Skip to content

Why I love ritual, by AtheistWitch

March 11, 2012
Candle magic, by JF Sebastian

“We blow out candles on our birthday, not because we think some supernatural force will make our wish come true. We do it as a recognition of how far we’ve come in this journey called life, and we think about where we want to go”

Beyond showing a reverential attitude towards nature, I think of ritual as a type of jazzed-up positive thinking or artistic, useful, self-suggestion. The reverential attitude is present even in my rituals which are not nominally focused on a natural event.

Nature, self-improvement, art, and self-expression

Let’s face it – in the modern, developed, urban world, it is hard to feel connected to nature even though we all are. The fact that we talk about “nature” as if it were a separate setting is quite telling in this regard. Frankly, anything that reminds us of the natural world, from pledging support to an environmental NGO, to walking through a park to, yes, even symbolic representations of nature in ritual, are beneficial to my way of thinking. Sometimes it’s the only thing we can do depending on where we live.

Through ritual, I only try to influence events by influencing myself. For example, I did a ritual based on recognizing some harmful relationship patterns I had acquired and shedding them. It was beneficial, and if someone wants to call that a “purification spell”, more power to them. But it doesn’t involve a belief in a higher being. No Sabrina, Casper the Friendly Ghost nor the Charmed Ones. Just me.

And artistically I love rituals. They aesthetically please me. I love my candles and all of their beautiful colors. I love the smell of my incense. I love the smell of sage, the appearance of fresh camomile. I love watching the smoke rise from my iron cauldron. I love my rustic brooms. Among other things, they remind me of antiquity, which also makes me feel connected–a descendant from a long line of Homo Sapiens.

In a personality test given to me by a private counselor, I came out an INTJ according to the Jung types, and I tend to find it a pretty accurate description of my personality. One characteristic of those types is creating systems, and I also find it fun to establish correspondences – which may correspond with what others have done or not, maybe for aesthetic reasons or proven medical properties. And I can change them when I want to, because after all, it’s my self-expression and no one else’s.

Where the “magic” is

In conclusion, I think we all do rituals in any case. We blow out candles on our birthday, not because we think some supernatural force will make our wish come true. We do it as a recognition of how far we’ve come in this journey called life, and we think about where we want to go.

And conceiving of where we want it to go is the first step in working towards making it go where we end up. That’s where the “magic” is, in my opinion.

I just try to apply it on more than one day a year.

Looking forward to others’ points of view.

The author

AtheistWitch

AtheistWitch

AtheistWitch: I was born in the middle of the United States, but have been living in Europe for most of my adult life.  I was raised an Evangelical Christian, but started to disconnect from my denomination at around the age of 16 when I realized I was gay.  I only admitted to being an atheist around the age of 23.  At some point, I started researching Wicca and Paganism in depth and liked most of what I saw, but didn’t want to give up my Atheism.  Since Wicca’s symbols are nominally related to real natural events or aspects, I realized I didn’t have to. While I don’t consider myself a Wiccan, I today call myself a naturalistic, atheistic eclectic, solitary witch.  I celebrate the wheel of the year, meditate, do rituals both complex and simple, strive towards better understanding of self and others as I try to be an ecological eater and walk through the greener parts around my area on a regular basis.  It is an ever-evolving practice, one that attempts to remain scientifically and logically grounded, while at the same time involving a lot of humor and being very “me”.”  Here is the link to my blog: atheistwitch.blogspot.com

Get our ebooks

B. T. Newberg ebooks

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2012 9:14 am

    I love that you brought up blowing candles on our birthdays. It’s a simple beautiful ritual. I can imagine a dogmatic atheist refusing to blow out the candles because s/he doesn’t believe in “wishes” coming true. In my opinion, that so misses the point. These things have power — over us.

  2. March 12, 2012 9:49 am

    Great thoughts, AtheistWitch. I love the opportunity ritual gives us to pause and to observe and celebrate this amazing, complex world we live in. And if we can use those moments to examine and better ourselves, as well, so much the better.

  3. Trent Fowler permalink
    March 12, 2012 10:15 am

    “For example, I did a ritual based on recognizing some harmful relationship patterns I had acquired and shedding them. It was beneficial, and if someone wants to call that a “purification spell”, more power to them. But it doesn’t involve a belief in a higher being. No Sabrina, Casper the Friendly Ghost nor the Charmed Ones. Just me.”

    Do you ever have some basic realization (“I need to be more social”; “I could use some more organization in my life”; “I’m stuck in a bad pattern with respect to relationships”) which sits un-acted-upon in your prefrontal cortex months and years after the original insight? I for one could be a lot more productive if I acted upon what I know in a more expedient fashion. Maybe ritual is a way of strapping such epiphanies to a missile aimed at the deepest parts of your unconscious brain, making the abstract more symbolic and visceral and thus more effectively leveraging neuroplasticity. Just a thought, but I like how you don’t require Casper to walk your path.

  4. March 12, 2012 11:56 am

    Rituals do indeed provide a sense of connection through space and time. We connect to the past moments when we did the same thing, but also all the others who we can imagine having done the same (or roughly similar) thing all the way back to antiquity.

    As for magic… I’ve been thinking a definition of magic I can get down with might be: strategies for evoking the sacred.

  5. March 12, 2012 5:42 pm

    >We connect to the past moments when we did the same thing, but also all the others who we can imagine having done the same (or roughly similar) thing all the way back to antiquity.

    Good point, especially about antiquity. That is something that needs to be acknowledged and valued. Perhaps it is because we are social animals, who look to others for validation (at least in part) and for identity. Connecting to those who have followed the same traditions in the past can give a sense of meaningfulness, as well as a broad sense of perspective, and being part of a larger whole.

    >As for magic… I’ve been thinking a definition of magic I can get down with might be: strategies for evoking the sacred.

    I like it. What does the sacred mean to you?

    Could that be read as evoking a sense of the sacred, i.e. a certain breed of feeling or mental state in relation to what is taken as sacred? At M. Jay’s recommendation I’m currently reading Woodruff’s book “Reverence”, and he includes three feelings within reverence: awe, respect, and wholesome shame. Perhaps this begins to point in the direction of the subjective sense of the sacred?

    • March 12, 2012 8:24 pm

      Yes, I was definitely thinking in subjective terms. In fact I first typed “strategies for evoking a sense of the sacred” but I thought that was too wordy. Come to think of it, it may have been AtheistWitch who turned me on to thinking about this subjectively, in a different online discussion, but my memory may be fuzzy.

Trackbacks

  1. Jon Cleland Before my Beginning Reviewed | Gospel Rap Fan
  2. With what aspects of Pagan popular culture do you identify? « Humanistic Paganism

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 583 other followers

%d bloggers like this: