Tag Archives: Rite of passage

We still need ritual!

In his wonderful book  ‘The Sacred and the Profane’, famed historian of religion Mircea Eliade observes that even modern people who reject the tenets of religious belief and practice are unconsciously nourished by the memory of the sacred. As he observes in the Introduction, “the wholly desacralised cosmos …is a recent discovery in the history of the human spirit.”(p 13)

He makes the point that we still need ritual, even in this materialist culture of ours.

He says “What is found in the profane (ie non-religious) world is a radical secularisation of death, marriage and birth; but, as we shall soon see, there remain vague memories of abolished religious practices and even a nostalgia for them…” (p 186)

The Sacred and the Profane

The Sacred and the Profane

I had a very powerful and moving experience of this last week, when with my husband I attended the funeral of a much-loved member of his family. The morning after the funeral, just before we returned home, we were fortunate to be able to take part in a modern, but very moving, rite of passage. It was intended largely for the benefit of the many grandchildren in the family who had been too young to gain much benefit from the previous day’s church service – but was shared by us all.

I took some photographs of this ritual as it was being enacted. That evening, I put up a post on Facebook, with the permission of  our deceased cousin’s wife,  which was very warmly received both by the bereaved family and many Facebook Friends. I decided to write a blog post around the experience for two reasons. Firstly, to demonstrate that in our secular society there is still a vibrant need for ritual, especially to mark the great rites of passage of birth, marriage and death. And secondly, to inspire anyone who reads this with a wonderfully uplifting way of affirming the passing of the spirit of  a loved one.

Here is what I wrote to accompany my photographs:

‘May your soul fly high!’…my husband Ian’s last words to his dearly loved first cousin David, written on a slip of white paper, attached to a shiny magenta balloon, joining all the messages of love and farewell sent skywards today in a wonderfully colourful ritual of celebration of David’s life following his funeral on 10th October 2014. We were privileged to join David’s wife Liz, their five children and partners, and their ten grandchildren as everyone wrote personal messages to David, sending them soaring into the blue. Goodbye, David. You are much loved and will be much missed…

Into the blue...1

Into the blue…1

Into the blue...2

Into the blue…2

Into the blue...3

Into the blue…3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

 

Season of autumn, autumn of life….

I’m feeling philosophical as the autumn leaves start to fall….I feel wealthy in experience, in loving connections, in my talents, in such wisdom as I’ve managed to distil from life’s inevitable pains. My taste is to savour and treasure life’s small gifts: kicking through the first dry drifts of rich autumnal auburn, savouring my little granddaughter’s occasional impulsive loving hugs and kisses. My taste is also for taking time: to be quiet, be alone, to read, to walk in Nature, to reflect on what my life thus far has meant – and what may be to come.

You won’t find me in the gym, sweating it out with my peers whose main motivation is to keep age at bay. I’m not saving up for my first facelift. I don’t look enviously at fresh faces and taut bodies. Whilst celebrating their youth, I am glad to be no longer young.

Anne Whitaker

Anne Whitaker

In ancient times, when a woman reached menopause and began to feel the pull of death and rebirth into a new life phase, her tribe let her go free of duties for a year or so. She could wander, go deep into the forest, across the far hills, seeking solitude, time for reflection. She might gather roots and herbs only found in hidden places, to be used later. She had time to forge a deeper connection with Spirit than her busy life had previously allowed.

She would look at her lined face and grey hair in still river pools, sleep under the stars, slowly facing the fact that she was in the last phase of her life. By the time she returned she had deeply accepted the Great Round of birth, growth, maturation, decline, death and renewal. Having completed the mid life rite of passage, she was refreshed and ready to serve her tribe again.

Her experience, knowledge and wisdom was valued and recognised : healer, midwife, mentor to the young, spiritual counsellor, she had her place in her community till the day she died.

“ But this is the twenty-first century!” I hear you say. “Things are very different now.”

I wonder. Are they? It is certainly true that humans have never lived such comfortable, materially sophisticated lives as they do now, if they live in the affluent societies of the West. Within this current cultural phase, there is a powerful preoccupation with one stage of life. Youth.

It is possible because of huge advances in science, medicine and technology to delay the process of ageing. Death has come to be seen as a defeat, rather than a normal part of the whole life cycle.

From gnats to galaxies, everything is woven into the Great Round. Why should humans think themselves exempt ?

Everything passes, and we pass with it. Denial of this robs us of the opportunity to face and accept the flow of life as it is. Acceptance, which takes experience, courage, reflection, and time, can lead to happiness and spiritual peace. Denial of any kind usually trails misery in its wake.The  mid life rite of passage is presented to us all, the choice being denial or acceptance.

The latter road is slower and harder, but infinitely more rewarding in the end.

autumn

autumn

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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