I talk a lot about ritual… sometimes I even bring some suggestions for it into my sessions with clients (one of the many reasons I’m not your traditional therapist!). But I know that for some people even the word itself can seem a little scary.
Old horror movies have told us that ritual has to involve some sort of blood and sacrifice, and even the less dramatic ideas have us thinking we have to create something complicated, fancy, deep and powerful if we want to make a ritual out of something we’re trying to do.
Now I’m not against that (well, except for the sacrifice bit – the only thing I’ve ever sacrificed in my rituals is time and energy…) – I love the whole experience of casting a full circle, calling in the deities and guides that feel right for me, and following specific actions or correspondences to support whatever it is that I’m trying to create or change.
But my rituals aren’t always that complicated or fancy, and they definitely don’t have to be!
What do we mean by ritual?
The Oxford English Dictionary has to definitions for the word ritual:
“A series of actions that are always performed in the same way, especially as part of a religious ceremony”, or “something that is done regularly and always in the same way.”
Do you see anything in there about what those actions involve, or about what it is that we have to do? Noooope. Because although books and teachers and institutions will give you their very defined ideas of what you should be doing regularly to make something ritualistic for them, in reality a ritual is and should always be something that you define for yourself.
Maybe that is the steps that you take to make something sacred and give it meaning to you; to create a space to connect to something greater than your day-to-day self or to change the energy of a situation in order to bring about something you want.
Or maybe it’s simply the thing you do every morning to put yourself in the right headspace for the day ahead; or the actions you take to bookmark a certain space or time as your own so that no one or nothing else can distract from that.
A ritual can be as complex as creating an altar, casting a circle and undertaking a spell or as simple as playing a song… Neither are better or worse or more or less effective when it comes to setting intentions and bringing about change.
Where does ritual factor into daily life?
As I mentioned before, there are times when the subject of ritual comes up during sessions with clients – that’s part of what makes my therapy Soul-led rather than Person-centered or focused. And there are many different ways that happens…
Where clients struggle to stay grounded into themselves within the pressures of their daily lives, we might talk about creating a ritual for themselves that helps them to do that – a smell that brings them back to themselves, a space they can go and breathe, or a song that makes them feel totally and utterly them.
Where clients are having problems letting go of a relationship or situation that’s now in the past we’ll often talk about them putting all of their thoughts or feelings about that down on paper and then burning the letter or ripping it into tiny pieces and throwing it into the sea.
During the times motivation is a struggle we might look at what that person needs to help them start firing on all cylinders and power ahead with whatever they want to be doing, then set about creating a ritual that will put them in that headspace every time.
And when I talk with someone who wishes they had someone wise and all-knowing who could tell them what to do we often talk through ways that they can shut out the external noise and focus their minds on what that deeper voice within them has to share.
It’s about paying attention to what feels right to you, and about employing those tactics whenever you need them to change up the energy in a certain situation – especially that situation is your own mindset no matter how much other people might roll their eyes, get confused or fail to understand.
Personally I’m a firm believer in going with the flow as much as we can too, so I always recommend tapping into that ritual mindset only for specific time periods or reasons. After all, ritualising everything can get a bit complicated and anxiety-inducing… (As I found the day I once decided to spend a whole day in circle and forgot that I’d need to block time or lunch amongst all of those witchy plans )
But if you’re a football player who pulls on their left sock first and then touches the grass as soon as they walk outside, the CEO who wears the same outfit or eats the same breakfast every day, or the person who leaps out of bed and dances to their favourite tune each morning because those things make you feel good and right and ready to take on the world?
Well then that’s more than enough of an awesome ritual for me!