Webpage Supplement for (Part 1)
Chapter 5: Designing and Conducting Rituals, Ceremonies, and Celebrations
Compiled by Adam Blatner
(With contributions by Elizabeth Clontz, Patty Suggs, and others)
Revised a little, November 23, 2007
See also articles by Blatner on related websites (also have more
1. Blatner, A. (2007a). Master of Ceremonies: A New Role for Drama Therapists and Psychodramatists. At: http://www.blatner.com/adam/pdntbk/ceremonies.html
2. Blatner, A. (2007b) Psychodrama as Ritual at: http://www.blatner.com/adam/pdntbk/pdritual.html
(Part 2: Further Notes, connections, etc. on
another webpage supplement)
Principles of Creating Rituals–Elizabeth Clontz Anecdotes Examples Functions Quotes
Further References (websites & books) Return to Webpage Supplements Index
Elizabeth Clontz, LCSW 2004
1 “Being with” - The life journey of each person is viewed as sacred. The life journey is the creation of a rich tapestry, with the dark enhancing the light. Openness to traversing within the realms of both the light and the dark within one’s being is viewed as vital to tapping the wholeness of the transformative energies available to the person. The facilitator, client and any others involved are called to be fully present with all aspects of the process.
2. “Gaining clarity of intention” - What is the intent of the ritual? What is the process which is being honored by the ritual?
3. “Tapping the design of the whole” - is there a clear beginning to this ritual? A clear ending? What are the steps in between? What is the relationship of the ritual to the person, its place in his or her life as a whole, the awareness of the person being part of the whole?
4. “Providing for a time of gathering”- What inner wisdom, inspirations and intuitive insights present themselves? Am I allowing time for my heart to speak on the matter? Maintain open lines of communication during the whole process. The heart is the fountain from which the most transformative and nourishing rituals spring. Allow time for the ritual to gather form. What preparations will support the processes of creating and conducting the ritual? Will others be invited to join in the process of either preparing for the ritual or conducting it? If so, what will their role will be? What props will benefit the ritual? Allow for a process of discernment, time to “sit with” the vision and be open to fine-tuning it
5. “Establishing sacred time” - What time would hold greatest meaning for this ritual? (time of day, season, point in one’s life)
6. “Establishing sacred place” - What physical space would hold greatest meaning for this ritual? What supports, if any, do I need to assure privacy?
7. “Trusting the unfolding” - Trust the process. This includes trusting that all that is needed for the process will be available. Be open to possibilities other than those originally envisioned. Be open to the evolvement of the ritual. Notice what presents itself.
8. “Viewing from a space of wholeness and empowerment” - Hold a vision and an energetic experience of the person and his or her situation as both whole and empowered. Maintain a conscious awareness of any labeling of the person or the situation. Frame in such a manner as to allow for all possibilities. Trust the person’s journey in life. There is nothing “wrong” with the person or his or her situation. Trust the perfection of the journey of transformation within the person’s life and the lessons it holds. Trust that the client has the answers needed within.
9. “Discerning and posing questions” - Offer questions which allow for the greatest possibilities and support a sense of expansion and empowerment.
10. “Following the dance” - Maintain an awareness of movement and stillness of energies related to the focus within the person, within his or her life and within the process of creating and conducting the ritual. Also hold an awareness of the relationship of the person’s life journey to the life around him or her.
11. “Expressing gratitude” - Consider a time within the ritual for gratitude. Gratitude may be expressed for the place that the theme of the ritual and its related lessons hold within one’s life, for the ways it connects the person to the energy and cycles of life. Having a time to focus upon feelings of gratitude allows the person to recognize and name what s/he has received from the process and to acknowledge being in interaction with life rather than being separate from it or in control over it.
world had been shaken since his surgery for a brain tumor seven years
ago. He was now, for the most part, physically well. He had not,
however, fully regained his balance in life and had lost some basic
sense of trust in his ability to live an empowered life as well. Also,
his physical balance had not been solid since the surgery.
