Spells and Rituals – What’s the difference?

If you’ve spent any time at all learning about witchcraft practices you’ve heard about spells and rituals.

I mean come on, in what world does casting a spell not sound bad ass?

The words spell and ritual get thrown around a lot, sometimes they are seemingly interchangeable. I realized recently I wasn’t completely clear on their differences but I knew there had to be some.

So here we are, let’s take a look at spells and rituals, how they’re different, how they’re similar, and how they work together!


Spells are essentially a way to direct energy for a purpose. They’re the channel for your magic.

Intention is what powers spells, their goal is to bring about an intended outcome.

Spells can be viewed like prayers, you ask your version of source (God(s), the Universe, etc) for whatever it is you are seeking so that they can help deliver it.

The biggest thing that makes spells different that prayer is that there is almost always a physical anchor of some sort for the energy. This may be a candle, a crystal, a poppet, a sigil, a potion, some sort of talisman or amulet, etc.

This physical anchor helps to focus the energy of the spell for both you and whatever you are calling on for help.

At some point during the working of the spell energy is raised to channel into this physical item


A ritual is essentially anything performed with intent. They contain a spell but don’t have to. Rituals can have a celebratory purpose, performed in honor of a Sabbat, deity, festival, or moon cycle.

Rituals are often community based. They could be rites of passage, celebrations, initiatory rites, or anything else that involves coming together as a group.

They tend to have a structured plan so they can be repeated easily.

Similarities and differences between spells and rituals

Now that we have the basics of spells and rituals, let’s do a little compare/contrast


  • Spells and rituals are both heavily based on intent
  • They can either be done by individuals or by groups
  • Both can be done for a wide variety of purposes


  • Rituals tend to be more structured than spells
  • Spells are often less formal
  • Casting spells often happens when a specific need arises, rituals are more event based
  • Rituals are often designed to be repeated either yearly (like for Sabbats) or monthly (full moons)
  • Most often spells build energy for a quick release, rituals often release energy more evenly as time goes on or they aren’t focused on a release of energy at all

Spells and Rituals together

Spells and rituals are frequently mixed up, most likely because they are often done together! They can both function independently, but a ritual can also involve a spell and spells will likely have small rituals within them.

As an example, you might have some sort of a full moon ritual that goes something like this:

You sit in meditation to focus in on the energy of the moon. You do a divinatory reading to see what the coming cycle will hold for you. Crystals and tools are set out over night to charge. You make note of your intentions for the next month.

In this ritual you have the intention of feeling and using the lunar energy, but there isn’t really a spell.

Of course you could add a spell! Maybe you’ve decided your intention for the month is to find a new job. So you work a spell for luck and confidence in your job search! You use the energy of the moon you’ve tapped into and channel it into a sigil or maybe a candle.

If you were to perform this spell independent of your full moon ritual, you’d probably still have smaller rituals within it. For example, you might have a grounding/centering ritual you do whenever you do spell work, maybe you say a prayer and/or call on deities to assist you, or you have a certain meditation you do to get in the right headspace.

See how there are small, repeatable, structured rituals within that spell? Neat.


Hopefully that helps clear up any confusion about spells and rituals, I know it helped for me!

Basically, spells can be used in rituals, and rituals may be involved in spells, but they don’t have to happen together. They both work with energy and intent but spells are often one-off things for specific purposes and rituals are meant to be repeatable for events that will happen again.


Let me know if you have any other insights on spells and rituals!

PS: I’m opening up five spots in my one-on-one coaching program. This is where you can work with me personally to develop a practice that is unique to you, something that can help you create the witchy life of your dreams! You can go here to fill out the application if you’re interested.

PPS: I’m putting together a beginner witchcraft course, if you have any topics you’d like to see covered or want to get on the waitlist send me an email: samantha@apaganmess.com

Pin it!

A summary of spells and rituals
(Visited 2,285 times, 1 visits today)
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Leave a Reply