Our lives, too, have their seasons, times and passages containing both predictability and mystery. Traditional cultures mark these moments and milestones with ceremony. Ceremonies acknowledge the transitory nature of identity, strengthening one’s sense of self, relationship, and belonging. They mark beginnings and endings, continuity and change.
Ceremony acknowledges the immediacy of mystery and the sacred. My women friends often speak of the mystery and sacredness of pregnancy and childbirth, and of child-raising. They envision motherhood as a cycle of ceremony, marked by transitions that delineate their relationships with body, self, and other. When folks are healthy, parenthood becomes a sacred journey, a bridge between past and future, self and other, ancestors and those yet to come.
Ceremony, like family, is best supported by community. Yet the dominant culture of capitalism works against community, substituting isolation, material acquisition, and self-interest for care and relatedness. In many Indigenous families and communities colonization has undermined ceremonial tradition, leaving generations untethered. Residential schools, land seizure, and the imposition of capitalism and a repressive form of Christianity have, over many generations wrought much harm. Other strategies affected settler communities.
Still, there is hope. Individuals, families, and communities, both Indigenous and non, are rekindling their commitment to ceremony and a life framed by the presence of, and contact with, the sacred. When our lives become filled with mystery and the experience of the sacred, the dehumanizing influences of capitalism are held in check; the presence of the sacred invites more humanity, creativity, and connection.
Ceremony may be deeply healing, bringing us into the moment and embracing us in the immediacy of human experience. It offers belonging and helps us to understand the challenges and complexities of our lives.
Passover reminds us that as long as any are enslaved, we are all enslaved. The rituals of Easter remind us of the promise of rebirth. When we acknowledge that our lives are cycles of change, each rung requiring a new vision of self and world, these celebrations take on new meaning. Rather than following a straight line, our lives can, with attention, spiral, acquiring great richness and breadth. As they do so, they become sacred ceremonies.