Interview with Ruth Barrett in New Worlds of Mind
(Llewllyn's Consumer Marketing Publication) - Spring,
Why are rituals important? What benefits do they
provide that something like silent prayer and meditation do not?
Rituals are important because they provide a form to convey meaning to
us through manipulating symbolic objects and enacting specific activities with
the purpose of initiating transformation. You can design a ritual to initiate a
life change or attitude, facilitate a change already in process, or name and
claim a change or transformation that has already occurred. Prayer focuses on
communicating to the divine, and silent meditation on receiving communication
from the divine. Spellcraft is a process of communication with the divine when
you ask the universe to align with your desire for something, and then
experience the universe responding by manifesting your desire.
Rituals are about consciously creating an experience
that you wish to receive - whether created and provided by others or especially
through personal rituals created by the process in my book - and may include
invocation (similar to prayer in some ways), meditation and spellcraft. When a
woman takes an abstract idea or issue in her life through the ritual making
process, she must choose what would physically represent her idea or issue.
Doing this causes her to have to move from the abstract to keen focus as she
puts her issue into a physical symbolic form. When she actively interacts with
these symbols in ritual, the purpose of the ritual becomes more tangible, and
therefore, more personally transforming. Involving her whole self in ritual
engages all of her senses and gives her unique access to greater knowledge
beyond the cognitive level. When a woman creates a ritual from remembering the
white crystals of her first snowfall, a warm full moon ocean breeze, the first
touch of her newborn, the ritual is truly hers. This process of ritual creation
is authentically from her and about her. Her ritual becomes a beautifully
powerful experience in self-intimacy.
How do you define a "rite of passage?" Why is it
important to mark one with a formal ritual?
I define a "rite of
passage" as any life passage or transition that an individual believes to be
significant and deserving of conscious attention. When consciously created and
enacted, ritual can be transforming; linking the past, present and future into
a continuum that can be observed, felt and learned from. By using ritual to
mark our life passages we can "connect the dots" of events in our lives to see
the pattern in what may have previously felt like a random series of
I have come to understand that human beings internalize
attitudes or beliefs about ourselves, our bodies, our sexuality and life in
general based on how we ourselves (and others) respond (or don't respond) to a
life experience. In the aftermath of a significant transition or event, we
often formulate life decisions, consciously or unconsciously. These decisions
influence us from our present into our future, affecting our behavior, actions
and choices. Unexamined, negative, subconscious decisions can have devastating
and far-reaching effects. Through ritual we can reach back into the past and
revisit past experiences, making different decisions based on new awareness and
marking milestones that were not recognized as significant at the time. We seem
to be a culture that is becoming ever more obsessed with youth and beauty, and
preserving a youthful appearance for as long as possible.
What would you say to a woman who is reluctant to
celebrate her true age, or to think of herself as a "crone?"
Croning rituals are a wonderful way to create an alternative
paradigm. Active, aging women who celebrate their maturing beauty challenge the
dominant culture's idea of eternal youth and provide a visible role model to
younger women. Let us honor and celebrate "out loud" the beauty of each stage
of womanhood. Just as we celebrate all the aspects of the goddess, we must have
the courage to celebrate and appreciate all the aspects of ourselves.
Can your book be used to create rituals that are
inclusive? For example, what if one wanted to create a ritual to celebrate the
birth of a baby but wanted to include friends and family who are Christian,
without alienating or scaring them?
Regardless of religious
practice or cultural background, my book helps the reader create rituals that
can be relevant and accessible to everyone. Though my book is written from a
Wiccan perspective and specifically for women, people who practice different
religions and men will still find it very useful. Of course, sensitivity and
inclusiveness are important when inviting people to a ritual who are new to
Goddess spirituality. When I facilitate a baby-naming for families who are
Pagan with Christian grandparents or relatives, I explain what is happening in
broad language that everyone can understand. Here's an example:
altar has symbols of the 4 elements that make up the Universe: earth, water,
fire and air. Incense represents air, the mind and inspired ideas. Fire, the
candle's flame, represents our life force, the passion of life and creativity.
The chalice represents water, our flowing emotions, feelings of love and
compassion that connect us. Salt, earth, represents the physical universe, our
bodies, strength and stability. The universal power that animates and binds all
of these forces together is known by many names. We call it Spirit. We are all
gathered here today to bring in the spirit of love, through our love of this
family and the new child we welcome."
Your book focuses on rituals and rites of passage for
women of all ages. Why did you choose to concentrate on women?
priestess work has been with women for thirty years. It is women and women's
specific needs that I am most familiar with. Our physical rites of passage and
the ways in which women are affected by the dominant culture are different from
those of men's who have their own and different sacred journeys.