The purpose of RITUAL

This is not how RITUAL works.  This is not how any of this works.

This is not how RITUAL works.  This is not how any of this works.

Of all the Precepts, RITUAL is probably the one that gets the most quizzical looks from people. That's because for most people the word evokes secretive meetings of villainous individuals up to no good, or conversely, something grand and glorious involving cathedrals and incense.

Or for some, the word conjures up an empty set of repetitive practices, drained of all meaning and performed only because that's the way we've always done it.

Let's rescue the word.

In Lichtenbergianism, a RITUAL is an action repeated over time or at specific intervals, the purpose of which is to provoke change in the artist or the audience. That change might be a transition in a state of “work-mind,” or it might be to refocus your energies in a particular direction, to name just two examples.

RITUAL is a kind of structure, one that takes you from where you are to a new place, crossing over a line in some way to get there.  You can find the structure in the Hero's Journey, in any religious service, in all the superstitious little ways artists will arrange their work space and time.

Once you understand the way RITUAL works, you can use it to make your creative work more meaningful and actually easier to get at.  Take a look at this outline:

  • Invocation
  • Drawing the circle
  • Taking the path
  • Numen/Connection
  • Breaking the circle
  • Benediction

Sounds awfully religious, or at the very least pretty hippie-woo, doesn't it?  It can be, certainly, but over the next few posts I want to look at this structure and show how you can make it work for you.  (Those of you who were here just to read about my stealing from Mary Oliver, don't worry: I'll circle back around to that.)

The topic of RITUAL popped up today because last night, in my back yard labyrinth, I performed a wedding ceremony for one of my oldest friends and his lady love.  They didn't want anything big; in fact, they pretty much wanted just the bare legal necessities.  But as I told them, there was a reason they wanted the legal necessities, and we needed to honor that.

And so I was able to construct a very simple ceremony that nonetheless met the criteria of RITUAL: it gathered us together, we entered a space that was not "every day," and changed not only their legal status but their lives—and the lives of all of us there.

Then, of course, we partied.


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