Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: ritual

Rediscovering Rituals And Celebrations

ritual and celebrations
Celebrating the return of Spring with some yardwork and reading.

Back in December my brother and I had been talking about holiday rituals and celebrations and how over the years we had lost interest in many Christmas traditions. He told me he was reading Asatru: A Beginner’s Guide to the Heathen Path by Erin Lale, so I ordered it and added it to my TBR shelf. I can’t speak for my brother, but for me, I’ve been losing interest in rituals in general since I was a young adult.

It started with my high school graduation when I felt as if I were being forced to participate in a ritual that I did not believe in. I didn’t accomplish anything but survival of a process I was forced to undertake. I felt as if I were being released from prison while family and friends around me celebrated it as a chosen accomplishment.

My wedding was another ritual that lost its charm once I started looking at the ceremony. I was not raised to be religious, so I didn’t want that kind of ceremony. It would be heretical. I’m also quite the feminist and thought even the secular version of a wedding ceremony smacked of some pretty strange stuff. We chose a generic ceremony, performed by an official I found in the yellowpages.

Today, I’d do things much differently. I’d create new rituals based on my personal beliefs but hearken back to our ancestors and their culture. And I’d explain them and their significance.

Over the years, with children growing up, family dispersing, and life changing all around us, I participated in some ritual, but always felt like I was searching. Christian tradition just didn’t work for me. I always counted myself as a believer, but never agreed with church doctrine. I ceremonies and rituals never sat right with me. I wanted more meaning, more connection with the people around me.

This past Christmas was the best I’ve ever had. Part of it was having my mom here for a week in early December. The other part was discovering, through some Instagram influence and my brother, the heathen rituals of Winter Solstice, and the learning about what the old traditions symbolize. I felt connected to the past, and ready to celebrate in the present with those around me so that our future selves would be connected to this past.

THAT’S what ritual is all about, Charlie Brown.

Our modern age has lost those connections. Whatever rituals we each participate in we’ve lost much of the meaning. And to those around us that were raised in a different culture, we look at others and think they’re crazy, in much the same way that Christians and Heathens looked at each other in ancient times.

The great way for us all to come together in the modern age is to create new rituals and ceremonies based on a combination of the old, but with our own understanding of the world around us. To do start that for my own family, I’m starting a study of the old ways of my ancestors and others around the world.

Today, my husband and I are triangulating a meeting between us, our sons, and my dad and stepmom. Southern California is a big place, so we’re meeting in the middle for a traditional (to our family) meal, pizza at RoundTable. I was excited to be able to do this in the first place, but after my reading this morning, I’m beside myself because I get to acknowledge a personal family tradition and bring back an old ritual and share its meaning.

From the book,

“Clinking of glasses in a beer hall symbolically unites all the containers into one container, so modern-style toasts while sitting down at a table can also be practiced as a sumbel.”

A sumbel is the ritual shared drinking from a cow’s horn to symbolize Audhumla’s nourishing role. Audhumla is the cow that licked the gods to life from the ice.

And, no, I don’t believe a magical cow did any such thing. It’s mythology and symbolic not literal.

When I read that quote above, I thought, “Why do we not know this? Why did we stop sharing the meaning of these rituals when so many of them are around us every day?”

No matter how silly it feels, I’m bringing some of these back to our family’s consciousness. This afternoon, as we sit around the table as a family, I’ll tell this story, create my own blessing, and toast to my family; those with us, those afar, and those that have come before us and wait for us on the other side.

Why do we feel so separated and alone today, even BCBS (before covid bull shit)? I think it’s because we lost the reasons for the rituals we have in our lives, and then forgot that celebrations are not simply places to spend money and get drunk. Rituals, holidays, celebrations, and gatherings are ways for us to connect with the past, the present, and the future. We still need them and the reasons behind them.

