Creating Ritual by Linn Marie Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadLast time, we considered whether the creation of rituals, I mean habits, might serve as an antidote to depression, or as a way of managing depression. But the creation of ritual has had a much more significant role in feminist religious practice than such an approach might suggest. Currently, WATER – Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual, a leading center for feminist religious thought – creates multiple rituals marking various seasons and events in the year, most recently for the summer solstice. These rituals can provide alternative ways of marking the year’s rhythms, and they can serve as ways to take control of liturgical spaces that have tended to exclude women or to allow women to serve only in various subordinate roles.

Yet the terminology is odd. What does it mean to create a ritual? If I think of the rituals of my childhood, what presented itself to me as ritual was connected either with religious practice, or with seasons of exception. Indeed, the most stylized rituals of the year were areligious (as I understood religion). They took place on Christmas Eve. First, during the distribution of presents, my father would put on a terrifying, horrifying, grotesque Santa mask. It was intended, clearly, to be a friendly Santa, which was why its leering was so fundamentally disturbing. My sister and I would try to run away, emotionally and sometimes physically petrified by the transformation of our father into this monster. Second, after Christmas dinner, we would eat cold rice porridge with cream and try to get an almond – “mandel i grøten” in Norwegian tradition. Getting the almond, which is blanched and hidden in the porridge, is considered an auspicious omen for the new year, and requires that the finder be given a gift – traditionally, a marzipan pig. Continue reading “Creating Ritual by Linn Marie Tonstad”

The Dark Half: Reflections on the Winter Solstice By Xochitl Alvizo

Photo by Chris Pinkham

I’m a Capricorn. People seem not to be surprised when they find out. I’m also the oldest of three siblings and a keeper of people’s secrets. Stories and secrets – my family’s included – I hear them all, take them all in. Sometimes someone will share something with me that involves another and afterward say, Now, don’t you go telling so and so that I said this. And of course I always reply, I don’t tell no one nothin’. And it’s true, I don’t tell – I simply take it in. I listen and I take it all in. The stories shared, stories of joy and of love, excitement and disappointment, of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, all of them inform me. They all cause me to reflect and consider the fragility of us all, the precariousness of life. We affect each other so much, from the smallest moment to the largest system, all of it makes such a difference to us.

Tonight we celebrate the Winter Solstice – it marks the boundary of darkness and light – it is the shortest day and longest night of the year.  Continue reading “The Dark Half: Reflections on the Winter Solstice By Xochitl Alvizo”

%d bloggers like this: