If ritual is to be a spiritually meaningful and rewarding experience, it’s not enough to just turn up at the designated time and place and expect it all to happen. Some preparation is required, but what? It’s easy to invest a lot of pre-ritual time in getting the kit right, sorting out your attire and having all the objects you want just so. For some people, this is a really powerful act of transition – if it works for you, go for it. I’ve also seen the ‘stuff’ take over, such that the stress of getting all the things to the right place can take a person away from ritual, not towards it. The more involved we are with the stuff, the less involved we are with the place of ritual, often.
We need to let go of normal life. It’s not much use coming to ritual space with a head full of last night’s TV programs, today’s anxieties, and gossip from social media. We need to be clear in ourselves and not tangled up in all that daily stuff. Meditation, and prayer can be a great help. If you come to ritual space by car or public transport you will also need time to ground and connect, shifting speed to be more in tune with the land.
Taking people into ritual space and kicking off into ritual can be good in terms of dramatic effect, but it isn’t my preference. I think there’s a lot to be said for giving participants time to get the feel of a place, to look around and notice what is happening in it. Time to look at the sky and the earth, to listen to whatever is in the wind and to attune yourself a bit to the spirit of the place you are working in.
The more time there is before and after a ritual when you can be in the space, the more room there is for community. We need community, we are communal creatures and the coming together of likeminded people is part of what ritual is for. It is the creating of shared spiritual language and experience, making a common ground. It’s good to be able to take some time at the end, too, passing round the cake, talking, before plunging back into the rest of your life. The less abrupt transition to and from ritual is, the more you are likely to get out of it.