|The Rhythms of Life:
Routine - Ritual - Custom - Ceremonies - Tradition in life
in Personal and Communal/Societetal
- Repetitive behaviour - actions
|Continuity, Connection and Fossilization of Ritual
As we've seen, rites evolve among peoples, groups or organizations, and cultures, and thus each
may go about a specific procedure in slightly, or vastly, different ways. The variations and
adaptations are very much connected to Culture. As an activity to be followed regularly; ritual/
ceremony usually evolves a standard procedure. It is a way of “going about things in a set
customary way "automatically" and often mechanically (so familiar that it's done
almost automatically like a reflex) performed procedures or activities”.
Many organized rituals, such as in religious organizations (and the military) etc, are connected
to the past. Ritual is (can be) truly effective if it is meaningful to each observer/participant
when it actually connects to life in all its aspects in a very relevant, meaningful and instantly
recognizable way: it is only then that it becomes truly powerful, sustaining and comforting -
because it is a relevant connection to the continuity of the past.
When is also meant to be connected to the past, to make it relevant in a way that contem-
poraries can understand, those connections and their meaning and value should be explained
- and many cultures do so; it has also been done at tribal level around the world since time
immemorial. They have continually adapted the format, and kept the meaningful parts: doing
them in an adaptive, yet recognizable way.
All to often, however, the whole thing has become "fossilized" - and is just a mechanical thing
people go through, without feeling it relevant other than that it's "tradition" or custom"; and
slowly fewer and fewer people participate - or they participate without enthusiasm, hardly
being able to wait until it's over. This is because without that introduction/explanation, that
shows the contemporary relevance, it becomes a hollow, unfulfilling activity and routine:
going through meaningless motions for many of those present. For just like our own rituals
which we change from time to time depending on circumstances and necessity because we
have "worn their usefulness out", so to speak; the cultural communal ones need to be
adapted as well: or replace or end them.
Ritual and ceremony produce, access, and contain intense emotions – of connection
and continuity that is deeply important to the human psyche, or soul. "We need a deeper
and more personal sense of connection - the kind that so far humans have only found
through ritual and ceremony. Ritual is essential because it is truly the pattern that connects.
It provides communication at all levels - communication among all the systems within the
individual human organism; between people within groups; between one group and another
in a city and throughout all these levels between the human and the non-human
in the natural environment." ~Dolores LaChapelle
|The Story and Dance of Ritual
Another major important element of ritual is that it also "tells a story", and in telling it, it uses
symbols that represent things people are familiar with. It is an enactment of things or ideas,
where each movement, each participant relates to a part of their particular culture-story
(remembering that each of us is a "culture" of our own: this the Dance).
The "power" of ritual, however is only as good as the sense of connection, continuity and
familiarity people have with, and to, the story it is re-creating. Many people create their own
story - and adapt and alter it to complement the dynamic reality of life - which is always
changing; and create their own ceremonial life. Among other things, it becomes (or can
become) a "teaching tool" - each action has significance, or is a symbol of actual, or
perceived actual, things and events. May you enjoy your rituals, routines, habits
and customs. They are healthy and necessary to your wellbeing.
|Klaas Tuinman M.A.
Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, Canada - Oct 2010
Revised 2019 Meaford, Ontario
|Ritual at the personal level
Ritual and routine are something we are very familiar with in our daily lives. In fact, we are so
familiar with them that we often no longer notice our routines or rituals (for example, brushing
teeth after every meal – automatically, like a reflex action - we cultivate these once to become
"habits" because we deem them to be important - others are for comfort sake). Routine is comfortable
- it is a standard procedure - it provides the comfort of predictability. We like knowing what we're going
to do, when we're going to do it, and what we'll be wearing while we do it in many cases, etc. Hence, it's
nice, safe and predictable: there are no surprises, no unforeseen contingencies: no upsets. It leaves
room for variation and spontaneity depending on circumstances.
We all have little (or large) routines etc, in our lives: morning ones, wind-down after work ones,
and many others, some of which we aren't really, or fully aware of. Another name for those is
"rituals". And the there are similar ones in our social environment: rituals, routines, rites, and
ceremonies, etc. They have been with us since time immemorial: they may have changed,
adapted, and evolved, but they are an integral part of our lives; our cultures. They connect to
something deep within our psyche: it's almost like it's in our DNA (perhaps it is): comforting,
reassuring parts of the rhythm of our lives, producing our Comfort Zones. A way of asserting
that everything is "alright". They may even have a bit of a Dopamine effect.
Routine is a detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed: for example,
some people's my household chores have become a morning ritual, or a ritual glass of
milk before bed. We all have behaviours and habits in our lives. Each person has his/
her routines (like brushing our teeth after meals, or upon getting up in the morning).
