Myth & Moor update
Homemade ceremonies

Daily grace

Bumblehill courtyard

In addition to "telling the holy" (as we were speaking about yesterday), I strive to "practice the holy" as well by living a life filled with rituals, large and small, that connect me to the land I live on and those I share it with -- expressing daily affinity and appreciation for it all. In her beautiful essay "Daily Grace," a discussion of rituals worldwide, cultural and ecological philosopher Jay Griffiths writes:

"No culture and few individuals live without ritual. There are the inaugurations of presidents, student graduations, the rituals of temples, mosques and synagogues, Christmas lights or Easter’s ritual opening of the doorway of spring. While large, public rituals might be vulnerable to commercialisation, tedium or cynicism, they can also be freighted with significance, and shine with what Émile Durkheim in 1912 called the ‘collective effervescence’ of ritual, a shared grandeur beyond the individual.

"For Indigenous Australians, ritual sings the natural world into continued life, in a diffuse and enspirited relationship between the Dreamtime ‘past’ and the present. The Dreamtime surrounds the present, having created the landscape and order of the world, giving meaning and profundity to life and reflecting cosmic order, while rituals of the ‘ordinary’ present, in turn, sustain the ‘extraordinary’ Dreamtime order. In Bali, the ferocious flamboyance of the traditional cremation of a king unbuckled a terrible divinity from the very clouds: arrows that turn into flowers, coffins shaped like lions, snakes of cloth, doves flying from the foreheads of women committing ritual suicide. In his book Negara (1980), the cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz describes the lexicon of sensuous symbols in Balinese ritual, including carvings, flowers, dances, melodies, gestures, chants and masks, writing that the state rituals of classical Bali were ‘metaphysical theatre: theatre designed to express…the ultimate nature of reality and…by presenting it, to make it happen’.

Lady of Bumblehill statue by Wendy Froud

"Yet ritual is also alive in the slightest of phrases: a ‘thank you’ that enhances gratitude; a ghost of a god in ‘goodbye’ (god be with you); the grace spoken before eating. It is there in the little personal talismans touched a certain way for luck, because sometimes that one lucky strike of chance – before a journey, competition or meeting – is what ritual seeks to shelter, cradling the match to an Olympian flame. Given half a chance, habits seem to want to augment themselves into ritual: embellish a habit with attention, stylise it slightly, and it will elbow its way into the domain of rites, until even a cup of tea can be ceremonious.

Words in the wild

Milk for the faeries

"Tiny, everyday rituals are a hand-crafted prayer to domestic order, beckoning the divine to step inside a moment. In Bali, the making of the canang sari offerings is done individually but its effect is a collective efflorescence. Canang means a basket of flowers, while sari means essence, and what is essential, I was told, is the right intent, a kind of purity, paying heed to the scripture of the Bhagavad Gita in which Krishna describes what god requires of an offering: ‘Whosoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure heart I accept.’ As in so many small rituals in so many cultures, an elemental grammar of nature is used: flowers suggest earth, candles suggest fire, then a little holy or purifying water, and the air is made visible by incense, with the ethereal element of prayer."

Wildflowers and Coyote in the kitchen window

Kitchen window

Like Griffiths, I find great meaning in personal rituals, both domestic and wild. When life is hard -- whether it's a personal hardship or the collective hardship of a global pandemic -- the quiet beauty of daily ritual helps to center me within my own life, stripping away the swirl of fearful thoughts that might otherwise overwhelm me. I often think of these words by author Italo Calvino, who'd lived a harrowing life as an Italian Resistance fighter during World War II:

"Seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."

Ritual, for me, is "not inferno," and I give it all the space I can.

Cedar and sage

Drumming springtime in

In our modern, increasingly secular world we need ritual now more then ever, says Griffiths:

"Through the unregulated, unjust and unmetered use of resources, we have collectively created a cosmic disorder, and arguably the loss of ritual thinking is part of the reason. Some scholars argue that the loss of effective rituals leads to destructive behaviours, while the anthropologist Roy Rappaport in the 1990s called for a collective responsibility to ecological order, vitalised by ritualisation.

"To me, the most eloquent example of this is demonstrated by the Shinto priests at Lake Suwa in Japan who ritually recorded the lake’s freezing. As it froze, ridges of ice were formed and, when the world is viewed with twice-sight and nothing is only what it seems, the ice-ridges were seen as the footsteps of the gods. For 255 years, there were only three years when the lake did not freeze. Then between 2005 to 2014, there were five years when the lake didn’t freeze. Since 2013, it has frozen over just once, suggesting a terrifying planetary disorder. Confucius considered that ritual propriety guides humanity into authentic goodness (ren). ‘If for a single day one were able to return to the observance of ritual propriety, the whole empire would defer to ren.’

"The sweet paradox of small daily rituals is that the ordinary is intensified into the sacred through the numinousness of the absolutely commonplace, an illustration of immanent divinity, demonstrating that all it takes to find cascades of enchantment is a tender attention in which the natural living world is blessed by the psyche, and the psyche by the natural world."

