There is a significant difference between rituals and spells. Some can consider rituals to be for a celebration of the Sabbats and Esbats, the passing of a loved one, to honor a deity, to honor a familiar, to provide personal protection, or to send healing energy to a distant person. What happens during a ritual depends on the practitioner and group. Some use established norms they were introduced to by their mentors, and some use the rituals published in books. The gestures, clothing, activities, and statements used are usually carefully selected to enhance the ritual. The ritual is usually designed to help the practitioner express something that will connect them to the divine, and allow the end result to benefit the participants.
Careful consideration on when the ritual should take place is done. Pagans sometimes associate specific moon cycles or sun cycles with specific desired outcomes. To conduct the ritual during those beneficial timeframes enhance the energy generated, and amplifies the affects on the outcome. Pagans often use herbs and crystals in the same manner, and will select these two items to include in the ritual to enhance the energy being focused. Crystals can be worn, or the energy can be directed into the crystals for a kind of time release of the desired energy over a period of time. Herbs are often burned, or used to cover some of the ritual objects to enhance their role in releasing energy. Statements used to speak the practitioners intent are usually developed under careful consideration for what the practitioner is actually asking for, either in general terms or specific terms.
Some of the activities can include the writing of intention on paper, to be subsequently burned in order to release the intent into the universe. Some will use this method in order to release something, such as negativity, breaking of bonds, or cutting off a negative influence. Another activity is to create special jewelry to be worn later to either remind the practitioner of a promise or dedication, or to hold a specific type of energy that can be absorbed by the practitioner when theirs is depleted. Sometimes the point of the ritual is to open up the practitioners stream of conscious to flow into a journal for consideration later. The stream of conscious can be what the person really wants without the fear of judgment. The practitioner can then use the realization of what they really want to actualize into a solid plan and goal. A healing ritual can consist of the person in need being the focus for healing energy, and may have the group place hands on them for direct reception of the flow of energy, or (in the case of a long distance) the group can visualize caring for the person in their own way that will assist the recipient to heal better, faster, or in a specific manner. Some rituals consist of celebrating the earths cycle, and during a Sabbat celebration a specific activity linked to that holiday is conducted. Beltane has a traditional May Pole, and some Pagan communities will use the pole as a symbolic representation of fertility, and invoke the energies associated with reproduction and sexuality whilst dancing around it, weaving the ribbons. While this list can go on, the activities are usually chosen to represent the process to the end goal of the practitioner, or the reminder of the desired end state.
Rituals usually begin with the creation of sacred space. Deities that are petitioned are usually chosen due to their predilection for the desired outcome. Examples include the invocation of Athena and Apollo for wisdom, learning, and organization. Should the desired outcome need these qualities, these would be the deities invoked in order to enhance the desired energy flow, and positively influence the outcome. Some deities are specific to a season. Other forms of deity representation can be in the idea that the deity energy is that of a young person, a mature person, or a wiser older person.