Joseph was very attuned to nature and spent much time and energy volunteering at a nearby park. At Joseph’s personal ritual focus session he chose to schedule a trust walk to symbolize his opening to greater trust. With one person in front of him on a private nature trail and myself behind him on his walk, he chose to walk blindfolded without holding on to anyone. Joseph moved at a slow enough pace so his steps felt solid. With his awareness heightened, he fine-tuned his abilities to receive information from his environment and to respond to the changing terrain.
After the walk, Joseph felt a deeper trust in his ability to step forward in life. He expressed an enhanced ability to ride the waves of change in life. After the walk, all were surprised when Joseph realized his physical balance had been regained.
Stephen and his soon-to-be adolescent daughter Katie were very close. They cherished their time with each other on alternating weekends. They shared a love of storytelling and a deep connection with Spirit. A focus of Stephen’s was to connect Katie with role models of “vibrant, powerful women living in their strength and glory” and he had done so. During a personal ritual focus session he decided to write a story for Katie’s birthday of her becoming “a vibrant, powerful woman living in all her strength and glory.” Upon receiving the gift Katie’s face was tearful and radiant. Stephen continued to empower Katie’s vision of herself and Katie continued to thrive.
Dana felt she
had been living within a whirlwind of work and stress in the corporate
world the past four years. She felt a strong need to assess where she
was in her life. She had also stopped painting, something which she
loved and which was also very centering for her. During a personal
ritual focus session, Dana decided she would create three paintings –
one representing her past, one her present, and one her future. As she
painted over the course of about six weeks, Dana felt more energized
and at peace. The first painting called her attention to things that
had fed her spirit in the past such as animals, water and flowers. She
began taking steps to gather these into her present life by creating a
water garden in her backyard and becoming a companion to a stray cat.
To Dana the second painting represented her love of her work and the venue it provided for her gifts as a mediator. It also represented her sense of beginning to spiral out of control and the call for her to put more of her energies into her own self care. Dane decided to designate a couple of hours each week to continue her painting. The third painting held a message of tapping into an even richer life of both connection and solitude. Dana hung the paintings in her bedroom as visual reminders of the movement in her life, of the fact that she had the ability to make choices about her life, and of her vision of a more balanced and nourishing life.
Marnie saw that
the life she had been living was not one which matched her deepest
truths. She tended to be very judgmental and often did not keep
promises. Until now she had avoided looking at these behaviors. During
her personal ritual focus session, as a way of preparing herself to
begin making changes in her outside world, we planned a ritual to
acknowledge on a deeper level the realizations and repercussions of her
behaviors. She desired to be honest with herself without being so
critical that she felt paralyzed to take action.
For several days Marnie journaled about her behaviors. She then carved out an afternoon for a walk of atonement. She chose to have an affirming witness during her walk and asked that I accompany her. We arrived at a favorite path in nature, one with a bench at the start. Marnie sat quietly for a few moments relaxing and clearing her mind, focusing upon her intent.
She began walking very mindfully. With each step she whispered an example of an action or a lack of action toward another or herself for which she felt remorse. At the end of the path she sat a few moments in reflection, taking several deep breaths to remain centered.
She began walking back, this time uttering words of appreciation for those in her life past and present and well as for her self. Back at the starting bench, Marnie gave herself time to be with her experience. Once home she continued her journaling. She felt the courage and inspiration to begin making amends to others and herself, step by step.
birthday was nearing. To her it represented a major turning point in
her life. She realized how strongly she clung to grudges and the past.
She had also gained an awareness of the ways she limited herself and
her gifts. Lee felt the time had come for her to step into a place of
greater personal power.
During Lee’s personal ritual sessions we planned a way to join the power of her upcoming birthday with her desire for a life lived from a space of deeper love for self and others. In the weeks before her birthday she listed the grudges and limits she held. Lee chose to create a bonfire on her birthday. She discerned which of her friends would be supportive and invited those to join her.
On the night of her birthday, Lee read aloud what she had written. As she finished reading each page she tossed the paper into the fire, symbolizing releasing her grudges and limits. Her friends served as witnesses. Lee then affirmed what she chose to gather and feed in her life – deeper friendships, more joy, a stronger belief in her innate goodness and her gifts. Her friends offered affirmations of her strength and of her journey.
