“This is my body; this is the temple of light. This is my heart; this is the altar of love.”
–Sufi song (quoted in Birthrites)
Last year I received the wonderful little book, Birthrites: Ceremonies and Rituals for the Child-bearing Years by Jackie Singer as a Christmas gift. While the book doesn’t contain any ritual outlines, per se (which I had been hoping for), it does contain a lot of thoughtful information. I especially appreciated that it includes information about creating ceremonies to acknowledge a variety of outcomes during the childbearing year, including infertility, abortion, and miscarriage, as well as full-term birth. Here are two quotes from Birthrites about the value and purpose of rituals in general:
Making ritual diverts our attention from the everyday tasks of survival, and for a brief time allows us to notice and comment on where we are. Faced with the awesome experience of findings ourselves conscious in an unpredictable universe, making ritual is a noble attempt to confer rhythm and coherence to our lives…
…there is a paradox inherent in the whole concept of new ceremony, because part of the power of ceremony is that it has the weight of tradition behind it. In times of continuity, ritual would be something handed down by the elders. Perhaps this is an ideal, but we do not live in times of continuity. Rather than abandoning the whole idea of ritual as irrelevant, we need to respond to the challenges of our fast-changing age by renewing ritual practise in a way that honours the past but makes sense to us now.
This reminded me of my own previous post about blessingways and the role of ritual:
…We’re blessing each other. When we “call down a blessing” we’re invoking the connection of the women around us, the women of all past times and places, and of the beautiful world that surrounds us. We might each personally add something more to that calling down, but at the root, to me, it is an affirmation of connection to the rhythms and cycles of relationship, time, and place. Blessings come from within and around us all the time, there’s nothing supernatural about it.
I also think, though I could be wrong, that it is possible to plan and facilitate women’s rituals that speak to the “womanspirit” in all of us and do not require a specifically shared spiritual framework or belief system in order to gain something special from the connection with other women.
In another great resource for ceremonies of all types, The Power of Ritual, Rachel Pollack explains:
“Ritual opens a doorway in the invisible wall that seems to separate the spiritual and the physical. The formal quality of ritual allows us to move into the space between the worlds, experience what we need, and then step back and once more close the doorway so we can return to our lives enriched.”
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