by Joanna Van Der Hoeven
Is ritual important? Many Druids perform ritual on a fairly regular basis – at least the seasonal rituals that celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year. Many also honour the phases of the moon, in whatever aspect, whether it be quarter, half, full or new. There are also some for whom daily ritual gives special meaning to their lives and their loves – the rising or setting of the sun and moon, for instance, or saying a prayer of thanksgiving or a blessing before partaking of food and drink.
But is it all that important? I suppose that it is all based on the personal relationship to the natural world around us. For some, daily ritual helps to connect with the rhythms of life that might not otherwise be apparent – say, especially if you are living in the city, and it’s hard to hear the blackbirds at dusk above the din of rush-hour traffic, or aren’t able to see the sun or moon rise due to buildings blocking the way. For others a daily ritual isn’t that important, for they already feel much more connected simply in their living circumstances – for instance, a friend of mine, fellow author and blogger Nimue Brown, lives on a boat and is very much connected to and at the mercy of mother nature. It’s akin to a friendship, in a sense – sometimes your friend lives far away, and you have to make a special effort to keep in contact with her. Sometimes your friend lives right next door, and it’s much easier to keep in touch.
In Zen, regular daily practice of sitting meditation carries through into other aspects of our lives, where we bring awareness into everything, and in doing so taking away the illusionary drama and seeing reality for the wondrous gift that it is. It requires discipline, however – to sit through the boredom, to sit when we don’t feel like it, to be aware when we’d rather be daydreaming. Yet this discipline is, as I have found out, necessary for clarity.
I haven’t meditated for a week now, and I am feeling the difference. That daily ritual, of sitting down and spending half an hour each and every day in awareness really did permeate into the rest of my life. I didn’t become lost in attachments to emotions – I still had feelings, but they didn’t linger and cause as much suffering as before. When taking the time out to stop and meditate and be aware for a designated point each day was given up, those attachments came creeping back in. I was spending more and more time in my own head than in the real world.
Druid ritual can do the same for us, in keeping us connected to our spirituality, whatever our circumstances. Too easily we can become lost in our own worlds, realities that we have created out of our emotions and thoughts. Ritual can say “hey, look – enough. Stop. Look at what’s really going on around you. Hear the stag calling. Hear the aeroplane. Watch the sun rise. The world is more than just you”.
With Druid ritual, we gain inspiration from the natural world around us. That is what Awen is – an insight into nature, the nature of the world around us and our own human nature in turn. By doing Druid ritual we take the time to pause, to reflect, to take in that inspiration so that we may exhale it with love and compassion back into the world.
So, is ritual important? I think so – even if we use the friend analogy, ritual keeps us from taking it for granted. It brings awareness and that magic back into our mundane lives no matter what our circumstances are. No matter where we are in life, taking a moment to stop and simply be in the moment can help us gain inspiration and insight, and to also give back with thanks for all our blessings that we receive in this equally mundane and magical world.