Manifesting Rituals with Nature and Intention



At each year’s end for the past decade or so, I have led a service at my church called Out of the Darkness. We gather together in the warmth of the sanctuary for a calling back of the sun. After a bit of preparation and welcome, we calm into a moment of silence in the darkened room.

'Out of the Darkness' Ceremony

Part of the preparation includes writing down the things we wish to leave behind from the past year — regrets, sorrows, heaviness, anything we want to let go into the distance. The bowl (pictured below, an arted gourd from my garden) is passed around by one of our youth for collection of the slips of paper everyone has written upon. Other youth members deliver noisemakers to every congregant who wants one.

Once we’re in the dark (after our moment of silence), our drum leader starts with a slow, heartbeat-like drumming. The pre-selected youth simultaneously begin to light our immense table of candles. The rest of the congregation slowly joins the drumming as they strengthen their resolve to leave their regrets in the past as I burn each piece of paper. With the candlelight brightening the room, the drumming and music-making grows in volume.

Once the burning of papers is complete, I use sage to help the regrets and sorrows exit the room. Each part of this ritual is practiced with great intention and this piece is no different. With every wave of the sage, I urge the heaviness to leave the room and our lives. I then burn sweetgrass (from my garden) while welcoming in positive energies and light to settle in among us all.

As I finish up with my smudging, the congregants usually slow their drumming and noise-making to a trickle and then stop. I say usually because this is a communal performance and it’s never predictable or consistent. Sometimes it sounds more like purely raucous chaos, but mostly it sounds heartfelt and sincere. On occasion, it is good music. It is always cathartic and an awesome communal shift toward the lightness of hope!

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