Mark Green's Atheopaganism Blog

Living an Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science

Ritual “Special Effects”

Sometimes in a ritual, a little special-effects magic can help to create that sense that “magic is happening”. Here are some effects I’ve collected from a conversation in the Atheopagan Facebook group.

Burning Isopropyl alcohol. Use the full 90%+ stuff, not the 40% methanol “rubbing alcohol”. This is highly flammable and can make for a marvelous ritual effect. I have a shallow basin on a dragon-shaped pedestal that works perfectly for this. When you light it, it flares up beautifully and burns for a few minutes; if you want for it to last longer, put epsom salts in the bottom of your burning basin, which will absorb the alcohol and release it more slowly, for a lower, longer flame.

Fire tornado. I’ve only done this once, but it was amazing. All you do is pour a bottle or two of wine in a cauldron, and set it on a fire to boil. When it does, the alcohol evaporates off first, and convection around the cauldron causes the resulting burn-off of the alcohol to form a tornado! The wine is ruined, of course, so use the cheapest stuff you can get.

Waters for asperging.  Asperging, or sprinkling participants with water, is a nice way (similar to smoke blessing with burning herbs) to help participants to feel that they are entering a “different state” and to promote the onset of the Ritual State of focus, presence and flow. I have had success with water with a bay leaf suspended in it, or basil, or rosewater, or lilac water. Other essential oils can be used but only in VERY SMALL AMOUNTS. Make sure no one is allergic or sensitive to scents before sprinkling people.

Fireball. Perhaps the most dramatic effect of all. A handful of non-dairy creamer powder tossed in a fire creates a huge fireball, just for an instant. CoffeeMate contains the anti-caking agent aluminosilicate, which is flammable (and the rest of it is largely made up of flammable fats). Being dust, the powder has enormous surface area relative to its mass, so it ignites very quickly.

The flash is so fast and low-temperature that it is quite safe, but be sure to take all the usual precautions when dealing with fire (such as not having dangling fabrics—especially cotton and artificial fabrics—anywhere near the flames, and having a fire extinguisher handy). You can mix in some copper sulfate powder and turn the flames blue-green!

Dry ice fog. Available at many grocery stores, frozen carbon dioxide is FAR colder than water ice and creates thick white fog from surrounding moisture as it sublimates back into a gas. Be very careful never to touch the ice to your skin; instant frostbite!

Fill a metal or plastic container half full of hot water and add a few pieces of dry ice every 5-10 minutes. As the water cools, you will need to add more hot water to maintain the fog effect.

Here’s a spectacular magical potion kind of thing: using fluorescein from highlighter markers.




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