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Author Topic: Crafting a Ritual  (Read 16156 times)
Sperran
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« Reply #60: June 23, 2008, 05:49:04 pm »

As far as I'm concerned, no connotations are absolute.

I suppose that is true, or they would be denotations rather than connotations.

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I do view my religion as a pretty separate 'use' of the word...so I really don't make a connection between "ritual" in a mundane sense and religious ritual. To me they might as well be two different words. Smiley  As for why I choose it over 'ceremony'- as far as I'm concerned, it's the right word to use. The mystical component is PART of the reason...but to me ceremony has many more 'mundane' connotations than 'ritual' does. When I think 'ceremony' I usually think of Girl Scouts and awards. LOL That is not the image I want in mind when I do religious work.

I see what you are saying, and I think that the language you use is pretty common in the Pagan community.  I also think that the terms have a lot of overlap.  Personally, I tend to gravitate towards the dictionary definitions in this case, but I don't know that the terminology used actually has much of an effect on performing magic or transformative events.

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Darkhawk
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« Reply #61: June 23, 2008, 06:03:15 pm »

I still object because the word "ritual" carries freight with it -- expectation of something "mystical," which was why you said you originally CHOSE the word. The problem with that is that creating a one-off "ritual" typically WON'T lead to that kind experience (sometimes it will, more often it won't), and people end up frustrated, even upset, and wondering what's "wrong" with them, or with their religious practice, that they can't get a "ritual" to work. I have seen this dozens and dozens of times in Paganism; as a liturgist, the reasons for this interest me, and a lot of it has to do with the expectations that words carry and the words chosen to apply.

I'd like to break this down a little more, in the hope of disentangling some of the stuff that's around it.

My ritual group has been slowly building its liturgical structure over time.  We've experimented with things, and have slowly hashed out an actual ritual structure.

For example:  we adapted my Kemetic practice of ritual washing to something more generally accessible, and set out a bowl of salted water to wash face, hands, and rinse out the mouth with (with a cup set to the side to spit into).  Because we do this at every ritual, it marks a transition between spaces; also, because it is adapted from a longer ritual bathing procedure, I find that it partakes somewhat of the gravitas of its origin (I encourage this with a murmured recitation when I wash).

That sub-ritual is a critical part of the functionality of our group rituals, because of the way it marks and separates the space.  When we proceed from there to the subritual of the opening of the ritual space, it is with a delberately altered awareness that is receptive to the opening ritual.

And so on.
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« Reply #62: June 23, 2008, 06:06:29 pm »

Personally, I tend to gravitate towards the dictionary definitions in this case, but I don't know that the terminology used actually has much of an effect on performing magic or transformative events.

It doesn't.
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« Reply #63: June 24, 2008, 07:41:43 am »

I can see your point, however I think experience is very important also. I have done many rituals, many crafted to be used once so as to cover a particular need or situation. The experience has been very successful and satisfying. There is a common framework I used which is repeated, it developed over exploration, practice and participation in pagan events, public rituals and solitary, personal rituals. It takes some time and dedication to produce an effective sacred event.

If I may stick my nose in for a second...  I don't see a big conflict between this and what Koi's saying.  Although the exact ritual might not be repeated time and again, that common framework is.  It would seem to me that the repetition of the common framework would give an individual instance of its use appropriate weight to be called "ritual".  Thus, your single-use rituals would still be "ritual" under Koi's premise, even though it is not itself to ever be used again.

I may be misunderstanding one or both of you, though.
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« Reply #64: June 24, 2008, 07:46:34 am »

Personally, I tend to gravitate towards the dictionary definitions in this case, but I don't know that the terminology used actually has much of an effect on performing magic or transformative events.

