The other day someone asked me what they should do with the leftovers after rituals.
This is a very good question, particularly in these times when most people are trying to reduce waste, save money and recycle more in their everyday lives.
We all know we need to conserve our planet's energy supplies - but when it comes to things used for a ritual purpose you have the added question of the magical energy associated with items.
When I was learning to be a witch, many years ago, I was only really taught two things about disposing of ritual leftovers.
The first was that any excess food and drink, particularly blessed cakes and wine, should be put into the garden as an offering for the spirits. In fact, at least a few crumbs of cake should be deliberately set aside for this purpose.
The second was that any water used for purification rituals should afterwards be flushed down the toilet because you don't want negative energy hanging around the house.
Since then one other essential rule has been added: if you are celebrating a ritual in a public place, clear up after yourself and take everything you brought there home with you.
Don't do anything that would harm the environment while you are there. Fires should only be lit in designated places, or keep them small and contained in something so they don't damage plants or cause a forest fire. You could use a small barbecue or a cauldron supported on stones. Keeping your fire contained also makes it easier to take the ashes away with you.
It is also worthwhile clearing up litter that was there when you arrived and leaving the place in a better state than you found it. Reuse or recycle bags, bottles, food wrappers and other leftovers as appropriate. It is better to buy wine or beer in refillable containers if you can, as that is even more environmentally friendly than recycling bottles.
Put leftover plant matter, tea leaves and shredded paper in your compost bin and leave leftover food out for wildlife in your own garden.
If you fancy making your own candles, Jeanette Ellis in her book Forbidden Rites suggests a good way of recycling leftover stubs from candles used for the quarters or on altars. Save up all the leftover stubs and add them to the new wax you melt to make candles. Candlemaking for rituals is traditionally done in late winter or early spring, at around Imbolc.
Essentially, with any ritual leftovers, as in everyday life, think "reduce, reuse, recycle". Use the smallest amounts of ingredients necessary for any spell or ritual to save money and resources, reuse what you can, recycle anything that can't be reused if at all possible. Aim to only throw things away if doing so is an essential part of the ritual (such as a purification).
The picture above shows the book Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!: An Easy Household Guide, which is available through Amazon.