What is Ritual?

At its most basic, a ritual is a ceremonial act. This could refer to an elaborate wedding, a carefully planned baby blessing, an intimate memorial service, or the simple act of sitting down for your morning coffee. Rituals order our world and give meaning to our lives.

A few years ago, while on retreat, I came across an art exhibit at the center where I was staying. I looked at all the beautiful paintings, but kept coming back to this one. Even after I left the retreat, I continued thinking about this painting and even called the manager of the retreat house to see if it was still available. Thankfully it was!


What I like best about this painting is that is shows a simple scene, a scene that could be recreated any day in a dining room anywhere….. The enjoyment of a warm beverage after a morning working in the garden. In this sense, art depicts ritual, but I would also argue that ritual is art. Incorporating ritual into your daily life is a creative act.  Ellen Dissanayake writes in “The Art of Ritual and the Ritual of Art,”

The ‘art of ritual’ is not only a metaphor, but also an accurate description of what makes ceremonies emotionally affecting. They are troves of art.

A ritual doesn’t have to be complicated to be meaningful. The ceremony of brewing coffee, steeping tea, or working in the garden can bring a sense of joy and purpose to life. What rituals give meaning to your life? What rituals help to order your day?

At Rites of Passage, we design formal rituals to help you mark the transitions and transformations of your life, as well as help you create family or individual rituals that can bring meaning to your everyday. If you want to learn more about how ritual can benefit you, please contact us.