Pagan Rituals, like any religion's, play an important role in an Pagan's life. Formal, casual or impromptu, every religion has some ceremony to mark the major events in the lives of its believers. These religious rites are usually performed, or at least overseen, by some authority in the religion. They are also generally performed in some specific center of worship, be it called a church, shrine, synagogue, mosque, temple or something else.
Pagans, on the other hand, tend to perform their own rites. Religious leaders are not considered necessary for most ceremonies. Pagan rituals tend to take place in nature or other temporary spaces. There are very few places that are "churches" in the traditional sense. Most Pagans tend to create a sacred space just before beginning their rites, and release the energies created after the ceremony is done. In many cases, it is difficult to determine that an area was used for a Pagan Ritual.
First and foremost, you should be certain that the area you have chosen for your ritual is private. Being interrupted in the middle of a ritual can destroy any benefit that has been created (think of a cell phone ringing in a movie theater). You should be certain that everything you need for the ritual is gathered together and within the sacred space you will be creating. You should also have cakes and ale (or some substitute) prepared if you follow such traditions (and I recommend that you do - the grounding benefits cannot be overstated). Once everything is collected and ready to be used, you should prepare yourself and your space for ritual.
Preparing yourself means both putting yourself in the proper mindset and cleansing negative energies from yourself. Preparing your mind can be as simple as deciding that you are ready to perform the ceremony. However, your mind should always be on the rites you are observing, without outside distractions, before you begin. Most people find that a brief period of meditation prior to beginning ritual is helpful.
Once you are in the proper mindset, you should perform some simple cleansing on yourself. The two most common cleansing methods are saltwater baths and smudging. Salt is a negative energy sink - it disperses and purifies negative energy. Taking a bath in lightly salted water has a very strong spiritual cleansing power. Smudging is the process of using sacred smoke to purify both yourself and the area you are in. The most common smudge is sage (white sage or desert sage, not culinary sage). In smudging, you gently fan the smoke to reach every part of your body (don't forget the soles of your feet).
Once you have an area where you are fairly sure of being uninterrupted, and you have gathered together all of your supplies, you should prepare your sacred space. The size of the space depends on both the size of your group and the complexity of the Pagan rituals you will be performing. In some Wiccan traditions, the sacred space is a circle thirteen feet in diameter. While I was a Solitary, I used a three foot circle - just large enough for me and my small altar. Currently, my wife and I use a circle about five feet across (as defined by the breakfast nook in our apartment). Regardless of the size, you should always begin by creating a circle of protection.
Depending on the type of area you are in, you can draw a protective circle around your space using salt, cord, or chalk. Be sure that while you are drawing the circle, you are also focusing on the intent of protecting your sacred space. After the circle is drawn, visualize the protective circle rising in to a dome, then sinking into the earth, creating a sphere for protection around your sacred space. Once this sphere of protection is in place, you should avoid crossing the perimeter of your circle, as this could weaken or break the protection. After you have protected your scared space, you might also call on specific deities or guardians to watch over your rites. This could (but doesn't have to) include Casting the Quarters and/or Drawing Down the Moon, depending on your tradition.
You should always be careful to restore your sacred space to its initial condition after performing Pagan rituals, especially if you do not have a dedicated space for their rites. You should be certain to thank any deities or guardians invited in to the ceremony. Finally, you should release any excess energies gathered back into the earth.
The grounding of excess energy is especially important, as otherwise, this energy will remain in the space and randomly effect people, animals and events nearby. If, like me, you perform your observances in your home, the energy can effect you in unexpected ways. The one time my wife and I neglected to ground the energy, no one in the house could sleep, or even settle down in one place, for several hours. In fact, we couldn't relax at all until we re-entered the area of the ceremony and channeled the energy into the earth.
It is, of course equally important to ground yourself after a ceremony. The energy that you have handled can be disconcerting, and can cause actual physical symptoms if not grounded properly. Grounding is usually easily accomplished by a simple meal (the Cakes and Ale of the Wiccan Traditions). If this doesn't work, you should try visualizing roots growing from your body down into the Earth, carrying away excess and negative energy.The Urban Pagan › Pagan Rituals