Throughout history there have always been ceremonies and ritual connecting the lives of the people, the community they are part of and the land that sustains them. Much of this has now been lost to us and yet, uniquely, we are at a point when we can reclaim our right to create ceremony from our own hearts and wishes without the confines of organised religion or the restraints of tradition orchestrating these events for us.
making ceremony brings people together, uniting them in a common purpose. Having a sense of ourselves as part of the Earth and a community is a vital human need often lost to our modern hectic lifestyle. By creating the time and space to come together and mark special events an moments in our lives we cannot fail to experience out connections to each other.
No longer in the hands of the church we are free to name and welcome a baby in our community, to celebrate and witness a marriage or joining, to choose funeral rites which makes sense for us and empower us. Alongside these more common ceremonies there are many other occasions, which we can choose to acknowledge with our friends and family, helping us to mark or celebrate, give their blessings, offer their support. These might include a new home, a new job, group ventures, creative projects, business partnerships, retirement, divorce, puberty, menopause, adoption, blessing a new garden or orchard, planting and dedicating trees, marking the changing seasons, honouring any group, world or personal event.
When beginning to use ceremony in your life, start simple. You are creating something personal and unique, there are no rigid rules to follow and you will get better at it the more you do it. You can create ceremony on your own or with a group, with one or two people leading it or co=created by the whole group. You can choose to have a pre-planned running order or in the spirit of spontaneity, have very little planned beforehand.
There are many myths around who is entitles to lead a ceremony and how that person has to act. Anyone can lead a ceremony. Their job is to be clear about the intention of the ceremony and hold this as a focus. Ceremony does not have to be serious. The important thing is to make a connection for all that take part; this includes light hearted fun and plenty of laughter, as well as touchingly deep and meaningful moments.
Begin by creating a special atmosphere, which encourages all to slow down and connect with the intention of the ceremony. This can be achieved by clearing and cleansing the energy of the place using the four elements of air, fire, water and earth. these can be sprinkled, burnt or simply represented in each direction. Do whatever feels good; there are no right of wrong ways of doing it other than keeping a clear intention. Mark out the place where the ceremony will be - use any kind of natural material, flowers, stones, leaves, branches, clothes, candles, salt. Make the place beautiful and inspiring - you can have a lot of fun decorating inside or outdoor places, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
During the ceremony aim to be as inclusive as possible, appealing to all including the children, encouraging everyone to participate. A handcrafted ceremony can include anything that takes your fancy - use music, percussion, singing, dancing, a procession, making crafts, visualisations, flying kites or prayer flags, lighting candles making vows, pledges, affirmations, blessings, offering healing, giving gifts. For more clues and details on how to put your ceremonies together see our book Creating Ceremony.