Because many of us have been raised in formal religious tradtions we have a number of fears and pre-conceived notions about celebrating ritual as the officiant or guide. We have been lead to believe, whether through general societal propaganda or specific traditions, that there is only one "right" way to lead ceremony, and that all others are wrong, and somehow "dangerous." We have been made to feel that only the ordained practitioners of particular rites of passage and ritual can be allowed to lead the ceremonies and celebrations of our lives. These practitioners have various titles in a religious context, and many are dedicated and devoted bearers of their chosen traditions. However, through centuries of patriarchal and cultural programming we have accepted
that only a rarified and very limited priesthood may practice these important communal rituals.
Since the first moment woman and man felt the upwelling of profound emotions--awe, gratitude, sorrow, anticipation, hope, fear--the urge to celebrate and Make Sacred has been a part of all human life-events. It is very probable that our most ancient forbearers practiced numerous kinds of rituals throughout each day, and every individual both lead, and followed shared ritual with the other tribe members. Mircae Eliade, in his seminal book THE SACRED AND THE PROFANE speaks directly to the importance of immediate and situationally-created ritual. He distinguishes between "the immediate apprehension of the mystery"--or what I call SPIRITUAL IMPROVISATION--and the repetition of ritual drawn from an event 100's, even 1,000's of years in the distant past. He speaks of the disparity between being in the moment of the "apprehension or discovery of the mystery" in all its magnificient and awe-inspiring immediacy, and the loss of this direct ecstatic experience in standardized, conventional rituals.
In these standardized religious ceremonies we may experience a personal or communal epiphany or insight which connects us with the Sacred Other. However, to be separated from the original source of the ceremony by time, physical distance and possible loss of meaning, and to feel that one is "not allowed" to guide one's self, or one's identified spiritual community in celebration, can limit the fullness and potency of many sacred experiences.
Psychology and anthropology speak of the "religious function" which resides in every individual. Here, the word "religion" can be defined in its original Greek meaning: "To re-link, forge anew or connect." This does not refer only to organized religions, but to every urge in the individual which seeks to make meaningful the stunning, life-altering, seasonal, and transformational moments in Nature and human experience. This urge to connect to the "immediate mystery" and to celebrate, share witness and mark the fleeting moment of "non-ordinary reality" makes us very unique creatures of this Earth.