Ritual

to see the sweet in everything

As a girl I would read fairy tales about women who lived with magic, women who  followed ancient tracks through a solid rational world into the misty mountains of their own imaginations. Up there they hang between heaven and earth, mysterious and powerful.  

The most appropriate fairy tale for me would be Sleeping Beauty, because my story is one of a woman who was asleep for a hundred years until a kiss woke her with love. My evocation of love is sweeping, aching, exhilarating and rapturous. At times, it feels incantatory, as though all the words I speak in love are black spells. But do I believe in magic?

"Magic is what happens when your will changes the world." my love told me.

I scoffed. "Then you do not need magic, all you need the will."

My certainty of this was dismayed by a single truth, said to me by the bestower of all love's kisses.

"But my girl, you have rituals."


You have to be able to answer

the question love asks of everyone:

What do you live for?


And I do. No conjured up attempts at magic, no swords or wands or cups of wine, I do not sit at tables with my hands crossed, listening for ghosts of my future. But I have rituals for meditation, for sleep; I have the ritual of writing. Simply loving space and dreams and words will not do; I want love itself, violent and powerful, and for that, you need to meet it. You have to be able to answer the question love asks of everyone: What do you live for?


Life is high-wire act of sustained emotional resonance, and the rituals I practice help anchor and sustain me. They help me see and feel and live in the in the greatness and beauty of the world.  A ritual is not an idle pass of time, a summer romance or a child's word for routine. A ritual is a union of will and hope that demands that you take seriously not only their method, but their premise. When I create space and sit for meditation, when I kneel beside my lover's bed, when I bathe and salute the moon and brush out my hair to untangle my day, I am sinking into ritual, steeping myself in meaning and purpose, breathing in symbolic representations of personal concepts. Rituals are how I channel thoughts and energy, hope and goodness from something I think into real things in the world, leaving me lucid and resilient. They help me  answer the question "what do you live for?" with a heart that doesn't waver.


If you don't believe in rituals maybe you don’t go for that sort of thing. You like good wine from the proper glass and keep your passport in a fireproof box, you donate to the red cross and behave like an adult. A life that is lived is often prosaic, yes there’s love to be made, but there are also bills to be paid and dry cleaning to pick up. The world is a serious place where people suffer and there is business to be done -  what audacity do we have to think of magic or love at all?

But why should all the centuries of the world’s pain and production lessen the fact that I can love? Is that not what love is, a seed of creation in the mouth of destruction, nurtured through the rituals of a kiss?  Am I self-centred, solipsistic, detached from reality? Maybe. But I demanded happiness, I demand the external world I move through be as intense and beautiful as the one I feel inside me, and I accept that such demands require work.



"But my girl,

you have rituals."


Before I had rituals I felt unfeeling, unknowing, my life felt unlived. I knew I was only skating the surface, unable to plunge the depths of myself.  But through the rituals of making space, of emotional and self observation, I find a love and life that is intense and deep, visceral and guiding. Rituals are time when I can open these things that go mostly unexpressed, undwelled upon, jostled aside by the intruding world and the endless errands of daily life, and see greatness. And there is the power of ritual and love - they take what is yours everyday and everywhere, what exists in every heart, and makes it mythical as you find yourself waking from a hundred-year slumber.


#essays

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