“The purpose of ritual is to change the mind of the human being. It’s sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant and the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity.” Sharon Devlin
Do you like to participate in rituals? Do you ever create your own? What do they mean to you?
When people suggest I might do a ritual of some kind to heal a problem, I usually resist. It isn’t that I don’t like ritual, but I often find that I can’t seem to get involved with it to the degree that it becomes meaningful. Despite that, I have had several very meaningful experiences with it where the ritual took me to a very spiritual place.
Chanting May Create A Loving Feeling
Chanting is a perfect example. When I try to chant by myself, it seems to go nowhere—not even to the nowhere it is supposed to go. When I am with a group and singing a chant, I am carried away into a warm, fuzzy centered place where I am one with the group and it feels like the love of the holy is flowing within us. But creating one’s own ritual can also create deep meaning and connections.
One of my first experiences of creating a ritual took place in Nebraska when my two dear women friends and I were parting ways. One was heading to Omaha, another to Texas, and I was moving to Denver. The thought of leaving each other was painful and we found ourselves withdrawing because we didn’t know how we could say “goodbye.”
Creating Our Own Rituals May Be Very Meaningful
Then we realized that we needed to create a “goodbye” ritual. The following is a description of the ritual from my memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness.
“When the moon was full, we went to the sand pits where we used to swim. We brought with us tokens of the life we had shared: flowers, tea, rocks, shells, dryer lint, unfinished pot holders, orange water, herbs, a fan, and a feather. We played instruments, and Carolyn, with bells around her ankles, and I danced. Donna, with her curly, sandy hair, watched, looking like a wild lion with a morning trumpet rising like a horn from her head. In this sacred space, the moon goddess blessed us, shining clear and bright in the darkness. The water was cool and serene, and the sand was soft beneath our feet. Our burning candles were hidden from the road by a small dune, and while we were there for two hours, no one disturbed us. My friends were like two sides of myself: the daring beast and the mystic. Speaking, I honored them.
‘Donna, the Leo, you give me strength to speak my own name, to believe in my beauty; you are laughter in my life; you are the fire of anger that sets me in motion; my defender, sister traveler, my comforter, my equal, my loving friend. You are the flower of celebration.’
‘Carolyn, the Sagittarian, you make the cycles of nature sing in my soul; you help me see the beauty, the humor in simple things; you are constancy, you are calm, you show me humility and forgiveness, my sister traveler, my equal, my loving friend. You are the simmering fire that warms the tea we drink together.’
I would never forget the peace of that night when all good forces in the universe came together to protect us, when we brought the ancient into the present and transformed it with our love.”
Rituals May Connect Us At The Heart Level
Many years before I visited New Mexico for the first time, I subscribed to New Mexico Magazine. I was fascinated with the landscape and the Native American culture and art. I don’t know why I felt such a deep connection to a place I had never seen. When I finally moved there, it was for my health, but while I was there I experienced a deep heart-level connection with its original people, and some need that I cannot explain was filled.
One day a friend and I drove to see Chaco Canyon. We spent the night nearby and drove into the canyon well before the sun was up. It was the morning of the summer solstice and we stood at the edge of Casa Rinconada, a giant kiva, waiting for the first light of day to flow through an opening and strike a small window within on the opposite side. The black sky sparkled with stars and slowly lightened along the horizon. Time seem suspended as the light flowed across the sky and through the window into the center of the kiva, gradually moving its spear of light through the dark opening of the window and illuminating it.
Rituals May Feel Timeless
I was flooded with the sense that I was connected to the many generations of people who have witnessed this coming of the light on the first day of summer. This site was the ancestral home of the people now known as the Pueblos, 19 groups of which reside in New Mexico. They were also the ancestors of many of the students I taught from the various pueblos. What I felt was more than the sense of connection with the people and land but also a connection with time as a timeless concept.
Rituals Connect Different Cultures
In 1994 I traveled to West Africa with a group of teachers, and while we were there, we visited a village where the chief was away. It is a tradition in Africa to greet visitors with a particular tea ceremony. Because the chief was away, his teenage son welcomed us and led us to a domed structure build from tree branches where we sat on the floor, and he performed the ceremony. The tea was brewed three times and passed around the circle. The first time it is bitter like life. The second time it is sweet like friendship. The third time it is syrupy like love.
This was the second time we had experienced this ceremony, and both times we felt the warm, welcoming greeting of those performing it, but it was the chief’s son who impressed me so much. He was a teenager much like those I taught at the time. I thought how lucky he was to be trusted with such an important ritual so young. It was another step in his learning to be a man.
While I felt a sense of Oneness with the Africans we met on the trip, I also felt honored when they shared their rituals with us, and wondered if the lack of ritual in most of our lives was part of what separated us within a community. These rituals, like the other rituals I’ve experienced, are ways to put us in touch with earth, sky and humanity without us needing to find words spoken in the same language.
Like my other experiences with ritual, this one brought people together in a simple way. Sitting in that domed hut, I was amazed at how cool it was on a hot day with us crowded closely to each other, an experience not everyone in our group was comfortable with. Although this village had just gotten its first electric-driven well, the community relationships in this village were what mattered most, not the things they had. I was reminded of my own childhood where we played in many yards watched over by many parents while the parents performed their evening ritual, talking to each other on the front steps of our homes.
Rituals Take Us To A Deep Spiritual Place
Perhaps because rituals are predictable, we are able to slip away and experience the deeper connections with one another that we may not share in the business of our day. Somehow, we each have to find the experience that will connect us meaningfully and allow us to activate the spiritual nature that lies beneath our surface.
© 2014 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5