Lee noted expanded feelings of well-being and compassion as well as a sense of greater closeness within her community of friends. Empowered to more fully honor her gifts, she realized she was ready to take her work in the healing field more seriously.
( Many of the References at the end of this webpage are from Ms Clontz.)
From Dark to Light:
A group gathers to celebrate the winter solstice. Here the turning of
the seasons represents a time to look within, assess one’s life, and
see what is birthing in one’s life. It is a time to speak of the
spiritual threads being woven into one’s life.
Circling around a bonfire, participants share what the season represents to them. Each is given the opportunity to share a poem, song or other expression related to the solstice or the winter and its symbolism.
Each takes a turn first to state gratitudes of the past season. Each then states what he is ready to release (e.g. a behavior, an unhealthy relationship, a career). Next each states what he desires to feed in his life within the upcoming season.
The evening ends with a closing circle. The connection of the community gathered is acknowledged. People may share appreciation and good wishes
Releasing and Planting: One by one, each person in a women’s group takes a clump of weeds from a pile. As she states one or more things she is ready to release in her life, she discards the weeds. Then she takes some seeds. As she plants them in a cup of soil, she states what she desires to grow in her life.
Honoring the Speaker: A women’s group uses a talking stick as they gather in a circle to share. The talking stick serves to designate who may speak and to whom the rest direct their full attention and their silence. When the person with the talking stick finishes sharing, she places the stick in the center of the circle. The next person led within her heart to speak takes the talking stick.
Silence as a Path to the Heart: A group arrives at their meeting place in silence. They continue in silence as they share a potluck. Awareness heightens as communication occurs via eye contact, touch and gesture.
An energy chime is sounded when the meal is complete and the time for sharing begins. During the sharing time, each person states what he or she would like from the group. She then has a specific amount of time to share and to receive feedback or other assistance. The beginning silence led to a deeper richness of experience in connection, emotional intimacy and focus.
A group gathers to share their creative expression.
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Post-Adoption Re-Uniting: Ceremonies have been held for adults who, when infants, were given up for adoption; later, they have succeeded in locating and–with the consent of their biological parent and key relations–have re-connected with their roots. These ceremonies sometimes include aspects where the adopted and biological families join in support of the celebrant, or the celebrant shares with the biological family his/her life story of the intervening years
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Email from E. Clontz: June 07, 2004 I love rituals - the attention they call to processes, landmarks in time. My maternal grandmother was wonderful in creating rituals in celebrations. Other than that, my experience of such in several women's groups and equinox and solstice celebrations were my introduction. I believe most in our society crave ways to reconnect with the sacredness in daily life. I began using them in sessions, groups and creativity gatherings I have hosted. Also in a women's sacred theatre performance troupe I started last autumn. Rituals are also a wonderful tool for building community, for honoring the process, for naming, for giving concrete form to the journeys of the inner landscape.
I have been wanting to articulate my work in writing more and your request is a catalyst for such. I'm working on doing such on principles and anecdotes for you.
In a lovely
little book titled, Ritual: a guide to
life, love and inspiration, by Emma Orr (2000: London:
the author notes some functions of ritual:
- they affirm what we value and believe; they define our expectations.
- they sometimes become “the fine art of taking a break,” of pausing to notice, appreciate what is happening, what transitions are in process.
- think of ritual as a tool for promoting social harmony
- rituals align attention in certain directions–because folks get so easily distracted, scattered, torn among innumerable sources that seek attention. They allow for a more conscious and reflective choice, a type of becoming re-grounded. Correspondingly, ritual weakens competing beliefs, such as the unspoken sense that what the celebrities on television are doing is somehow more important than your own small life.
- think of ritual as a kind of relationship guide to relation and spirit
- not only for social harmony, rituals should be viewed as the key tool for transformation and change, sex, death, insanity, taboo–more than mere discussion, talking about all the mixed feelings, psychotherapy–those procedures are good, but are often not so focused. Ritual serves as a way to re-focus and add a measure of aesthetic and emotional affirmation to the process.
