It’s amazing how many people fear the idea of ritual especially if it isn’t attached to common or popular beliefs. I’ve noticed most people are fine with ritual if it’s within a Church setting or as part of an official ceremony (ie. in the military, inauguration, jury trials or a scientific symposia etc..). Not too many people realize that something as simple as a handshake; a smile to acknowledge another motorist; or a simple “hello” on the phone also consists as a ritual.
People become wary of ritual when they feel it is something more then symbolic. In the late 1600 if individuals were found with ritualistic tools in their homes it was enough evidence to accuse them of witchcraft. If ritual is used to manifest healing then right away it’s about the wiles of a charlatan. Those who imply that ritual can manifest love, money and good health are often judged as manipulators; and in the same breath often persecuted for manifesting conflicts, bankruptcy and sickness. After the arrival of Christopher Columbus there was a huge purging of Shamans and Sorcerers amongst California tribes. Holy people were massacred: Accused of creating the illness and conflicts they were meant to heal or resolve. Fear can easily be triggered around the notion of ritual especially when there’s a sense that someone or something can have some control over someone else.
I often find it difficult to remain within the lines of what is acceptable to Westerners. For example it’s appropriate to buy gifts for Christmas; wear masks or costumes for Halloween; or paint our faces and carry props for parades; but if we gather together around a circle of stones; smudge one another with sacred herbs and give offerings to Spirit and the ancestors we are often accused of endangering ourselves, our family members and friends. In the last 20 years of leading workshops and giving conferences I’ve met countless individuals who gave up on Shamanism simply because it was “too much of a change” for their loved ones. In many cases it was too much heartache. Nobody likes being judged and persecuted by a spouse, a family member or a friend. We seem to be repeating the same inconsistency we found 300 years ago as the priests judged First Nation people as savages while they were taking children away from their families; cutting their hair; and physically, emotionally as well as psychologically abusing them.
Lately I’ve been asking myself the question: “Why is it often ignorance; which leads the way and shapes our history?”
2012 was predicted as a year of consciousness by so many different ancient cultures all over our planet. I always feel somewhat honoured to have been talked about by our ancestors. For years now I’ve adopted attitudes and behaviours to merit this special space in sacred texts and prophecies. Every day, I try in my own way to do rituals; which connect me to these ancient keepers of prophecy in hope to better understand their messages or their foresight. I don’t know about “you” but I can’t help but look around and wonder whether or not our ancestors misread the stars somehow.
As a traditionalist I received much of my spiritual education through the help of Medicine People. On several occasions I was told by my teachers how important it was for me to be committed to the ritualistic process. I spent years learning about balance; stillness; humility; commitment; surrender etc… It wasn’t just about being able to represent symbolically what I was living inside or what I was intending to manifest in my personal story. It was about perfecting the art of ritual through breathing, dreaming, and envisioning.
In 2002 I was having trouble with my kidneys and bladder. I was in and out of the hospital a lot, and the doctors were suggesting major surgery. I had literally tried everything: Treatments, meds and every alternative option out there. Nothing was working and I was feeling quite a bit of fear around the idea of a surgical intervention. I was honestly convinced that if I went under the knife I would die. EC, my friend and teacher at the time suggested a ritual to clarify the situation and help purify the physical organs that were giving me trouble. Together we planned every detail.
I was told the ritual should take 6 days around the New Moon of October. I needed to find a wooden bowl and fill up with water. Every evening I would take a moment alone around twilight and give an offering to the Moon. I would add some herbs to the bowl; say a prayer; and repeat my intentions three times. After the ritual was done, after 6 days I was told to give the water to the Earth. I chose to add one of my favourite trees to the ceremony. It accompanied me through this journey and received the water in the end.
It seemed important to discuss the ritual; give importance to every little detail; and be present to the synchronicities as well as how I felt about it all. EC guided me towards certain changes just by being attentive to what I shared and how I shared it. I realized ritual was more then just a creative expression of my inner reality; it was a tool; which helped me communicate to nature and the stars. By the New Moon of November I had already made several clear decisions. Not only was I certain about how to proceed; but impressed with how it had cleverly manifested in my life.
There’s no doubt in my mind that many shamanic practices are difficult to comprehend especially when people are standing on the outside looking in. Carl Jung himself often expressed how crucial it was to step into the experience if one was to understand indigenous practices. When reading some of the accounts of his shamanic journey I myself often cringe imagining what some people must of thought at the time.
Ironically if I compare our modern society to the humans of yesterday, I can fairly assume that we’ve never been more open-minded. On the other hand, we’ve also never been more superficial and more out of touch with such concepts as Spirit, consciousness, and phenomenon (ie.magic or miracle). We may have expressed some freedom when it comes to violence and sexuality; but we’ve never been more ashamed of it and more confused about it. We spend more time working and spending money then we do building relationships and committing to profound experiences: Enjoying life. We lack basic skills despite our unlimited access to unlimited knowledge and technology. Finally, when you sit down and look at our “family human picture” – you can’t help but giggle at what our ancestors predicted and how it seems to have turned out.
It’s never easy is it to humbly accept who you are and truly acknowledge the world you are born in…
P.S. I love the picture at the top of this blog entry because it speaks of the old and the new. In the last two decades Montreal especially has found creative ways to keep the old Churches in the landscape despite the fact that they are no longer used for worshipping. Some have literally been transformed into shopping malls. It's clear that with time -- our great-grand-children will be taught to remember the history of relics in their environment with very little understanding of their once-upon-a-time purpose and use.
Things change around us every day. I don't find that it's a shame that things don't stay "the same;" but I do feel sad when we move on without giving it too much consideration or even appreciation. I plan to write another blog this month on the "gateways" of the Blue Moon ceremony --- I'd like to return to this particular entry and use it for examples so keep this one in your archive for future reference.
P.P.S. Please don't be shy to leave your comments on the board. I love receiving e-mails from you detailing stories and growth spurts relating to my blog; but I'd like to have them connected to the blogs themselves so we can always refer back to them later. THANK YOU.