Ceremony and Ritual
Over the last few days, my attention keeps drawing back to an essay I came across - Every Act A Ceremony by Charles Eisenstein.
I’m sure his thinking isn’t new to most who study anthropology to some degree. Still, the ideas and anecdotes are on the wild side:
Two years ago I met some Dogon priests and asked them about their views on climate change. Like the Kogi, the Dogon have kept ceremonial practices intact for thousands of years. The men said, “It isn’t what you people think. The biggest reason that the climate is going crazy is that you have removed sacred artifacts from the places where they belong, the places where they were placed with great deliberation and care, and removed them to museums in New York and London.” In their understanding, these artifacts and the ceremonies that surrounded them maintain a covenant between humans and the Earth. In exchange for the payment of beauty and attention, Earth provides an environment fit for human habitation.
The essay goes far deeper into the idea of tribal priests protecting entire environments and ecosystems with ceremonies. Does burying a sacred pot in a field deter evil corporate developers from turning it into tract housing?
How much of a rain dance must one do to get wet? Everything we know about the scientific process of the world, and we still pray?
Rituals involve the manipulation of symbols in a prescribed manner or sequence to maintain relationships with the social and material world.
By this definition, ritual is neither good nor bad, but merely a way that humans and other beings hold their reality together.
A ceremony, then, is a special kind of ritual. It is a ritual done in the knowledge that one is in the presence of the sacred, that holy beings are watching you, or that God is your witness.
I left the church a long while ago. I view organized religion with a cloud of cynicism. But I won't go so far as to discount the idea of spiritual woo-woo energy without a name that wraps itself around everything.
Where a ceremony is an outward expression, the ritual of ceremony is an internal focusing. It’s why I pen out several pages by hand before I start my writing projects for that day. It is why I have taken to updating this blog each morning. Every step is a process of clearing my head for the day and focusing my attention where I need it most so I can make the best possible result without expending all of my resources.
Ceremony doesn’t have to involve a priest, but it does need to involve you.