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  • Lisasia Wild

Ceremony: The Old and the New

We all experience transitions like birth and death, and yet, for most people, it’s hard to put words to these experiences or write a map for navigating them.


That’s why rites of passage and ceremony are so important- so we can combine storytelling, cultural influence, honor, community, and things borrowed from the natural world to create a moment that makes meaning.


In the words of Ronald L. Grimes, “Rites, unlike wheels, survive precisely by being reimagined; there is no other option.” I think he means to say that we should always take the pieces of tradition that nourish and bring us together into sacred spaces, but that we should always stay curious about finding ways to navigate rites of passage that reflect movement and inspiration as time passes. As opposed to church basement funerals with dry ham sandwiches and the same scripture chosen for your great uncle Ben’s funeral. We should honor the corpses of dead rites, rather than enacting the irony that is carrying out tradition that no longer serves us, in hopes of integrating the death of a loved one.


Rites, ceremony, and ritual are meant to inspire us, to touch us deeply in our bones, to bring us together, and to leave space for profound wisdom to come through, as we remain open in a space we’ve declared sacred. We do this by calling in the sacred, by incorporating parts of the natural world we identify with: symbols, poetry, passages, practices, and art. Just as culture, context, and paradigm shift, so too will the conduits we use in order to make meaning of moments of transition, rites of passage, and life itself.


When Prince died, thousands gathered outside at First Avenue, a historical music venue here in Minneapolis. Many people wore purple. There was so much art created as well as art re-lived as people told stories about Prince’s music being connected to a special moment in time. Dancing, hugging, and crying painted the streets purple for more than 24 hours that day. It was an unforgettable moment for our local community. If you ask me, the special magic responsible for creating that moment was a combination of the legacy Prince carried, the culture in our city, the culture of Prince fans, the incorporation of art, and the spontaneity of thousands of people bringing together what was most meaningful to them in order to make that massive celebration of life happen. It was organic and poignant, a true reflection of Prince’s larger than life spirit and legacy.


I think that’s a moment worth referencing as we ponder what it can look like to approach something like a celebration of life. They can’t all be as big, or as purple, but they can certainly look like something we’ve never seen before. And if we want them to look like something we’ve seen before, let them reflect what has touched us deeply into our bones.


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