Since I am a practicing Christian, I decided to do this assignment about my actual God. My God is who I believe to be the one true God: all-knowing, all-loving, and extremely personal. My ritual is reading and studying different texts in order to understand more about what I believe. Often I read the Bible or devotional books, but currently, I am reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I know it would be expected if I said that my sacred place is my church, but my sacred place is actually the hammock that I have in my room at home. Whenever I am feeling stressed out or depleted, I lay in my hammock with whatever book I am currently reading and I just focus on the text. It always makes me feel relaxed and safe. I know this whole thing sounds kind of cheesy, but knowing more about God and the ways He works in our lives is truly the thing that makes me feel the best.
Learning about ancient and modern rituals has been a very interesting endeavor. Before this class, I had only ever really associated the idea of ritual with ancient rituals and I did not really think about how we perform rituals every day in our modern culture. That meant that when we were studying modern ritual, I was looking at it through more of an ancient lens. My idea of ritual was linked to gladiators and Greek and Roman gods, not so much with procession and death. What I really liked about having more of an ancient view of things, however, is that I could see the connections between past traditions and myths to present rituals. For example, the festival in Mumbai where the people smash a jar full of yogurt gets its influence from the god, Krishna, who was known for having stolen yogurt and other dairy products. Looking more at modern rituals has also affected the way I look at ancient rituals. By seeing how people perform rituals all the time all over the world, I am able to better see how some of the rituals in the ancient world that may seem crazy to us now were just a normal part of life. The rituals we perform today, though they seem normal to us now, might be seen as weird or nonsensical in the future. In short, my view of ritual has shifted a lot throughout the course of this class and it makes me see my personal rituals, as well as both ancient and modern rituals, in a whole new light.
I think the answer to this question has changed a lot over the course of this quarter partially due to this class and partially due to adjusting to a new environment and forming new rituals and sacred spaces. Even though God is my god, in the context of this question, I feel like my “god” has become talking to my loved ones and my sacred space is now the steps in the courtyard of the music building. My ritual has become a lot goofier throughout this quarter as well. Every Monday and Wednesday, after my eight am music class I sit on the steps in the music building’s courtyard and call someone I love, most often my boyfriend or my best friend, and we do Buzzfeed quizzes together for about an hour until I have to go to my next class. I have found that this is a fun ritual to keep in contact with the people I love back home as well as give my brain a break before my next class. I feel like I have incorporated some connection aspects and strange traditions such as those found in the ancient Roman banquets. I know Buzzfeed quizzes do not immediately make you think of wild food choices and getting drunk with friends, but I feel like it has the same sort of “Why?” feeling. The quizzes are dumb and embarrassing, similar to eating disgusting food and throwing garbage on the floor just to show that you’ve had a good time. People don’t really understand how something so seemingly stupid could bring so much enjoyment, but embracing the ridiculousness of it all is what makes the ritual fun.
Our enactment was very fun to be a part of and it was a great showcase of what we learned throughout the class. I feel like the procession was the biggest and most entertaining part of the entire enactment. We wore fun costumes, made a lot of noise, and took a very roundabout route through the art building on bicycles. It reminded me of the Eleusinian Mysteries in that we had a semi-difficult path, we got through the journey by fellowshipping with one another, and any onlookers had no clue what was going on. I feel if we were to do this ritual again, the procession would be a little bit more smooth since we would know where we were going and maybe everyone would be on bicycles and/or scooters so that we would all be able to move at the same pace. I think this ritual was a good representation of being reborn as a college student. Even though the water was freezing cold and biking back soaking wet and in a bathing suit was not the most fun, it was a great visual of us coming out of the water and wiping away “our old selves” by taking off the blue makeup. This would be a fun ritual to continue each year with new groups of students coming to UC Santa Barbara that are taking this class. All of the sophomores would be chanting and wearing all black while the freshmen will be “reborn” and have to jump into the ocean. It might also be fun to have a more elaborate feast set up and music playing throughout the ceremony. If we were to continue this ritual until we graduate, it could be cool to have an added element of the graduating students passing on the torch to the new inductees. All in all, I believe that this ritual was an excellent culmination of everything we studied in class. I do think that it is not really a ritual until it becomes a repeated thing, but it was a decent start to a hopefully long-living tradition. I am so thankful to this class for what it has taught me, not only about large cultural rituals, but also about the small personal rituals that I do every day. It has caused me to look at my life in a new way and makes me think more about why I do seemingly insignificant things and why they might be significant to me. I loved working with this class and I thought that it was really fun to get to design something special and unique to all of us. I cannot wait to see what this class ritual could become in the following years and the changes that it goes through as each new class gets to add their own touches. I will definitely be coming to watch, if not participate in the ritual next year and I hope to incorporate my knowledge of rituals more into my everyday life and with the people around me.