“A ceremony with a good ritual eases the relationship between God and man.”
Julieta Casimiro, Mazatec, Huautla de Jimenez, Mexico
I recently gathered with a small group of women around a fire, and after offering a series of fragrant herbs and incenses to the fire, placed a despacho bundle to burn. In the creation of the despacho, a friend and I had used a variety of natural materials, as well as some human made items. As we placed each item into the bundle, we charged them with our silent and spoken prayers, hopes, intentions, and gratitudes. Each leaf, each grain, each flower petal became significant, a carrier of some heart-inspired longing and joy. As this bundle was burning, I felt the power of the fragrant smoke and crackling embers – the sincere and heartfelt prayers were being transformed and carried up to the sky with the tendrils of smoke from the fire. In the ritual, we sang, we shared meaningful words, and we enjoyed silence. When the ritual was finished, I felt lighter.
I didn’t grow up with ritual and ceremony in my life. Even the rituals and ceremonies that were built into my culture didn’t feel very significant. Costumes at Halloween. Decorations and baking at Christmas. Cake and presents at birthdays. I enjoyed these times, but as I grew older, I would always notice a hollow feeling inside of myself, a longing for something that I couldn’t name. I first began to encounter spiritual rituals while in college as I came in contact with the Wiccan tradition. I read about these rituals, and participated in a few, but the feeling of hollowness persisted. It felt like play-acting to me, and I was yearning for something that felt real. It would be years before I experienced true, authentic ritual that swept me away in its grounded power.
My journeys to Peru have taught me so much about how to acknowledge the sacred in the ordinary world, and about how to consecrate life in my heart. Every rock, every bone, every seed, every shell, all are precious gifts from God. As I have grown in my relationship with the sacred, I have found many ways of offering my prayers and praise. It has become increasingly clear to me that anything offered to Spirit with humble gratitude and sincerity is a precious offering – it is the very essence of reuniting with Spirit. As my love and gratitude have grown, so has my desire to create beautiful offerings and rituals to honor the Divine – I truly want to offer the best of myself, of my heart, of my creativity to the very Source of Life, in gratitude for the incredible blessing of being alive.
When I connect in prayer, I long to ground it in my body and in the world, to offer something that feels real to my body and senses. Whether through lighting a candle, arranging flowers, creating a mandala, placing my body into a particular yoga pose, turning to face the sun or moon, or creating music, I am drawn to create sanctuary. Ritual brings that sanctuary into the present moment, alive and aware, an offering of my divine self back to the Divine. And in this act of devotion, I feel the truth of the quote above. I feel my place in the world, and in the Divine.