What are rituals?
Throughout time, people have been performing rituals--a set of well thought-out, symbolic actions--for all kinds of reasons and for all kinds of events in their lives. These rituals may be as simple as shaking someone's hand in greeting or as elaborate as the Japanese tea ceremony. Everyone performs rituals in some form or another, not just individuals, but even businesses (like ribbon cutting when opening a new store) and governments (like the groundbreaking that takes place with the officials and VIPs with their hard hats and shovels).
Rituals involve using symbolism. When we shake hands in greeting, it is a connection to the past, a time when a gesture of an open palm showed a person came unarmed and in peace. Through the years, the gesture has evolved and, although most of us don't carry weapons, a ritual handshake is still a symbol of peace and goodwill in meeting. Another example of symbolism is when we light candles on a birthday cake to represent the years in our lives. In sacred ceremony, we use symbolism as well. For example, during a house blessing, we may sprinkle water around a house to symbolize purification and cleansing.
Participants of all ages may take part in sacred ceremonies. Young, old, and everyone in between may participate. Sometimes we use physical things, like rattles, drums, or body movement, to symbolize and activate desired changes. This activity may be playful and fun, like stomping feet or clapping, or it may be serious, like singing a solemn song to express the loss of a loved one.
What do we mean by sacred? When we come together with the intent to resonate with our best selves, we connect with the sacredness of life. Whatever name that we give to this sacred source and power - God or Goddess, Universe, Spirit, Nature, Love - we connect with this energy when we create and perform sacred ritual. Sacred rituals are ways to share experience and to establish connections - connections to other human beings, animals, and the earth, connections to our past and our future, connections to the best in ourselves and in life.
Why create rituals?
Although many religious traditions offer sacred ceremonies to honor rites of passage such as births, weddings, and funerals, many traditions neglect to offer ceremonies for other life changes such as moving into a new home, finding a new job, or getting ready for a pet companion to pass over.
When we have experienced suffering or pain, rituals enable us to work with these past physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual traumas and bring resolution and healing. Sacred ceremonies offer a way of tilling the soil of our psyches to create fertile ground for growth during and after the following: relationship break-up and divorce, surgery, losing an unborn child, abuse (emotional or physical), death of loved one (human or animal), war, violence, and natural catastrophes.
We create sacred ceremonies as a way to infuse more spirit energy into our everyday existence. In this day and age, many of our lives often have become so busy and disconnected, so jam-packed with activities, that we may find it difficult to take the time to do the things that nourish and replenish us, the things that meaningfully connect us to our family and friends. We are energy beings. As we move through life, our energy touches and interacts with everyone we come in contact with, whether we are aware of it or not. In rituals we are conscious of our energy, the energy of others, and the spirit energy we bring, creating connections between participants – people, places, animals, earth. When we connect to this spirit energy, taking the time to create and perform our own special rituals, we consciously infuse the very best of ourselves into our daily existence.