************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What is the Purpose of Ritual and Ceremony?

Why do we need rituals?

One ritual most of us are familiar with is a wedding. Is there any detectable change in a person one day before and one day after they are married? No doctor could detect a difference. Even so, if you have been married you will probably agree that the change was instant and profound.

The difference is one of perception. A partition is built between “before” and “after.” Once one passes through the gate there is no going back. No matter what happens from that time on, the partition will be there forever.

Sure, marriages end, but even that is signaled by another ritual – a new partition is built. People who have been married don’t forget they were once married. In their minds, time is separated into before the marriage and during the marriage and after the end of the marriage.

A ritual is the gateway. It is what lets us know we are in transition. We walk across the stage to get the diploma, kneel down to present an engagement ring, say “I do,” hold our children’s hands as they step into their first day of school, and tearfully watch the coffin close… and once it’s done, once we move through that gate, we are always going to exist in a new world – one in which we have a degree or a commitment, or have let go of the baby we held or the presence of someone we love – and the world will never be the same again.

Maybe this is obvious to some people. To me it was not. I have spent a good chunk of the last week trying to understand why I felt so drawn to the idea of a having a ceremony to commemorate a rather vague but important transition in my life. Now, I understand what it is I need. I need to walk through a gateway that separates my entire life, up to this point and the rest of my life.

On the other side of that partition is a life free of the old wounds from my father. To completely let go of all of it – all the pain and anger and sadness attached to those old wounds – I need to etch that profound moment in the timeline of my life.

Establishing exactly what the ritual is about and why it is important are two of the biggest pieces of planning the upcoming ceremony. I have more work to do, but I’m getting closer to being ready.


  1. In some small way I will be at the ceremony. Writers like you can make that happen.

    You can recognize me as I will be the one most respectful and in awe.

  2. I love this post. For a long time, I didn't see the purpose of ceremonies. I thought they didn't matter. But now I believe they matter very much, for all the reasons you have so eloquently written.

    That's one of the reasons I have enjoyed working the steps with a sponsor in Al-Anon. After the reading and writing assignment, we always got together. There was often a prayer. It felt like a little mini ceremony, and through these little ceremonies I was able to track my progress and feel that, yes, I had crossed through that gate.

  3. that sounds so meaningful.

    i think many people let transitions pass by without thinking of the significance of what is taking place, and taking the time to process the feelings brought up.

    but i think taking the time to prepare yourself and understand what the change is and what it means to you, is part of what helps a person have closure, and makes the transitions more meaningful and healing, instead of scary or to be avoided.

  4. Michael, that is so awesome that you say that. Thank you.
    I actually had this idea of asking a few people if they would attend "in spirit". I would tell them the day and time I will be having the ceremony and then would place a card with that person's name in the "circle".
    Of course I will write about it later. Let me know if you are interested :-)

    thank you Kathy. I feel the same way about working the steps... they are "gateways" as well.

    yes - preparing has been very important. I could feel it's importance but could not understand it. that's why I had to define what a ritual or ceremony means. thanks.

  5. shen, i think that is a lovely idea for you to ask people to attend "in spirit". that is very moving~

  6. Wow. This post is so eloquently stated. I've never thought much about the often mundane rituals of life as a gateway to bigger and better things. Sure I know that, but I've never THOUGHT of that. Thank you for making me think about what still needs to be figured out and transitioned away from.

  7. I love this post. It is filled with the bitter-sweetness of change, moving on, ...acceptance. I had never quite thought about life as such; but it is true.
    If you share your ceremony with us, I too will be there in spirit, most respectfully.

    May the wind always be at your back as you transcend from the old to new beginnings...



  8. It is like we are conditioned to have ritual. So hard to break away especially if they are the family rituals. Great post dear one. Thanks Shen.

  9. As you pointed out there are many rituals or gateways, I'm finding that after my gateway that it is a process of finding myself behind that gate, but the committment is there...I think, I'm getting closer. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Michael, Katie, I'll be in touch about the ceremony...

    Lily, JBR, Cordie, thank you all so much for your kinds words.

    *** just a side note, this "C" is not the "C" I refer to in my blog, in case anyone wondered.

    Clueless, it sounds like you are making progress... thats all any of us can hope for, right? Thanks for stopping by.


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