Ritual is a word used to describe many facets of reaching for the sacredness of life. From holy rites to your morning cup of coffee, the word can evoke the feeling of utter comfort or pure mystery.
'Ritual' and 'ceremony' are often interchangeably used. Some see the overall rite as the ceremony with the ritual being the steps and form it takes.
It really depends on where you're from. Some of it is just semantics.
To me, ritual isn't exactly the form though there are certain things that are done to ensure safety, success and an overall respectful, beneficial space.
Ritual is a sacred space where laws of time and space do not necessarily take on the same characteristics or rulership.
Ritual is a liminal gateway to speak with The Spirits, The Otherworld and The Beings of Nature.
Ritual is a door into pure potential, into mythic reality and one that can generate incredible healing in all facets of life.
Simply put, the linear reality modern humanity has slowly come to believe is the only reality is really one thread in the epic tapestry of life.
Ritual is a technology that can support you in touching the larger framework of your existence, getting answers to long sought questions and can connect seemingly unrelated events or elements to form a cohesive picture, or constellation.
The 4 Phases of Ritual
Typically rituals have 4 phases or parts.
Preparation- It is wise to prepare for sacred events such as these. Taking the time to sit with your intention, your needs and the hopeful outcome is a good, clear start. What offerings, tools and supplies do you need? Where will your ritual take place? Outside? At your altar? Then, purifying yourself in some way is respectful. Not because you are dirty but because it is a sign of respect for those you are inviting to your table. Showering or bathing is a wonderful way to prepare. Sweating, brushing water over yourself from you sink or a stream or smudging are all perfectly suitable purification techniques.
Invocation- The opening or invocation is where you 'open the space' by calling in the divine. This is done in a prayerful way and may include honoring cardinal directions, ancestral spirits or specific other Beings or Lands you are connected with. This is also where you voice the intention of the ritual. Speaking humbly from the heart is really the best way to do this. It is the most authentic way to communicate in sacredness.
Action- After safely invoking the Divine, you come to the ritual action. This can be as simple or elaborate as is needed. Oftentimes this can be making offerings to the beings you are seeking help or connection from. It can be making a symbol or piece of art, it can be sitting and listening for an answer to a question. The possibility is truly endless. You can anoin an ailing body part or something symbolic of an area you are struggling with. It can be burning or burying something you are complete with. You get the picture.
Closing + Thanksgiving- When the 'action' is complete and you are ready to close up the ritual space, giving thanks is the next natural step. This is an opportunity to let your heart flow freely through your words to the Sacredness you have connected with and received. Let eloquence, however simple, naturally arise and praise Life, Creator and the importance of this prayer you are making. When you feel complete you can say something for the completion- Amen, So It Is, or anything along those lines that feels aligned and pure is appropriate. As well as wishing the Holies Blessings on their way bak to where they came from.
It is wise to take your time with each of these important steps along the way.
And honestly, I would even add a 5th step which is integration. Integration is often overlooked, yet a very essential phase in the cycle of prayer and becoming. We incubate what has happened on the altar of our hearts. Holding it like a baby and continuing to listen. Not cling. Surrender while holding it dear.
Why Does Ritual Matter?
Why does anyone want to touch the divine? I believe it is part of our souls makeup to yearn for contact with Higher Forces. And besides that, it is a technology that allows you to access exponentially more guidance and informed intelligence that is typically available.
Ritual is an ancient birthright of humanity that can open many doors of understanding, memory and purpose.
Our nature is inherently multi-dimensional and ritual is one way to access that essential nature.
Healing on very refined levels is available through sacred ritual spaces.
The topic of safety is a big and important one, not to be glazed over.
There are forces of chaos and disruption that will infiltrate all cracks in your temple.
As a friend once told me, the spirit world is full of entrapments.
So, before you start doing rituals, you need to sit with yourself and take a good look and honestly answer some questions.
How is your connection with Creator or Whom You Call the Divine?
If you have a regular prayer life and you tend to these unseen places of your being then you are already somewhat familiar with the terrain. If you haven't prayed in years of ever, you likely need more preparation and fine tuning. Not to pray, but to open yourself and invoke a space like ritual. In my humble opinion.
How is the clarity and integrity of your life?
Because this matters. A LOT! If you are hanging out in bars all the time then you are hanging in the places where ghosts hang out. I am not condescending this lifestyle, it is just not the energy to be in to open up ritual space. Your life and your actions add up and matter. You will draw energies to you depending on the frequency in which you walk.
Do you have an existing relationship with Beings you know as Guardians?
This can be God, Creator. This can be ancestors, cardinal directions or animal spirits. It all depends on your connection. It is wise to invoke protection. This all depends on your agreement with Spirit, your innate comfort or sense of vulnerability.
It can be good to use a powerful statement you come up with that feels good and covers all the bases. I have learned to include, "This sacred space is 100% held and protected. No misaligned, unharmonious ,unclear or malevolent energies, forces, beings or thought forms may enter this space from any timeline, dimension, reality or otherwise." Or something along those lines.
Ritual space is no joke. It's not cute to open up a space and be invaded by unclear energies or beings. Ritual is like turning on a lantern that the spirit world can see. You want to set that space of responsibly.
(There is a lot more on this topic to cover)
All Rituals Are Not Created Equal
The seriousness of the intention should be reflected in the length and care taken in each of the phases of a ritual.
I tend to heir on the side of caution. When I look out at the world and see that it is on fire, I certainly want the places where I pray and bare my soul to God to be safe and held.
With that said, I also tend to work in ritual space on behalf of Others healing and support in their lives; so I definitely ensure utter protection and that only blessings and clarity are coming through.
What About Psychedelics?
In my humble opinion the use of psychedelics need to be approached with the utmost care. These are powerful gatekeepers and can be very tough masters.
While I know it is hot to go around to festivals and take 'medicines'; I urge you to practice wisdom and safety in your proceedings. The difference between a medicine and a drug is in how it is used.
Gatekeeper plants + fungi have historically been used with the guidance and supervision of trained people who know how to set up the space and navigate what may arise as the doors to the otherworld are oftentimes flung right open.
It is not uncommon for spirits to attach themselves to people who are naively traveling the super-highway... and, many a young man or woman has activated latent proclivity towards schizophrenia through the use of such powerful psychedelics.
We really need to continue cultivating a culture of responsible use.
Ultimately, If you really want to connect with a sacred plant medicine in a deeply sacred way, I suggest you find someone who has committed themselves to the study and deepening of relationship with that plant in a traditional sense. Court them, learn from them. Allow them to make the introduction.
*This conversation is not nearly complete. I hope to follow up soon with more nuance, questions and helpful insights for you.
I would love to hear your thoughts, questions or otherwise.