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The importance of ritual and ceremony
July 25, 2022
4 min read
At Nectara, we’re passionate about living every day as a ceremony. That intentional approach to life invites more presence and richness to our psychedelic wellness journey. It makes life itself a ceremony and opens up a lifelong journey of clarifying and implementing lessons from our psychedelic experience(s). But what is ceremony? And why do rituals matter? We invited our friend Megan Sheldon to share her unique perspective on these topics.
As a Cultural Mythologist, Life Cycle Celebrant, and End of Life Storyteller, I’ve been crafting and curating ceremonies for over a decade. One of the things I’ve learned is that while there’s a real hunger for ritual and ceremony right now, most people are often unsure of where to start or how to begin.
My husband and I are passionate about offering people ritual ideas and inspiration across the life cycle. We focus on what we call ‘the seemingly invisible moments’, because those are the experiences we don’t always know how to acknowledge. Our unique framework is designed as a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience, offering you rituals to choose from so that you can create a ceremony that reflects your values and beliefs.
In my conversations with people around the world, it became clear that many people have negative or limiting experiences when it comes to ritual and ceremony. So in order to become more ceremonial in life, we often have to redefine ritual and ceremony in a way that’s meaningful to us. This often involves unpacking what we’ve been taught about ritual or what we’ve experienced when it comes to a ceremony. Once we understand what we don’t want ritual and ceremony to be, we can start to figure out how to bring them back into our lives in a way that makes sense for us.
An important thing to keep in mind when it comes to crafting rituals is to ensure we aren’t appropriating from other cultures. There are many rituals that we can draw from that are secular, universal, and nature-inspired. I also encourage everyone I work with to dig into their own lineage and ancestry to find the rituals they have a direct connection with. The more we know about our heritage, the more freedom we have to explore and invent rituals that can serve us in the moment and in the long term.
So what is ritual?
For me, a ritual is an intention action taken with the hope of creating meaning. Ritual itself becomes a language that we can communicate through, helping us express what we’re holding, or feeling, or wishing for.
A ritual can stand alone, serving a singular purpose, or it can be a component of a ceremony, like a piece of a larger puzzle. Rituals don’t need to be complicated or complex; in fact, some of the most powerful rituals are often connected to everyday tasks, such as making your morning coffee or throwing a stone into the river.
The difference between a routine and a ritual is that you fall into a routine, and you step into a ritual. The intention to create meaning is what elevates our everyday actions into the ritual realm.
Rituals can be strict and rooted in tradition, and they can also be fluid and free to evolve. I believe that rituals can be shaped and reshaped into what we need, when we need them. The world keeps changing, and our rituals should reflect that change and adapt as needed.
What is ceremony?
If a ritual is the action, a ceremony is the container that holds those actions. I define a ceremony as a sacred container that holds a string of rituals together, helping us acknowledge a moment of change or a time of transition in our lives.
Some people refer to a ceremony as the train and each ritual a car on that train. I prefer the analogy of cooking, with rituals being the ingredients and the ceremony being the larger meal. Each ingredient can exist on its own, yet together they create something larger — an experience that connects us.
For me, a ceremony is an acknowledgement of what was, what is, and what will be; it can help us move through change with attention and intention. It can also help us connect with ourselves, with each other, and with the world around us.
I believe the best ceremonies tell a story, and at Be Ceremonial we structure our ceremonies based on a narrative arc. We invite people to choose a ritual to open the ceremony, rituals to acknowledge the past, present, and future, and finally a ritual to close the ceremony. Our rituals are descriptive not prescriptive, meaning you can adapt them in any way you choose.
Becoming ceremonial is like building a muscle — the more you invite rituals into your daily life, the stronger those ritual muscles become. So when something big or challenging happens in your life, you have a ritual practice to draw from.
Co-Founder & CEO of Be Ceremonial