Spiralled Edge: Setting Time Aside for Ritual
Rituals are a part of our daily lives. They are the traditions that bind us together as a people and that bring a semblance of order to what may otherwise be a chaotic life. So why is it so difficult to make time to actually do rituals?
Every once in a while, I start getting an urge to make time for ritual in my daily life. There is the part of me inside that tells me, “You’re not being authentic in your spiritual and religious life if you don’t include ‘real’ rituals.” By real ritual, I mean clearing a space, doing a full ceremony with all the bells, smells, and candles.
I’ve looked for inspiration in books that try to present ideas for a daily Pagan ritual practice or inspirational reading. None have really been workable that I have come across. They seem to be set up for people who don’t have children or a busy life, or people who are already working within a group that can provide a level of group support.
Get up a half hour or an hour earlier these books say. Well, I already get up between 5:30 and 6 each day. No, I’m not sacrificing an hour of needed sleep when I know already that I don’t get enough sleep most nights.
Doing a daily spiritual practice is infinitely easier when you don’t have a daily secular life. This is why the medieval churches had hermits and anchorites, and other religions have their holy men and women who live apart from the world. They locked themselves away from the secular world so that they could devote their lives to spiritual practices.
When I accepted the mantle as Priestess of The Cailleach recently, I was beset by a panic that in order to be “authentic” as Her priestess I would have to do some sort of daily devotional work for her, and I needed to learn how to do it the right way from so. Slowly though, She is reining me in, and showing me that I don’t need to learn from others how to be Her priestess, because that is what I have been doing over the past 25 years. I just didn’t know it at the time.
My daily rituals of devotion are in the tiny acts that I do each day. My morning cup of tea, observing the changing seasons over the year, noticing the fox beside the pavement as I walk. The Cailleach is not a Deity who wants pretty smells, fancy incense or candles. She is a primal Goddess of craggy hills and overgrown dirt paths through wood-filled lands. Her rituals can’t be done sitting in comfort in an artificially heated or cooled room. Her rituals are the quiet minutes spent walking through a nature preserve, only stopping to sit in quiet contemplation on a fallen branch or dusty rock. Nothing left behind put perhaps a footprint in the dirt.
The secret I have been learning is not to try to carve out time for more and longer ritual, but to find the ritual in the simple every day acts I am already doing. Making my bed is my time to give thanks for a safe place to sleep through the night. Brushing my teeth a time to honour the water coming through the tap. Just because this is water piped in does not make it any less sacred.
Each of the elements in turn present themselves to me over the course of a day in one way or another. They do not need to be set up on an altar for me to honour their place and importance in my life. Likewise, the Gods are always present. They are especially fond of engaging me in conversation when I am driving, something I don’t encourage if I am trying to concentrate.
I would still like to find a way of incorporating a time of quiet contemplation into my life, but not on a daily basis. I don’t life on a mountain in a cave. I’m not dwelling in a single room cut off from the trappings of the secular world. I am a single mother of two teenagers, I interact with the world every day all day in one way or another, and sometimes sleep or spending time just talking to my kids with no distractions is more important than contemplating the fuzz in my belly button.
While my spiritual practices are in a constant state of revision and change, right now I am learning to understand and accept that however I am doing it, I’m doing it the right way for me.
Image of footprints in the sand in the public domain.