Tilly below the cloutie tree

Clouties

Or as the German philosopher Meister Eckhart wrote: "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."

Lighting the fire

Fire and ceremony

Feather on moss

Words: The passage quoted above is from "Daily Grace" by Jay Griffiths (Aeon Magazine, January 31, 2019). I recommend reading the full essay here; and please consider supporting Griffiths' extraordinary work via her Patreon page. The poem in the picture captions is from Even in Quiet Places by William Stafford (Confluence Press, 2010). All rights reserved by the authors.

Pictures: The statue in our courtyard is by Wendy Froud. The drum was made by Munro Sickafoose, back in our Arizona days. The tree tied with rags is the local cloutie tree; to read more about clouties, go here. The pictures of me and Howard were taken last autumn before our annual hand-fasting ritual.

Comments

I think we all have rituals in our lives, even when it comes to the endless domestic chores.


SMALL MAGICKS

Every day is a ritual:
Washing up is a cleansing, not only of pots and pans
besmirched by gravy and gobbets of food,
but of whatever else needs sluicing away
From the time-chipped crocks of our lives.

Making the bed is a setting to rights
of blankets and sheets and pillows
flattened and flustered by use,
as well as an ordering of times
that tumble and twist beyond our control.

ANd comfort is infused with the tea
in the rotundity of pots,
that themselves are ritually raised
from the clay of the earth.

From the Lauds of dawn
To the Compline of night,
The rites of life
are expressed in small magicks
That close the door
On the darkness that waits
beyond the comfort and warmth of the light

I love this, Stuart. Especially chuckled at
"ANd comfort is infused with the tea
in the rotundity of pots," but related easily to the whole poem.

Daily rituals are my safety pins. I was trained early to see their humble value, keep them close, fastening and unfastening them to keep me gently tethered. Thanks for this post, Terri.

Thank You, Mokihana. I've become something of a tea addict since the lockdown. And that coupled with chocolate and cake probably means I have the healthiest diet in the entirety of the UK!

Ah, I love this.

Absolutely fascinating hearing about Lake Suwa. I'll be looking into that.

The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving prayer is a beautiful ritual. I read it in Braiding Sweetgrass, out loud in the woods last week.


For me, the landscape of the high desert (where I live in California)seems to have its own rituals. Every few years, this being one of them, there comes the heavy rains. Meant to cleanse and renew, they turn the dirt and its ghostly dust to wet clay. The fields become rainbows of colored grass sporting different species of flowers, weeds, thistles, shrubs. etc. A green spirit overtakes the land and there are the strange yet tribal figures of the Joshua trees who seem to honor this change; and maybe, marvel in their own, arboreal whispers at the handiwork of earth. And now especially during the lockdown, the lingering threat of the virus, this scene engenders a natural grace and holy ground that makes one feel grateful, alive with its spiritual magic.


Mid -April

Across the sea
children draw rainbows
along the village street

where blackbirds watch
from a lilac tree, some sparrows
from the hedge. But here

in the high desert,
it's the weather. Constant showers
have spurred a rainbow
of grass ranging
from purple clover
to mint-green weeds. Gold

dandelions to a blue
spray of flax. Over the field
hawks fly looking
for lizard or snake

who've disappeared
with the dry dirt, its dust
turned to clay. And in the middle --
a ritual

as Joshua trees bend
like tribal women
to inspect the thread work
of their Mother's loom, to inhale

the fertile scent
of earth.
_______________________________________

Please stay safe and my wishes to all of you for staying well and being inspired.

Wendy

Hi Stuart

Truly, a beautiful poem that expresses the magic of ordinary tasks and routines that keep us alive, not just existing. I really like the way you demonstrate how the domestic becomes spiritual in tune with the
day's rotation and our own need to find comfort and reassurance. Thank you for sharing this. I enjoyed reading it
and can personally relate!

My Best
Wendy

Hi Wendy, as a native of a small, rainy archipelago off the coast of Europe, your poem captures for me the pure joy of rain for those who live in a desert environment.

The last verse especially--shudder with recognition and delight.

JY

"a rainbow of grass" is jjust...mjust...perfect."--JY

Thanks so much Jane
for reading and commenting on this piece! As always, I deeply appreciate it!

Please stay safe and my well wishes for you and yours to be healthy and inspired. These are indeed challenging times!

Take care
Love Wendy

Thanks so much Stuart

Rain in the desert is a joy, often way too rare. But when it does come, it brings a greenery and a vibrancy I often long for. Thanks so much for thoughtful words and consideration of this poem. I deeply appreciate it!

Stay safe and be well,
Wendy

Thank you, Jane. In this time of pandemic, the rites are now practised with more vigour than they ever were before. I do wonder if this microscopic viral enemy can only be truly confronted by the thaumaturgical!!!

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