The Purpose of Ceremony

An interesting question arose the other day.  It was such a simple and honest inquiry that stuck with me, offering an opportunity for contemplation.  The question:  Why do people love ritual/ceremony? 

Truly, there is something wildly magical that happens when we intentionally burn something or be with water or rock or trees, when we declare some statement with all of ourselves and then take a walk with purpose, when we bury something or someone, when we read an ancient story in front of our community that hears our voice, when we make a promise to someone with all our heart, when we go out with a seemingly impossible task and come back having completed it, when we creating something or put something we feel into physical form, when we interact with nothing but earth and self for 4 days and nights without food, company or shelter, and when our loved ones or dear friends see us through these moments.

I believe there are 4 important reasons why we love ritual and ceremony.

1. Ritual and ceremony help us to acknowledge something, some transition that we are experiencing and ready to step into, some learning of the past that is being embraced so that we can come forward into something new---a new understanding, a new life phase, a new relationship to self, other or world.  The psyche craves markings and ritual, an offering, a marking to note our evolution, our growth. 

2. Ceremony links us to community.  In this rugged individualistic society, as we aspire to “do it on my own,” we can often forget we are part of something much bigger. It is important to remember that each individual contributes to a greater culture: be it family, classroom, institution, community, and ecosystem. We are not alone, even if we feel like we are.  Through ritual, done alone or with people, we acknowledge individual development as it promotes the survival of the people and the world.  Ceremony is meant to be witnessed, through storytelling or actual observation; ritual is a practice of seeing self, other and nature.  In the witnessing we become bound to the experience and the people that saw us through it, the connection made holds us to contribute to the future of the whole.  We are empowered as a vital force in the communities we are part of.  Honoring each other and celebrating our truth with each other invites us to not only to accept but also find meaning in our experiences. 

3. Ceremony grounds experiences in the parts of us that are often marginalized.  Through ritual we loose sense of time and logic.  We access a state that allows us to explore our inner selves; we move beyond our everyday reality into timelessness, feeling, playfulness, suspended disbelief.  These very important parts of self are not given the attention needed to experience ourselves as whole.  Ceremony also gets us into our body, adding movement and action to our intention; embodying intention allows us to access a knowing that we can always return to.

4. It is in our DNA.  Through anthropology and archeology, we know that ritual dates back 100,000+ years.  It simply a big part of what it means to Be.  We can’t help but feel ourselves enter an altered stated at the beating of a drum, the sight of a dancing fire and the silent glitter of the night sky, a metaphor come to life.  All of who we are becomes engaged in this expression.  Ceremony is central to the experience of being human.


Please Join Oaks Counsel for a free introductory event discussing how you can bring more ceremony into your life.  Saturday, March 11th,  10am-11am, at the "The Garage" 501 Kathryn Ave.  Santa Fe, NM.  Hope to see you there!