Ceremony

The word “ceremony” comes from the Latin word caermonia which refers to events involving “holiness, sacredness, awe.” Ancient cultures around the practised ceremonial rituals, sometimes bloody and more often joyous. These ceremonies were ways of paying attention to all aspects of human life: birth, death, coming of age. Indigenous ceremonies were often seen as means of connecting with the land, the life cycle and with each other. Such ceremonies emphasized reciprocity and interconnectedness.
In Western society, the word “ceremony” frequently refers to conventions of formality and politeness and is sometimes used disparagingly, as in “mere ceremony.” And yet our ceremonies are usually of great importance to us. We may complain about the effort that ceremony requires, but celebrations and ceremonies connected with such occasions as birth, weddings, funerals, graduation, awards and honours are important to us and help us to experience and express our feelings about such milestones.
The coronavirus has stripped us of many of our customary traditional ceremonies. Many hundreds of students have missed out on the usual graduation ceremonies, funerals are now kept to small numbers, and weddings are being postponed. No large gatherings and no hugs are permitted to mark these milestones. Church services have been restricted and choirs discontinued. We’ve had to forego many rituals we have about annual gatherings for birthdays and festivals. Like many others, I am feeling the loss of these ceremonies.
And yet, in other countries, people seem to have ceremonies in their daily life. They may create small shrines for their ancestors. They sometimes set a place at the dinner table for a dead family member. Many indigenous people bless the salmon and food they are about to eat. Saying grace before a meal, expressing gratitude for the sustenance that is about to be eaten, has been a common practice in many cultures. It’s good to pay attention. Attention, Simone Weil said, is prayer.
As a result of COVID, we may have to work very hard to bring ceremony into our lives. But our they don’t have to always be formal; we can learn new ways of making ceremony and ritual part of our everyday life. Around the world and throughout history there have been ceremonial practices that have taken place in small yet intimate and meaningful ways.
Recently I watched the first Turtle Lodge’s first episode of the  Reconciling Ways of Knowing: Indigenous Knowledge and Science Forum (https://www.waysofknowingforum.ca/episode1) in which Dave Courchene, Elder and Leading Earth Man, spoke movingly about the importance of ritual. As he says. “Ceremony has always guided us.”
I feel in need of that guidance. A need for ceremony.
How can I create ceremony in my daily life? Well, I could begin each day with a yogic sun salutation. Or I could regularly walk a labyrinth as a mindful meditation. Or, more simply, I could make daily practice of just sitting on my patio each morning and saying aloud, as was written in Ecclesiastes, Truly the light is sweet and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.
In these uncertain times, when we don’t know anything at all about what lies ahead, it makes sense for us to use ceremony as a way of feeling and expressing gratitude for each new day.

4 thoughts on “Ceremony

  1. Dear Carol, swimming from the reef, tending to the compost and making cookies are ceremonies that are holding my world in sacred shape throughout this crazy time. Thanks for reminding me that that's what they are!

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  2. Dear Carol, swimming from the reef, tending to the compost and making cookies are ceremonies that are holding my world in sacred shape throughout this crazy time. Thanks for reminding me that that's what they are!

    Like

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