Sunday, March 7, 2010

Formal, Casual, or Both?

Earlier, I posted about an online ritual that I participated in . . . and it was good . . . but formalized and structured ritual is not my usual way.  I usually only do the whole nine yards when it comes to ritual if I am sharing the ritual with another (it makes it easier for participants to be 'on the same page') or I am compelled to be formal for some particular reason.  Instead, my practices usually consist of more 'mundane' rituals.

This has been a recurring topic in some of the blogs that I am following.  The idea of everyday activities being viewed as ritual appears to be a common one and, more interestingly, one that is NOT covered in many of those books out there for beginners -- or even intermediates.  At first, when I realized this fact, I was puzzled.  I would have thought that creating ritual in everyday life would be one of the earlier skills that a practitioner of a Pagan tradition would learn.  After all, mundane ritual (at least as I practice it) frequently does not require special tools or a special place.  It can be done at any time, in any place, with little or no concern about who may be watching (especially appealing if a person is still fully or partially 'in the broom closet').  Why wouldn't the books teach this first?

But, as I pondered this question further, I came to a realization . . . 

Mundane ritual (again, as I practice it), still incorporates a sense of 'sacred space'.  Carrying my sacred space with me or establishing a sacred space without overt ritualistic behavior was not an easy thing for me to develop.  I would venture to say that one of the things that helped me to develop this ability was the dedication that I had for formal ritual when I first began exploring a Pagan Path.  Yes, I read as many books as I could get my hot little hands on.  I confess that I was far from creative in my rituals during the early years -- I would change a word or phrase now and again and insert my own deities, but other than that -- I followed the script!  I fell into a mode of thinking that many I have encountered have . . . there is a 'proper' way to create sacred space and to do so, certain steps must be followed.  If they were not then, at the very least the ritual was impotent; at worst, dangerous.

It was several years before I realized that I had begun doing mundane rituals.  A part of me was embarrassed to admit that I had been doing them for quite some time before I consciously realized it.  After all, depending on the book, running around unconsciously ritualizing could be dangerous -- the potential danger depends on the book, but certainly not something that you want to run around doing all the time.  But an equal part of me is pleased that ritual became such a natural part of my daily life.   For me, something as simple as planting a seed in the garden can be a ritual, or not . . . breathing can be a ritual, or not . . . grooming the dog or cat can be a ritual, or not . . . cooking a meal can be a ritual, or not.  It is all about intent and energy where I am concerned.  If the intent is there and I focus my energy on that intent, any everyday activity can be a ritual in my life.

Ultimately, I think that all those books and all those formal rituals helped me to develop a method of enhancing my everyday life with sacred action.  It did not matter if I was struck with the need to ritualize an everyday behavior while I was spending time with people in my life who were not aware of my spiritual practices because they would never know that I was performing a ritual in their presence.  I did not have to shoo all of the animals in the house out of the room because, contrary to  the claims made by many of the books I read, they were not a distraction.  (I never did understand that bit -- what with the whole idea of familiars and spirit/totem animals that is prevalent in many Pagan systems).

Unfortunately, there are not many resources out there to help Pagans transition from Paganism (whatever your preferred form) 101 to an intermediate or advanced form of the tradition.  Many of you out there have managed to make this transition despite the lack of resources.  In some ways, this is an advantage to the tradition because, since many who progress past the 'basics' develop their own methods and traditions, the community is in a constant state of renewal and fluidity.  Some are fortunate enough to benefit from the personal teaching of an elder in the community, but many do not have that luxury and we develop on our own, using fresh approaches that come to us -- incorporating those that are successful and discarding those that are not (but being happy to pass them on to others because we realize that just because it did not work for us does not mean that it will not work for others).

How did you figure out what works for you in your ritual practice?  Are you more comfortable with Formal or Casual rituals? -- or maybe you are equally comfortable with both.  At what point did you begin deviating from the versions of ritual provided in popular publications -- or did you?


Marie S said...

Well said.
I believe that our relationship with god, goddess, the all that is, the universe or what ever you choose to name it, is a very personal thing and formal ritual does a good thing here, it bridges that gap so all kinds can work together and become family or not ;-D

Anonymous said...

About 6 or 7 months after picking up my first Scott Cunningham book I BEGAN (which is the key word here) to realize that the stiff written out composed Ritual was not me. I'm a straight shooter. Within TIME, I listed to my intuition and my heart and I realized that the actions are much less important than our intent, open heart and open mind. Sounds like you're on the right path for you, go with your heart, it will never steer you wrong.

Rue said...

I just couldn't buy in to all the tools needed for this or that, or "must have" items to have before attempting a ritual. I knew that I could connect without all the hoopla. It was just a matter of trial and error to see just what kind of ritual worked the best for me.

Great post!

Bridgett said...


I think the main lesson I've learned during my first year is that it's all about the intent. Nothing else really matters that much.

Great entry!