I’ve always had extreme resistance to ritual.
I have memories of leaving Mormon “Children’s Church” in a state of vile hatred, glancing back with a scowl that couldn’t be dark enough. No memory of what that was about, but I guess it had something to do with ritual.
As a young adult wannabe-Jesus-hippie in various mainstream Christian churches, I always wondered if the minister or choir soloist really felt what they were emoting with this audience, or if it ever became just ritual and they were acting. I thought it a terrible responsibility to have to perform like that on schedule.
When I was coerced into trying out a college sorority (to prove I wasn’t “judging them without really knowing them” [I’d called them “plastic”]) and then succumbed to a charade designed personally for each specially-sought “Rec” (recommendation, which I also then learned I’d been), and was initiated into the secret society, I either went into a trance spontaneously, or else they put me, or us all, in one. I remember nothing of the initiation ceremony, but for a split-second flash. This was the culmination of the entire year for most all the young women there, yet I had no memory but for a flash.
The split-second flash involved our chapter president in a red satin choir-type robe, holding a book open in one hand, while lifting her other hand in a gesture, a confident, almost beatific expression on her face, a candle lit somewhere, red drapes behind her. Everyone else I could see was standing in rows, all dressed in red robes. I went home like everyone else for the summer and wrote them a letter of “de-activation.”
I don’t feel as able to participate in ritual and have real thoughts when following someone else.
It’s not the ritual itself; it’s the fact that others are involved (Jesus said, “Pray alone”) and how the ritual is created.
When my sister told the family she had a very aggressive brain cancer, confirmed by two oncologists, I was afraid to test my ability to pray and my worthiness to have my prayers answered. Each night, I felt guilty for not believing in myself, and felt I should pick up the brightly-clattering Tarahumara rattle I had, but was too embarrassed to pretend I had any right to perform anything like a ritual with it – though I thought I did have the right. I imagined invisible spirits around me who would smirk at my efforts, maybe worse. So I cast off a casual prayer each night and ignored the idea that I should do more.
On the third night, before blowing out the candle, I stopped and my hand reached out for the rattle. Energy coursed through my body with a calm benevolence and firm intention. Calm, self-possessed, powerful, someone, not me, performed the ritual, and I yielded and took note. We shook the rattle and called in power from the four directions, and called on two spirit animals that I’d had experiences with and one that I’d just read about, but who was necessary in this situation. We sent the trio to my sister with specific instructions, wound up the ritual, and set down the rattle. I was impressed, pleased, and not afraid at all that a healing might not happen. Two days later, my sister wrote the family that the cancer was suddenly no longer there.
I was forced to perform another ritual when my partner seemed to being dying of a chemical dousing after he’d been handing out papers on chemtrails. We woke one morning to find a chemtrail jet flying low, directly over our house. Then he discovered two dogs (never seen before and never seen since) ripping the wall of his art studio teepee from bottom to top, which he would need to repair that day, as a storm was predicted the next. He worked outside all day while I stayed in.
Over the course of five days, he became lethargic and began to have blood in his urine. When I looked at it through a ten-power lens, I saw needle-like formations covered with white globs. He began to sleep a lot and eventually became unconscious and unable to speak more than a single word every hour or so. Neither of us trust doctors, so going to the hospital was not discussed, though I did ask him once when it seemed very dire. He hissed, “No!”
I used a deck of Herbal Tarot cards, hoping to read about an herb I could use, but instead I drew a very rare herb, but the card depicted a shamaness, and I felt the message was to step into this role. I sat sullenly, waiting for more direction.
Finally I accepted Asante‘s one-word plea to conduct a healing ritual: “Rattle.” I had to force myself, and shut up the voices in my head telling me I was stupid, stupid, stupid, had no right, no training, didn’t know what I was doing, etc. But as I focused, circled inside the house, began my prayers, and shook the rattle, I felt a healing spirit come in and teach me.
