Archive for June, 2015

I don’t know about you all, but I have experienced my share of rituals. Some have been just for myself or a small group, others for large groups and gatherings. Some are private and some public. I’ve lead or co-lead some but just enjoyed being a participant in others. One thing I’ve found is that the more people can connect to the meaning of the ritual, the more rewarding the experience is.

And for me, that is what a ritual is – an experience that is aimed at spiritual growth and connection. I don’t care if you wear elaborate ritual garb or jeans, if there’s no connection and growth from the ritual, it didn’t do its job.

Back in 2010, I was fortunate to be able to attend Pagan Spirit Gathering in southern Missouri (it’s now held in Illinois). One of my favorites workshops was “Myth, Magic, and Ritual: Techniques for Leaders to Harness the Power of Myth,” lead by former Ozark Avalon teacher Cynthia Jones and author River Higginbotham. They started with the explanation of how Jones defines ritual: “A multi-sensoral prayer to break old patterns and to raise energy.”

Through this workshop, we discussed how adding myth – especially the dramatization of myth – can add more senses to the experience. In this way, we can easily add music, movement/dance, color and texture through costumes, etc. The more layers we can add to the ritual experience, the more likely there will be something there that individuals can connect with, since certain senses are stimulating for some people than others.

Even if you share mythology as a story within ritual instead of a dramatization, you are engaging participants in the timeless tradition of storytelling and reducing the formality of the ritual so the participants can relax and perhaps get something more out of it.

Some myths to consider:

Cerredwen chasing Gwydion - an old illustration from The Mabinogi

Cerredwen chasing Gwydion – an old illustration from The Mabinogi

  • Cerridwen and Gwidion/Taliesen – incorporate this story of transformation anytime you are looking to help people rebirth themselves into something greaterm, especially when the realization that this is sometimes a painful process needs brought to light.
  • Bloudewedd – share this story of a manmade flower bride claiming her own sovereignty whenever you need to empower people to break the bonds that hold them from being their true selves. Of course, this story also emphasizes there are consequences for every action – including becoming yourself.
  • Demeter & Persephone – simultaneously covers a mother dealing with the loss/maturity of her daughter and the individual learning to balance duty and passion.

Go Beyond C&C (Celtic & Classical)

Statue of Ganesh(a), a popular Hindu god, photo courtesy of MorgueFile

Statue of Ganesh(a), a popular Hindu god, photo courtesy of MorgueFile

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of myths outside the realm of Classical and Celtic that could work. Don’t be afraid to explore outside of your comfort zones: Hindu, Native Indian, Northern European, African, South American, and many other cultures are full of stories and mythology to enrich your ritual experience. Many of these are rich and colorful and can make a big impact on a ritual – just make sure you truly understand the story and the deities/characters before you do this.

For that matter, you could even incorporate many of the more modern superhero stories – these are very much the new mythology of our culture and they are popular for a reason: they often focus on the same archetypes and metaphors of more traditional mythology.

Embrace Your Own Interpretation

Something interesting pointed out by Jones and Higginbotham is that there is no reason why we cannot update and reinterpret the myths. Showing new views of old stories – as seen in books like Mists of Avalon and Wicked – is a trend with a long tail.

In classical mythology, for example, consider the possibility that what the ancients refer to as an “abduction” of Persephon. It could have been Persephone going willingly (stealing away with the bad boy, if you will), and it was her mother’s view to call it an abduction. The lessons and connections from that view could be considerably different from the traditional understanding of the story.

For ritual purposes, it’s also helpful to remember that the “bad” character is necessary. Without them, the protagonist of the story would have nothing to overcome, no lesson to learn. Some even consider the antagonist to serve the role of initiator, as initiations often include some less than cuddly elements.

Hopefully, the suggestion to include some myth in ritual might help break any ritual monotony you, your family, or your group might be experiencing.

And now that we’ve broken the ice in regard to including myth in ritual, we’re prepped for a couple more posts about the Irish goddess Airmid and the Healing Cloak Ritual that she inspired.

Until then, bright blessings!

Thistle

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