I have encountered exchanges, as of late, that have inquired guidance in ritual practice and how I have come to learn and create my own for healing, centering and elevation of spirit.
My understanding of spiritual ritual is the physicalization and embodiment of a committed practice that holds a deep intention to manifest action and creation from self and other, to call forth clarity, upliftment, understanding of life’s wonders and to connect to greater divine beings of creation, ancestry and spirit. The practice of ritual helps me to place all of these grand ideas, desires and beliefs in a small act that I can feel committed to. All of these can feel so overwhelming, impossible to tackle and sometimes even comprehend because they feel so much larger than ourselves, but if we can commit to even the small action of lighting a candle, connecting this repeated motion/action/practice to words of affirmation and intention, we can begin building toward larger creations and connections in our lives. If you cannot light a candle with grounded commitment every day, then how can you take on the larger intentions behind it.
The next level to this is to open your senses to experience the ritual in a way that stimulates multiple senses and activates and awakens whole being. Like, when I light sage, I do not just do it keeping in mind the native practice that I have learned is connected to the practice of burning this sacred herb, but also in simple awareness. I connect with wonderment to the recognition of the shape and color and line of each leaf and stem, I see the smoke rise up in shape and movement, I smell the burning fragrance, I hear the light crackling of the fire creating ash and I feel the warmth of the smoke dance around me. Seeing these things does not have to connect with religious belief, it is powerful alone to just observe the miracle of the physicalized action of burning this herb. Then, when you allow yourself to truly open your senses to this power and dually connect your intention to clear away bad energy or to ward away what does not serve your being, it makes the physicalized action, the ritual that much more powerful.
I have exchanged many rituals with my sisters in “The Journey of a Brown Girl” ones that I practice in my own life as daily practice. Our core ritual takes place at the beginning of every gathering, we engage in physical motions of energy shifting in connection to the intentions of letting go what will not serve us in our space of creation and exchange and to offer to the group something that will serve us as a collective. We have also physicalized this through the burning of candles (black-for release, white- for manifestation). We have also written larger intentions and burned what we are releasing and placed on sacred altar what we are wish to bring forth for ourselves to see. Other rituals have been ones to connect us to one another, often linked to offerings that I have given them. I gifted each sister a bell, purchased from a dear friend who told me each bell is forged separately in a way where they all have a distinct sound that resonates through it. Sound can be so healing (as all things can heal if we learn to use them for this purpose), the ritual in this was that in moments of need and struggle when we are apart, to ring the bell as a reminder to self of connection and means of support.
I have recently connected to ritual with water. I have always had a fear of the ocean- of its power, of its mystery, of its magic. But this year I am making a strong intention to connect to all of this as a part of my deepened connection to the world around me. The healing power in the act of washing and recognition of how sacred it is to know water is all around and within us- earth’s bodies of water and our own bodies made primarily of water. These rituals help you feel rooted, help you feel oneness with all things, and humble you to your being only one fragment of a much larger creation.
Another ritual in every space we inhabit is to create an altar, which I learned to create from the community of the Center for Babaylan Studies. On each altar is representation of the 4 elements (water, air, fire, and earth) and a center container (bowl, gourds, box, etc.) that represents what is being filled with spirit, intention, prayer and light. The performance itself is centered around this large altar that we place items representing ourselves as Pinay, as women, as human beings- and that also call forth others we love in our lives to be held.
We create another altar with intention to hold the sacred energy of the stories being told and ask audience members to place a stone with a symbol representing their being on it so that by they’ve of our time together they can retrieve the stone which will now hold the energy cultivated in our experience together. The creation of a physical altar built in connection and reflection of my altar within.
I even see the way I dress and what I wear as the adornment as ritual in the building of my physical vessel as an altar; #soulsurfaced. I often wear jewelry and clothing that has been crafted by artists, or by my self. I was drawn to each item because it spoke to my soul, in this photograph below I adorned myself with light in many forms, connected to my animal spirit the rooster- around my neck is the symbol of the morning sun created by Ray Haguisan of Malaya Designs (http://malayadesigns.bigcartel.com/), he explained to me when I met him in California that this was a guide to our ancestors, when placed with another to create a pattern becomes the “minamata” design- eye of the ancestors, and wen more are placed it becomes the “chain of ancestors” that honors those past and present and also representative of the python scales for protection/ When more are placed they become a weaving pattern of a basket or cloth that represents our community, our lineage of ancestry that holds us. The larger amulet is from my sister May designer and owner of NativeSol and one of the most lifted creators I know (https://www.etsy.com/shop/nativesol) when we first met I saw this large pendant and was drawn to it because of its sun shape, and as held it in my hand she told me, there is a design on the other side, I flipped it over and there was a marking of my spirit animal- the rooster calling to my heart. On my ears are a Rooster Feather earring designed by my hands and spirit connected to the energies of Gabriela Silang ( I create all my feathered earrings in inspiration of a wom*n leader, goddess or feminine power- no website, just requests when asked). And I paired it with a the face of Mother Sun I encountered on a walk in the city one day from a kind wom*n selling trinkets on the street. I combine these articles to help lift my spirit, with the intention of radiating light and warmth to others.
Ritual also becomes a means of centering amidst the craziness of the world around us is so important. Many constructs of this living bring ailments if we do not have ways to reflect, deconstruct and renew ourselves in these moments of heightened energetic experience. My train commute used to be excruciating for me, with so many bodies carrying the weight of the daily grind and grime of the city. Engagements in energy exchange often are intense, and ritual has become so important for me to protect and direct my energy in positivity and creation. I fill my daily journey with ritual of drawing, writing and spiritual reading meditations that feed my being. This blog entry itself was my meditation on this morning’s commute.
I am currently in the process of learning more rooted practice from my own cultural background, in particular looking to delve into my lineage as a Filipina born from parents of the Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur regions. This has become something significant for my growing in understanding myself deeper. I am beginning with learning more of the language and the history from my own parents- this itself has become ritual, phone conversations with my father retraining my tongue to speak in ilocano, it has been such a challenge, but extremely liberating- the release of words that have lived in my mouth and my vocal tract, but have not been released. I hope this will help me in my explorations of our native and indigenous practices I am working to uncover for myself. My father has also in the midst of this learning, been sharing stories of his recollections growing up on the land, tilling it and laboring as a youth. This has been an added blessing gifted to me alongside my intentions to learn tradition of spirit from my ancestry.
I feel that is one of the most important things about ritual, that it is a means of commitment. Whether it be small momentary daily actions or larger collective communal energetic exchanges, if they are rooted in deep intention and you make the recognition of the power in committing to it- ritual will nourish, protect, activate and uplift your spirit and help you walk with more courage and centeredness in this living. In a way if we see all the ways we live as ritual, we begin to walk more wholly, body, mind and spirit- action, intention and connection for oneness with all of creation. Now, how will you live out ritual in your life? What will your commitment to spirit in action look like? Commit to lighting your candle, writing your passage- wash, burn, bury, plant, stretch, dance, sing your intentions, affirmations and connections out and create ritual in your life.