In one of Slacktivists’s recent posts, he writes about he wishes there were more ceremonies or rituals to acknowledge important turning points in one’s life. He gives the example of a Jewish community creating a community-wide ritual for a young person getting his or her driver’s license. This is one thing the Pagan community has done pretty well: we love creating rituals for all kinds of things. One of my friends wrote an absolutely fantastic transition-to-motherhood ritual, for example. But we don’t talk as much about the little rituals that are part of our daily practice.

These rituals are part of sacralizing the everyday. I believe in deity that is immanent as well as transcendent, so things like eating meals and leaving and returning to my home are interactions with spirit as well as with matter; they deserve to have their own rituals, even tiny ones. Those rituals make my daily practice not something that happens once, but something that is a constant process. Every ritual is a moment, even if just a breath, to ground and center, to adjust my perspective, to remember what’s important, to include the spiritual context of my life.

So I thought I’d share a few of my mini-rituals with you, and ask you about yours. How do you make the mundane magical and the straightforward spiritual?

One of my most important ones is my adaptation of a mezuzah. I have a trinity knot, which has spiritual significance for me, carved from cherry wood hanging just inside the door. When I go out, I touch it and murmur a prayer for myself as I travel and for my home and all who live in it. When I come back in, I touch it again in recognition that I am home and in thanks for the safe return.

I’ve found that this ritual’s meaning deepens over time. A lot of Pagans do some form of house warding or blessing. I visualize that delineation of the home’s space as like a cord looping around the edges of my home, with the ends tied together in a knot that rests in the trinity knot. Every time I murmur my blessing, it is also a way of reinforcing that boundary. It says, this is home, not because the outside is bad or dangerous, but this is home, because this space is ours, and we make it so, and we fill it with love.

I think this is especially important for me, because as a military spouse, I move frequently. Even as a child, I moved frequently; I don’t have a sense that I’m “from” some place in particular. So the place I live now doesn’t have years of familiarity that make it from a house into a home. It won’t be my home for very many more years. So I use rituals to make it my home now, and to acknowledge that on a regular basis, and I’ll use ritual to thank and release the space when we leave. Then I’ll hang my trinity knot in a new home, and continue the cycle.

The trinity knot and its prayer are about how home and family are linked. This is home, for now, because this is where my family lives and loves. When my family moves, we’ll still be family, and we’ll be able to transfer our wholeness in that way into a new space. And since my acknowledgment of that remains the same, the habit and meaning have a chance to accumulate, even if not in the same spot, but in the same time: in the same time of my experience as I go in and out of my home.

Another ritual is a blessing over meals, which is common to many religions, but for me explicitly acknowledges the cycles of life and death that are bound up in the meal. (It’s the whole plant-harvest-replant cycle of the Wheel of the Year in a dish!) I also have an altar that honors my ancestors, my living family, and those whom I consider part of my “chosen family,” my close friends and loved ones. I light a candle and incense there nearly every night, and if I have prayers to say for those folks, that’s when I do it. Journaling can be a ritual. What rituals do you have? What do they do for you, in your life and your practice?

10 thoughts on “Daily practices: sacralizing the everyday

  1. I always take a few minutes when I’m out gardening to lie in the grass or dirt. (If it’s too muddy to consider lying down, it’s too muddy to garden.) Sometimes this is a rest break, but usually it’s not – it’s a chance to connect with the ground, and feel the earth move. And watch the clouds, or the ants, or whatever down there that is interesting on a given day, and appreciate just how little control I have over all the factors that go into the plants and land. One day the point of interest was a cache of a gazillion baby slugs, and I expressed my newfound connection with nature by shrieking like a stuck pig and scrambling for the clippers, but at least the ritual isn’t boring. And you learn interesting things down in the dirt, like what color eggplant thorns are, and whether young cucumber roots are tasty. (A very pretty Byzantine purple, and yes.)

    I also put out bread and milk for the house brownies every once in a while. Not because I think they’re tangible, but it’s a nice way of recognizing power that’s out of my hands, and my mother’s roots. It’s about time to do that again – it’s almost warm enough that the milk won’t freeze. (The squirrels almost certainly get the goodies before they go bad.)