I'd like to hear from Darkhawk (or someone else with a Kemetic background) about this one.  I know that words are considered very important in Kemeticism, so I'm curious about whether from that perspective using the correct terminology for the magical or transformative event would be percieved to have more of an effect than the rest of us might credit it with.
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« Reply #65: June 24, 2008, 09:08:43 am »

If I may stick my nose in for a second...  I don't see a big conflict between this and what Koi's saying.  Although the exact ritual might not be repeated time and again, that common framework is.  It would seem to me that the repetition of the common framework would give an individual instance of its use appropriate weight to be called "ritual".  Thus, your single-use rituals would still be "ritual" under Koi's premise, even though it is not itself to ever be used again.

I've been thinking about this (while trying to keep up with the thread: I was staying at home but at a SF con all weekend, so I've had limited time.)

In genre, you walk into a book with certain assumptions. A good author can play with the assumptions you walk in with - and leave you still feeling satisfied by the experience - but the general context of the book is important if you aren't going to feel lost. Another way of putting this (and thanks to Emma Bull for saying it this weekend, which is why it's in my head is that all stories have assumptions about how the world works that come through.

Rituals are also stories, in their own way. Not in the sense they always have a plot, mind you - but in the sense that they have a context they exist in (what's in their world), that stuff happens (there is a change between the beginning state and the end state of some kind), and that the successful ones have some kind of desireable emotional effect (because otherwise, we would eventually find them boring and never do them again.)

And it's that context that defines a ritual. My context is pretty specific: I work in a tradition which involves other people who are not me, so our communal rituals have shared context so we can work together - but even when I'm working on my own, I am shaped by my ritual experiences and training in that tradition, and I choose what I do on my own based on what has worked for me in group, and adapt from there. I do things differently in the two cases, but it's more like a different story within the genre, not like totally swapping genres and assumptions.

And, likewise: if I do a ritual only once, it still has a context: there are reasons that make sense to me that are why that ritual was that way. When I am done with the ritual, those reasons do not fall out of my head and cause a state of ritual experience amnesia: they continue to be part of my understanding of ritual experience, and how I'll experience other rituals in the future, for good or bad.
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« Reply #66: June 24, 2008, 11:42:29 am »

Greetings all!

I was wondering how you crafted and/or began in your first ritual?

I ask because once again I'm getting the urge to do a ritual but am wanting to do my own and was wondering thoughts and suggestions about properly coming up with the right one!

i recently wrote a solo ritual for summer solstice for my spiritual family leader. i started with the direction of what i wanted to accomplish. from there i crafted the quarter calls asking the universe for specific things to support the intent. then i decided what to ask of the entities i work with and offering thanks for what they have already accomplished and what they mean to me. the inclusion of actions(what to burn, what to play on the flute) were chosen specifically to support the petition and offering of thanks.

i do not normally cast circles, except when i know it is the right thing to do for whatever i am asking/doing. circles seem appropriate for some things, and overkill for others. so the decision to cast a circle was another part of meditating on the overall intent. then i needed to decide in what manner to cast.

when you know your intent and the scope of your intent, things become more clear.
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« Reply #67: June 24, 2008, 01:54:23 pm »

If I may stick my nose in for a second...  I don't see a big conflict between this and what Koi's saying. 

Yes, and I agree. Dania also states she uses a loose framework as well. The repeated framework does help enormously to create the space I need to work in, but the framework in and of itself is NOT the ritual, simply a part of it. I consider the heart of the ritual to be the transformative aspect performed according to the intent, which changes all the time and in some cases it is very desirable that it never be repeated. Without that center, no ritual (IMO) has taken place. But I'm wandering, as usual.

The point I was trying to make (and I readily agree my writing can be very vague) is that if a solitary Pagan or a group of Pagans has a clear understanding of what they agree a ritual to be, I personally do not see a problem, within reason. That the many frustrated Pagans that Koi has encountered could have other reasons that they are dissatisfied with their work besides the definition of the word. That a good place to look for help would be from people who actively create positive experiences and why, like sunny's (and other's here) good advice to find the intent and the rest will follow, experimentation with various trance, dance, chant or drumming meditations or whatever works for the group/person, and practice, research and so on. I find Deborah Lipp's book on ritual and Nancy Watson's book on Practical Solitary Magic to be full of good ideas, explanations and concepts, but of course they are geared for the type of work I personally do. There is a lot involved here and I found it takes some time, trail and error experimentation and research to find what gets the job done.

