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May the sun bring you new energies by day

May the moon softly restore you by night

May the rain wash away any worries you may have

And the breeze blow new strength into your being

And then all the days of your life

May you walk gently upon the Earth

And know Her beauty

 

Ritual; what's it all about?

In a nutshell, a spiritual ritual is a framework that allows people to express a common vision gracefully and with all the necessary elements remembered.

Ritual means that a group that comes together with a common purpose is able to express that purpose with out falling over each other or forgetting what to do when, where or how. It means that an individual moved to express some aspect of their spirituality, can do so without the stress of remembering all the parts they want to include, on the spot. A spiritual ritual is a support mechanism. It allows us to move through a spiritual landscape with a rough map; a map that allows us to feel safe with the knowledge that we are on a known route which will bring us home at the end of our journey.

It’s a bit like public transport really… when you go to a new city and have to use the bus system to get around it can take a great deal of concentration and effort to figure out how to get from A to B and back again. You know it works because you can see others using it effectively but it takes a while to work it out for yourself. Where do you get a ticket? Do you need the correct change? Do you need to keep your ticket in order to get out of the station? How many stops do you go and in which direction? What is the etiquette of the journey? Do you greet commuters or ignore them? How do you indicate that you need to get off? What if you miss the stop or your connection? Sometimes a kind local takes pity on you and will guide you through the maze. They will smile and shake their heads – “foreigners”! But after you have taken the trip a couple of times it starts to make sense and instead of frantically figuring out how to press the bell, pull the strap or push the button to make the doors open, you start to appreciate the scenery you are passing by. Then you begin to notice the same faces and you smile in recognition, “Hello”. You even begin to think of a particular seat on the bus as “yours”. If you take the journey often enough you become at home on the journey, you anticipate the bumps and appreciate the good drivers.

Ritual is much the same. It is the familiar routine of travelling from A to B and back again in spiritual terms. When you first attend a ritual it can take a great deal of concentration to figure out how it all fits together; when to speak and what to do. The etiquette may seem odd but is there to assist everyone to get along smoothly. It makes sure those who know the ropes support those who are new. Etiquette also defines the roles of individuals with in the ritual. The driver doesn’t try to collect the tickets or clean the bus, but, each job needs doing and each role has its time and place. The routine provides the boundaries; you can tell where the ritual is up to – beginning, middle or end. It also means that the important bits are attended to as a matter of course. And as you become a regular participant, it all starts to fall into place; it becomes familiar and thus comfortable. When the ritual has become second nature and you don’t have to concentrate to remember everything, it just flows naturally. Then you are able to really relax and enjoy the ritual journey.

Indeed, a fulfilling ritual should be a journey – it needs to have all the expected signposts to allow everyone to feel safe and comfortable but should also contain some space for the mysterious to reveal itself along the way. To be truly fulfilling the ritual also needs to have a high point. An effective climax is achieved by developing a build up before and a slow down after.

A ritual journey actually begins with the anticipation of the event. A bit like looking forward to a special trip. Similarly the preparation for the ritual is important. As you shower and decide what to wear, you are building your intent and gathering energy. When you arrive and greet others who are attending you are forming bonds that will support you through the journey. When the ritual actually begins you take your seat and allow it to transport you through the wondrous spiritual scenery.

All satisfying ritual journeys take you on essentially the same route – from the mundane world, to the spiritual realms and back again. The routines they follow assist you to lift your vibration from the denser everyday to the lighter mystical. The use of incense, candlelight and music are common and they set the scene. Calling on specific energies such as angels, gods & goddesses, elementals & divas bring the higher frequencies of other realms to assist us. Tools such as chant, dance or drumming lift us further up, allowing us to shrug off the constraints of the physical body and bring enhanced awareness. Meditation or contemplation at the peak may bring insights and revelations, as well as healing, inner peace and acceptance. Expressions of gratitude for both the experiences and the presence of those from other realms, bring us back into our reality. Sharing food and drink anchor us back into the physical world, bringing us home to our regular being.

As with public transport there are some factors that can make your journey more or less comfortable, more or less interesting and more or less challenging.

Some drivers are thoughtful of how their driving affects the passengers. They wait for people to take their seats before they pull out into the traffic, they anticipate traffic light changes and they keep as close as they can to the timetable. Poor drivers seem to forget the passengers as soon as they get on board. They push on regardless of the traffic conditions, they career over potholes and seem to have little, if any regard for the comfort of the passengers. A thoughtful ritual leader plans the journey carefully and adjusts it according to the level of knowledge and skill of the participants. They are aware of how the passengers are travelling as a group and they keep an eye on each individual participant. Capable ritual leaders are flexible, with in the set timetable, and allow extra time or speed up as necessary.

While the driver has a profound impact on the ritual journey, it is also the case that each individual has their own ride – no two experiences are the same. People who are attending the same ritual will report very different experiences. Some will be lifted up, feeling refreshed and invigorated while others may be deeply challenged and feel significant discomfort. Every journey has value and each is an opportunity for growth. Each passenger has a personal responsibility with in the ritual journey to both themselves and to the other passengers. They need to ring the bell to indicate that they want to get off – the driver, even if they are aware of what is happening, is not a mind reader! After all one person’s discomfort is another’s welcome challenge and the responsible individual must decide for themselves weather to stay on the bus or get off early.

Lastly, any journey we take regularly can be degraded into a boring chore if it is simply the same road, looking out the same window at the same scenery over and over and over again. So when we take a ritual journey we must guard against our comfort and familiarity with the ritual changing into complacency and boredom. Though the route is well travelled, there are new mysteries to be revealed on each and every journey. Sometimes all we need is a change of perspective; sit in a different place or maybe stand for the whole journey. Perhaps a change of timetable is called for. Maybe a new outfit could give you a lift and recharge your experience. Spending time consciously contemplating the ritual beforehand; what do we want to get out of it as well as what are we prepared to put into it can have a significant effect, for where the mind goes, energy follows. Whatever form it takes the real key to keeping our experience fresh and vital is to simply keep our eyes, minds and hearts open and allow a spontaneous element to weave its way into the ritual.

As beings with both intellect and emotions we naturally look for ways to express ourselves that are both logical and supportive. Ritual is the result of this search. It gives us the framework our intellect requires and the support our emotions desire. Yet with in ritual we can find a rhythm, a flowing freedom and an elegant grace that allows us to connect with whatever we perceive as sacred and spiritual. Ritual allows us to be as structured and formal or as wild and uninhibited as we wish. Ritual can be a welcome and comfortable experience that reinforces our connection to the spiritual realms, leaving us renewed and at ease. It can also be a full on challenge, pushing us to the edge and leaving us feeling exhausted and scoured. Or it can leave us anywhere in between.

Ritual provides a method of interacting with others, who share our vision in a way that is special and present to our experience. In this way we build our spiritual community - those who share a vision of the sacred and who do more than just talk about it. We gather together at our bus stop and get on the same bus together. When everyone has a seat we set off. Travelling through our shared spiritual landscape, acknowledging the common signposts and each other as we go. Sometimes there is laughter, sometimes tears. Insight and clarity are common visitors but the things that keep coming back are the sense of awe & wonder, and the loving connection we all have. At the end of our ritual journey we give thanks for all we have experienced. After we alight from the bus and return to our homes, we get on with our lives… and plan the next ritual.

 
 
     
Tamara Celbrant

Tamara Lampard, Celebrant

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