“Ritual” – the word sets off myriad reactions within me – mysterious, powerful yet primitive and superstitious. The use of ritual is a cornerstone in most religious and spiritual disciplines – including Magick. Yet, there was a time when I questioned the validity of its use in spiritual growth. I viewed it as a crutch used by people with little confidence in their own ability or as a device used by those in charge to impress the ignorant. Since I accepted my own power and I certainly was not ignorant, I continued to shun all suggestion of ritual in my own growth process.
Many People Perform Rituals Without Really Understanding Them
I can trace my confusion about ritual to my youth. I remember watching my mother take communion – soberly drinking grape juice and v-e-r-y slowly chewing stale bread. It was fascinating. Obviously, this was serious business. But upon questioning her about this performance, the answers were disappointing, to say the least. If my own mother couldn’t explain the purpose of this strange procedure, then why do it? As I grew, my disillusionment with ritual hardened into disdain. Primitive, superstitious mumbo-jumbo with no pertinent meaning or power – that is what I vehemently believed. Of course, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
But Intentional Ritual Can Be Very Useful
Now I find myself at the other end of the spectrum – actually writing an article in support of ritual! Why the drastic shift in perception? Good question! As with most changes in belief, it was a gradual process. One realization building on another until I noticed that I didn’t internally cringe every time someone mentioned the dreaded “R” word. In fact, I have actually – gasp! – performed some rituals of my own.
Three Different Practitioners Were Interviewed
Since Magick is so filled with it, for purposes of this article, I asked three practitioners from varied paths to share their views regarding the purpose of ritual. Their words helped me explain my own change in belief. I asked all three the same question: “What does ritual mean to you personally and what is its purpose in your life?”
What Does Ritual Mean To You?
Nikki: “What does ‘ritual’ mean to me? I thought that was a very strange question at first, like those essay questions your English teacher used to give you. Certainly I have pondered the meaning of specific rituals. Initiation is, for many of us an extraordinarily powerful and meaningful ritual experience. However, I don’t believe I’ve ever stopped to consider what ‘ritual’ in general means to me.
“Actually, this is really a pretty good question, mostly because it makes us think about the nature of ritual itself. The dictionary says ‘ritual’ is a ‘customary procedure’ and that ‘rite’ is ‘the prescribed form for conducting a religious or other solemn ceremony.’ Here you can see the way in which ritual is typically viewed in our culture: ‘Ritual’ is something to be endured; a solemn, dry, boring, routine thing that we do out of custom, habit, by way of procedure – because we have to.
Ritual Is Creative And Dynamic
“Well, toss that idea. It’s time to rethink what we mean by ritual. Folks of all sorts are redefining it in the most exciting ways. You can see evidence of a creative and dynamic ritual process at gatherings, in small circles, and in solo celebrations.
Ritual Is An Experience Of The Sacred
“To me, ritual is a dynamic and creative expression of my experience of the sacred. It’s a way to connect deeply with the most profound insights of my religion, a way to connect with Nature, and with other people. Ritual is not a ‘prescribed form,’ but a creative act through which traditions are given new meaning. I see it as new and ever-changing, yet as constant and familiar as the changing of the seasons. Autumn comes every year; yet I see Fall’s brilliant colors and smell the heady perfume of leaves and crisp ripe apples as it for the first time. Each Samhain is the same; yet each circle reveals something different – there is a new lesson, a new insight, a new dynamic.
Ritual Provides A Way To Celebrate Life
“Ritual provides a way for me to celebrate the cycles and seasons of my life as well as the seasons of Nature. Through its use, I may mark times of personal growth or transformation, celebrating both life with its new beginnings and death with its necessary endings. Rituals can certainly be solemn; providing space for me to cry, to release pain and hurt, to heal. Rituals can also be fun; a space where I can literally dance with a light heart around the circle and laugh with the sheer joy of being alive! In addition to celebratory occasions, they provide avenues through which I and the people in our coven can focus our energies, weaving our will and thoughts together as one to accomplish a particular goal.
Ritual Is An Art
“I see ‘ritual’ as similar to the practice of art forms. When you learn an art – sculpting, metal smithing, weaving – whatever – you acquire tools and learn basic skills. For example, how to use your muscles or how to move energy, how to make patterns or designs. To these basic skills, you add your own creativity, shaping incoherent ‘stuff’ into something of beauty and value. So, too, with ritual. It can be a tool, certainly. But it can also be the means through which we assign meaning. The place where the traditions of our culture and the very essence of our lives find creative voice.”
Part 2 Coming Soon!
The second half of this article will be posted soon!
Share Your Perspective On Ritual
Do you have experience with ritual? What does ritual mean to you? How have you used it in your life? Please share your perspective.
The preceding was originally published in Mezlim magazine and has been edited and republished here with permission of the author, Donna Ravenscraft (formerly Stanford-Blake).
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