Why Rituals are Important in Your Life

Why Rituals are Important in Your Life

Rituals are procedures performed which “act out” thoughts or beliefs. These thoughts or beliefs may also be referred to as ideas or myths. These ideas and the resultant rituals add meaning to behaviours or events. Rituals can convert an otherwise ordinary or practical event into something that has a meaning that goes beyond what separate actions add up to. In other words, there is a synergy because the actions producing a ritual stimulate emotions and add colour to transform that which might otherwise be bland events into meaningful events. Rituals are the basis of traditions. Rituals and tradition provide an opportunity to make important events special and memorable. Due to certain similarities, people will generally have similar responses to ritualized events and their symbols.

Why do people perform a particular ritual? What are the ideas or myths that created the occasion to perform the ritual? Do you need to know? If you know, what do you do with the knowledge? Do you continue to celebrate the event by maintaining the myth and the ritual that accompanies it? Or, do you discard the myth and related ritual as nonsense that has no relevance to your life? Or, since you have a choice, should you keep certain rituals? – The general consensus is that you would be wise to keep and revere that which has meaning and purpose for your life and/or gives you a sense of belonging to society. Myth, ritual and tradition need to be considered for what they were intended to represent and should be encouraged where the objective is to bring desirable meaning and purpose to life.

Rituals can provide substance and meaning to life at both the individual and social level. Ritual and its symbols therefore act as a means by which values and structures of society can continue through the ages. Rituals can also create new values and structures. These values, whether traditional or new, can be transmitted to individuals.

Myth and ritual can satisfy individual needs in everyday life. Whether you are conscious of it or not, you have certain personal myths and shared myths concerning your own identity and you perform certain rituals to enhance these myths. (E.g. carrying a sentimental item, wearing a certain clothing item for luck, performing certain routines in a particular order, making your bed every morning, closing each email with the same goodbye.) Daily living is filled with mini ceremonies (ritualistic acts), that bring you out of the ordinary and connect you to yourself and the world. By expressing these otherwise unexceptional actions with purposefulness awareness and affection, your life gains meaning.

Life brings changes. All over the world, past and present, cultures or societies have rituals (ceremonies) signifying an event in a person’s life indicative of a transition from one stage to another. These are often referred to as “rites of passage”. Rites of passage provide purpose and function at both the individual and the group level by revealing the change in a positive light. Also, it is natural to experience stresses in connection with undergoing change and rites of passage assist people in coping with the stress and provide meaning for the change. Examples of rites of passage include graduation ceremonies, bar mitzvahs, weddings, retirement parties and funerals. Such events lose their real meaning and impact when you just go through the motions and do not appreciate the significance of the transition. Incomplete rituals and therefore incomplete transitions do not facilitate the acceptance of the change.

Rituals are often dismissed as primitive, unnecessary or religious. However, since myth and ritual can be valuable instruments to enrich your own life and give you a sense of belonging to community, before you dismiss or discard a ritual, you should stop to consider the meaning and effect of the ritual. Disowning rituals operates to disassociate you from yourself and from other people.