15. Sacred Rituals of Ordinary Life


BLOG 15: December, 1996—I’m sitting by the fire in my temporary Santa Fe home in New Mexico’s high desert. Back from a brief trip to California, I’m reading Malidoma Some’s book, Of Water and Spirit. Malidoma’s words transport me to his village of Burkina Faso, West Africa, where he grew up and was later kidnapped by Jesuits who attempted, unsuccessfully, to infuse their values into him before he escaped back home. I’m drawn to Malidoma’s description of his people’s rituals and their deep, deep connection to the unseen world that is intricately and magically woven into their lives. I know that feeling of running from a sterile environment that doesn’t weave the sacred into the ordinary.

I decide not to go home to the East Coast for the holidays this year. I don’t feel my parents are ready to accept the diversity in my life, and I’m not prepared to return.  So, for Christmas, my boyfriend Richard comes up from Albuquerque to visit, along with my friend Eric, who is part Jewish, and his mother who is visiting from Philadelphia. Our eclectic celebration consists of sitting by the fire, exchanging gifts in a silly Yankee Swap (where you pass out cheap, used gifts you don’t want and fight for the best one of the lot), and singing to Eric’s fabulous piano-playing. Eric’s mother has the fortune of getting the gift of a bag of condoms, of all things, and I decide somewhere during that night that I am no longer interested in having a relationship with Richard (it probably didn’t help that Richard, who drove up with Eric and his mother, actually asked Eric’s Jewish mother what she thought of German concentration camps!)

After our indoor festivities, we go out onto Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, a road of galleries that for Christmas Eve is lined with farolitos (paper bags with candles in them) and bonfires where people gather around them singing. Eric eventually gets tired of “baby Jesus songs,” as he puts it, but I’m in awe of the warmth and organic spirit of people gathering together to celebrate life as they have done for centuries. It takes me back to Spain, to when my family and I visited the mountains outside of Granada for Christmas. It was snowing, the smell of fireplace smoke filled the air, and the bells were playing in the distance. My father grabbed my hand, ran me around in circles, proclaiming that Santa Claus was coming. I knew that Santa didn’t exist, but I nonetheless enjoyed the innocent magic of that night that had nothing to do with the modern commercial way of American Christmas.




9 thoughts on “15. Sacred Rituals of Ordinary Life

  1. I loved reading this, Michelle. My blog post for this week also makes mention of ritual and ceremony:http://www.nanpokerwinski.com/blog/serendipity-and-spirit Nan

    From: Michelle Adam To: nansanpo@ameritech.net Sent: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 9:47 PM Subject: [New post] 15. Sacred Rituals of Ordinary Life #yiv2547035065 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2547035065 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2547035065 a.yiv2547035065primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2547035065 a.yiv2547035065primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2547035065 a.yiv2547035065primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2547035065 a.yiv2547035065primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2547035065 WordPress.com | Michelle Adam posted: “WHAT IS A SACRED RITUAL FOR YOU?BLOG 15: December, 1996—I’m sitting by the fire in my temporary Santa Fe home in New Mexico’s high desert. Back from a brief trip to California, I’m reading Malidoma Some’s book, Of Water and Spirit. Malidoma’s words tran” | |

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  2. I was raised on the ritual of the Catholic Church, all slow incense and magical bells, but that sort of Catholicism and any attachment to the church is far behind me. There is too much spirit it does not encompass loose in the world, I cannot even pretend to mumble the Apostles Creed when life demands I attend a mass. I am truly apostate, and moving into a world of reconstructed ancient religion where ritual is what I make it. It should be as powerful as Mass but without the cold formality, the separation of celebrant and congregation. Ritual should be community, and if solitary (as I am these days) should be an opportunity for poetry, singing by all means (you don’t want to see me dancing), objects and motions of ritual significance, whatever it takes to bring one in little-c communion with the gods and goddesses, and *just as important* with the spirits of the land and with one’s ancestors. It is the strong emphasis on the latter that attracts me toward the universalist (i.e., not “folkish” or racist) version of Heathen paganism. These are the gods of my ancient fathers, but I am drw the subset of gods of the earth (Vænnir) more than sky (Æsir), and also the local and specific spirits of the land, and the role ancestors play, all these draw me in toward new ritual to honor these and bring them fully into my life and my life into concert with theirs.

