He also uses time of day to power his rituals. Sunrise and sunset are particularly powerful times, and I often time his rituals to happen then. Which means he always knows the exact time the sun rises and sets, which he notes is a cool party trick but makes sleeping in kind of tough. In later books, I plan to use solstices and equinoxes to power some seriously potent magic.
Rituals can be tricky things. You have to set everything up just right, use the correct ingredients and apply your will appropriately. It's not strictly necessary to have magical talent to perform a ritual, but if you don't have talent, you need to substitute something for the missing power. Certain times of day and days of the year have inherent power, and the non-talented can perform working rituals at those times. Why do you think Wiccans do their magical workings at Samhain or the solstices? There's power at the turning of the seasons.
There are other ways to create ritual power, but I don't recommend blood magic. Sure, it works, but blood magic is dangerous. Someone or something has to die to create enough power for big workings, and as a white warlock, I'm duty bound to hunt you down and bring you to justice. Besides, killing is just wrong.
If you're like me and have magical talent, you can perform rituals any time, and they will work, assuming you did everything right. But I can take advantage of powerful times too. The ritual will take less out of me and probably be even more effective. So there was every reason for me to take advantage of sunset.
Why are sunrise and sunset powerful times of day? They are times of change. During times of change, the barrier between our world and the world of spirit is weaker, allowing energy to seep through to our world. Ritual magic allows us to harness that power and direct it to do what we want.
Laura once asked a good question when I was telling her about rituals. "If rituals are just a way to direct power, and you've got power available, why do you need all the ingredients?"
It was a good question because it was one of the first ones I asked my dad when he started teaching me magic. Great minds think alike and all that.
My dad told me that technically, the ingredients aren't needed. If you have enough power, a strong will and complete focus on the outcome, you can do ritual magic without all the trappings.
Very few, maybe only a handful in history, have ever been strong enough and sufficiently focused to make that work.
For normal ritual casting, the ingredients have symbolic meaning. For example, I'd be using a magnet to symbolically link me to what's missing, St. John's Wort is a good herb for divination (in other words, it's good for helping to find stuff). Mugwort helps enhance magical power, and sandalwood chips are the best thing I know for granting wishes. It's not that any of the ingredients have power in and of themselves. It's their symbolic meaning that gives us the means to focus our will to make things happen.
I'm probably not explaining it well. Laura gave me some pretty odd looks when I tried to tell her about ritual magic. What can I say? Teaching isn't in my blood. It was one of dad's gifts that he didn't pass on to me.