Rituals, Recipes, and Morning Ritual Self-Help Books

(Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com)

Today, an advertisement for a morning reflection/self-care journal came up in ads, and I clicked through to it. It was a simple journal, with half of its sheet broken up into two columns, each column headed by a prompt to encourage self-care. The book cover, and indeed everything on the website, had a beige-and-extreme-pastel-pink color scheme, as if the creator had decided to just roll with their initial intention and see where the extreme took them. I Googled the book and was suggested other books.

The suggestions were for books about creating daily rituals.

There were the secular picks, like Linnea Dunne’s Good Mornings: Morning Rituals for Wellness, Peace, and Purpose, and the voyeuristic-secular ones like Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: Women at Work. There were the New Age ones, titles redacted, calling on us to manifest with intention in that prosperity-gospel-but-New-Age-ified way, the kind of manifestation and attract your true abundance tag lines that can only ever be bolded by those of us who know the universe follows Nothing to excess/Μηδὲν ἄγαν. And then there were the purposeful ones, still a bit New Age-y but more post-religiously spiritual, like Ashley River Brant’s Tending to the Sacred: Rituals to Connect with Earth, Spirit, and Self, Becca Piastrelli’s Root and Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect to Land, Lineage, Community, and the Self, and Natalie MacNeil’s The Rituals: Simple Practices to Cultivate Well-Being, Deepen Relationships, and Discover Your True Purpose. There were indigenous-authored ones like Earth Medicines: Ancestral Wisdom, Healing Recipes, and Wellness Rituals from a Curandera by Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz, the works grounded in a specific tradition now being communicated out to the world. There were occult tomes claiming that they could bring “magic(k)” into everyday lives with simple spells, astrology titles, and so on. There were also contemporary polytheistic revival titles like Megan Zane’s Sekhmet’s Servant: Kemetic Daily Devotional: Welcoming the Gods Into Your Day.

Most of these books are marketable because we have a hunger for ritual, connection, and belonging — of knowing where we each stand and who we are. In every one of them, someone (or, for the coauthored ones, someones) had brainstormed rhythms to share with a reader in acknowledgment of that appetite. There are ways in which ritual and identification of the self as someone who does a specific set of rituals can be toxic, like in spiritual bypassing — something that is especially dangerous in a lot of New Age thinking. There are also times when books like this will pull things from specific cultures without context, like the 365 Goddess book that I wrote the Durga blog post about, creating bad results because critical cultural and etiquette information is missing.

We often remember negative experiences and dangers more than we acknowledge opportunities and positive potential. Writ large, the simple act of reaching out in the first place and establishing that routine is a good thing.

I’ve been in quiescence on Twitter enough to feel like I have faith in humanity again, and in a few brief moments, the fact that people are reaching for ritual — regardless of why — filled me with hope and affection. Humanity is larger than the 210 million active Twitter users or the billion monthly active users on TikTok, or the two billion monthly active users on Facebook. On these platforms, everyone seems hyper-segmented into their own niches. Away from the platforms, the chatter in one’s head starts to cool down, and a person can finally be in presence with oneself and take much-needed perspective. So many people are getting their sh–t together.

We are bigger than the grapevines, false controversies, misinformation, and everything else that threatens to make us stumble over our own good intentions. Change happens in small steps, repeated regularly over time. Change happens, regardless of whether or not it’s “correct” according to our individual perspectives.

Above all, I’m happy that the idea of a few brief minutes each day is on so many individuals’ minds. With the secular morning ritual books, or even the spiritual-but-not-religious ones, it only takes a few small tweaks to use it as a seed for something bigger. (Of course, if one wants to do that. I affirm the words of Iamblichus in his De Mysteriis, and after Iamblichus, I would encourage anyone to worship Gods because turning towards them is the root of thriving, regardless of our exterior circumstances. I’d also wax poetical about Platonism, but that’s very off-topic.)

A small few tweaks?

Yes. Rituals are like recipes.

It’s completely possible to f–k a recipe up, but in all likelihood, customizing the ingredients and playing with it a bit will still net an effective result — something that connects, nourishes, and sustains. And, just as in cooking, very few of us start out knowing how to do everything in the kitchen — we often need to spend some time working with recipes before we know how to balance flavors and cook each element of the meal properly. This goes for both people raised going to pagan events like me and those who came into worshipping Gods as adults. We all start out as beginners.

Even if we can, not everyone wants to do things from scratch every single time. Acknowledging this fact is a gap in The Soul’s Inner Statues, as not everyone grows up being encouraged to do responsible remixing and experimentation in society, let alone when we start talking about devotional religious frameworks that most people were not raised in. It’s good to get comfortable with remixing, especially in nascent movements. So many rituals are being written by people contemporary to us, not ones that were tested and handed down across generations (which one should be more cautious about modifying). Ritual is iterative. It takes time to get something new right.

The easiest way to modify preexisting rituals in books from the “morning/daily ritual” genre is to identify ways to center the Gods in the ritual. It could be as simple as dedicating one’s morning brew to a Goddess and sharing a drink with her. It could be as complicated as going through Janina Renee’s By Candlelight: Rites for Celebration, Blessing & Prayer to replace magical workings in the rituals with something more devotional and capable of being enacted as a ritual routine, making a document with the changed elements, and ensuring that you have ePubs and Google Drive files on your various devices to consult while you’re still getting used to your practice.

The point is that we all start somewhere, and we are all creative beings. We can find blessings and possibilities in what we already have (or in niches of human thought that we haven’t yet investigated) that can enrich our connection and contact to the Gods. Misinformation and bad takes online can be deflating, but the degree to which people are being encouraged to do small rituals gives me hope that the theological conversations of tomorrow can be more focused on possibilities and futures and less on reactive damage control.

🌅

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