In my Faith there are almost no institutionalized rituals and I like that – and I like rituals. What is the difference? For me, the institutionalized rituals I have experienced over my life lost their meaning easily. I had to work really hard to remember and to focus on the meaning and not just get lost in the doing of the ritual. I think that is because the ritual had no personal meaning for me – I did not create or orchestrate what was happening. Perhaps I was supposed to kneel to show humility, but maybe I felt more humble by raising my arms and bowing my head. The purpose of the ritual was great, but how it was executed did not necessarily fit with my feelings.
Does that mean I am anti-ritual? Not at all. I think rituals are powerful and important. Creating a personal ritual can be a profound way to mark something, or to commit to something, or to celebrate something.
Here is my take on Personal Ritual Development 101. Figure out the purpose of the ritual, what represents that purpose for you, where you want to hold the ritual, what words or actions are appropriate, who needs to be present, when it needs to occur, and probably a few other things I have forgotten. Let’s look at each of those. Before that, though, I want to share my credentials that allow me to talk about rituals. None. Zip. Nada. I have participated in several institutionalized rituals and a few that I created. For those that I created I just did what felt right. I have no formal preparation in ritual design, no significant reading up on rituals, basically no training whatsoever. I do have quite a few years of living and that presents all kinds of opportunities for rituals. Most of those growing-up and being-a-parent rituals involved going out to dinner to celebrate, and to get really fancy we might have a toast!. Those are not the kinds of rituals that I want to talk about here. I want to talk about the rituals that you design to mark something important to you.
The purpose of a ritual can be anywhere from profound to mundane. I like the idea of little rituals, though I have not established any for myself. I like the idea of a morning ritual that could include Qigong, prayer, tea, and my deck. Haven’t made it happen yet, but I like the idea.
Back to the components of a ritual. The purpose of the ritual is key. What do you want to accomplish with the ritual? The more specific you can be about the purpose of the ritual the easier the rest of the process is. After you figure out the purpose, then you can think about what represents that purpose for you – maybe a candle, a ring, a cup of tea, an offering. Gathering the components for your ritual can be meaningful and fun. (I had a huge stuffed bear represent Bob twice – made me smile.) Where do you want this to be – inside, outside, special room, special city, mountains, beach. The choices are endless. Make it special. Words come next. Think about the message of your ritual, craft a message from your heart. Keep the message positive and uplifting, even if it is related to some bad “stuff.” This is the message that you are taking forward; leave the yuck behind. What actions speak to you for this ritual? Does it make you think of dancing, sitting, standing, rocking, throwing things out, gathering things? No rights or wrongs here, just what seems to fit for you. Who, if anyone, do you want with you during this ritual? Is this for you alone, do you want to be witnessed, do you want ancestors (near or far) to be with you, who else is part of this in physical presence, by proxy (my bear for Bob), spiritually? And when does it need to occur – the season, a specific date, time of day, celestial markers (full moon, lunar eclipse). Those are the things that I thought about as I created my rituals.
What rituals do you want to create? My deck, qigong, prayers, and tea are calling to me.