Like many non-religious Westerners I’m really drawn to ritual. Its a physical pull, something that my body understands more than my head or even heart. On my 46th birthday this week, in a spontaneous moment of self reflection, I understood ritual as a process of giving and receiving.
It seems obvious now, I should have realized it years ago when I was working on my graduate thesis on ritual performance. Knowledge is always different when it arises organically, this felt like it radiated out from my bones. It was just time for me to understand: ritual is giving and receiving. What a precious gift!
I first started to think about it while letting the chickens out in the morning. We sometimes think of ritual as something you do regularly: the ritual of tea, feeding the dog, calling Mom on Sunday. We identify ritual as having an element of habit.
In one of my first journeys to the spirit of the land she was engaged in a continuous dance of giving and receiving. Plants, animals and all life flowed from her, with a turn she harvested all that had matured. She was giving and receiving eternally. Maybe life can feel like habit sometimes, if only because of repetition. I give feed to the chickens, open their coop, they give me fertilizer and eggs.
When I started dancing with the land shortly after we bought our home I began by kneeling with my hands on the ground chanting “my heart in the earth, the earth in me…” Some part of me understood the ritual of dance as giving and receiving, breathing in and out with everything. Sinking my heart deep into the earth helps me feel the intimacy of my relationship with her.
The spirit of the land gives and receives without thought, hesitation or pause. She always radiates a feeling of gratitude though, both for the creative satisfaction of giving and the joy of harvesting. She is within a wave of giving and receiving. Finding that wave is the next part in my ritual performance education.
May this harvest season fill you with the joy of giving and receiving!