Rituals

Yesterday I participated in an event full of tradition and it got me thinking about the importance of ritual in our lives. That and the difference between ritual and routine.

‘Ritual’ is defined as a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

‘Routine’ is defined as a sequence of actions, regularly followed. In other words ‘habit’. Although for my husband the routine of morning coffee is more like a ritual.

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I think we use those words interchangeably, and in doing so, forget the underlying emotional connection to those things that are actually ritual rather than routine. In using those words so easily, we lose the connection to our past, our heritage, our culture.

Yesterday I had to squash feeling like an interloper because the event I participated in was of a different heritage than mine. But as I sat outside by the fire, with wind high in the trees, light rain falling, and singing all around me, I realized that while that ritual may come from a culture I had no ‘blood’ connection to, they were rituals that I had an emotional connection to.

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I choose purposely to use the word ’emotional’ rather than ‘spiritual’ because those who know me know that I am not much of a believer in organized religions. I don’t believe there is an afterlife, as in heaven, or a place that people go to be forever happy, or to suffer for eternity. I think of religion as man’s first attempts at creating a moral code.

At the same time, those rituals yesterday gave me peace. Just like the womb experience of sitting in the hot tub in the middle of the night with stars spread out above, like I talked about in my last post. I realized that while I may not have what I perceive as religious beliefs, there is something about stone and water and trees that lets me breathe.

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So I guess those things are my religion. Walking in the woods, or being near trees is definitely my ritual. What are yours? What fills your soul or speaks to you? Or what routines that others might see as habits, do you see as ritual?

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2 thoughts on “Rituals

  1. Well, now you’ve done it — made me sit and reflect on something I haven’t thought about for some time. Being a long-time student of sociology, I have plenty of old dusty memories to pull up on the subject. As I recall, rituals are repeated acts imbued with meaning, the purpose of which is to pass along the significance to younger generations and to cause those who know the ritual to remember who they are. I believe the key is “remember”. I think that too often the meaning is glossed over or ignored — or perhaps not even known (which is a shame). Rituals have, for the most part, departed from my life. I have plenty of routines, and there are those few things I do that touch my soul on a deep level although I wouldn’t call them rituals. I wonder if the surge of interest in genealogy these days is an expression of people’s need to find a meaningful, personal connection to who they are and where they came from, therefore filling a void left by the absence of those rituals that were supposed to remind us of who we are and where we came from.

    • Interesting thought on the genealogy. You might be right. I think society has become so fast-paced that ritual is lost. Or that people confuse it with routine or habit. But like you said here, routine has no tie to the past, no significance to anyone other than the person doing the routine.

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