On designing personal rituals

I love being a student and a teacher. Yesterday, I had to make a class presentation for the ‘Body in Religion: Cross-Cultural Perspectives’ course I am pursuing at the K J Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies in Mumbai.

Since the theme for today’s session was ‘ritual’, I got my classmates to participate in an activity during which they had to design a personal ritual to honour the masculine and the feminine in their own body, life, and universe. They had to close their eyes, and think of the space they would use, the various steps in the ritual, what they would wear. I asked them to write it all down, and invited a few responses.

While sharing, they had to reflect on whether they had included the nine basic components of Wiccan ritual listed in Scott Cunningham’s book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.

  1. Purification of self
  2. Purification of space
  3. Creating sacred space
  4. Invocation
  5. Ritual observance
  6. Energy raising
  7. Earthing the power
  8. Thanking the Goddess and God
  9. Breaking the circle

The course frequently uses examples from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I wanted to introduce my classmates to aspects of Wicca, which is being creatively reclaimed by women and queer people in various parts of the world. We had an engaging discussion following the activity and the round of sharing.

Some of the questions that came up were interested in why religion uses the binary language of masculine and feminine, what purification means in ritual contexts, and why religion regards it as important. A couple of classmates spoke about why they see ritual as empty of meaning, some mentioned their inability to design a personal ritual because they have been used to performing rituals created by priests or elders, and others expressed the joy and agency they experienced while creating.

Through my presentation, I wanted to convey that rituals needn’t be mechanical or oppressive. They can be about intention, meaning and connection if we make that choice. My professor, Yudit Kornberg Greenberg, is super cool. She makes it possible for us to do fun things.

Writer, educator and researcher

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