Winter Solstice Thoughts & Blessings

I’m taking a day off from sharing book quotes today to wish you all a Happy Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice
A rare gloomy day in the desert for this Winter Solstice

Recently, I’ve been musing about the meaning of heathen rituals surrounding the seasons. I’m not sure why it came up in my life, perhaps it is a search for connection to the world around me, or a simple nod to my Nordic and Irish ancestors. Maybe, like many of us, I’m yearning for some order to the chaos.

The journey is only beginning, but I’m already falling in love with the magic and wondering where the road will lead. I do know that it feels warm, right, and beautiful.

This morning, while scrolling through Instagram, I found Josua Hrodgeir Rood. His introduction video inspired me to continue my exploration of ancient ways when he said that wherever we are, “breathes the old gods.” The myths and sagas are inspired by that land, the story of humanity is told through the climate and the landscape, what we can see and feel from that place and time on the earth.

I’ve never been out of the United States, let alone Scandinavia or Ireland. I was raised by Christian American parents and grandparents, so to say I’m returning to my roots feels a bit false. My most noticeable roots are here in California and my ancestors span all of Europe. Those more distant roots are vast, deep, and far flung.

Today, I live in the California desert. I grew up in Anaheim, California. When I first visited here with my husband, I felt instantly at home, the “I’ve been called” kind of home. We moved here with our children twelve years ago, and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I love the sparse landscape, the way I can see the sun and moon and stars move across the sky. I love the cold of winter, the lack of water, and the intense heat of summer. I love the rocks and cactus, along with the creatures that call this place home.

I guess, in a way, I can feel the presence of the gods in this area, and they comfort me. Since I moved here, I feel closer to nature, more relaxed, and I’ve never needed anti-anxiety medication like I did in the city where I was born and raised.

When “American Gods” came out on tv, I was fascinated. The show left me wondering once again. Is there more? I ordered the book immediately after watching the first season of the show. Reading it I found that it relied too heavily on already knowing much of the mythology to be helpful to me. But the story gave me a taste of something. I wanted to find the meal it came from.

This morning’s travels through social media, websites, and a short text conversation with my brother made me think of it all again. Yes, books have been ordered. What if, instead of a war between the old gods and the new, we created something entirely new? What if the modern American gods could blend in with the gods of the land we sit on and the gods that were brought here by all the immigrants over the years?

I’m starting to believe that’s what is happening right now, all around us. There will continue to be chaos for some time before we get the hang of things. We don’t need to throw out technology and advancements that have brought us so much enrichment and plenty. We don’t need to go back to the old ways. We need to ground ourselves in where we all came from, share our stories, and use technology and communication skills to weave together all we have learned.

Technology has brought us together, showing us the universality of our beliefs across lands and cultures. When each of us brings our light to the fire, the fire grows bigger and brighter. What will happen when we bring our light to other planets and star systems? Chaos at first and then a bigger fire.

May the long night of winter solstice remind you that the darkness may reign for a time, but the light will always return to conquer. Peace to you and your house.

Curious what I was up to at this time LAST year? Click back to Christmas 2020 to see.

Connection and the use of Rituals

I had one of those “ah-ha” moments while reading “Returning to Silence” this morning. These two ideas on connection are going to change my way of thinking and my life, forever. The first was, “There is only us.” And the other was about the significance of ritual.

A small side note first, I’ve been listening to the podcast, “Secular Buddhism with Noah Rasheta” the past couple of weeks and it is helping me put Dainin Katagiri’s words into context. The book was recommended as a classic introduction to Buddhism, but I’m finding it a little too spiritual and “out there” to understand on its own. I’m constantly looking up what words mean because he uses Buddhist practices as given information. That’s not a bad thing. I’m learning a lot. It’s just a tad tedious in addition to the flowery and repetitive style he uses.

The positive is that it slows me down and gives me the chance to think about what is written and fish out what I need to know.

What does, “There is only us.” mean?

“We tend to define enlightenment as an experience that creates a difference between us and others.”

