Ritual in the Modern World
Article ID: 11536
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,793
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Author: Wyrdwind [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 4th. 2007
Times Viewed: 3,478
As someone who has a lifelong experience of ritual practice, I have seen that people feel disconnected from participating in any sort of rites beyond the most mundane. People have no expectation of receiving meaning from the performance of a symbolic act, and therefore feel uncomfortable to be present at any sort of solemn passage.
As Pagans, we know that ritual has always existed to serve and assist us to survive and thrive by connecting us to Nature and our community. We don’t have to practice any particular rite or become proficient at any symbolic act. Ritual exists for us, and teaches us what we need to know by connecting us to our world, our ancestors and our own spirits. We can re-create it any way we like to guarantee that it will continue to work for us in our changing environment.
The sabbats connect us to the world in which we live by celebrating the passages of fertility, growth, community, harvest, abundance, and even death. The people who learned these lessons and adapted to their world became our ancestors. Because of their connection to nature, we too have the opportunity to survive, thrive, and to hopefully pass on something of our experience and ourselves to our descendants. These rituals we create energize our purpose to live, innovate, and succeed.
Honoring passages like birth, personal and mutual achievement, marriage, and death connects us to the community at large, fulfilling our great need to interact and succeed as social beings. We take well advantage of the experience of our community if we are to become an ancestor. It won’t be Grandma’s house or other accumulated wealth that will most help my grandchildren but her wisdom – something she said that I never forgot because it is as true today as it was in her day.
Ancestry isn’t just about biology and physical reproduction. Our gay and lesbian ancestors passed as much knowledge and experience on to us as any other ancestors because they are part of our families just like anyone else. Much of what we know came from them and we honor them by recognizing their contributions. We are all part of the community.
Ritual for personal purification and advancement connects us to the incredible untapped human potential within us – the power that appears to make us different than other species of animal (that we know of). The Iceman of the Italian/Austrian Alps of 5, 300 years ago whose body and belongings were found mostly intact carried a bow and arrows of a design which would serve a hunter of today just about as well as any design of its type we have invented since . He was obviously an incredibly efficient hunter, as good as hunters of today.
One doesn’t need to believe in the Dreamtime or a repository of human knowledge kept in another dimension to access this power we possess, though this idea works for some cultures. The ability to be open to change, to adapt, and to look deeply within oneself is all one needs to tap this incredible power. It doesn’t matter exactly where it comes from.
Ritual exists to help us do the things we want to do and to find the meaning we need as humans. We need to feel we have accomplished what we came here to do .
Most humans now live in cities and so are disconnected from Nature for the most part in their daily lives. One needs to make an effort just to notice the natural world around them it seems, so it can be said that our modern world rejects these concepts of connecting human ritual and Nature. Yet we are capable of contemplating all things.
A city is merely a locality and a part of the whole. One can see nature reflected everywhere in the modern world. We are seriously trying to become a space-faring civilization and will truly become citizens of the universe as well as of the Earth if we succeed. Science is only as good as our understanding of Nature and progresses as we learn more about our world. We embrace it because we are not really disconnected from Nature and never will be. So notice it. Nature is all around you and will always be with you and at your service.
Celebrate a solstice if you want it to help you connect to your source and to Nature, your world. Skip it if you need to do something else. Strengthen your relationship with your dear friends by honoring them with your presence at their wedding when they commit their two lives to one path. There is meaning to be found here.
Take a walk in Nature if you need to feel something other than concrete beneath your feet if only for two hours. Read a book to learn something new. Use the internet to look up any fact, subject or thing that inspires you to know more about your world.
Anything you can do can ritualistically connect you, can feel sacred, and be meaningful. Respect everyone’s right to discover their world as they choose. Always remember that ritual exists for you to help you discover your world.
Major religions tend to focus ritual on some task to be performed for deity out of a sense of religious duty. This was never the point and is what takes the fun out of it, frankly. To practice ritual privately will help one to become re-acquainted with the performance of symbolic acts without feeling uncomfortable about other people watching.
To discover ritual existing in a simple act where it was not intended is to see Nature entering our lives even though we thought we had disconnected from it.
To extend that concept by creating our own public or community ritual in the modern world will re-connect us to Nature, serve us in our turn as ancestors, and return to us the meaning we were missing.
 2005 Digging For The Truth- “The Iceman Cometh”. Josh Bernstein, Nat’l Geographic Channel.
 Dr. Andrew Weil, on legacy.
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