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Episode 11: A Short Introduction to Ceremony

photograph taken by Rachael Dunville 

photograph taken by Rachael Dunville 

In this mini episode, I introduce ceremony as a way to create more meaning and depth in our lives. I also share a few ways we can create ceremony without having a religious or spiritual tradition to draw from.

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You’re listening to the Ekstasy Vine Podcast, episode 11.

Hello and welcome! My name is Ekstasy and this is where we explore the sensual landscapes of nature and the body.

So far I’ve been sharing with you some of the practices and perspectives that have brought me into a deeper relationship with wildness. Whether that’s acknowledging our shadow selves, journaling daily, working with a plant familiar, or doing dance and movement, all of those activities fit into a broader category of what I consider ceremony.

To me, ceremony is any action that is taken with the intention of observing or memorializing a particular event or moment in time. Ceremony is essentially a way of making meaning from these daily events or experiences that we’re having.

You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to participate in ceremony. In fact, I think ceremony is something most of us are doing without maybe even labeling it as “ceremony.” Weddings, funerals, graduations, birthdays, secular holidays, even concerts — we participate in collective ceremonies all the time. We are performing particular actions that focus our intention and create meaning from the occasion.

But ceremony is not just about larger rites of passage or communal celebrations that happen a few times a year. Ceremony can also be personal or private. It can be simple and impromptu. Really, any moment in our life can be a reason for ceremony because it is our intention and the shifting of our awareness that transforms a habitual, everyday action into something really meaningful, special, or important.

In fact, I think most of us actually yearn for MORE ceremony. Most of my friends express a desire to have daily rituals or seasonal celebrations or at least to mark special transitions in their lives in a way that connects them to something deeper, in a way that feels more meaningful than just the secular rituals that their societies have handed to them.

As humans, many of us are searching for meaning, not realizing that we are actually meant to create meaning.

Through ceremony — especially earth- or body-centered ceremony — we can learn to experience deeper embodiment and strengthen our connection to place. And we do this by performing particular actions that allow us to tap into our sensory experience, harness the power of presence, and thereby reconnect to our wildness.

So maybe you could make a cup of herbal tea in silence every morning before work or school as a way to center yourself and reconnecting with your plant familiar.

Or you could light a candle every evening before you sit down to dinner that marks the meal as a special time for gratitude for the plants, animals, and all the people that were involved in getting that meal onto your table.

You could use ceremony when you take a shower or get dressed, adorning your body with essential oils and giving yourself the care and love that you would give to a lover.

Setting up a special space or altar in your home is also a wonderful way to invite more ceremony into your life. I find it almost impossible to walk by my own altar without wanting to light a candle, burn some incense, or just stand for a moment and contemplate the images or special items I have collected there over time.

Or maybe you love to plan really complex, several-hour, outdoor rituals filled with songs and ornate costumes in order to honor the moon phases or seasonal events like the solstice or equinox.

You could also use ceremony to alter your consciousness through ecstatic dance. Or to explore the depths of what it means to be human by doing journeywork or guided meditations. Ceremony is available to us anytime we want it in order to engage more deeply with our lives.

Some of us have been raised in religious or spiritual traditions that we adore or we have ancestral traditions that we have rediscovered that really align with our way of being. In many ways, that makes including ceremony in our daily lives really easy. We have inherited a language, a format, tools, instruments, a calendar, a whole system for us to tap into.

But then there are those of us who may feel disconnected or left behind by our ancestral traditions. Or maybe something doesn’t quite fit about any of the religious traditions that we have been raised in or the religions that we’ve studied. And it can make ceremony seem a little daunting or we don’t know where to start because we don’t have a language or tools to draw upon.

Personally, I fit more into that second group. I was not raised in any particular religious tradition and I have spent most of my life crafting my own practices and ceremonies. So next week we’ll be talking more about my favorite topic — crafting your own personal mythology.

I’ve already in this episode shared a few ways you can create ceremony in your life without having a particular religious or spiritual tradition or inherited practices from your ancestry that you use. Many of the suggestions that I gave were just what would be considered secular practices that you could incorporate into your daily life to have more ceremony. But for those of us who really do want to have more conscious connection and more daily ritual, I think next week is going be a really fun episode so I hope you stick around and listen to that.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you: what kinds of ceremonies do you already participate in? Are there social ceremonies or private ceremonies that you already enjoy? Or do you wish for more ceremony in your daily life?

Next week will be the last episode of this season — I’m going to be taking a short break from recording. If you’re interested in signing up for the newsletter so you know when the next podcast season starts up again, please be sure to sign up on EkstasyVine.com. I’ll also be sending out a survey in the next newsletter to invite your comments and suggestions for next season — so be sure to join so you can put in your input there.

And I want to share a special thank you to the patrons who make this podcast possible. Your monthly help allows me to keep offering these free episodes, essays, guided meditations, and art, and also the pay-what-you-can content, like the Plant Familiars guide.

If you enjoy listening to this podcast, maybe you’d like to become a patron? You can join with as little as $2 a month, knowing that your consistent help makes all of this possible. Patrons also receive special behind the scenes bonuses depending on the amount of money they pledge each month. So I’ve also just started sharing my weekly excursions around Greece — including notes and photos of the sacred sites and gorgeous landscapes I’ve been exploring — just with patrons. So if you’re interested in becoming a patron, you can head over to EkstasyVine.com/patron and check out all the details there.

Thank you so much for listening. I hope that you have a wonderful week. And let’s meet again next time.