Ritual And Celebration As A Way Of Being
by Cynthia D. Stuart©1997
Throughout history ancient cultures utilized ritual and celebration as a way to connect with their Spiritual power and with one another. Rituals were designed to commemorate significant events or "rites of passage" such as births, passage into puberty, weddings and deaths. These rituals were often performed at times of astronomical change such as Spring Equinox or Summer Solstice.
During these times a sacred source was created which allowed one to feel in balance and connected to Spirit and matter. The energy created within the group was available to all as a vehicle of transformation to higher states of awareness. Many cultures employed the use of dance or costumes to further enhance a connection with a particular animal totem.
In this article I would like to share two of my personal experiences with ritual. The first was a hand fasting for myself and my husband at Spring Equinox. The second was a ritual for Summer Solstice shared with a larger group.
It was the eve of March twenty-first, Spring Equinox. My husband and I chose this date to symbolize the beginning of Spring and our new life together. Ours is a union based on mutual love and honoring of our shared and individual Spiritual paths.
The ceremony of hand fasting finds its origin in ancient Celtic history. This was meaningful to me because I have always felt a resonance with the Celtic mysticism and my ancestors were also from Ireland. It was and is a mystical initiation and rite of great power. Lina and John researched the historical texts and performed the ceremony with a deep reverence and understanding. All who were present felt the magic and the deep mystery of this sacred union.
Throughout the ceremony I felt overwhelmed with a sense of great love and serenity. There are however, three moments that were deeply imprinted in my soul.
At nightfall upon arriving at our predetermined location, I heard melodic voices in the wood chanting a hymn to the Goddess. Then I perceived a procession of candles spiraling down into a grove of trees, our chosen site. A peculiar feeling came over me which transcended space and time. It was as though this ritual and others like it were all converging in the present. I knew I had for the first time in this life reconnected to a deep and meaningful path that I had walked with those who were now present. Several others shared similar profound feelings of remembrance and deja vu.
The second moment of great power was when my husband knelt before me to pledge his sword to me as a symbol of fidelity and protection. My heart overflowed with tenderness and joy and I felt honored to pledge my jewel as a symbol of the purity of my love.
Then the Priestess (Lina) held her wand over my head saying:
Thou shalt be the star that rises from the sea, the twilight sea.
Thou shalt bring a man dreams to rule his destiny.
Thou shalt bring the moon-tides to the soul of a man,
The tides that flow and ebb, And flow again
The magic that moves in the moon and the sea,
These are thy secret,
and they belong to thee.
Thou art the Eternal Woman,
thou art she.
The tides of all men's souls
belong unto thee.
Isis in heaven, on earth, Persephone,
Diana of the Moon and Hecate,
Veiled Isis, Aphrodite from the sea,
All these thou art,
and they are seen in thee.
I felt the power of the Goddess enter me through my Crown Chakra. I could hear Lina's words as if she were light years away as my body swayed and surged with the current. When I opened my eyes I knew we had all been blessed with Her grace.
At the end of our ceremony we jumped over a broom to symbolize our leap into our new life together. My husband remarked to me that this ceremony was much more sacred to him than he could have imagined. We felt that this rite honored and exulted both the masculine and feminine divinity as aspects of a Sacred whole. The Celtic hand fasting unified the elements of nature and Spirit and we felt complete.
After our hand fasting we were all eager to join together again in ritual and celebration. That opportunity arose on Summer Solstice. However, after some discussion it was felt that we wanted to make an open invitation to all who wished to attend in a spirit of reverence and joy.
Our site selected, Doheny State Beach, we came bearing roses and white candles. A bonfire crackled in the center and our Circle was cast. Fifty two were present, many were strangers and yet when hands were joined and voices blended one would not have known that we had not been together many times before.
In Celtic times Summer Solstice was a time to acknowledge the light of the Sun King dying into the fire on this the longest day of the year
This rite was re- enacted through the dance of the Sun King and the Maiden of Summer. The Sun King holds an image of the wicca man (the old self) to be tossed into the flames to die and be reborn. A loaf of bread (that had been hidden inside the wicca man) is then consecrated by the high priestess & passed among the circle with the blessing "May you never hunger". And a chalice is passed saying "May you never thirst". A communion and blessing were shared by all. For many do hunger for the knowledge and experience of the Sacred in these days.
After our ceremony was ended there was abundant feasting and lively conversation into the evening as the stars emerged to join us. None left hungry or thirsty that evening in body or spirit. For we had shared one of Nature's deeper mysteries and were invested with it's meaning.
We had tossed our red roses into the flames as a symbolic releasing of the old negative patterns in our lives. We held the vision together in one heart and one mind. The vision of people coming together in nature's beauty to share their sorrows, hopes, and dreams. But more importantly perhaps to honor the ancient ancestors, to dance their dances and sing their songs and know that the earth never ceased to be our sacred mother. It is we the children who need to remember that it is we who belong to Her. It is she who provides for and nurtures us. Perhaps one day in the future the children who were present at this Summer Solstice will teach their children and their children's children these sacred songs and dances. Ritual and celebration are not only our Divine heritage, they are our link to the past and the future, affirming the manic and meaning in our lives.
Editors Note: This article first appeared in The Chela Journal, print edition for August-September, 1993 issue.
Copyright © 1997