Rituals are a feature of all known human societies. They include the worship rites of organized religions, rites of passage and purification, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coronations and presidential inauguration, marriages, funerals and more.
Why ritual though? What is it about ritual that makes its use so wide spread? What is the purpose of using ritual over and above any other format for proceedings?
Ritual is important in many different ways; not only for individuals but also for communities, societies and cultures.
Rituals provide an ongoing way to structure our lives. Whether it be on a day to day basis, your morning ritual of making your first drink and getting ready to deal with the day; marking special times of the year or rites of passage in a persons life.
The ritual process provides a sense of stability and continuity; a feeling of trust in life’s flow, forward movement and everything in its right order.
The creation and performance of rituals tie us to our ancestors, our culture and our heritage. They help us to understand where we came from.
Rituals provide a bridge between past, present and future, they enable us to access, honour, and strengthen our own identity.
Rituals give us the chance to take time out of our everyday existence. They provide us with time to replenish and restore our energies; forming an oasis of calm and order along the winding path of our lives.
Rituals also provide us with the opportunity to reasses where we are on our journey, confirm that we are on the right path and renew our direction.
Nature and the changing seasons as the year turns shows us the natural cycles, rhythms and patterns of life. By being in tune with these constant shifts and turns we can recognise and connect with the cycles of our own lives. We are all a part of the natural world.
Rituals keep us in tune with this natural cycle and remind us of the interconnectedness of all things.
When we engage in ritual we are taking part in something that has been undertaken by our ancestors for millennia. Ritual awakens that within us that is eternal; connecting us in essence to ‘original time’ (what the Australian Aboriginals call ‘Dreamtime’).
Ritual shows us how our individual lives are connected to the ‘grander scheme of things’.
Rites of Passage
Rituals help us find and define the patterns and cycles in our individual lives that might otherwise seem to be random happenings if viewed separately. They help us to connect the dots and mark transitional turning points in our lives.
In western cultures many of us have had our connection with ritual reduced to three occasions – hatched, matched and dispatched; ritual has a much deeper importance than this and can help with any transition period where we are moving from one state to another in life. Such occasions as the onset of puberty, coming of age when we become adults, when we become parents or grandparents for the first time are times that are marked in this way in many cultures.
Meaning & Purpose
The ongoing creation and performance of rituals as rites of passage, or for renewal or connection prepares us for the next stages of life.
The successive and cumulative practice of rituals over time has the power to ultimately transform us and add a deeper sense of meaning and purpose to our lives.
Creating and performing rituals that are personally meaningful to us provides us with the essential tools for co-creating our own lives. Ritual allows us to set the exact intention that will ultimately enable us to manifest and reach desired goals and aspirations.
We can also use everyday actions and with intention we can turn these into acts of ritual that will provide us with positive results; for instance you can use your shower as a ritual for washing away any negative energies that you have encountered, a way of cleansing and filling us with the positive energy of water.
Rituals help us to access our authentic selves by taking us into our deeper levels of consciousness. Ritual enables us to bypass the intellect in favour of our intuitive, instinctive knowing, by engaging all of our senses through the use of ritual elements the process.
Rituals help us balance the work of our outer and inner lives and allow for the full expression of our soul and spirit.
When we engage in ritual, we use wording, actions and symbolic reenactment that we do not use in everyday life. In this way rituals take us out of the realm of ordinary space and time, creating a magic that cannot be found in any other format.
Rituals remove us from the ordinary flow of life and place us in sacred space.
Ritual will perform all of these functions for us. It can be performed for a dedicated single purpose, but it is also capable of combining many of these functions in one ritual.