The Sacred Power of Ritual: Honouring Life’s Important Passages

Life is full of ritual. We have social customs and celebrations for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and life passages such as baptisms, bar and bat mitzvahs, and marriage. We celebrate holidays with valued traditions that have been passed down through the centuries. Christmas would not be Christmas without a tree, and Easter would not be Easter without the bunny.  Interestingly, even though these are Christian holidays, their rituals and traditions can be traced to ancient pagan rites.

Official rituals exist for every culture, but not all are instilled with their original mystery and sacredness. If we become conscious about all the ritual we do in our lives, we can re-invoke its sacred power back into our everyday existence. For some, ritual just means going through the motions with meaningless repetition that can make us fall asleep; for example, struggling to stay awake in church. But when it is done with intention and in a soulful way, ritual can be filled with meaning.

RITUAL DEFINED

Jean Achterberg states, “Whenever human beings are faced with challenges alone, in groups, or in society, they develop ritual. Rituals give significance to life’s important passages.  They provide form and guidance to our lives in times of grief, peril, uncertainty and celebration.”

Anthropologist Angeles Arien says, “Ritual provides the bridge between the inner and outer worlds and creates a context for connecting to the seats of our souls. The end result of all ritual is an increase in balance, strength, energy and comfort.”

Ritual involves a sequence of actions performed with intention and focus, which impacts both the unconscious and universal mind.  As people participate in the ritual, they create a conscious energy which brings power to their vision to manifest and co-create.

CEREMONY

Ritual morphs into ceremony when spiritual energies are called in. When our intention is for the highest good of all, the ceremony becomes alchemical, meaning that profound transformation can take place. A ritual always has a theme and intent that is held by a blueprint. It turns into ceremony when it takes on a life of its own and flows in directions not imagined by its creator. Rituals can’t be controlled or predictable and still have power. Real transformation is organic and cannot be forced. 

WHY PERFORM RITUALS?

As we move through life’s transitions we can feel lost, confused and disoriented.  The past is over and the future is unknown. Through ritual, we can intend what we want for the future, muster up the courage to step into new beginnings, welcome fresh opportunities and find new meaning in our lives.

Rituals help us to leave the mundane world and enter into higher and even ecstatic realms. They can be used to release past traumas, generate renewal and create healing transitions. We may mourn, celebrate, pay tribute or express deep appreciation for another. Rituals can help us to connect with the past, our tradition and ancestral lineage. They can act as a catalyst for change and transformation, or can be used for groups to create a vision, goals, and to unify its members with a sense of belonging and loyalty. For society, rituals can be used to create world change, evolve us to a higher order and move us into new earth energies.  

RITUAL AS SACRED ART

Firstly, Sacred Art can be defined as art of a higher order that changes and transforms the person doing the piece, participating in the experience or just simply observing it.

Facilitating a ritual is one of the highest art forms available to humankind. We need to call in our high priest / priestess archetype to create ceremonial magic. In ritual, we may dance, move, sing and play instruments. Story telling, spoken word, poetry, drama, psychodrama and props can be used to convey the intention and theme.  We can also create artwork to draw our story or create a mandala to allow our spiritual experience to unfold. An altar can be built to symbolize the intention and theme for the ritual.  

TOOLS AND PROPS

We can get very creative with the props we bring to the ritual. A variety of easy-to-play instruments such as drums, rattles and Tibetan bowls provide sound for the ritual. Ribbons and scarves can be used to enhance movement. Head dresses and costumes help to play out certain themes. Candles and crystals help us bring in the elements.  Face painting can be a fun and creative way to connect to the theme and get participants interacting with one another. 

STEPS FOR CREATING RITUALS

You can create a blueprint for your ritual using the following steps. These steps pertain to a group ritual, but can be also used for one that you create for yourself or facilitate for another person.

1) Call in the circle to harness the energy and hold sacred space to bring participants together. Many call in the four elements and directions to foster this.

2) State your theme and intentions.

3) Cleanse your energy field with sage, essential oils or sound – tingshas work well.

4) The facilitator begins to build the energy around the theme through movement, sound or music, for example.

5) The ritual’s theme is acted out.

6) The facilitator, like an orchestra leader, works with the energy to peak and crescendo it, bringing it up and down depending on what is unfolding.

7) Closing – call the circle once more to close the ritual.

8) Participants share and process to validate one another and the group experience.

When words fail, ritual can be used to move through a transition, release and heal the past, and move us into regeneration.

Ritual is used in many of our College’s programs, leaving students with a powerful experience they will never forget. It is a very creative, exciting, dynamic and often a fun way to move us through life’s challenges, transitions and moments to be celebrated. What a wonderful way to honour your magnificence and all that you can be!

Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak are co-founders of the Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training. The College offers professional training programs in Spiritual Psychotherapy, Spiritual Director, Holistic Health, and Coaching. For more information or for a course calendar, call 416-484-0454 or 1-800-TAC-SELF, or visit www.transformationalarts.com. To receive their monthly e-newsletter, email marketing@transformationalarts.com

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