- they help us honor change, participate more deeply in celebration, give thanks, strengthen relationships with support, find joy, explore soul creativity, learn deeply value of laughter
- rituals help to add a degree of certainty to the profound uncertainty of existence, affirming beliefs, promoting congruence, and thus serving as a tool for inner harmony, also
- since we tend not to perceive what we don’t believe exists, rituals make a bit more concrete, through noting symbols, the invisible patterns that underlie our existence, and especially those patterns or forces that are experienced as uplifting
(2000) notes that small rituals of affection can more deeply ground
children. There are a number of “I Love You” rituals that create a
special sacred place, a place for togetherness, in which there is
increased eye contact and bonding, touch, and an anchoring of a feeling
of belonging. This can be a powerful tool in parenting.
These I love you rituals were influence in part by Ann Jernberg’s method of “Theraplay.”
Families based on roles and groups based on healthy relationship. On page 7 about ritual, connection, drama adds significance
Create sacred, special spaces designated for togetherness, increase eye contact, bonding
Touch p. 10, weave in, anchor feeling, In 1920, infant mortality in institutions close to 100%needed henry chapin, pediatritican, new york to note the need for more intimate caretaking.
"To celebrate is to contemplate the singularity of the moment
and to enhance the singularity of the self. What was shall not be
again. The man of our time is losing the power of celebration. Instead
of celebrating, he seeks to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an
active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be
entertained is a passive state--it is to receive pleasure afforded by
an amusing act or spectacle. Celebration is a confrontation, giving
attention to the transcendent meaning of one's
--Abraham Joshua Heschel
(Famous Jewish Theologian)
"In the time of your life, live--so that in that good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are the things that hold death and must pass away. In the time of your life, live--so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it." --William Saroyan The Time of Your Life
Contacts: Celebrants in
Sally Andrews, Sally@oregoncelebrations.comOregon civil celebrations Www.oregoncelebrations.com
Center for Creative Intent 415 720-7338 www.coreflame.com/ritual.html Has some good instructions and ideas.
Www.ritualwell.org Mainly Jewish ceremonies
Many wicca, magick ritual websites
Kgilbert@indiana.eduHoward Gorle’s classes
Www.ritesofchange.com Ritesofchange@aol.com ellen hufschmidt
(with appreciation for
annotation by Elizabeth Clontz)
Achterberg, Jeanne, Dossey, Barbara; & Kolkmeirer, Leslie. (1994). Rituals of healing: Using imagery for health and wellness.New York: Bantam. Excellent source of ritual processes and imagery scripts for specific health concerns. Section on peaceful dying. How to create your own healing rituals. Use of relaxation and breath. Concise overview of the immune system.
Bailey, Becky. (2000). ‘I love you’ rituals. New York: Quill/ Harper Collins Www.beckybailey.com 1-800-841-2846
Bopp, Judie; Bopp, Michael; Brown, Lee & Lane, Phil. (1989) The Sacred Tree: Reflections On Native American Spirituality. Wilmot, WI: Lotus Light. Handbook of Native American spirituality. Good reference if incorporating Native American spirituality into rituals. Gifts of each of the four directions. Code of ethics.
Broner, E. M. (1999). Bringing home the light: A Jewish woman’s handbook of rituals. San Francisco: Council Oaks Books.
Budapest, Zsuzsanna E. (1991) Grandmother Moon: lunar magic in our lives: spells, rituals, goddesses, legends & emotions under the Moon.
New York: HarperCollins.
Good reference on goddess spirituality. Aspects associated with each
moon of the year. Rituals for processing various emotions.
Budapest, Zsuzsanna E. (1989) The Grandmother of Time: A Women’s Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year. New York: HarperCollins.
Good reference on goddess spirituality. Goddess, rituals, and teachings associated with each month of the year. Rituals for rites of passage such as birth, puberty, middle age.
Cabot, Laurie & Mills, Jean. (1994) Celebrate the Earth: a year of holidays in the pagan tradition.New York: Dell.
Rituals for celebrating the Celtic holidays
Cahill, Sedonia & Halpern, Joshua. (1992). The ceremonial circle: Practice, ritual, & renewal for personal and community healing. San Francisco: Harper. Excellent source of the use of the circle as a ritual form in community - for healing, rejuvenation, celebration and protest. Stories of teachers of the circle way. Sections on the ingredients for “weaving” a circle and the meaning of being in circle. Tools of the circle. Reference chart of the four directions.
