“A Jewish wedding” by Jozef Israëls, 1903

Rituals help people access and deal with the archetypal realm. This may involve a wedding whereby the the couple create a contractual relationship which can assist them in accessing and using the archetypal energy of the masculine and feminine. Their vows and rituals of exchanged rings etc. allow them to create a container that will will assist them to draw on this energy through the years for companionship, economic support and the conception and raising of children. In fact the wedding ritual highlights two important functions of ritual – access archetypal energy and trying to hold it to serve the interests of the participants. The later is always a tricky endeavor because we instinctively know that the archetypes are not controllable … the erotic energy of the meeting of male and female may easily fall on others outside the marriage and cause difficulties for the couple in building a supportive, nurturing bond that will be strong enough to withstand the stresses of life and the raising of a family. This tension of accessing archetypal energy  and yet trying to tame for personal us runs through rituals of sacrifice, shamanic healing or trying to navigate the passage through death at a funeral.

Rituals engage archetypal process – they tend not just to access an archetype in a static way but help us through significant life passages or changing circumstances. A funeral helps us through the process of grief and to find a new way of relating to someone who has died, it also helps us into the next stage of our lives without this person. Rituals of initiation assist us to move into a new phase of our lives such as adolescence or into a new spiritual practice or a new type of work.

Rituals use the body as an aid to archetypal process. They usually involve some action such as eating in the case of Christian communion or the ritual kneeling and bowing of the Muslim prayer, Salat. By engaging the body ritual accesses our powerful unconscious mind and our emotions which first come present in our bodies. The body may also become the canvass upon which a ritual is enacted as is true of ritual piercings and tattooings which have become popular again in the West as we feel a renewed need for personalized ritual.


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