Ross Nichols, one of the major figures in 20th century Druidry, described ritual as “poetry in the world of acts”. When Druids gather in groups, we tend to do ritual. When Druids want to do their Druidry alone, we tend to do ritual. There are the seasonal rituals of the great festivals of the Wheel of the Year, rituals for full moons, rituals for namings, marriages, funerals and other rites of passage, daily rituals to greet the sun in the morning and the moon at night.
These rituals can be elaborate, scripted affairs featuring dozens of people, or simple words of gratitude from a single Druid in their own back garden, or anything in between. It’s intention that matters – ritual that is simply repetition of words without thinking of the meaning behind them is worthless.
Ritual is not limited to the obviously spiritual moments. Having your morning coffee can be a ritual, if you do it mindfully, taking time to savour it and being thankful for the beans, the farmers who harvested them and all it took to bring it to your cup. In regular life, we have rituals all the time: take birthday parties as an example. There, we sing a specific song, light candles, make wishes and share food. It’s practically a magic spell!
When I was starting out as a Pagan, I avoided ritual and even more so the word “worship” like the plague. Having come from strict Catholicism, the word was too loaded, and the associations too painful.
I’ve since come to realise that worship does not mean the absolute submission to an authoritarian god that I thought it did. The word “worship” comes from the Old English weorþscipe, meaning “worthiness”, literally worth-ship, to give worth.
Taking the older definition, worship is simply to enter into an honourable relationship with another. Combined with ritual, worship is the acknowledgement of that which is greater than ourselves.
This worship brings with it a sense of humility, and perspective, realising how small and short-lived we are compared to the mountains, rivers and trees. This is not sumbission, no sense of being a sinner in the hands of an angry god, but simply a reverence that comes from knowing our place within this wider ecosystem of Spirit.
Choosing to see the world as sacred, as worthy of worship, is one way of re-enchanting our relationship with the world, of un-learning old assumptions, and re-learning to see the world as alive, aware, in awe, rather than as inanimate resources there to be used.
Ritual helps connect us to worship by giving us a framework, a language, a shared or private symbology through which to mediate that emotional response and connect with each other and with the sacred, however you perceive it.
[Prompt from Alison Leigh Lilly’s 30 Days of Druidry]