If there’s one big takeaway from my academic years, it’s that ritual is a powerful thing.
Of course, we see the word ‘ritual’ and we think of a clutch of grubby Iron Age Danes heaving some poor hanged man into the peat bog to sate the bloodlust of the gods. We think of Stonehenge, of Olmec knives in chalcedony, of the Greeks with Hestia’s eternal flame. But our modern lives are still steeped in ritual.
We have rituals marking our major life events. We declare our romantic partnerships with white dresses, a sacred first kiss, a feast. What are stagette parties but modern bacchanals? A baby is born, and we all flock to see it and ceremoniously bestow knitted blankets and stuffed pink rabbits, one by one. A loved one dies, and our mourning is marked with gatherings, speeches, recitations from holy books. We retire from our jobs and are sent off with offerings of gold and cake.
Even the minor details of our day to day lives are steeped in ritual. The way we make our coffee, the way we settle in for this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, our skincare routines. The fact of it is that humans thrive on patterns. We’re creatures of habit. Rituals ground us and give us meaning, help us work through emotions, help us organize our thoughts into something resembling cohesion. Creatives are notorious for using rituals to get into the right headspace for their work. Rituals make us feel safe. They give us parameters to exist within. And there’s this wonderful poetry to be found in ritual, whether it’s religious or secular, societal or personal.
Anyone who knows me knows I love a good ritual. I’ve got a bit of a chaotic heart. There are a lot of emotions in there (shocker, I know), a lot of opinions, and a great deal of curiosity. Ritual gives me a foothold, provides me an anchor.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I often tend towards melancholy and anxiety. But I’ve never been of the opinion that these are things to be overcome, to be fought against. Negativity is a natural part of balance, and it can teach you a great deal about yourself and how you interact with the world around you. It’s important to let these so-called ‘negative’ emotions have space to exist, and ritual does that for me. My rituals give me the intellectual and emotional bandwidth to process what’s happening in there, to get to know my demons and to look them in the eye. Ritual is the foundation of my emotional house.
I write for my personal projects, every single day. Even if it’s crap. Because this is the path I chose for myself – it’s certainly not been the easiest one, or the one that most people believed I should take (and still do… “Paige, are you still singing?”), but it’s mine, and I never want to forget that the end goal is to tell my own stories. It’s a ritual that motivates me and grounds me professionally.
I also interact with the natural world as often as I can, even if it’s just watching the sparrows from my living room window. Somehow, I’m always reminded that I’m just a big clumsy mammal, and to not take life too seriously. That status and wealth and likes are bullshit. I’ve got a full belly and a roof over my head and a mate to curl up in our den with. This is an intensely comforting ritual, one that helps me be thankful for what I already have, and one that helps me laugh at all the so-called ‘important’ things that usually make me feel like garbage.
I read poetry. It reminds me to always have wonder.
And I take long baths. Almost every single day. It might sound silly, but doing something that feels good and is good for me, just because, is strangely powerful for me. I’ve always struggled to take care of myself. Baths remind me that it’s a pleasure to exist in my body, and a privilege, and that a bit of healthy indulgence is good for the soul.
I’d love to know about your own rituals, and how they help you structure and enhance your life. I’ve teamed up with the lovely folks over at Bella Grace Magazine to give you a chance to win a free copy of their new publication, Field Guide to Everyday Magic. The contest is open to U.S. residents only, but if you’re Canadian like me, or from another country, you could be eligible to win a free digital edition of Bella Grace! Comment below by August 30th for a chance to win!
And while you’re at it, check out the other beautiful articles in this month’s Bella Grace Blog Hop!