New year's eve brings to a close one of the most celebrated times in the western world--the "holiday season" full of festivities and our ritualistic ways of celebrating them.
As I sit here in the glow of the lights from the Christmas tree, my thoughts wonder over rituals in writing. I mentally review books that I have read-- and find rituals in nearly every one of them.
I once participated in a Q&A forum. Having gone there to dispense my modest knowledge of plants and gardening, I was quickly drawn away to the discussions of humanity, behavior, and just what makes us so very human.
A favorite participant, Angel Wakes, asked, "How important is ritual?" I don't recall the replies, but the question that Angel asked has never left me; I often muse on the subject.
Since I have delved much deeper beyond the mechanics of writing--into the components of story, many of my musings have been about infusing ritual into the lives of my fictional characters. Making it even more important to exploring rituals in writing has been my affinity toward writing fantasy with a touch of scifi. It not only involves world-building, but involves other-world-building. And rituals adds a rich dimension to the story.
When writing non-earth, world-building, ritual takes on a whole new element.
First, lets define ritual--as used in this post (and in my frequent musings) M.W.--"a ceremonial act or action" "an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner" "ritual observance; specifically : a system of rites".
Though my characters are rarely set on earth, they tend to be very human in nature. And since I don't write hard-core Scifi, they often behave very much like people (earthlings) behave. One of the things that most humans do is participate in some type of ritual.
The subject is huge--I know...ritual. Ritual, as in rites, often associated with religion or some type of belief system. Ritual as in a cultural event, the passage into manhood, marriage, the birth celebration of a child, etc. And the holidays that humans love to celebrate, just to name a few.
Ritual adds layer upon layer of interest, intrigue, joy, sorrow, and question to a culture. On one level, we each understand the place of ritual in our lives. We each know the pleasures of rituals, the pride, and sometimes even, the frustration and anger that accompany rituals. Because it is in our (humans) very nature to project ourselves onto the people we meet--whether they are new co-workers, strangers via established friends, or they are fictional characters in a book. We use our own experiences to define their actions. And we judge them by our own parameters of behavior types.
Yet we are intrigued and fascinated by rituals foreign to our own.
We are most familiar with rituals practiced in our country, culture, within our local religious groups, even within our very local geographical area. And an amazing thing is that we don't have to go very far away from home for rituals to change an incredible amount. I live just north of the Mason-Dixon line in the USA, and just south of it, the New Years choice of food one must eat to have good luck in the new year is very different. The world over, the numbers and types of rituals are as varied as the people who practice them. Imagine that...on one world, such variety. Now, step across the galaxy...or even through time.
I add now to my earlier statement about my characters behaving much as humans do. Even when confronted by a fascinating or frightening foreign (alien) ritual--my characters can't help but react in a very human manner--and that is important. After all, human beings are the target audience. It is important that they develop a feeling one way or the other toward what is going on in the story. That reaction can add another dimension.
An interesting observation-- a theme most often seen in scifi or dystopian stories is one that involves suppression of rituals...even the suppression of emotions as a means of control.
There is a very strong connection between emotions and rituals.
Well, that is all for now. I will get back to my New Year's ritual. But, before I go I will leave you these words, "Happy New Year. May you have many blessings-- and experience all the joys and happiness that the rituals you practice in 2012 bring."