The Importance of Ritual
The Importance of Ritual
By Nadiya Shah
I was reminded recently of how much ritual dominates our lives.
There are rituals that may only occur once in our lives, those that occur on regular occasions, such as an annual holiday, and then there are those that are part of our habits, the way we live each day, patterns as rituals that define our existence. Each one of these is sacred and momentous.
By making connections between the astrological houses and my lived experience, I am better able to deepen my practice. By knowing which houses are signified by the activities I participate in, and examining what is occurring in that part of the sky for me right now in terms of natal and transitory planets and progressions, as well as a variety of other astrological signifiers, I can better appreciate what lessons and gains I make from each ritual I participate in. In astrology, the area of life dealing with rituals is varied and based largely on intention.
I had one of those rituals recently that only comes along once in a lifetime. My graduation was held in Canterbury Cathedral, the site of many rituals of various kinds, especially Christian rituals. My ritual was secular. A closing ceremony, which brought my MA program to acknowledgement, obtainment, and conclusion.
There were many people who were receiving their degree in abstention. They had decided to not participate. I knew had to be there. I needed the ritual. I needed the moment to sit with others who had been through the personal journey of strengthening our own intellect and thus strengthening each aspect of our being. I needed to share this moment with people I love, and some I did not know, as a way to acknowledge that something had been accomplished. That there was knowledge that was now within me that had not been there before I participated in this academic journey.
This was the physical reflecting and representing the spiritual journey of graduate school. Though my intellectual journey continues, hopefully for this lifetime, this leg of the journey, this particular program that has earned me this exact degree, is completed and now a part of the reservoir of experience and wisdom that I have accumulated through my life so far.
I worked so hard for the right to hear my name called, make that walk to the chancellor, shake his hand, and receive my degree. The degree is now on my wall, a symbol of the potential I expressed and the faith I can have my dreams, even if at some point they seem far or impossible, if I am willing to work towards them.
This would be a ritual signified by the astrological 10th house. A place where goals are sought and accomplishment is secured. It is a place of honouring an established tradition and securing a credential. It is also representative of the highest we wish to go in life, how far we desire to reach and achieve.
There are those rituals that occur at regular points throughout the year. These are based in the intention of staying connected with some cultural or religious signpost, re-establishing one’s ties to the community or family they belong to. They are predictable in date or time, occur regularly, and can be well prepared for because there is an established regularity to how this ritual is acknowledged. Some of the rituals associated with the day are universally accepted, others more personal and immediate.
The 4th astrological house covers celebrations that have to do with ancestry or family, are connected to custom, and have a ritualistic aspect, especially when they connect us to our past, cultural, or patriotic identity. The practice of occult rituals, though sometimes connected with holidays as expressed in the 4th house, are generally governed by the 8th house of personal experience of the mysteries.
Then there are daily rituals, the things we do each day to feel a sense of routine. Some of these daily rituals can, as the word ritual implies, hold sacred significance. Other things are habitual, almost mindless, but should not be discounted for their sacred dimension, even if we are not consciously cultivating a continuous awareness of the sacred in our action.
Everything that is done in the physical realm has an effect on the spiritual. Anything we do to nurture and feed ourselves on any level of our being benefits the entirety of our lives.
It is the entirety of our lives that is governed by the 6th house; from preventative health measures to the places we visit each day. Intentionally choosing actions that strengthen and empower us, and being mindful of the sacred within these rituals, which can disguise themselves as routines, is the challenge and also the great invitation of this area of the astrological chart. It reminds us that life is a ritual of each moment. Each breath holds something to be celebrated.
I have had many rituals in my recent life. The big acknowledgements that are to only visit me once in this lifetime. This holiday season, which reminds me of the rituals I share with my family and are part of the foundation which shapes me to this day. The rituals of the day, that keep me productive and in contact to the divine within me. All of them are powerful, useful, and significant to my spirituality as a state of being, and also, my spiritual practice of astrology. They remind me that I am a part of the great symbolic revealing, the mystery I barely glimpse, when I make one more further connection between my lived existence and the play of the stars.