In past newsletters we have looked at creating sacred space for ourselves. But Sacred Ritual is very important for us as well. Those involved in spiritual gatherings, a group, parish, or congregation, have the opportunity to experience ritual with other individuals and many find that this practice is enough for them. Others want more outside of-or in addition to- the groups they find within their “religious” institutions. And yet there are many who have a deep spiritual connection with a higher power; although, without a group do not know how to practice ritual. In this article we will look at why ritual is important and how to make beautiful ritual a part of one’s life. This is true whether associated with a particular religious group or not.
The very first thing we will discuss is rules in Spiritual Ritual. When one stops worrying about RULES, a whole world of possibility begins. Rules are my pet peeve! I am not suggesting we don’t have laws, yada…yada. What I am suggesting is that rules have no place when one is creating ritual. That last line is going to have some religious leaders tied up in knots but it is not meant to show any disrespect at all. I understand that it is not so much rules as tradition that is embraced within some of the guidelines. And it is important for some to follow tradition and their culture right to the letter, but for others this is not necessary for their spiritual practice. Another reason why religious groups make rules is to create smooth operation. All large groups of people tend to make rules or laws to create ease. Simply put, it is to control. This need not be considered a bad thing as these particular groups find it easier to have rules to follow and everyone has a right to belong or refuse to belong to any such group; therefore, if you choose it then follow the rules. If this is not your choice, at all times, read on.
When one is struggling with how to create ritual the last thing needed is for someone to tell them how simple it really is. But that is exactly what I am about to do. The reasons for ritual are quite simple; forming community, gaining help or insight, the desire to be closer to the Divine, or simply the honoring of the Divine. What are the common elements of ritual in or out of a religious setting? Three elements are primary. Others are secondary. The three primaries are: prayer, music, and some sort of cleansing, which can be a variety of agents which will be discussed later. Let’s take a look at prayer first. Prayer: Prayer can be a set group of words that one repeats over and over to create a meditative state. Examples of which would be praying the rosary or when one uses mala beads to recite mantras repeatedly. Generally speaking, when these prayers are spoken they come not from a linear place such as acknowledgement of the “words” but rather are used as a vehicle to a spiritual plane. On this plane, one meets a higher power in a place of grace. Some prayer has no words at all and comes directly from the heart. Many people are aware that God, Great Spirit, or whatever you choose to call your higher power, does not need words to know exactly what you are asking or wanting to “say”. Words are more for the human than they are for the higher power. And finally, some prayer is random, fluid, impromptu, and can appear to be gibberish or poetry. The words used in a prayer are of little concern. It is where the prayer comes from that makes the difference.
Music: Here is an interesting aspect of most ritual and one that has had many rules applied to it in numerous settings throughout time. To this day there are religious establishments that do not allow certain music within the ceremonies or walls. I remember wondering throughout childhood why the drum was not something that we ever saw in church. It seemed that the only instruments allowed in church were the organ, piano, or guitar (sparingly). One couldn’t tell if this was more because of logistics or dislike. Spiritual music is a relative term. One person may feel as though a harp is the music of angels. The next might perceive this instrument to have too many roots within the pagan community; therefore, it would not be acceptable within a non-pagan sanctuary. Some Native Americans feel that drums should never be handled by women. Some religions still have underlying vibes that the drum is a symbol of “goddess energy” and this may cause some discrepancies for the faith practiced in that establishment. Accordingly, the only place one might find a brass instrument such as a trumpet might be a Baptist church because they like to praise God in a loud and big way! And perhaps they were paying attention to the many depictions throughout history of God’s angels playing trumpets in heaven! Again, none of these “rules” are bad for any church to choose. But any music, anytime, anywhere, that you find to be speaking to the spiritual place within yourself, is perfect for your ritual. You can sing it, play it, or listen to it. It is totally up to you!
Why music? Music has a universal language all its own. Within every living being there is a place that can only open to the sacred through melody and harmony. Whether chanting, humming, listening, singing, or playing an instrument, it seems that humans are drawn to, and open up to, music. Music truly touches the “jewel in the lotus”, our souls, or the sacred within. It makes us laugh, cry, fill with joy, or go deep inside ourselves where we meet the divine. Music is truly one of the most important aspects of ritual for most people.
To be continued…Next time we will finish with Cleansing, Secondary parts, group ritual, a quick daily ritual for oneself, and the importance of having fun in Ritual.