As a youngster, the rituals of the Catholic Church enthralled me. The foreign language and incense, the holy water and confession, the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling, all conspired to make me wish I were other than Lutheran. Regardless of my naiveté around such acts of reverence, ceremony and ritual entered my world.
In early adulthood, I was invited to participate in Wiccan and Indigenous American styles of ceremony, each adding to my curiosity and wonder about invoking and evoking the powerful force of benign energy. The reverential qualities of these ceremonies captured my heart. The constancy of ceremony, across various traditions, captured my mind. Why do humans engage in acts of reverential observance, in so many different traditions? What is the purpose? The benefit? The aim?
Arnold Van Gennep and Ronald L. Grimes gave me an intellectual understanding of what my heart felt during ceremony. They helped me to recognize the desire for connection with energy beyond ordinary time; they gave me words to acknowledge the movement from one state of consciousness to another; and they helped me understand that a sense of unity and belonging with family, friends, and community was vital to health and well-being. Ceremony draws people together for a single purpose, at any given time, whether that is to support the honoree(s) at the juncture of a milestone, to step into the roots of our humanness which is in tune with the cycles of nature, or to grieve death, ceremony is a way of being in a collective process that is at once healing and liberating.