For thousands of years humans have used ceremony to commemorate the stages in their lives. In the past, ceremonies validated our steps through the thresholds of birth, birthdays, adulthood, marriage, parenthood, elder and death. And, in doing so our transitions were accomplished with greater ease. In our modern society the use of ceremony for our life’s passages have been mostly lost or have become disconnected from our spiritual and emotional growth.
Participating in ceremony helps us step away from our individual emotions and sense of self into a grander relationship with the archetypal energies which give us a sense of connection with all those who have come before and those who will come after. It is through ceremony that we may find comfort and the ability to embrace the cycle of life and death.
Elements of Ceremony
Ceremonies often contain ritual practices that have been performed for generations. These ritual practices promise a connection to Spirit; a sacred ceremony also allows space for creativity, spontaneity and some unexpected magic.The true purpose of a ceremony is to change things. While the intention of the ceremony is directed toward a specific goal, each individual participating in the ceremony may experience it quite differently.
There are four basic elements that make up a successful ceremony:
Invocation is the calling in or invitation to the forces that are outside of ourselves. These powers create a scared space to hold the ceremony. When open, sacred space creates an envelope around the ceremony.
Transformation is the magic within a ceremony. It can be a ritual that shifts things and makes them new. In a marriage ceremony the vows and the pronouncement transform two individuals into a united couple. At a funeral it might be the snuffing out of the flame of a candle representing the end of the life just lived. All that remains is the smoke, the soul moving on into the afterlife.
Closure is an essential part of any ceremony. It helps the participants awaken their physical bodies and step back into their normal lives. Activities such as singing, saying a prayer or simply sitting in silence within the community are very grounding. At this time it is appropriate to close sacred space by thanking and releasing the divine forces that were called in to hold the ceremony.
Celebration is just as important as the other three elements of a ceremony. During the celebration participants tell stories, give toasts, dance, sing or just visit with other participants. Connections are made and much healing occurs during the celebration.