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    • I imagine, my Typist friend, that many in New Orleans were raised Catholic. True? Assuming, of course, that you were raised there. There are so many of us that may have been raised with one kind of ritual that then later became another kind. I see, in reading your blog, that your words–and attention to detail in nature, in people, and in the everyday–are a kind of sacred ritual. What better way to honor the holy? My teacher, Martin Prechtel, whom I love referring to for all his wisdom, once said that the only way to truly love someone or something is to understand them, it, well…to really take time to be with the details and to see the world as another sees the world…and to be able to court the other in a way that makes them want to live another day. Poetry, words of praise and love, are to me a kind of ritual, an act of offering praise to that which we have come to know dearly through our attention and care.

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  3. Rituals change as do I. Every morning when I awaken I greet the day. It is usually dark when I awaken. I fix the bedding. Tabitha is often curled up in the sheets or the boiled wool cover so I have to negotiate with her. I brush my teeth; splash water on my face and apply coconut cream lotion onto my hands, face and feet. Yes a ritual. I descend to the kitchen, wash Tabitha’s bowls and feed her. I fix my coffee, clean the litter box and light candles which I have personally made. I drink my coffee which is a blessed ritual. I proceed to meditate, contemplate and pray as the dawn arrives. I love dawn. I often pause during the day and notice beauty – a ritual.
    Ritual is a portal to the divine.

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    • Beautiful images of a very sweet morning time, indeed. I wish I could say my mornings are that slow. With work, it sure changes ritual. Today, my rituals are, like yours in that I meditate, and when I can move slowly in the morning (late morning after days of work), I do. I was singing to the mountains and land as many mornings are I could–and drumming–but I’ve haven’t done so in a bit. Maybe this blog is a kind of ritual…Yikes…a very modern one, but still one. Thanks, Alorah.


  4. I do not have much ritual, as I grew up with many cultural ones, and many religious ones, and I am a bit of a PTSD status after those, I never really took to traditions, ceremonies, rituals because back then I felt they were all really superfluous – too much ego, inauthentic, lacked meaning, or went way too long. I like to think myself as having PTCD – Post Traumatic Church Syndrome Disorder. ha ha! Amongst Asian Americans, and especially Vietnamese, I am a black sheep and haven’t had much to do with those cultures for a few years now.

    I do have something that I routinely do now – Giving and expressing Gratitude whenever I am about to eat. It started with the (to me) awkward saying Grace before the meal, and has evolved into transforming any energy surrounding myself and the food into that of Gratitude, Acknowledgement, Flowing through the life energy circuit. I do not always say all the phrases or word them the same, depending on the moment, but they consist of:

    – I am Grateful for the food brought before us by all Divine means, and for the group of us gathered here at this moment.
    – I acknowledge and am Grateful for the sacrifices or voluntary role plant and animal beings played to bring their physical and nutritional form before us.
    – I honor and acknowledge that what we are about to nourish ourselves with life energy as Stewards over the life energy cycle that surrounds us, that we participate in.
    – I am Grateful for all the current trials and tribulations and issues that inhabit the food industry as it is a Divine expression that loves us ALL, and allows us free will where-ever we are on our journeys.

    This is followed by sprinkling energetic “magic dust” into the plate of food that completes the transformation of energy.

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    • I like your description of being a post traumatic church survivor…or the like. It’s interesting how ritual, when we are not choosing it, can feel oppressive and soulless. There is so much we can do, whether ritual or everyday life acts, that is often done with little consciousness, like a habit or routine, rather than a ritual. When it comes to honoring our food, his food once lived and gives its life to us, and what an important act from the heart to give gratitude to that which gives us life. We can be so separated from this reality…the reality that we are so blessed with abundance as so many other on this planet are not… that we are living because of so much that gave its life for us.


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