    1. I love it. One of my big, big, big desires for when we move away from the current place is an outdoor area larger than a picnic table (maybe even with trees and everything!) accessible in my short walking distance. I don’t go out to TRI as often as I would like, in part because I have to drive to get there. I’ve done better this winter about staying in touch with the land, but not great. I’m a big fan of offerings, too, and not having an easy place to put those outside is depressing.

      Baby slugs – ROFL. Yes, just like a relationship with another person, a relationship with Nature that allows Nature to be what she is and not just what you want isn’t always comfortable or easy. But it’s worth it. And never boring.

      1. I’m lucky in that I’ve got quite a few parks nearby, plus the railroad tracks, which are usually borderline wild areas. But I’m greedy – I want gardening space *next to the place I live*.

        Ooh, I forgot one. I also sometimes do little indoor . . . I’m not sure what the right word is. “Altar” is way too formal/religious, and “heap” is not quite right. Displays? Anyway, arrangements of vegetables, especially during the fall. Sort of harvest thanksgiving displays – bounty of the wild and all that. I find visual reminders of fortune are much nicer than sitting around flagellating myself about how lucky I am. So I spend some time putting them together, usually with some seasonal flowers and maybe incense or a bowl of water or something. I use stuff that’ll last at least a few days – no greens or berries, but that still leaves a *lot* of options. Sometimes I pour a drink for my dead relatives, or remember them in other ways.

        The altars stay intact for at least a day, since I’m usually too tired to cook afterward.

        Then I dismantle them day by day, and eat them.

        With gratitude.

        And butter.

      2. Shrine, I think, would be the right word. At least, that’s sort of what I’d call it. It might still sound too formal/religious, but shrines include things like little piles of stones in the forest, so I think you’re okay there.

        “With gratitude. And butter.” – I have a new favorite juxtaposition. Thank you!

      3. Yes, shrine is a good word. It does sound a little too formal, but that’s good, too – maybe part of the ritualizing the everyday is dressing it up a bit.

      4. Yes, I think that the formalization is useful when it encourages you to add meaning, but not when it makes you feel like you have to be in a straightjacket of either practice or meaning. But on the whole, we need more meaning in our lives, not less, and if formality is a way to recognize and create meaning, then it’s useful and practical, not to mention sacred.

  2. Those rituals make my daily practice not something that happens once, but something that is a constant process. Every ritual is a moment, even if just a breath, to ground and center, to adjust my perspective, to remember what’s important, to include the spiritual context of my life.

    Love this. I have a stone on my desk at work; anyone who sees it just thinks “paperweight,” but it’s my reminder to stop, breathe, ground, center, reconnect. (Course, the only person who ever noticed it, picked it up, and said, “What’s this?” was — G/Son.) Every ritual is a moment and, when we’re fully present, every moment is a ritual.

    1. Hee! I also have a mini-altar on my desk – spouse gave me a tray with an inkwell, and I’ve added to the tray my dip pen, sacred Zippo, and a stone picked up from the Slieve na Calliagh in Ireland. Using the dip pen and inkwell in journaling is an important ritual to me. The whole altar is a recognition that when I lift my gaze from whatever I’m doing at the moment, I can and maybe should reconnect to the spiritual perspective.

  3. Whenever I eat meat, I spare a little time to think on the animal.

    That has expanded to a real appreciation for those cycles of life and death, and has expanded past meat to plants and grains as well. It’s become a very spiritual thing, and given me a new appreciation for even the most unremarkable of meals.

    (It has also been sneaking up on me, because of this, that I really need to make more effort to cut commercial meat from my diet, but that is a whole different subject.)

    1. I’ve been doing this too, and am having similar struggles to reduce meat consumption in general and to ensure animal welfare for the animals I do eat.

      In a weird way, that moment has been one of the best things for encouraging healthy eating. If I really stop and center, it takes me out of the frame of emotional eating or distracted eating. I include an acknowledgment, when eating meat, that I too will die and return my body to Earth, and that puts food in such a different context that it helps break the hold of “Yum, Wendy’s!” or whatever. I don’t think I’m expressing that very well…sorry.

Comments are now closed.