To me, ritual is a story enacted with the intention to activate it. Ritual brings story a step closer to ordinary reality and a step away from extraordinary (fantasy) reality. When we talk about thinning veils this is, I believe, what we mean: accessing elements of the extraordinary by transporting them into the ordinary. Or, when a shamanic practitioner journeys, she may look for elements of the ordinary world amid the extraordinary realm of spirit or imagination, so she can bring back answers about daily life. But nothing we can experience is wholly ordinary or wholly extraordinary. It is always some ratio of the two.
So ritual is one means of changing our relationship with the ordinary and extraordinary realms. Yet my previous understanding and experience of ritual leaves me uninspired. I dislike the heavy use of rules and symbology that doesn’t resonate with me. In fact, I dislike practicing anything that doesn’t come forth from my own spirit and imagination. So I need to work on my own concept of ritual.
For me, ritual ought to be used to enact prayer, petition, and spells (things that I wish to happen). If I wish to have a particular relationship with spirit, for instance, I ought to enact that story as a ritual. I believe that ritual can be as symbolic or literal as one likes. Imagination takes centre stage here. Let’s not continue to beat down the imagination for being useless fantasy, and instead value it as our sacred sense of possibility. I want to use my imagination in ritual to enact an extraordinary story, and thus bring it closer to ordinary reality.
In one sense, this might seem to “demystify” ritual, or even reduce it to child’s play. Yet I believe that child’s play is the most powerful magic of all. If ever someone could will themselves to fly, I believe it would be the child who runs off benches, always thinking maybe this time.
For me, ritual is at its best when the practitioner can remain emotionally involved with the story of what the ritual aims to accomplish. So excess obscurity is not helpful. If I cannot find the emotional connection in ritual actions like tying cords or lighting candles, then I ought not to incorporate them. This is not to say that ritual need be emotionally overwhelming or intense, but I cannot go through it like a robot either, distanced from what it is supposed to mean!
So now comes the hard part of deciding what is most important to me spiritually that I would like to create rituals for. What stories do I wish to activate into reality? For now, I think simple things are where to start. I want to activate the reality of being mindful, focused and alert. That would be an excellent morning ritual. I want to enact the story of my deepening relationship with spirit. I want to activate the reality of being grounded and connected to all things.
All these, of course, are merely my own conclusions. I am always interested and respectful of other peoples’ beliefs and practices. I would love to hear what ritual means to you.