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Rethinking Ritual: Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Goals

Written by: Karma Bennett

Rethinking Ritual Article Featured
No one was more surprised than me to find yours truly spending the evening with a coven of witches. Isn’t that what folks do in Berkeley—march in pride parades, practice witchcraft, and buy organic coffee? Well, yes, actually, that’s exactly what folks do around here. Though I didn’t become a pagan, that small house party forever changed the way I think of rituals. Like many Americans, I was skeptical of the value of rituals. It was an equal-opportunity skepticism, as too many of our holidays have come to represent consumer spending categories when they should represent the values that we hold most dear. How many of our rituals have reached the point where the acts are no longer connected with the meaning they once intended? The rituals we perpetuate shape our culture. We become what we do.
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Think of the Christmas/Yule tree, a ritual that honors the evergreen tree’s tenacity of life during the coldest days of winter. A plastic, glowing Christmas tree may be a thing of beauty but how many of us treat it as a symbol of hope and renewal? Outside of churches and temples, social gatherings can be lacking in meaning. More and more, our festive habits opt towards gathering to drink booze, watch television, or go shopping. I expected no different from a coven of witches.
That August evening, everyone left their eye of newt and their cauldron at home and got together to bake bread, a ritual similar to the Christian holiday of Loaf Mass Day. Priestess Tiger Willow explained that the beginning of the harvest was time to take stock of what we’ve produced. It was also the end of planting so we were celebrating the seeds that would grow in the next season. As we collectively rolled and kneaded, Priestess Tiger Willow explained the symbolism of the various spices you might add to your bread. We each chose spices based on what we hoped to “plant” into our lives in the upcoming year.

Nine Expressive and Fun Ways to Plan your Goals

Track With Visual Progress

Corn dollies are fun, but artistically I’m more drawn to typography and lettering. After I chose my goals for the year, I created a piece of hand-lettering for each one and hung them on the wall. I represented my yearly goals with a single word, beautifully written. Then I kept a stamp nearby to stamp on that paper for each day I made progress towards that goal. Much like giving yourself a gold star, this practice helps keep track of which goals are progressing.
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Keep Two Jars of Marbles

One of the reasons I was able to lose forty pounds last year was that it was very easy to keep track of carbs visually with marbles. Rather than marking a notebook or pulling out an app, I kept twenty marbles in a lovely jar. As I used up carbs throughout the day, I would transfer a marble for each carb into an otherwise empty glass for the same purpose. At the beginning of the next day, I’d move them back to the first jar and the count began anew. This approach was simple enough to keep up with, and the visual representation helped me get a sense of proportions.
But this technique can be used for other tasks besides diet planning. For example, I have also used marble counters to keep track of which clients were getting the most attention throughout the week. Much like a swear jar, any goal can be tracked with counters, marbles, or other small beautiful ephemera. If you have a goal to exercise three days a week and to read every day, you could start with three red marbles for exercise and seven marbles for reading.

Hang Bucket List-Inspired Art​

The tradition of feng shui suggests that if there is a place you want to travel to, you should frame an image of that place in your house. It doesn’t take geomancy to see the value in this practice. Instead of a movie poster or a random bit of art, consider decor that serves as a daily reminder of the future you are working toward. If your goal is to wake up earlier, frame a beautiful sunrise in the room where you most frequently stay up past bedtime. Make an annual ritual of rethinking this artwork. If the goal is incomplete, the next year you may add an additional item or replace it with a new piece if the old goal no longer serves you.
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Place Goals Next To Vices

Television and video games have their place, but sometimes we turn to these activities out of habit rather than intention. Craft or place an object near your favorite guilty pleasure that reminds you of a different habit you’d like to cultivate. You can keep the next book you intend to read mixed in with your Playstation games or gather sewing projects in a wicker basket by the TV.