They may have evening ones too, after arriving home from work, including specific
clothing they may wear. Others, at times, engage in bodily rhythmic movements - such
as rocking, or pacing: these can be moments of processing things internally, (perhaps
deeply engaged in thought), or just to find safety and comfort when there may be, or have
been, moments of turmoil and upset - either just then, or just past, or perhaps confronted
with something "new" that's coming up, and/or uncertainty.
Ah Ha! moment: folks with developmentally communication, and emotional challenges, often
also engage in those rhythmic body movements - and if we recognize that the movements are
a physical expression of an inner struggle to create calmness, and inner balance and harmony - or
to soothe themselves in moments of fear or distress (similar to us); or perhaps they are struggling
to find the words to express what they're feeling or experiencing, Looking at it that way, we
have just gained an insight into understanding, and communicating with, them, in helpful,
constructive ways. Other people may listen to "special" music, for the same wind-down,
calming reason - entry into the comfort zone.
The Communal, Social forms of Ritual: Ceremonies - Traditions
Ritual extends way beyond our individual experience of it: it is in our collective communal
DNA: so there is more to add: to summarize the above: a ritual is an activity that is repeated
over and over in the same way - “the way it is done”, for similar, yet different, or "wider" reasons.
"Rite" is a synonym for ritual (or a Custom, Habit, or Tradition) – where every one, everywhere,
does the same sort of thing regularly in the same way - in a venue know as Ceremony; which
is a cultural, social, and communal get-together to celebrate various important occasions. The
Ritual (Rite) - is the How, or the Way, or the Custom of doing the ceremony. The Ceremony is
the "why" - the reason for the occasion or celebration. These are symbolic actions generally
performed in a particular environment (including our homes) at a regular, recurring interval (such
as seasons,anniversaries, memorials, but also as ways of organizing our daily lives with the use of
daily "routines" which are forms of ritual: They all in the broadest sense, are ceremonies
or ceremonial-like: formal or semi-formal, generally public occasions.
Humans have held celebrations and engaged in ceremonies since before recorded time. As time
passed, these grew in complexity, in many ways - and were held to deal with both current events,
circumstances, etc, as well as celebrating previous days to honour the past: a form of continuity
and connection over time. These ceremonies evolved into patterns - patterns which were easily
recognizable to all the participants. Such patterns provided points of reference, familiarity and thus
comfort. And within the ceremonies there were/are rituals. Ritual and ceremony are essential parts
of human Life - since time immemorial.
Ceremonies are symbolic actions generally performed in a specific or particular environment
which (includes our homes) at a regular, recurring interval (such as seasons, anniversaries,
memorials: thus they are ways of organizing both our daily lives with the use of daily "routines"
which are forms of ritual, as well as our communal lives: They all in the broadest sense, are
ceremonies or ceremonial-like.
The set of actions that comprise a ritual (at the communal level) often include, but are not limited
to, such things as recitation, singing, group processions, repetitive dance, manipulation of special,
or sacred objects, mementos, etc. Virtually everyone engaged in daily life routines, or spiritual,
religious, or just specific daily, activities follows some sort of familiar, comfortable pattern. We
achieve the deep sense of connection, continuity and familiarity through such ceremonies as:
as our daily wake-up routines (personal level), and Weddings/Marriage, Divorce, Renewal of
vows, Baptism, Confirmation, Commitment, Rites of Passage (e.g. (for example, Transition
into Adolescence, graduating from college, etc). Graduation Exercises, Exorcism, Holy Orders,
Funerals, Oriental tea Ceremonies, First Nations' Pow-Wows and sweat lodges, many military
activities, opening ceremonies at sporting events, or such other ceremonial events as the
ritual of saying goodbye; and many others (at the communal level).
From the moment we are born we are exploring how we can do things so we can feel some
sense of satisfaction, and comforting connectedness. The satisfaction comes from doing
something that expresses who we are individually, and yet within the greater context of our
You try out different ways, and if you want things to be done as smoothly, "comfortably" and
efficiently as possible you have to decide which way works best for you, and that is how you
will adopt (and adapt) your routines. They have purpose, and provide structure your life.
They bring you into your comfort zone. That's the power of ritual.
In public, secular or spiritual ceremonies often the same building or location, the same seats,
the same decor, the same procedure and the same day -or date-, the ceremony brings that
sense of something "special". It can also entail specialized symbolic forms of speech designed
specifically for the occasion, as well as action, singing, and other activities (as we have seen
above) which are full of symbolic meaning, performed in a specific order. There may be such
things as people giving recitations, group processions, repetitive dance, and manipulation of
sacred objects, etc. Even every element of the type of clothing worn is often highly symbolic
(connection to past similar events) and including colour and style. The same applies to
accessories: Boy/Girl Scout badges, Military ribbons, medals and rank insignia, feathers in a
head-dress, etc. Tradition is also a very powerful form of ritual At home you may have a special
candle to light, or memorial pictures on a stand or table, which are your "sacred" objects, etc.
|Dawn Cove Abbey
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