Ritual and ceremony punctuates our lives, marking rites of passage, passing time, changes of status. Whether performed alone or with others, are ancient and elaborate or new and simple, they are a way to help us to make sense of the world.
These occasions often create our memories and can have a profound impact on how we experience life. Think about birthdays growing up, weddings or civil ceremonies, Christenings or naming ceremonies, 18ths, 21sts, public holidays, leaving school, passing exams, graduation, even house-warming parties; even though most people wouldn’t class our culture as being formally ritualistic, these celebrations are important to us and play a profound role in our lives.
Ceremonies like funerals can help the bereaved to feel more in control over life-changing events and provide a moment of completion. People often create their own ceremonies, such as burning letters or photographs to help them move on from a difficult relationship. Although customs differ throughout the world and across cultures, each have their own traditions and rituals, time-honoured and new traditions that serve to create the narrative of our lives.
Without these markers, we can drift through life feeling rootless and miss out on the treasures that the different stages in life have to offer. However, if not performed with clear intention and purpose, they can also be stressful. For example, an 18th party can be full of insecurities, planned to fit in with peers, or to please family members, or, approached with the intention of making it a rite of passage into adulthood, can have a profound impact on how the young adult concerned embraces their new status and takes responsibility for the kind of person they want to be.
When we perform a rite of passage with clear intention and purpose it helps us to take responsibility and embrace change. 'Menarche' the first day of a young girls period or the time a young boys voice breaks are opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate the adults they will later become. Menopause and celebrating 60th's, 70th's and beyond are all opportunities to reclaim life in a different form. Rites of passage are, thankfully, being acknowledged more and more in our culture as are the Solstices and Equinoxes that, at one time, served to keep our connection with nature.
This pandemic has seen many of us scrambling to find alternative ways to mark time and celebrate the traditions and occasions that matter. There seems to be a renewed need to punctuate life rather than drift or wait for it to start up again, with zoom parties, online ceremonies and other, creative socially-distanced celebrations marking our rites of passage and helping us to maintain a feeling of control.
Whether we are aware or not, ritual and ceremony play an important role in keeping us conscious and honouring the lives we are choosing to live. Even simple daily rituals can bring colour and vibrancy into our lives, helping us to be present and conscious of how we are living. For example, a study that gave two groups of people a bar of chocolate to eat, one with the instruction to just eat it and one with specific instructions of how to unwrap, break and eat the chocolate showed that the latter group enjoyed it much more!
So go unwrap that bar of chocolate, peel that orange, prepare your dinner with love and care, even if you are only cooking for yourself. Let’s savour the moments that make us feel good.
P.s. If you'd like to join us in connecting with nature and marking the passage of winter, we are celebrating the spring equinox with a two part ritual starting at 8am on Friday 19th March in our membership. Join us live or on the replay!