A ritual is an action that is performed in a specific way; yet, whose meaning is symbolic as opposed to literal. Ritual comes from the Sanskrit word rta which refers to both art and order. Hence, rituals are different from habits and routines because we give them a meaning beyond the rational.
Traditionally, rituals were hand me downs- actions that were kept alive through tight, relatively stable and rooted communities. They were the glue that held a culture together, enforcing values and helping guide transitional or uncertain periods of life. Yet, I believe that as our modern American society has long severed from a communal way of life, many rituals have been discarded for rationality, secularism, automation and individualism – traits that do not as easily embrace the symbolic.
But like all culture, nothing truly dies, it just evolves. In our customized culture, rituals too are evolving into their own inspired stews via the hands of individuals seeking to create meaning in their lives. My goal, as I finish my graduate program, is to document these creations and their creators.
So, I need your help! I need you to share your story. Do you have rituals in your life? If so, what purpose do they serve? Do they ground you, motivate you, or help you let go? Do they ebb and flow in potency and value? Where do they come from? Family? Other cultures? Or your own creation?
These are the questions that excite and intrigue me, please share!