Passing down traditions by way of rituals

A lot of people today would claim that they are beyond rituals, beyond what they might call superstitious practices to call on the gods to save them from harm or calm their troubled minds in times of stress.  And yet rituals are alive and well in spite of this denial.

We engage in all kinds of rituals everyday of the week – whether it be a particular kind of greeting or farewell; behavior at weddings; codes of practice within clubs and organizations; the opening of parliament; or how we say goodbye at funerals – without so much as a second thought.  More often than not we take many time honoured rituals for granted and loss sight of their history and meaning.

A consequence of this, is that we are left bereft, diminished, with stories that are at best incomplete and at worst stories that get overtaken by empty, modern (without history) interpretations that have no substance to them and no connection with the Universe Story that we are all inextricably entwined in.

The truth of the matter is, as Alison Bone reports (Why rituals are still relevant, SBS 27 June 2017) “Rituals motivate and move us.  Through ritual we build families and community, we make transitions and mark important events in our lives, we express ourselves in joy and sorrow, and perhaps most importantly, we create and sustain identity.”

From early forms of worship around totems and animals to Swedish girls dancing around the maypole on Midsommer’s Eve to ceremonies commemorating the significant days of the year or stages of our lives, we love to be part of the bigger picture that takes us into, and connects us with, the group/s that we identify with – that help sustain our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Daily Messenger, one of Australia’s first civil celebrants and author of Ceremonies and Celebrations, reminds us that we “still need ritual to mark major points in our life … which express and generate love, forge and declare the bond between individuals and establish and identify community.”

Amid all this diversity Messenger says we are failing to pass on some important stories. He believes, “Many young people feel they are on their own, they don’t belong, they are not supported.  The reason? That the community has never told them that they belong – in the serious way known as ceremony.”

Chris Attwood, co-author of Your Hidden Riches: Unleashing the Power of Ritual to Create a Life of Meaning and Purpose, goes as far as to claim that rituals are the key to success. They allow us to “perform at our best when we need to, stay calm when we’re under intense pressure, and create a sense of balance in our lives.”

You only have to look at sports people to see rituals in all their glory.

“From socks to shamrocks to stinger ants, love of God to love of self, private acts of gratitude to communal acts of grandeur, rituals are a fundamental part of what makes us human and have as much relevance today as they ever did,” says Alison Bone.

So when someone says: ‘Let’s honour the life of someone near and dear to us’ – while living or after death – encourage them to do it with all the meaning they can muster.  For it is by this mindful practice that they will be better able to walk the remainder of their life with some sense of peace and calm, knowing that they are a part of the great Universe Story that we live out each day.   For the full story:

The beauty of family rituals is they’re personal, unique, and not necessarily dictated by religion. Friday Night Dinner and Other Family Rituals:


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