By Jo Mooy
Torches at the four directions glow in the fading light of day. The scent of incense fills the air. A drum beats an ancient rhythm as the notes of a flute entwine with the drumbeat. As the celebrant approaches the eastern directional gate, a hush falls over the assembly. Candles on the altar in the center of the circle are lit one by one. An invocation accompanies the lighting of each. With the sacredness of the ceremony set, the story of the event is choreographed to dance and music. This is ceremony!
Humans have celebrated with rituals and ceremonies for over 100,000 years, and archaeologists have found pottery, tools, and cave paintings indicating they were an essential component in the lives of every ancient culture. Societies recognized the seasons of planting and harvest, the movement of the moon and stars, and honored birth and death. At some point, religion crept into the ceremonies complicating or altering many of the ancient practices. Yet the dates marking the seasons were kept with attributions to the different Gods of each religion.
For the past twelve 12 years ceremonies have been an integral part of the practices in our Sarasota, FL-based community. Individuals with similar beliefs mark the dates by participating in or supporting the vision inherent in each gathering. The past decade offered up a rare occurrence that happens only once each century. Between 2001 and 2012 the calendar dates 01-01-01 through 12-12-12 were identified as cosmic trigger events and celebrated as such. On each of the triple numerical dates, a special ceremony, tied to the numerology of the date, was held. It ended with a large gathering on 12.12.12 known as “Sounding the Bowls” where hundreds of crystal and Tibetan bowls were sounded in concert across the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
But what about ceremonies? What are they, and what do they do for the human psyche? And why should we in the modern world do ceremonies or rituals? There’s an easy answer. Rituals and ceremonies connect us to an ancestry and history that provide a glimpse into a time and heritage long past. When performed in the modern era, they remind us to halt the noise of everyday life and to remember the meaning of sacred space and the power of seasonal changes. Even more, they acknowledge the spiritual mystery inherent in celebrating special events, stimulating reverent qualities in all attendees.
It’s easy to identify with Equinoxes and Solstices which represent Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. But if you’ve been part of these gatherings, you know each season or ceremony carries its own frequency that changes from year to year, though the event is the same. Each celebrant brings practices that make each ceremony unique. For example, a Celtic Bard might enact a story of the Return of the Light on the Winter Solstice that includes the use of hundreds of candles. A shamanic practitioner might instead use the power of imagination to journey into the darkness to find the light and return it to earth.
When children participate a benign sweetness descends on the gathering. There’s recognition by all assembled that the next generation is being introduced to sacred patterns of harmony and reverence. And in their own way, the children respond. Shy ones find their voices, enter the circle, and speak to their elders with wisdom and clarity. The more outgoing children take leadership roles in the ceremony, writing prayers, poems, or wishes for peace on earth.
The size of a gathering can affect the energy either positively or negatively. But if the gathering is set in a containment field, like a circle, it’s much easier to feel sacred rhythms. An altar at the center of the circle makes a statement to all attending that this is a holy gathering.
The role of officiant is equally important and carefully orchestrated. With exceptional power, they hold the containment field intact while voicing the intentions and impressions needed to make the ceremony solemn and reverent. When the intentions are set, the candles lit, incense is burning, drums are sounding, and dancers weaving around the altar in the center, the audience responds with awe—for they have become entwined in the ceremony.
From these many gatherings, people connect, a community is built, grace flows, and blessings are bestowed for family, friends, and all beings on the planet. That is the sacredness of ceremony which really answers the question: Why Ceremonies?
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to www.starsoundings.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.