As a pagan, ritual is my way of connecting with the greater powers, my way of meditating, of communing. It is a form of prayer and also a form of art. One of the things I love about creating ritual is how it combines different forms of artistic expression. Of course there's the verbal arts: song, poetry, and invocation woven together to create the framework for the process. But there's also movement and the visual arts adding substance and depth to the words. The lighting of a candle can be a creative as well as a magical act. The arrangement and choice of ritual implements is the act of an artist. A beautiful handcrafted bowl, a found feather, a painting or image of a deity or an ancestor all come together to create an embodied symbolism that surrounds the ritualist and participants.
It's so easy to look down on embodied spirituality. Buddhism tells us that this world is an illusion, that only by letting go can we be happy. Christianity tells us that we must embrace Christ in our hearts, that this world is a proving ground for the final immaterial world. So often it seems to me like we're running away, trying to escape the embodied reality that we're living in, but I want to celebrate it!
I am this body. I am this world. It is inescapable that I am a creation of cells and chemicals: a piece of this earth that moves and feels. I honor this body and the body of the earth because I see that which is made of real stuff as sacred. Soil is sacred. My desk is sacred. My scarred, flawed body is sacred. It's the noticing it that's the trick and that's exactly what ritual allows us to do. It's about attending to the material, paying attention to the physical.
Ritual is a doing phenomenon. It doesn't do any good to read a book about it, or think about it. It works when we actually interact with the world around us. When we light a candle and say a prayer. When we invite our ancestors to share our food or pour milk on our doorstep for the nature spirits we are interacting with the material world and the power within it.
Ritual takes this one place, right here, wherever we are and says, "Here. Right here it's special. This place, this time, is awesome and full of wonder and beauty and power."