Rituals are a subject that have beyond fascinated me my whole life. So many questions abound about them: Where do they originate from? Do they really work? What are they key elements in performing them? Do negative influences occur while performing them?
Though I can't answer all those particular questions, I believe they were a key part of life for ancient man. A direct emphasis was placed on pleasing what man believed were Omnipotent beings, Gods if you will. How most people perform them today, I feel, dates back to the Ancient Romans and Egyptians. For example: The black shrouds and repetitive chanting many Neo-Pagans and Occultists adhere to comes from ancient rites the Romans used to garner favor from their vast array of Gods. Sacrificing animals was also part of their ceremonies. The use of Altars for rituals probably dates all the way to Ancient Sumer, the very first civilization. Egypt, I feel, was unique because they adopted a more scientific approach in both worshiping their Gods and the way they buried their dead.
Today, even though most would disagree with me, I feel they have just as much to offer in terms of human assistance than they did back then. Essentially, they are pageantry used for the attainment of some sort of worldly material, or assistance with the outcome of some sort of event.
I, myself, am not sure what are the best methods for them. I feel they, like everything else, are subject to interpretation. Whatever one believes will work for them just might deliver the goods. And that, I feel, is the one key element man must provide to make them work: Belief.