Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rituals, Resonance, Remembrance

We know what we know through our senses. One of the important reasons why we use stimulants to our senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight, and smell during ritual is so that the experience stays with us.

Spiritual ceremonies always contain sensual elements. There may be frankincense, sandalwood, sage, juniper or some other aromatic herb that is burning. There are bells or gongs that are rung to signal the call to service. There are candles, bonfires or oil lamps.

There is a physical touch in the way of greeting or blessing. There is taste in the sharing of food or wine. There are symbolic signals such as special robes that ritual leaders wear. There are sprinklings of holy water.

All of these are about marking the occasion as a special event. Rituals containing these elements stay with us much more powerfully than rituals that are merely a lecture or sermon.

Ritual music that is moving, literally moves us to remember. Rituals that involve drums, tambourines, stomping, clapping, singing, dancing, large groups of harmonious voices, all serve to make the ritual an indelible event.

These elements are found in various combinations in spiritual ceremonies all around the world.

There is a similar reason why bells are rung in steeples, gongs are banged in temples, and shamanic practitioners wear little bells.

There is a similar reason why if we are not dancing around fires, candles or lamps are lit all around the church or temple.

There is a similar reason why a shaman may smudge, temples may light sandalwood incense and churches may walk around swinging a censor filled with burning frankincense and myrrh.

There is a similar reason why earthy religions cut loose with drums and dancing, churches have large choirs, temples have drums, movement and chanting and some churches contain elements percussion, dancing and singing.

There is a similar reason why one religion shares wine and hosts, another bread and wine, some earthy religions share rum, and some shamans use vodka.

We know what we know through our senses. Bringing sensory experiences into ritual makes them more real for us, more memorable, more powerful. That is why a refrain from a song or a whiff of incense can suddenly evoke a spiritual feeling or idea.

Whether you are celebrating some regularly occurring holy day or creating a special personal ritual, bring your senses to your ritual for a more powerful result.

No comments: