Ritual: The Power of Self Care

Written by Fat and the Moon December 29, 2016


Ah, yes, ritual.  At first, it seems like an old word. Some relic from the past, an exotic practice or tedious formal event. The very word is derived from the word “rite” – you know, like a sacred practice of one kind or another. But rituals are ever present and ever necessary in this human life.

Ritual gives us stability in a changing world around us. It both brings us back to the familiar and helps usher us forward to an unknown. Consider for a moment that life is a circular event, bringing us back to the same seasons year after year. The same sunrise and sunset, day after day. And at the same time, the beauty of life is an unpredictable flow from one event to the next, from birth to death and everything in between.

Ethnographer and folklorist Arnold van Gennep coined the term “Rites of passage” in his 1909 piece, “Les Rites de Passage”, to describe the process of moving from one stage of life to the next – think high school graduation (y’all on your own now!) Rites of passage are often formalized processes that all members of a general community experience. For example, if you want to practice law in the States, you take the Bar Exam. Or in many societies, if you want to be ushered into adulthood, you engage in a puberty ritual. In the States, all practicing lawyers share the story of the Bar; in many communities, all recognized adults share the story of a puberty ritual. Rites of passage are a form of social care, creating place and expectation among others.

It is in the smaller, daily rituals that we emanate self-care. On the daily, we rely on smaller scale ritual to usher us through our days, weeks and months, creating familiarity in the unknown hours ahead. By their very nature, rituals are infused with intention and meaning. Don’t underestimate the sacred in that morning cup of joe or nightly bedtime story. We invest in what is meaningful to us, and from time to time the intent of our ritual can get lost in the busy hub-bub of everyday life. Even worse, when one part of your daily ritual is thrown off, your whole day might get wonky.  Because we invest in what is meaningful, our personal rituals become vessels of self-care. This is their blessing: that when we take a moment to reflect, to stop and breathe in the midst of our ritual, we realize its value. Our value.

by Cherilyn, Fat and the Moon Admin and Social Anthropologist