Shaking the rattle over Asante’s body, prone on the sofa, I felt an energetic heaviness that seemed to be breaking up, so I rattled and cast the heaviness toward the door on the west. When one arm was tired, I rattled with the other. He made a single noise of relief, so I kept on until both arms were too weary. Then I set down the rattle and sat to simply imagine the heaviness moving away. When I fell asleep, he grunted for help, and I woke to resume the ritual of lifting up and casting away the heaviness. When he was able to speak the next day, he said it had been like being under a pile of boulders, entirely helpless to free himself, and suddenly I was lifting off the boulders and he saw light.
It was a huge lesson for me: the world is amazing, and even I, reluctant I, can be used to work miracles. But of course – Christ said we would do “all this [healings] and more.”
But I didn’t want the responsibility to do it again. I didn’t want the criticisms I had of myself – stupid, no right, etc – to come at me from others.
But that’s mind control, the cultural sort that tells us we can’t do things, and if we think we can, we are especially stupid and to be ridiculed.
And even though I know I’ve been mind-controlled worse than others, it’s so deeply embedded in me that I have a hard time acting on what I know. Things I know like: We can heal ourselves.
So I’ve done only one other healing ritual. My cousin has multiple myloma and has outlived the “6 months to live” prediction by ten or fifteen years now! He came to visit Asante and me, and someone suggested we do a healing shamanic journey. No one had any dramatic experiences that I recall; I had the impulse to spend my time bathing his skeleton with loving energy, which I did. He’s still on this plane, blessing everyone, a walking miracle, with or without our help.
One of the most dramatic experiences happened when I’d done no ritual. On the way back from Hawaii, just a day after my amazing experience with the dolphins in Kealekakua Bay, I sat next to a woman on the plane who said she was in terrible pain. I asked if I could touch her shoulder, meaning to give it a gentle massage, but instead just laid my hand on the muscle to feel it first. She turned to me in sudden, visible relief and said, “Are you a healer?” I answered, with fear, “I don’t know.”
A few weeks later, I got over my fear and accepted an invitation to be trained and certified in a healing modality, but never practiced it. It felt like a recipe, not intuitive.
New Moon sweat lodge rituals I participated in years ago were spontaneous and different each time, though with just enough ritual framework to keep everyone respectfully focused. I loved those gatherings.
And once I invited friends to our house for a Full Moon celebration with a “Grand Cross” in the sky, supporting something that was happening for Asante and me: we were splitting up. We had already invited friends over when we realized the correlation between the sky signs that evening and our break-up, so we agreed to at least talk about it in the fire circle. As the day drew near, a fun ritual idea bubbled up between us, and that evening, everyone surprised us by joining in, making announcements and commitments for all the things each person intended to release to make room in their lives for whatever was now most important. It was a powerful evening, with tears, cheers, laughter, and major life visions announced. Ritual can be wonderful when it happens spontaneously – at least, that seems best for me.
The last couple of weeks, I made a renewed commitment to my “shamanic” or “medicine practice,” but the commitment didn’t last. In the last few days I’ve “quit” a few activities, and today I dropped all my “practice” too, and just sat. Didn’t even light a candle. Just sat and concentrated on my Self and my connection to spirit family and guides. Then I did what I felt like in that moment: read my journal and picked up some long-ignored Tarot cards – which gave me the most insightful direction I’ve received in a very long time.
Then I wrote down these words:
(Mine [others invent your own]: Go to the garden for grounding, healing, surrounding. Reaffirm all spirit helpers. Reaffirm Self on this Amazing Path, surrounded by Help. Listen….)
Question: What feels real to you, but you don’t do because you’ve been taught it’s “weird”? That’s exactly what you should do. Talk to yourself. Massage yourself. Treat yourself to time. Listen to yourself. Protect yourself. Heal yourself. Talk to plants and animals. Listen to them. Talk to your dearly departeds. Talk to your ancestors. Talk to your angels and spirit guides (decide whom you want to talk to). Discern! Be grateful. Act.
This is my new, personal shamanism. Sometimes I’ll pick up a rattle. Often I’ll light a candle. Always, I’ll be real and in the moment.
And sometimes ritual will flow through.