I do think that defining the language coherently is important, but not the only reason that a ritual may not be what the person had hoped for.
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« Reply #68: June 24, 2008, 02:01:21 pm »


...And it's that context that defines a ritual...

Thank you Jenett, you state things so well.

What she said  Grin
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Darkhawk
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« Reply #69: June 24, 2008, 02:45:52 pm »

I'd like to hear from Darkhawk (or someone else with a Kemetic background) about this one.  I know that words are considered very important in Kemeticism, so I'm curious about whether from that perspective using the correct terminology for the magical or transformative event would be percieved to have more of an effect than the rest of us might credit it with.

I think a lot shapes the way things get approached.

When I'm going at things from a ritual standpoint, even for a first time in a ritual, I'm doing so with an approach that includes lasting construction.  I may be stepping into this building for the first time, or laying a foundation, or somewhere else along there, but there's that permanent space to step into.  With all its attendant compromises: a building with a single purpose can be heavily optimised, but most people don't have the resources for a cooking-building, a sleeping-building, an eating-building, a bathing-building, etc.; we have houses.  So there are places that the structure bends to accomodate stuff that may not be in use right at the moment, plus also efficiencies (less need to build walls, say, than if everything has its own building).

If I'm doing a single-use thing, say, a spell, then everything I put into that is optimised to that specific purpose, for better or for worse.  I don't have to accomodate the plumbing hookup as over there; this thing doesn't need plumbing at all.  There's all the work of building up the outer stuff, but the rest of it is, ideally, well-aimed and without extraneous crap.

In the real world, it's not entirely that tidy.

My Celt's initiation ceremony was embedded into our regular Imbolc ritual.  THe structure of the ritual stretched and adapted to the one-time event.  All of the components of our Imbolc ritual were there; there was also a one-time thing incorporated into it, and supported by being stuck into that space.

On the flip side, the last bit of magical work I did had a major component of sex magic to it.  And while the sex wasn't ritual per se, the fact of the ongoing relationship meant that huge parts of it were easy.  We have established patterns; we have ritualised interactions that I could use; we have a habit of using energy work in our lovemaking that I could tap into.  So the stuff that was a part of the architecture of our relationship made the one-off thing much simpler; the ritual bits built the spell.
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« Reply #70: June 28, 2008, 10:32:52 am »

Repetition of certain acts and words creates a meditative state; it's a recognized psychological phenomenon. ...Ritual creates a holy place and time and mindset through the power of repetition.

(Hi Koi  Smiley )

I get that the repetitive elements of a ritual can help create a meditative state. But repetition can also cause other states...like boredom. Or just zoning out, but in the distracted, non-reverential way. Are there ways to help prevent a ritual or other repetitive activity from boring the hell out of people? Or is it just up to the person to stay focused?
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« Reply #71: June 28, 2008, 11:00:09 am »

Or just zoning out, but in the distracted, non-reverential way. Are there ways to help prevent a ritual or other repetitive activity from boring the hell out of people?

Yes and no. A good ritual shouldn't be mind-numbingly dull, but the individual does have to bring themselves TO it, the way you bring yourself to meditation. (That is, not thinking, "Here I go ready to be bored for an hour.")

On the flip side, part of gives ritual its power and comfort is that you can come to it in different ways. Some days you will be mindfully meditative, fully in the moment; some days you will be trancendentally meditative, there but beyond it; and some days you will come in, slouch in the back, and just let the ritual wash over you because you're having a rotten day, and it's surprisingly comforting. Being bored at ritual isn't the end of the world as long as you're not bored at EVERY ritual.

