Sometimes, when a new student comes to us for training, they ask ‘what exactly is a ritual?’
My first answer is to share something that they’ll relate to: a ritual can be a coffin carried down the aisle or closing the curtains after the committal at the crematorium or interring the body or ashes into the ground or the giving of rings or handtying or anointing a person during a naming ceremony.
In your daily life, it might be the way you enjoy your morning cuppa. Perhaps it’s a mug of your favourite brew in the sunshine or quiet moments writing in your journal or standing in silence under the Full Moon as you make wishes.
A Heart-led Celebrant’s day is infused with ritual for the more they are ‘filled’ and nourished by these meaningful acts or practices, the more they’ll have ‘within’ to be a conduit for people’s ceremonies. For example, in my life my daily rituals include smelling the Schoolboy-variety rose which grows at the bottom of the garden or walking barefoot several times a day around the garden. Writing in my gratitude journal is a ritual as is sitting in quiet contemplation or lighting a candle with conscious intention or choosing an angel card or ringing my singing bowl. It can be rising early to watch the Sun climb over the horizon or standing on the earth during an eclipse or dancing outside during a thunderstorm. Sometimes it’s placing my hand on the trunk of a tall silver birch tree I planted as a sapling 12 years ago.
Cleaning my home is also a ritual. It’s a mindful time of ‘what goes where’, releasing what doesn’t belong, and creating fresh energy. I may do this in silence or while I hum or listen to music. Generally it includes the burning of incense too. What does all this have to do with my life as a Heart-led Celebrant? Everything.
It has been said that how we do anything is how we do everything. The person we are, and the way we live our lives behind closed doors, permeates into our celebrancy. When your inner life is rich and vibrant this becomes the energy by which you attract your ‘ideal’ clients. Across time and space they will be drawn to you.
With my students I share that rituals are like the pictures in a storybook. Our script―the narrative― tells the story. Ritual is based on symbolism and speaks in ways that go beyond our words. It may be image based or invoke our other senses. It is a living embodiment of presence and magic. When I work with celebrants who’ve trained elsewhere but who come to me for Masterclasses in ritual, they often share that they don’t understand ritual, why we have it, and how to do it. They also lack confidence and don’t feel authentic. And I think this is key. If it isn’t integral to your own life it just won’t show up in your work with integrity. It doesn’t have to be like this though.
Students who complete their Celebrant Training with us at Heart-led Celebrants learn to dive into the ‘guts’ of what it means to be human. To undertake this course fully there is some true soul searching and inner exploration which must be experienced (and this personal development is ongoing). Their lives are inevitably changed because they start to see everything (and I do mean everything) differently. It can be in the symbolism and choreography of ritual or something as life-changing as seeing the magnificence in everyone (which comes in handy because you meet all sorts of personality types when you’re a celebrant).
Ritual slows us down. It reminds us that we are part of something far greater than what we see, taste, hear, touch, smell. The choreography (action) of ritual can take us to a place beyond words.
Whether we realise it or not, we each yearn for meaning. We need to know that what we do with our lives matters. That there’s more to ‘all this’ than paying the rent/mortgage or the daily commute or doing ‘same old same old’.
I am of the firm belief that a well-created, crafted, choreographed, communicated, and curated ceremony changes people: the client and the celebrant. This is where the magic of our work happens even though, as a celebrant, most of the work is invisible as it happens behind the scenes in ceremony development.
When I work with a client I ask myself “What does this ceremony mean to my client?” and “What does this ceremony mean to me?” (that is, what am I bringing to it/what am I putting out into the world). For example, do you think a wedding couple would consciously choose a celebrant if they knew that person didn’t believe in marriage or was bitter about love? Or how about a funeral celebrant who mouths to other celebrants “I’m not there to sit and have tea with them (the mourner) during the visit. It’s not my grief!” Do you think someone choosing a celebrant might want a person who is kind, caring, considerate and thoughtful?
I also consider deep-level listening to be a ritual: a healing balm. For example, when sitting with my funeral families I don’t seek to fill the space quickly with rapid-fire questioning. Silence, reflection and just being present allows them to listen to themselves.
To live in the heart of magic is about ritual creation and yet it’s also about our daily practices which connect us to the supernatural: such as the magnificence of Mother Nature.
Magic defines us.
Magic is a mirror.
Magic moves us.
When we live, move and have our being in magic then everything IS magic. As conscious creators we see the world around us is a manifestation of our perception. And the beauty of this is that it shows us our inherent power to make life amazing. When we can do this for ourselves, can you imagine how much ‘candle-lighting’ we make happen in the world? Our light becomes another’s light, and that spreads and spreads and spreads. THIS is magic.
Magic is where we play. It’s all those moments which enchant and delight our soul and human self. To be filled from our roots to our crown (feet to head) and hold ourselves in life with grace, courtesy, stillness and reflection offers us countless ways to tend to our day and this inevitably nurtures, heals and enlivens the people we serve.
Veronika Robinson lives a magical life in rural Cumbria where she lives in a 300-year old cottage with her husband Paul and their two cats Kali and Pele. They are the owners and tutors at Heart-led Celebrants (Paul and Veronika, that is, not the cats!) a boutique celebrant-training school which offers one-to-one private training. Veronika is also the editor of The Celebrant magazine, the author of many books, and has been a celebrant for twenty-seven years.