Cunningham, Nancy Brady. (1988) Feeding the spirit: creating your own festivals, ceremonies & celebrations. San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, Inc. Ingredients for ceremonies. Sample designs for rituals such as creating a contemplative day, creating sacred space, and supporting a friend who is sick.
Farmer, Stephen D. (2002). Sacred ceremony: How to create ceremonies for healing, transitions and celebration. Hay House.
Grimes, R. L. (1982). Beginnings in ritual studies. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, Inc.
Hammerschlag, Carl A. & Silverman, H. D. (1998). Healing ceremonies: creating personal rituals for spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental healing. Turtle Island Press.
Heinberg, Richard. (1993) Celebrate the solstice: honoring the Earth's seasonal rhythms through festival and ceremony. Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House.
Scientific explanation of solstices, equinoxes and quarter days. Personal rituals for celebrating the solstice. Solstice rituals throughout the world. Creating a solstice festival.
Henes, D. (1996). Celestially auspicious occasions: Seasons, cycles, and celebrations. New York: Perigee/Berkley Publishing Group.
Sampling of cross-cultural ritual practices associated with cycles of the sun, moon and stars - solstices, equinoxes, cross-quarter days, eclipses, leap years, blue moons, birthdays, new years as well as days, weeks and months
Lieberman, Susan Abel. (1991). New traditions: redefining celebration for today’s family. New York: Noonday / Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Linn, Denise. (1999). Altars: bringing sacred shrines into your everyday life. New York: Ballantine Wellspring.
Mastro, R. & Mastro, M. (2004). Altars of power and grace: create the life you desire through the sacred art of vastu shastra. Seattle: Balanced Books.
Www.balancedbookspub.com This book uses a Hindu Vedic system of placement for objects in the creation of altars. At the end, it notes websites for such varied sources of ideas as
Angel-ology; patron saints; incense; quotations; candles; a source for information about various deities in different cultures; and so forth.
McMann, Jean. (1998). Altars and icons: sacred spaces in everyday life. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. Writes about Shrines, Bells, files, beads, tokens, talismans, mementos, sacred souvenirs,
Immigrants, displays of artifacts, sites of memory, chinese, a corn grinding stone from mexico, irish turf
Remembering, forgetting, shelves, dresser tops, windowsills
Home shrines, for family, fireplace mantel; traveling shrines for protection and confort
At the worksplace, inspiration, subersion, disguise, badge of identity
Planted outdoors, symbols in garden, landscape, transplanting
Personal icons, gods, heroes, teachers, muses, others
Metrick, Sydney Barbara. (1994). Crossing the bridge: creating ceremonies for grieving ad healing from life's losses. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts.
Paladin, Lynda S.. (1991). Ceremonies for change: creating ceremonies to heal life’s hurts. New York: E. P. Dutton. (Also, from Walpole, NH: Stillpoint.) Reasons we need ceremony in today’s society. Use of symbols, stories, affirmations and symbolic action to empower desired change. Use of readings in ceremonies. Sample ceremonies. Sixteen removable ritual design cards which guide one in planning a ritual.
Rosen, Seymour. (1979). In celebration of ourselves. San Francisco: California Living Books.
Orr, Emma. (2000). Ritual: a guide to life, love and inspiration. London: Thorsons. www.liferites.org www.thorsons.com
Wall, Kathleen, & Ferguson, Gary. (1998). Rites of passage: celebrating life changes. Hillsboro OR: Beyond Words Inc.
Williamson, Gay & David. (1994). Transformative rituals: celebrations for personal growth. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.
York, Sarah. (2000). Remembering well: rituals for celebrating life and mourning death. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Mainly funerals, memorials.
http://www.indiana.edu/~famlygrf/units/ceremonies.html Good article by Howard Gorle for a class on rituals at the University of Indiana.
Www.ritesofchange.com Ritesofchange@aol.com ellen hufschmidt minneapolis area
www.celebrationceremonies.com And many, many others in Australia