Creating Rituals

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, makes rituals and toasts with sisters on their mother's 90th birthday.“What kind of rituals did you do?” a friend asked, peering at me from the corner of one eye, like I was talking about voodoo or séances. But there’s nothing mystical about rituals. They are simply small acts done to honor someone or to remember an event. We do rituals all the time. Like lighting candles on a cake and singing happy birthday. Like raising the flag. Feasting on Thanksgiving. Graduations and marriages are rituals. Rituals can be private or public acknowledgements. They can follow age-old traditions or be unique responses to mark a special moment. There are rituals of joy and rituals for healing. To create a ritual, you just do something to make a meaningful connection to whomever or whatever you want to commemorate.

“Well, the whole trip to the Rocky Mountains was a tribute to my daughter who died,” I told my skeptical friend. “I threw her jewels off the highest cliffs I could find, sang her songs, and blew bubbles into the wind. I read my manuscript aloud to her, a few chapters each day, by a lake. There were chocolates. Candles. And on the last evening, I stood watching the sun set over the elk field as I listened to the CD she left me.”

Long before my daughter died, my first rituals were funerals for dead birds. The neighborhood kids shared solemn words as we wrapped small creatures in Kleenex with shriveled dandelion buds, and buried them in the tiny space between the back of a garage and my mother’s rock garden. Later, rituals focused on the changing seasons. In the fall there was apple picking, pumpkin carving, the annual cooking and freezing of hearty soups, and traveling the countryside to view the fall colors.

The beginning of October is the time for the bittersweet annual ritual of closing the season at my mother’s summer home. My sisters and I gathered in Massachusetts the past weekend. I packed up the old philodendron plant that lives on the porch during the warm months and returns with me to Ithaca for the winter. My sisters raided the closets for cold-weather coats. And then we all made the rounds to say goodbye to Hoadley Gallery, the Shear Design Hair Salon, and Chez Nous Bistro. Until next summer.

“Cheers!” We raised our wineglasses and clinked them heartily. For three days we feasted and toasted. It was our mother’s 90th birthday.

 

Share Button

9 thoughts on “Creating Rituals

  1. Pingback: Rituals for Life, Love, and Loss | ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE - EVEN JOY

  2. SusanB

    How many sisters do you have? The cabin seems an awesome place to go and hang out with family. It is so easy to wallow because it just isn’t right that children die and we have to live our lives after having lost a piece of ourselves. Rituals soothe and ground us. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I have two sisters and one kinda-sister who spent much time with my family as I was growing up. Yes, the cabin would have been even more awesome if I could have shared it with family or friends or anybody. But it was also a gift in having it for myself for that time. It allowed me, even more, to share it with the special “piece of myself” I sometimes think I’ve lost. You know what I mean. Many hugs!

      Reply
  3. Elaine Mansfield

    thanks for this good piece for normalizing the idea of rituals for people and pointing out how we create ritual every day. My family has a yearly Solstice ritual and when my son Anthony was home this past weekend, he wanted to visit Vic’s cairn twice. And stories. Lots of story telling as a way to keep Vic’s energy with us. I look forward to sharing it.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thank YOU, Elaine, for being such an inspiration when it comes to rituals and writing. Storytelling is an amazing way to keep a loved one close. To be able to relive the laughter and tears in the stories is a gift.

      Reply
  4. Lucy Bergström

    Making one’s own rituals is so important. I’ve added one to Thanksgiving – that we go around the table and each person says something he or she is thankful for. Or one can celebrate the arrival of swallows in May with a special lunch or hike, celebrate the first fireflies with tea candles set afloat on a pond in brown paper bags. Celebrate the life of a loved one by singing his favorite songs whenever the opportunity arises. Celebrate the growth spurt of a grandchild, who is now taller than his mother, with a banana split party. Celebrate a daughter’s first period with small gifts and cherry ice cream, speeches about the joys of womanhood. The rituals you’ve created to get through the hard, hard time since Marika got sick, and especially since she died, have really helped you to heal, and at the same time, through your blog and your book, you’ve share this universal condition with all of us: that we will lose our loved ones, we are not immune to this inevitable loss. We can only learn to reflect and grow, not to wallow in “Why me, God?”

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yow, these are really great rituals, Lucy. OMG, I may have to adopt the ones for swallows and first fireflies myself. I think you could write a lovely book about ritual-making. I’m inspired by all the images you’ve put in my head. Cheers!

      Reply
  5. joleen roe

    How beautiful! Happy Birthday to your mom!

    Rituals are an essential part of my life, bringing beauty, blessings and peace to an ordinary day or amidst sadness or suffering.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Thanks, Joleen. Yes, I too am finding that rituals are essential to my life. It’s funny how they come so naturally when you’re a kid. And as adults, we discover the peace they can bring – as you said – to ordinary times or to times of suffering. Many cheers!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *