Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Five: Celebratory Ritual Edition


Sally, over at RevGalBlogPals writes, "It is the first of May, or as I have been concentrating on dialogue with folk interested in the new spirituality movement this last week, it is Beltane, a time to celebrate the beginning of summer... I believe that we live in a ritually impoverished culture, where we have few reasons for real celebration, and marking the passages of life;


1. Are ritual markings of birth, marriage, and death important to you?

Children engage in creative play to learn how to be human. I believe rituals, at their best, are a kind of sacred play that reminds us of--and calls us back into--our fullest and most inspired humanity.
Rituals can bless or curse, invigorate or drain a person and/or a commmunity, so they must be thoughtfully crafted and conducted. There are so many funeral stories in which poorly-chosen words or poorly-done rituals contributed to, rather than eased, the pain of the mourners...there are also countless stories of the pain caused when a meaningful ritual is withheld or denied. I stand in solidarity with my GLBTQ brothers and sisters, here-- may we all experience rituals that bless our loving parnerships and allow us to name that love in a circle of caring support and communal accountability.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice.
Only one? Impossible! I have too large a liturgical appetite. Here are two: First, I pray each night by cupping my hands, filling them with cool water, and drinking five draughts from my hands. The first four draughts are for the four directions. As I drink, I think of one direction and its traditional associated gifts. As I fill my hands the fifth time, I say to myself, "and one for the Center of All Things..." and I drink deeply in honour of God's Spirit. I love this simple ritual: so brief, yet so sensual and centering.
Second, (appropriately, on this Bealltuinn/May Day), I sing to my fruit trees when I plant them. There's an old British folk song called "The Apple Tree Wassail." I sing it three times as I plant the tree and water it deeply, to bless the plant in its new home, "to grow well and to bear well and so merry let us be..."

3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for?
In response to the relative lack of coming-of-age rituals in American culture, I made up a ritual for myself as a young teenager. Each full moon, after everyone else had gone to bed, I would stand on our back porch and look up at the moon. Standing there, I would reaffirm myself as a child of God, offer myself in service to others, and ask God to help renew and refill me, the way the moon returns to fullness. I always wished there was someone else, some counsel of wise elders, to conduct such a ritual. Without them, I made my own. Perhaps someday I'll be able to offer such a ritual to others.

4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how?
The words of Chief Seattle, Black Elk, and other Native American wisdom-keepers surrounded me during my childhood in the Pacific Northwest. I considered their teachings on equal par with the Christian & Hebrew scriptures, but I felt a deep unease, as I had been taught it was not right to "play Indian" or borrow thoughtlessly from other traditions. When I began to study my Celtic heritage, I found my old mythic friends, Raven, Deer, Tree, Sea, and Salmon, recast in a guise I could happily own. I also found, in the language and poetry of my heritage, an exquisite sensitivity to, and respect for, the sacredness of Creation.
I have dear friends who have chosen the path of neopaganism. I respect that path, yet, while it offers much in the way of inspiration and sensory engagement, I find it does not feed my need for moral discourse and ethical education. The Celtic Christian tradition offers a better balance of all these things, at least for me. The Celtic expression(s) of Christianity, along with Celtic poetry and folklore, have become the bones and muscles of my faith.

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be?
My favourite image of the Kingdom of God is that of a ceilidh: a participatory creative gathering where everyone is welcomed and included and all our creative gifts are celebrated. (Ceilidhs [pronounced KAY-lees] were the standard evening entertainment of Celtic communities prior to the advent of electricity and mass media. They still happen in some places.) Modern ceilidhs tend to be carefully packaged and orchestrated, but the best kind of ceilidh can still be found--or created--now and then in a parish hall, around a campfire, or in a crowded kitchen, with old folks telling grand stories, children romping about, musicians playing with enthralling rhythms and harmonies, and singers singing their hearts out as all join together in the blessed creative--and re-creative--feast.


mompriest said...

When I was a little girl my mother told me that my Irish Great-Great Grandfather (paternal) married an Apache woman....because my parents divorced I never knew if it was true....but I have always been drawn to Native American art, poetry, and wisdom....I can appreciate how your call to your Celtic heritage has enriched your life and helped you form rituals for you....thank you for sharing this.

revhipchick said...

wonderful play! i love that even as a young girl you created your own ritual when there were none. i also love your evening prayer--cupping your hands and drinking from them as you pray. beautiful.

i too find great meaning in my Celtic heritage. my grandmother gave me a wonderful book of Celtic prayers when i was in high school and it helped me immensley.

MumPastor said...

Beautiful...I love the hand cupping ritual and also your statements about Celtic Christianity - as a fellow Celt (actually Scots, English and Irish ancestors make up my family tree) I am intrigued to find out more. I love especially the image of you as an adolescent and the moon

Mama Pea said...

I agree with Sally that "we live in a ritually impoverished culture" but don't think that today's society has "few reasons for real celebration, and marking passages of life." The reasons are still there (or I think we may as well just chuck it all) but we've chosen to forget, ignore or simply not take time for them.

Life today is lived at too fast a pace leaving no time for anything except necessities and meaningless hours spent in what is labeled relaxation, but what is in reality mind-numbing escape.

Despite the fact that we are technologically connected with people a world away by the push of a key on the phone or computer, we are kept isolated and insulated by the same technical advances.

Individual rituals are a start but we must share them with others and pass them along to our little ones. Sharing a personal ritual would be a beautiful gift to give someone else.

Marking passages of life and ritualistic celebrations are all based, I think, in one's individual belief in a higher power, no matter what label one gives it. It's all pure energy. For starters, we desperately need to bring rituals and celebrations back to the home or at least a home-like atmosphere in which everyone is made welcome and feels comfortable.

Okay, end of rant.

MaineCelt said...

Mama Pea-- yes, I agree: the reasons are there, whether we choose to celebrate or not. And the virtual nanotech soundbite info-world, while it draws us in with blips and clips, rarely offers us lessons in how to be PRESENT in a fully embodied way. Shared community rituals, home rituals, and private rituals offer us a corrective, a way to balance and restore that experiennce of embodied presence.

They don't need to be all airy-fairy or highfalutin, either. Often the simplest actions, done with intention, anchor us best.

Bad Alice said...

This is very interesting. Ritual seems to come naturally to you. I like the connection you make to creative play. The only 2 times we went to an Episcopal church, the girls went to a Catechism of the Good Shepherd class (I think that's what it's called), in which they play act the various rituals of the church. They loved it.

I have trouble being playful, too, so perhaps that is part of my "stuckness" as well.

There's probably some sort of celtic heritage in my background, too, since the family came over from Scotland and Ireland. All things celtic certain hold a fascination for me.