What Is Ritual?
Rite, Ceremony, Symbolic Act, Intention, Connection
A vital part of any ceremony or rite is ritual. A ceremony depends on ritual to imbue it with meaning. Rituals themselves are ceremonies, in that they “fit together” (the root of the word ritual) and honor the turning-point events of our lives, as well as our daily activities.
Ritual Is Metaphor
A ritual uses symbolic acts to remind us of a truth, or to embody a concept by engaging the senses and the imagination, to enable us to see beyond what’s literally occurring, and experience different levels of meaning.
For example, when a couple lights a unity candle during their wedding ceremony to symbolize the blending of two families, this is a symbolic act, and a ritual within the ceremony.
Action With Intention
In its most basic sense, a ritual is any action that we do with intention – whether just once or many times – as opposed to a habit, which is done regularly but perhaps mindlessly. A ritual connects us to the present moment, enabling us to become mindful, and attentive only to what we’re doing at that moment.
For example, washing your hands could be a mindless habit. Or, you could decide that each time you do it, you’ll focus your attention and transform the act into a moment of gratitude for your hands, and everything they do for you and for others. The intention makes it a ritual. (Thanks to Rob Spencer for this idea!)
Ritual connects us to levels of consciousness beyond the physical. It’s a beautiful opportunity to practice the gift of co-creating with the Divine, manifesting the sacred in our daily lives.
Read the next post, Types of Rituals, to learn more!
(Some info adapted from The Art of Ritual, Renée Beck and Sydney Barbara Merick)