Desktop Background Reminders

If you have daily habits you aim to achieve, use your favorite graphic design program to customize your desktop background with reminders. If you are looking to practice gratitude, you might add the text Today I am grateful in your favorite font, over an image you already use for your background. As with your wall art, you could also choose an image that is representative of your goals. If you want to grow a garden, a lush garden landscape image will remind you to check on your plants every time you use your computer.
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Ring In A New Habit

If you are trying to establish a new habit, you’ll want frequent reminders. Why not use your ringtone as a subtle notification? If looking to improve your posture, hearing “Get Up, Stand Up” when your phone rings could act as a random reminder to snap out of a slouch.

Choose a Tarot Card

Tarot cards represent life’s milestones. Rather than using the cards for fortune telling, search the deck for the single card that will guide you forward. It’s not necessary to understand the meanings of the cards; instead, choose the card that best speaks to the next phase of your life. Are you going to be studious like the Hermit? Seek companionship like the Lovers? Find balance with the Chariot? There are 72 cards to choose from. This is an excellent ritual for your birthday or New Year’s Day.
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Create Seasonal Rituals

The above activities are fun ways to plan your goals, but they only become rituals through repetition. New Year’s Day is an obvious choice to mark in our calendars, but one day a year is not enough to fully contemplate if we are on the right path in life. Consider yearly rituals that match the changing of the seasons. The summer equinox brings the longest day of the year, a perfect half-way point to recommit to your New Year’s resolutions. Rather than planning goals again, spend this full day practicing those goals.
The harvest (August 1st in the Northern hemisphere) is a great time to make a habit of letting go of that which you no longer need. On this date, you might plan an annual pink elephant party or clean out your cupboard for a donation to the local food bank. A harvest ritual can work on a deeper level as well, creating a space to mourn and acknowledge endings.
The annual Burning Man festival includes a space called the temple, where participants bring objects and photos to honor loved ones, projects, and relationships that have left their lives. On the final day of the festival, the entire building is burnt in a massive bonfire. In contrast to the more famous ritual of Saturday’s burning of the man, Sunday’s temple burn is somber, silent, and respectful. Though Burning Man is a secular event, many find such a ritual of letting go to be spiritually rewarding and profound.

Rethink Existing Holiday Values

It can be tempting to spend holidays vegging on the couch. (I know I’ve done so more times than I’d like!) If you think through the values you want to activate in your life, you may find some existing holidays are a good opportunity to set aside time for. For example, Martin Luther King Day might be a good day to do voter registration or to organize an annual film or reading that inspires a family conversation about racial justice. If getting out in nature is your thing, repurpose Columbus Day as a day to explore local parks and trails. Groundhog Day marks the tentative first day of Spring; this is a fine time to ritualize cleansing and reorganizing your home.
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Cultivate Your Traditions

In the early 1900s, a woman named Elizabeth Krebs was fed up with pranksters that trampled her beloved garden every Halloween. I might have been tempted to camp out with a broom to run them off, but Krebs was smarter about rethinking ritual. She started an annual Halloween party with food and prizes for costumes. It took a few years to catch on, but not only did Krebs save her garden, she also created the Halloween frolic. Though she died in 1931, Halloween costume parades are now an annual tradition in many cities, including Kreb’s town of Hiawatha, Kansas.
I tell this tale to inspire you to think big about what such a yearly ritual can grow to be. Your ritual should first serve your own values. But these rituals, whether somber or celebratory, will often work best if done in community. Many are eager to do something on a day off but don’t have anything particular in mind. Make a day pursuing your values and you may inspire others to do the same! While you may wish to implement exactly as I have, I encourage you to use this list as inspiration for creative rituals that suit the kinds of creative work you like to do. How can you create rituals that serve the life you dream of? What is the life you feel called to? Consider how you can rework your space and time to treat the seeking of that path as a sacred act. Wouldn’t it be great to take stock of what’s important to you—philosophically and spiritually—and create or continue rituals that promote that ideology? There is so much in life to rejoice in. Do it with intention. cropped troora favicon 1
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How to make a corn Dollie

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Karma Bennett
TrooRa Magazine
Written by
Karma Bennett
California, USA
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