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The word “ritual” is widely used in our culture to signify a focused time for doing things in a familiar way. We often participate in ritual unconsciously, calling it our daily routine. From the time we get ourselves ready for work to the time we put our children to bed, our day is full of little rituals. At holiday times we follow more conscious rituals we call “traditions.” Birthday parties, baby showers, weddings—these events are all rituals. For those who attend daily or weekly religious gatherings, ritual (along with its root word “rite”) is used on a regular basis. Rituals are the various customs that people from all cultures and all walks of life practice to honor significant life events.
We do realize, however, that ritual is a word that carries negative connotations as well—and herein lies one of our biggest challenges. So we asked ourselves, “How do we use the word ritual in a way that does not conjure up the image of a spooky gathering?” (an unfortunate association that pervades our cultural consciousness). Perhaps, we decided, by doing just this: by reclaiming it—by using the word ritual and re-infusing it with its deepest meaning. As we searched for the perfect words to define ritual,we found that they had already been said by Thomas Moore in his book The Education of the Heart: “Any action that speaks to the soul and to the deep imagination, whether or not it also has practical effects, is ritual.”