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Practice or Ritual?

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

The words we use, to describe things we do, can be powerful, and can embrace or alienate in an instant.

I was reading an article about "rituals" on a website today, and it occurred to me that some people will baulk at that word, "ritual". They will see it, and think of people worshipping some god that isn't their god, and they will look away. They will walk away from an opportunity to learn something beautiful.

Do you see darkness or light? Grey or colour?

Take, for instance, the ritual of meditation. It's the same as the ritual of prayer, in that a person devotes time to finding a spirituality that they might not have in a materialistic existence.

Meditation can be found in so many places around the world, and can include reflective practice, mindfulness, zen, mantras, saying the rosary .... they are all meditative in their own ways. Some meditations will utilise substances to loosen the mind, while others utilise the mind's own power to free itself. Either way, the mind is the traveller!

Then there's prayer. When we grow up in a religion, we are taught formal prayers. It's the same if we're Catholic, Muslim or Wiccan. We learn prayers to try to make the world a better place; and when we sing hymns, the songs uplift our hearts and spirits.

What if .. all those prayers went to the same deity?

There's a concept! Just as my father's name was Leonard, and he was called Len by many, he was also called Mr Hanlon, Dad, and Grandpa. At times, he was called Bones (which he hated, because it came from his skin-and-bone phase in WWII). He had many names to different people, but he was the same person.

That's how I think of God. Same deity, different names to different people.

What if God, an omnipotent being, had no need of being male? What if God was female? What if God was both, and neither, and other?

Again, that's how I think of God: both, neither, other, same.

I wonder about the relationship between saint cards and tarot, too! My mother used to give me rosary beads to pray to Our Lady, Jesus' Holy Mother. She would take me to Novena every Saturday morning, to pray to Mary; and when I was younger, I baulked at it, because we were praying to Mary and not to God. Mum would say that, as Jesus' Holy Mother, Mary could take our prayers to Jesus (which did my head in; why would I circumvent God, if God was omnipotent and cared about me??).

Mum and my Aunty used to give us prayer cards and saint cards, and that concept of praying to saints had the same effect - why would I pray to them, when I could just as easily pray to God? Hmm, Saint Anthony or Jesus? Who is better at finding things?

We learned about saintly things from the saints; and yet, some of them were just kings and queens who got a sainthood because they did their pope's bidding. I'm not saying they were all a hoax, but I am saying that it's worth learning more about what we think we believe.

What if the Major Arcana of the Tarot were actually saint cards? I'm not saying that's true, I am suggesting that we don't know everything about anything! What we do know about tarot, is that they were originally a deck of playing cards (yes, that's right; the spades, clubs, diamonds and hearts that you grew up playing "Go Fish" with), and some bright spark added a totally different deck of story-telling cards to them. Wealthy families in Europe (especially in Italy) would play trionfi to entertain themselves. I use them to help me imagine new stories!!

The idea, that tarot could be used for divination and that divination is evil, is a funny one; because some Christian churches will teach their faithful to prophesy. Go figure! A friend suggested I attend one of those courses, run by a Christian minister. At the first class, I decided to be up-front to the minister about the fact that I'd written a book which used the word "tarot" in the title. She excluded me from the prophesying exercises. I was allowed to listen to her quote the bible on prophesying, and watch as others practised it on each other; but I was excluded from joining in. She hadn't even taken the time to read my book. And what they were doing, was the same as what Spiritualists do on a Sunday at their services - divination!

Ignorance barricades you from learning something wonderful.

When I studied Psychology, I had a lecturer who would always say, "Don't just believe what I tell you. Go find out for yourself." I had another lecturer for Neuroscience, who announced one day, "We all know that the human brain can't make new brain cells", and I knew that this professor was wrong. A research paper, published five years before that lecture, said that the human brain can make new brain cells (and they're made in the hippocampus, thanks to new experiences).

So, when I looked more deeply into the Catholic faith that my parents gave me (telling me that I just had to believe and not question anything), I saw a very different picture to the one they thought they taught.

I've looked into the history of the Catholic Church, and the popes, and found the establishment wanting: there was so much that the Church did, which was against the teachings of Jesus. Instead of loving their neighbours, they waged war on them. Instead of valuing women as the equal of men, they denigrated them.

I've looked into the Old Testament, wondering why some of the awful stories there were included in a faith based on Jesus' teachings. It's like the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, only more gory and with more adultery and greed.

I tried to imagine how those stories from the Old Testament would be if they were written by a woman, and a woman who was there!

I can only say that the religion in the Old Testament needed to be rewritten by Jesus, because the Old Testament was full of hustlers and warmongers. The God of Abraham doesn't seem to be the God of Jesus, at all.

But it doesn't end there. The God of Jesus was described by men, and the voices of women were silenced. Not all the reports about Jesus' life, teachings and miracles were included in the bible that we have today. So, it goes back to what I was saying earlier: We don't know everything about anything.

I've been visiting a lot of local spiritual gift stores lately, and often they'll be run by people who consider the spiritual energy of their establishment. Not all will have a "good" energy, but that's a subjective experience. A person who is devout in a religious faith might feel uncomfortable with tarot cards on display, just as a lightworker might feel edgy with pentagrams hanging from the walls.

It's all subjective.

So, here's a thought. God is spirit. That spirit is us. We have that spirit in us, and we can tune in to it, and talk to it whenever we want. We can listen to that spirit too. Wouldn't that be time well spent? Listening to God, to spirit, to our higher selves. It's beyond conscience, because conscience is experiential and egoistic. What if we placed our egos aside for a few moments every day, just to be? Just to listen to the frogs and birds, the breeze through the leaves, the rain on the roof. We find God, the divine, spirit, in those moments of nature; and they're beautiful. Moments of nature don't have names; they just "are".

Here's another thought. Let's be mindful of our blessings. Not just all the things we have, and the people we often take for granted. Let's be mindful of the blessings that we can give! Wouldn't that be time well spent too? Granting peace, wherever we go ... Bestowing kindness on unsuspecting strangers ... Answering prayers for friendship, support, help ... We could be the face of God for others, and in so doing, we know how it feels to be God for others. This is liberating and empowering, for anyone who experiences it!

And all it takes, is a smile. What a fantastic practice! Or, is that "ritual"?

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