame. Then, this salty mixture is sprinkled around the perimeter of the circle. Incense is then lit and carried around the perimeter of the circle.
- Calling the Quarters The witches call together the spirits of the four elements: earth, fire, water and air. The elements are the guardians that guide and protect the witches.
- Invoking the Deity A deity has to be involved in order to perform magick, so at this point in the ritual, the deities are called. Depending on the ritual, it could be either the God, the Goddess or both. They are called by reciting invocations related to the specific ritual.
Everything up to this point has been preparation for the ritual. It is at this time that the witches begin the actual ritual they are performing.