“I dedicate this death to Odin,” said the man, formally. “It’s only a gesture,” he said, turning back to Shadow. “But gestures mean everything.” – from American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Ritual is the oldest language in the world. It’s a powerful form of art (which is always about honor) that clarifies your intentions and communicates them to the world. Performing a ritual is like telling a “universal story”.
A ritual is a way of consciously shifting gears in your life. It is a powerful technology for change.
A ritual ensures safe passage between two places.
Ritual work facilitates states of “emptying out” and letting go. It is often employed as a purification. It is not logical. Rather, it taps into a symbolic world that lies just under the surface of ours. It speaks using these symbols. The symbols are the language of the Universe.
A ritual can be structured to open, close, release, wash, renew, bind, celebrate, divide, sacrifice, worship, protect, initiate, heal, imitate, exorcise, offer, transform or bind something, to name but a few.
Whichever it is, the ritual is a way of marking your intention. It draws the line: things were like this before, but now I intend them differently.
Ritual requires many things: privacy, costume, props, music, audience, shamans or magicians, magic and symbolism. Each element is carefully picked and incorporated with precision. In a ritual, nothing happens by chance. Everything is heightened. This world becomes soft and the underworld becomes dominant.
Witnesses and participants assist with the preparations and bring their energy to the process. It takes a community to make it happen. In many communities the performance of ritual is considered essential to the well-being of all people.
Initiatory Rituals/Rituals of Passage
Initiatory processes are ancient technologies used to ensure safe passage between two states of being.
In the midst of change a person fragments emotionally and spiritually, which makes them more vulnerable than at other times. This vulnerability allows things and events to leave a much deeper mark or imprint on them than usual. They are unable to fend for themselves, because they’re no longer what they were, and not yet what they will be.
Initiation is a way of safely re-assembling a person into a new configuration, and empowering and supporting them through their process. It protects the person during this time of vulnerability. It acknowledges the change, engages it, watches, facilitates and successfully completes the journey.
Without it there is no telling if a person will manage to get to the other side in one piece or not. They might simply never get there. They might get lost, or only get there partially. They might not accept the change, or develop misconceptions about their new role or status in the community, and develop an unhealthy relationship with themselves.
All of these can be seen as energetic imbalances brought about by a neglected initiation. The person has not completely transitioned.
The modern lack of initiatory processes makes communities unstable and its people unpredictable. It is a spiritual abandonment to neglect this technology, and the results of it are obvious in my community. Teenage suicide rates are higher than ever before. There is nothing that holds them or guides them. We are creating a society of dismembered people.
It is important to note that the success of a process is highly dependent on the person who administers it. If the person is a person of soul and integrity, this will be reflected in the process. If they are greedy, careless and dismembered themselves, it will also reflect in the process.