Returning to silence by dainin katagiri

Human connection is everywhere in this world. Have you ever seen rock climbers? I live near Joshua Tree National Park, one of the meccas of the rock-climbing world. I’m not a climber myself. I’ve always been a bit of klutz, tripping over my own feet or twisting my ankle on a pebble in the path. It’s best if I keep close to the ground. But I enjoy watching them from below.

A group of climbers are connected to the rocks and each other by rope. A lead climber gets up first, creates a new, or connects to an existing, pick point and latches on. The other climbers follow. The climbers above and below you can help you find a handhold you can’t see from your vantage point, encourage you to keep going, and limit your fall if you miss a step or lose your grip on the rocks. And at the top, the accomplishment is sweeter when you have someone to celebrate with.

The whole world is this way if we can see it. There is no me and you. There is not us and them. There is just the world, and we are all connected to each other. We can help or hinder each other by our actions, but we cannot disengage from the whole.

What is the significance of connection through ritual?

Ritual is everything we do. We have morning and evening rituals: making coffee, brushing our teeth, journaling, reading, meditation, waking up, driving to work. Weekly rituals of cleaning our house, taking care of our things. Monthly rituals of lunch dates with friends or a night out with a loved one. We know the rituals related to holidays, graduations, weddings, births and deaths.

Human connection through the magic of coffee.
Photo by Ben Weber on Unsplash

What is the significance though? Each ritual, if we bring our conscious thought to it, can ground us in the here and now, the magic of the moment we are in. Even making a cup of coffee in the morning can be made a ritual, from the most complicated (grinding beans, boiling water, and pouring it yourself) to the simplest (picking it up at the drive-thru on your way to work). When we bring our conscious thought to it, we ground ourselves. This is this time of day. This makes my heart happy. This is something I share with millions of people that are also doing this, or the human connection of the millions of people that brought this delicious bean juice to me to today.

By the way, there are so many gorgeous pictures of coffee on Unsplash, an infinite variety of styles and how and … just beautiful, like coffee itself. I chose this one because it reminded me of the magic of coffee and the ritual it can be.

Every ritual reminds us of our connection with this world, the other climbers ahead and behind us, the rock beneath us, the sky above us, the creators of the equipment, the experience of those that have gone before, the excitement of those we bring along and teach, and those that stand on the ground and wonder at our achievement.

It makes me think of that feeling of disconnect that comes over me often these days. Do have a country? A culture? A family? Am a part of something bigger than myself? Buddhism has reminded me that yes, I am. I can’t escape it. I can only notice it and accept it.

It doesn’t matter if I subscribe to the religion or not, every holiday my country celebrates connects me to the people that live here if I consciously choose to acknowledge that in positive way.

Every time I walk into a Target for cleaning supplies, order something from Amazon to be delivered, or buy one of those glorious chicken avocado burritos at El Pollo Loco, I can choose to be reminded of my connection to the culture I grew up in.

And my family? We’ve had a rough go of it the past ten years or so. But recently I realized, as I began a sewing project, how connected I am to my grandmothers, mom, aunt, and cousins. We all have our sewing rooms. We all create with fabric in some way. Quilts, bags, toys, and clothes, we all have our specialties.

My aunt and I have grown apart over the years. That has been my fault. As I started a sewing project this past weekend, I thought of her and sent her a picture of it. I opened a door and my heart felt grounded again. I did this unconsciously, before reading about rituals and connection in a Buddhist context.

Now I see how I can personally create these connections and why I need to continue to do so. It takes no law, no social media campaign, no reciprocation, no feedback, to start. All it takes is my own conscious thought. Human connection is the reality of this world. I only need to acknowledge the rituals that bring that connection to my consciousness.

I’m really enjoying reading “Returning to Silence.” If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on this book, go back to my post “New Read: Returning to Silence” to start from the beginning. Other posts are linked at the bottom of that one.

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