What is Ceremony?
Ceremonies or rituals can take many forms; individual to group setting, a specific number of words or actions to a more meandering approach, movement or no-movement, silence or sound, chanting or singing, indoors or outdoors…the list goes on an on. With so many variables, why do rituals work? Is it a connection to our past, our ancestors, who used to invoke rituals more regularly than we do today? Is it a connection to our own thoughts, a way to use the energy of our thoughts to create something in the physical world? While there is no one theory that definitively explains how rituals work, research has shown that rituals DO work.
I think about this as I visit the river every morning on my way to work. What began as a simple stop the first time because I was early for work, has evolved into my morning ritual. I feel much more centered as I go to work each morning after I stop at the river for a visit. I did not think about this visit as a ritual as I began going more and more often and yet, that is what has occurred. My mental, spiritual and physical being actually feel connected as one being who is letting out a big sigh of relief. It is as if I have been searching for this very ritual and now having found it, I am rewarded with love; self love, love for all beings and love for all of our connection. Yes, a big sigh of relief.
I often find myself singing while at my morning river ritual. It came out so naturally as I walked along with the river, as if the river was waiting for me to sing as little as one note and she’d be there to sing a full song with me. Now, singing is a part of my ritual as well.
I invite you to think about your personal ceremonies or rituals in your life, whether you are conscious of them or not.
Let us first look at the words ritual and ceremony and why I use them interchangeably. Even the etymology for each word contains the other.
1560s, from Middle French ritual or directly from Latin ritualis “relating to (religious) rites,” from ritus “religious observance or ceremony, custom, usage,” perhaps from PIE root *re- “to reason, count.”
late 14c., cerymonye, “a religious observance, a solemn rite,” from Old French ceremonie and directly from Medieval Latin ceremonia, from Latin caerimonia “holiness, sacredness; awe; reverent rite, sacred ceremony,” an obscure word, possibly of Etruscan origin, or a reference to the ancient rites performed by the Etruscan pontiffs at Caere, near Rome.
After looking at their histories, to me, the boundaries are blurred between the two words to the point that they are interchangeable. I believe people may interpret them differently at times and so to be clear, I see no difference. To me, a ritual or ceremony, is a time of intentional sacredness. There may be different ways of achieving that sacredness and also different reasons for choosing to do so; however, the state of sacredness is the definition and the connection between the two words.