Thursday, November 13, 2008
The Importance of Ceremony
I hear from a lot of people about how they are not sure about ceremony and what positive effects, if any, that it has. These folks usually view ceremony as purely religious in nature and they don't connect with religion, so they have difficulty with ceremony in general.
Ceremony does not have to be "religious" as such. It can be simple and sweet, or as elaborate as one desires. As long as the basic work that is required is accomplished, it does not have to be fancy. I am one who is quite eclectic in my ceremonies. No two ceremonies that I lead will be identical because each one requires its own unique energy imprint on the Universe and on the participants.
The photo here is of me performing a Handfasting ceremony this last summer. The participants varied from the common "Joe" to the accomplished practicing pagan. The couple and myself were in ceremonial robes, but it was set, as you can see, outdoors. The simplicity of nature was important as we all connect with nature. As I perform ceremonies such as these, I often get asked by observers and participants if I can perform that exact ceremony for them when their time comes to have it done. My answer is always "no". But I can perform one that is unique to them.
Ceremony allows us to acknowledge in a ritualistic way important events. We have all blown candles out on a birthday cake. This is a ceremony that honours that we have lived for another year. Simple, but ceremonial nonetheless. When loved ones have crossed the Veil to the Otherworld, we have have a Crossing Ceremony, a Memorial Ceremony, a Funeral Ceremony, a Wake etc. to honour their life. This is not so much for the one who has passed, as it is for the participants to acknowledge their loss of the loved one and that, although it will be difficult at times, life goes on and we will all be okay. I find that those who insist that they don't want a ceremony when they die are being quite dishonouring of those left behind. Yes, they may be thinking that they don't want those left behind to have to be put out by having a ceremony, but what they are actually doing is depriving their survivors the opportunity to grieve in a way that helps them to move on.
No matter what the ceremony, the purpose is to in some way honour a Rite of Passage. These Rites of Passage help us to adjust to the changes that we experience through our lives. They prepare us for the fact that now nothing will be as it once was, and they help us to look forward to the new changes and responsibilities that are coming our way. In these days where our Rites of Passage are either belittled or commercialized (yes, I am speaking of Christmas music in the malls already....again!) many become lost in what meaning there is to life, and what meaning their own lives have. This puts people into a constant state of undercurrent depression and low self-worth. It is always good to celebrate. Celebrate Life and all its changes and the deeper meanings. As we do we then become more joyous, balanced, healthy and harmonious with one another.