I'm going to use Mass as an example because it's what I'm most familiar with, but if you attend that ritual weekly or daily for years and years on end, sometimes mentally present, sometimes just daydreaming, it becomes a part of you, and all the ways that you approach it -- excited, bored, laughing, restless, reverent, meditative, daydreaming, impatient, glad to get out of the house -- become a part of it too, which gives it a great deal of power to create a "home" for you when you need one, because it's already accommodated a full range of emotions and you can approach it from so many directions. So then when you attend a funeral Mass, for example, it's actually DOES help, because it's part of the vast river of ritual you've been building in yourself since you were old enough to attend Mass. It may offer comfort in its continuity with the rest of your life, or peace in the repetition of the ritual acts, or simply somewhere safe you can bring all the pain.

This is also why many (not all) world religions have a single or pair of ritual structures with interchangeable parts -- there's small ritual comfort in attending a funeral when it's entirely different from everything you've done before. Again, to use Mass as the example, you're baptized in a Mass (in theory; it was out of fashion in the 70s and 80s so I expect a lot of you who were baptized Catholic weren't baptized at a Mass), you're married in a Mass, funerals occur in a Mass, you go every week or every day to a Mass, Christmas and Easter are Masses ... it builds up a powerful sense of continuity that gives the ritual a lot of strength and a lot of ability to, like, meet human emotion, I guess? -- and that's enough strength to overcome periodic boredom, or a rotten ritual leader, or whatever.
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« Reply #72: June 28, 2008, 09:09:41 pm »

In fact, you're using the word in a way that does not correspond with either the casual or the technical liturgical meaning of the term. It's not an uncommon use in parts of the Pagan community, but it is an incorrect one that reflects a dearth of adequate liturgical vocabulary. (Also, I suspect, a desire on the part of some Pagan authors to use words that sound more mystical and less "businesslike"; "ritual" conjures up smells and bells and chanting in a way that "religious event" doesn't.) A better word would be "ceremony" or "observance" or "religious act" or "religious event."
Mostly, I'm contributing my two cents to trying to improve the adequacy of vocabulary - I agree strongly that that's the core problem here.

I suspect another aspect of how the usage became common is that "service" sounds too Christian, and "ceremony" sounds too, well, ceremonial.

I really like "observance" as the term for the broadest application.  I might describe what Neriandal was asking for advice about as a "ritualized observance" (OneLook provides, for "ritualize", the quick definition, "make or evolve into a ritual," which fits with the idea of it being a start point to determine further practice) or possibly "formalized observance" (using "formal" in the sense of "has a form", not necessarily rigid or fancy).  But "observance" can also apply to things that aren't particularly ritualized or formalized.

I think there may have been some confusion about the word "repetition", though, in this thread; it seems some people have assumed it means "everything done exactly the same way every time."  That's certainly one way that something can be ritual, but it can also just be "certain things done each time", in ways that are recognizably similar even if not exactly identical.

I'm not at all sure I've expressed any of this as well as I wanted to; my brain seems to be fried today.

Sunflower
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« Reply #73: June 28, 2008, 09:17:06 pm »

I think there may have been some confusion about the word "repetition", though, in this thread; it seems some people have assumed it means "everything done exactly the same way every time."  That's certainly one way that something can be ritual, but it can also just be "certain things done each time", in ways that are recognizably similar even if not exactly identical.

Now see THAT makes sense. And if you think about it, most 'rituals' that you are going to do ARE going to have 'repeated elements' in them. Just by virtue of the fact that if it's in your path, it's going to have some path symbolism. It's the nature of the beast.

OTOH, there is nothing new under the sun. I'm willing to bet that 99.9% of the things that you could do have been done before, in some way, somehow, somewhere, by someone. Cheesy I don't think that makes an action any more important than any other action though.
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« Reply #74: June 28, 2008, 11:32:19 pm »


I think that's actually very clear. Smiley
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