There is a new moon tonight, and being a new moon I’m afraid you won’t see much, if anything at all. It may be best, like many of the ancients did of old, to declare that tomorrow is the night of the new moon as then a sliver of the moon, forming a wonderfully bright arc will be evident, hanging in the southern sky. Yes, for the next couple of days all this lunar activity will be viewable only from the southern hemisphere (and, maybe from equatorial locations).
New moon’s, seen or not, however, are a great time for ritual.
‘Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the Infinite.’ (Algernon Blackwood)
As an aside, and for the astronomers amongst you, tonight or tomorrow’s new moon will be lunation (number) 1168. [That’s 1,168 new moons since they were formally recorded and counted in astronomical almanacs. Lunation 1 occurred at 02:41 UTC, on 17 January 1923.]
However, more exciting, is the view that new moon’s are seen by many as a time of ‘energising’, of new strength for projects, and of new beginnings, a time for rituals, as it the first day of the new lunar month.
‘…humans do have a remote control, granting us more power than we’ve ever imagined’. (Richard Rohr).
Yesterday, having mentioned the ‘inner’ effect of ritual, and the way it changes us – and that might be what is needed, as in coping with a traumatic event, or making vows of initiation or betrothal etc – I wanted now to explore ritual further. Ritual has far reaching ‘ external’ consequences, and perhaps, more so at the time of the new moon. True, ritual has an ‘inner’ effect, but there’s more. Mae mwy (as we say in Wales)
Ritual has an external effect, too, as we enter liminality, that sacred time-space, what Richard Rohr calls ‘access[ing] the bigger field’.
We might all be aware of the First Nation peoples of America and their ritual dances for rain, but what about other peoples and ‘tribes’ and their rituals for averting a future calamity, sending light to a ‘darkened’ corner of this world, seeking protection for oneself or another, seeking healing for another, invoking energy through a fire ritual, giving a blessing by the sprinkling of water, a funeral ritual or prayer to commend a loved-one ‘into’ Bliss? All these are rituals with an external and far-reaching effect.
Personally, I do believe ritual and liturgy, founded on intentionality, has an effect. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is because it doesn’t really depend on us. The power and effectiveness comes from the Source of All, and we are vital and necessary intermediaries.
Some may want to perform a ritual that prescribes a desired outcome in great detail, others are more vague, and some leave the ‘how to’ to the Source of All. That’s okay. I have no ‘challenges’ in performing a solo or group ritual to effect a distant (and sometimes, requested) outcome. Infact, I would encourage you and others to do so, as you feel led, to perform rituals for other places and lands, other people, drought areas, the precious eco-system and (against) animal extinction etc. All much needed.
Can I prove an outcome is as a result of my (or someone else’s) ritual? No, I can’t.
‘Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true.’ (Scientific American, 14 May 2014)
Those that undertake ritual practices do so because they, we, believe they have an effect – seen or unseen, immediate or delayed – but, nevertheless, they have an effect. Not all share that belief. If for one moment we, or they, believe that if it has no effect, then why do it?
That begs the question: if ritual and those other practices have an effect, then why’ do’ anything else, as all work is unnecessary? And, if we believe ritual has no effect then why do it, but rather why not only concentrate on doing a physical work or task, instead? Ritual or work?
Here’s a way forward.
‘Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.’ (St Augustine)
The two options need to be held in ‘balance’ or tension. One without the other is ineffective. Personally, I believe that ritual is effective and work or a task to lead toward it, is necessary too. And so, we can adapt St Augustine’s wise words to read: Perform a ritual as though no work would accomplish it; work towards an outcome as though no ritual would accomplish it.
It’s both ritual and work!
‘Ceremonial observance adds lucid layers — depth, dimension, drama and distinction — to our lives…When we set aside the quality time and claim the psychic space for ceremony, when we assume the authority to do so, we are able to transform our perceptions, our perspectives, our experiences, and in the process, our reality.’ (Donna Henes)
Note: Photo, above, used by kind permission of Pennie Ley, Copyright holder. All rights reserved, 2017