The Art of Ritual
“Ritual can become a safeguard if the going gets rough – it can help lead you through the experience and make it profoundly meaningful. After repeated sessions, the ritual becomes a psychological road map, providing a framework for safe tripping. Rituals are built from the lessons learned from previous good experiences. But at some point, for the shamans among us, being safe is not the priority – pushing the envelope to new revelations is.”
From the dawn of human kind history, all traditional cultures make utilization of some sort of rituals – initiation rituals, shamanic healing rituals, communal rituals, etc. The source of the rituals lies at ancient times and based upon great mystery of life as well as its multitudinous problems. Tribes throughout the world have used ecstatic dance, percussion, entheogens and the creation of a sacred ritual space to assist in the facilitation of transcendent experiences.
Nowadays, rituals mark life’s momentous and symbolic events: from special birthdays and holidays to personal affairs such as a child’s first day of school or the death of a beloved one.
In the long run, and as people and circumstances change, some rituals become merely habitual, losing their significance and creating a hunger to get more meaningful methods of celebration.
Recent research shows that rituals can be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim to not ever think that rituals work.
While anthropologists have documented rituals across cultures, this earlier research happens to be primarily observational. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal influence on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
When rituals are made and executed by the uniformed these are typically meaningless and grotesque. When created according to definite philosophic principles and performed with knowledge of the transcendental arts, these very rites become alive.
The rituals still hold in common is the fact that at the very least you will discover often the transition between beginning, middle, and end.
The rituals usually include specific types of sensory stimuli like sound, color, lighting, and smells.
Rituals are seen as a unique time in a unique space so the space is also of great importance.
Putting on different clothes, symbols, or jewelry for ritual greatly influences those participating.
Wise spiritual seekers are advised to make their particular rituals. In antiquity the culture and prestige of a thinker was measured solely by the quality of his ideas. Man’s thoughts were not considered good because he was great; he was considered great because his thoughts were good. So if you have an idea for particular ritual – go for it.
Ritual at the level of soul
There are four levels through which the shaman engages the whole world.
These levels correspond to the four domains of vibration and light: the realm of the physical world (our body), the realm of thoughts and ideas (mind), the realm of myth (soul) and the realm of spirit (energy). When working with ritual and ceremony, we work at the soul level—the realm of myth. Albert Einstein once said that the problems we face in life may not be solved at the place in which they were created. Shifting to a higher realm of perception often helps us experience oneness with all of creation. As soon as we are aligned with Spirit, we can exercise judgment and wisdom in a new light.
At the realm of myth (soul), language is poetry, music, stories and fairy tales, symbols and images. As soon as we engage in this realm where ordinary language is inadequate, we work as close as we can to the essential realm of spirit. This is certainly the realm talked about in the ancient traditions of the Buddhist, Egyptian and Celtic and reported by individuals who have had near-death experiences. It is inside this realm that we can shift, through ritual and ceremony, from dying in a place of fear to a place of peace and easily stay conscious for the journey ahead.
Tools and Aids
Tools and aids are used to create a peaceful soothing atmosphere. They tune into the senses and really should be appropriate to the person’s wishes and spiritual orientation. These are general suggestions.
LIGHTING: Soft lighting or burning candles may bring feelings of peace and safety.
Visualize this energy before you. Perhaps it is blue light dancing at the center or fire spewing from your athame.
Send this energy into the universe which will make happen what you really have got envisioned: protection, strength, prosperity, connection.
AROMAS: Burning sage, scented candles, incense, fragrance of flowers can have a calming effect.
Take a Ritual Bath before you decide to join the others. Ground and center before you decide to join the others.
HOLY OBJECTS: Set up an altar and arrange spiritually meaningful articles or pictures on it.
Be aware while you prepare your worship space, moving things about and collecting your props, of the work you are going to do.
MUSIC: Appropriate music will soothe and inspire. Certain instruments of sound, such as drums or bells, are utilized in large number of traditions. Sounds of nature can be quite healing.
Breathe deeply, chant, and drum. Connect with all that is within you and all that you really have got invoked.
PRAYER: Oral prayer in keeping with the person’s tradition, recitation of psalms, reading of scriptures.
You truly do have a purpose for this Ritual? State it with conviction and power.
SILENCE: Never forget that silence is definitely an important sound. It is great to remember the value and necessity of simply sitting in silence.
At last, be polite and dismiss the deities which have been good enough to join you for your magic.
If rituals are made with that in mind and rooted in love and compassion, then you will find no right way or wrong way to do things. Be aware that rituals often help us see things more clearly and bring to the surface issues holding very deep feelings which have been buried within our unconscious.
Finally, make review in your mind what you really have experienced, what your reactions were, how many emotional states were and is.
Insights and revelations can come quickly, and if you do not take some time to carefully review what has occurred, the insights may be lost, much like how dream images quickly dissolve upon awakening.
Share with us your experiences and insights.