The validation of ritual

I’ve had periods of doing a lot of ritual, and periods of doing none, and at the moment am marking the seasons but not always in conventionally ritualistic ways. Looking back over the last fifteen years or so, I realise there’s a validation aspect to ritual that has had considerable value to me, but that I also feel ambivalent about.

Nothing makes me feel as much like a proper Pagan Druid as getting into circle with a bunch of people and doing a ritual eight times a year. I don’t even have much respect for the wheel of the year and the eight festivals as a concept, I never know what to do with equinoxes, but even so I find the act of doing ritual with fellow Pagans profoundly affirming.

Now, the question for me is, what am I affirming when I do ritual? I can find the ritual itself fairly superficial, and have no woo-woo type experiences at all and still feel significantly validated. Is it the effect of being with other Pagans openly? That seems fine to me as a thing to benefit from. Is it some kind of affirmation that I am all shiny and spiritual and special? I worry about this. I worry about how easy it is to have supposedly spiritual things turn out to be just epic ego massage. If I think something is good for me, is it really good for me? Is it ok to take the ego boost? I’m not swimming in self confidence…

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years thinking about what it is that we get out of religions and spiritual practices (Spirituality Without Structure is one of the many consequences of this). How much of what we get out of ritual is on purely human terms and not really about the divine at all? How much is it about connecting with people? How much can we do to connect with the land and the seasons when investing a couple of hours eight times a year? Lots of questions, no real answers.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “The validation of ritual

  • John Davis

    Ok…lots of questions, here’s my take on this Nimue even though it doesn’t directly answer your questions. For 35 years I was a High Church C/E priest, so I reckon to have celebrated a fair amount of ritual!!! I’m rather suspicious of the expectation that ritual will lead to “woo-woo” experiences; I was in ministry at the time of the so-called Charismatic Revival, enough said! From my perspective then, and it hasn’t changed for me as a pagan druid, ritual is more concerned with the intent in which it is performed; it is a statement of something that we feel has importance. A Christian sacrament can be defined as something which is outward and physical but conveys an intent which is inward and spiritual. I see no difference for us pagans. Ritual also provides a means, or structure, so that several people can express their intent together…and, for me, it doesn’t matter if 6 people standing together in a circle using the same words have 6 different personal intents. There is a sense of camaraderie and shared joy in shared ritual…and I’m all for it. I think that when we try to analyse it too much, we lose some of the magic of ritual…John /l\

  • greycatsidhe

    For myself, my Druidism is very much about honoring the gods, dead, and land spirits. I can do that on my own or with a group, but it always feels good to do it with others. It feels less like an ego massage to me (it’s so very exhausting organizing and leading at times – the whole act is my own sacrifice), but it feels so very necessary. Others desire it just as much as I do, and the spirits ask for it. It deepens our bonds with each other – whether human or spirit.

  • jrose88

    I’m not exactly sure how to peg myself but I guess I’d go for non-religious vaguely-spiritual, and your questions kind of echo my reasons why. In college I took a philosophy class that forced me to think about religions and how they’re kind of like the scaffolding that goes up to help construct spirituality. From the outside, it’s sometimes hard to tell how much is scaffolding and how much actual productive construction is going on behind it. I was baptized and had first communion as a Catholic, and took Lutheran confirmation classes at my parents insistence but didn’t follow through with the actual confirmation part… A lot of it just seemed like human connections/community and ego boosting to me and not so much on the spiritual side of things, and that’s why neither of those religions as a personal belief system ever really caught and held my attention. So these are very good questions to ponder, in my opinion, and thank you for posting them so eloquently! More people should sit down and really, regularly think about these things.

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