I’ve had a lot of conversations with different people about rituals. I knew a woman who was on her way to initiating as a Wiccan priestess, a faith tradition that’s full of rites and rituals. She walked away from the faith one day just to see if she’d miss it, and she didn’t. She decided that it’s our intent, our own focus and the meaning we place on whatever we’re doing that gives the ritual power and significance.
A lot of people have bathing rituals, which they don’t even classify as a ritual – it’s as simple as setting the stage, a clean bathroom, special salts and oils, the intention to let go of stress. Anything can be sacred, if you choose to make it so. The book "Everyday sacred" comes to mind: http://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Sacred-Womans-Journey-Home/dp/0062512900
This topic has me thinking back to where I learned to do some of these protection and boundary rituals… and I’m actually having trouble remembering where I learned it first. Sylvia Browne talks about creating circles of protection and tents of light over your bed when you sleep, calling in angels to watch over you and patrol your house at night. I did start doing that when I read it, but it was a slight alteration to the routine I’d already been doing, imagining a protective bubble around me as I slept.
Some of it I picked up from the Wiccan ritual of “casting the circle” when you’re about to work. When the sacred work is over, you can either leave the circle to continue to work for you, or you can clear it. I always cleared it. I certainly picked up the action of lighting candles when I begin to work, and extinguishing candles when I am done.
I think my first exposure to the idea of clearing a space came from Sylvia Browne too – she talks about using salt and holy water to clear energy imprints from old houses. My mother and I used this technique while my parents were living in the House of Woe (long, sad history on that property.) I remember that at that point, I was also using candles, and in lieu of incense, I would strike a match and let the smell of the sulfur and the rising smoke from the extinguished match flow into corners, drawing the stagnant energy upwards.
I can’t remember where I learned about candles and incense, but I probably read about it somewhere. It’s one of those things where I pick up the things that resonate with me and I leave the rest.
In Ontario, when I could get it, I used sweet grass as I much preferred it to incense. I’d just get it at a local health food store. The first time I saw it used in ceremony was at the Indian Friendship Centre, so I recognized it and knew its purpose. I space-cleared my apartments in Toronto maybe once every few months, usually in an attempt to control the cockroach invasions. By this time I was using animal communication techniques as well. Penelope Smith talked about asking the roaches to inhabit her house in spirit, rather than in body, and all her insects obliged and marched into a bowl of diatomaceous earth.
In Toronto, the whole downtown core is one massive roach hole, and they bred so quickly that there were always new bugs coming in. I started using the same energy shielding techniques for the whole apartment that I used to protect my bed as I slept, and this had a great impact on keeping my house roach-free, but I needed to do it once a week, and if I lapsed the roaches would come back in again. Insects are extremely sensitive to energy, and if anything, this pest-control routine proved to me that what I was doing when I would space clear a room was having a real, tangible effect… and all I was doing was ringing bells, lighting candles, burning incense, casting circles with intention and humbly asking for help.
When I read “Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston: http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Clear-Your-Clutter-Feng-Shui-Karen-Kingston/9780767903592-item.html?cookieCheck=1 I incorporated the use of a bell or a series of bells in lieu of incense and candles. The resonance of clear, high tones seems to do the same thing for the energy in a room as rising incense. There are faith traditions which use bells and incense together. There’s something about how the air changes when a tuned, clear, high bell is rung in the darker corners of a space.
Out here in BC, a lot of people use smudging, space clearing and energy-working techniques. The smudge-sticks available to me out here are mostly white sage, bundles of cedar (which grows freely out here anyway) buffalo sage from the mainland, and braided sweetgrass imported from Ontario. (Funny, eh?)
I’ve started using white sage almost exclusively, and I think I would go through great lengths to maintain a supply of it now that I’ve started to use it. I don’t know why I like it so much, it just seems to resonate well with me and I love the smell. It feels right and it feels stronger than anything else I’ve used.
In the past couple of years, I found some eagle feathers which I now use in conjunction with the white sage. Different feathers have different energy, and I select what I want to use intuitively, by what feels right. I’ve used eagle, raven and crow feathers, mainly. I’ve seen Theresa Caputo use a large turkey tail feather – turkeys are amazing birds too, with associations to the dream world and the afterlife. I’ll have to do an entry about them sometime.
I found a few abalone shells, and I use one in the traditional way of holding burning white sage as I use a feather to sweep the energy upwards. Between the visualizing “energy bubble” of protection, the use of sulfur, incense or sage, candles, bells, feathers and shells, this smudging / space clearing / protection ritual for me has evolved over the years.
I’d never encountered the use of abalone shell to hold burning incense before I moved out to the coast. The first time I saw it, I thought “Wow, what a waste of a beautiful shell.” Later, a friend smudged my aura using a candle, a small eagle feather and white sage burning in an abalone shell, and it was amazing to feel the heaviness lift from my body. I’ve since learned that the holographic, translucent, rainbow colouring of the abalone shell is associated with the spirit world, and that abalone shells have been used as uplifting, spiritual elements in special jewelry for centuries.
I’ve heard other psychics talk about smudging their house on a daily basis, and I can see the wisdom in that, especially if you’re doing readings out of your house. Whatever you do, I think the most important thing is that you *feel* that it works.
So in that way, I agree that ritual is personal, and the power is what you give it with your own spirit, as each of us is connected to the Great Spirit, and so our own “powers” are limitless.
That said, I also believe that when many individuals come together over many years doing the same thing, there’s this undeniable power to that too.
For me, there’s something really special about mantra. It’s like magic, to me. I’m saying these words, over and over, joining millions of people through thousands of years who have said the same words with similar intention. Maybe it gives me extra confidence in the ritual, which gives the ritual itself more power… but that feels dismissive to me. That’s an intellectual explanation for an intuitive experience, what *feels* right.
I wouldn’t have gotten into mantra by myself; I started researching mantras after Sweetie ran a 40 day trial with her first mantra. She really enjoyed it, and I thought it’d try it too… and it stuck. I really like whispering a mantra to myself as I go about my day, it helps me to keep focus on how I want to be, how I want to live, and where I am going. It’s comforting to me, to feel that I’m tapping into a transformative energy that has served so many other people.
So there it is, some thoughts on ritual. Happy New Year, beautiful people. J