In ancient times, a ceremony was such a significant expression of a rite of passage ~ a life-changing initiation into a new way of life ~ that oftentimes they lasted for days. Such ceremonies were acknowledged by the whole community, and all daily busyness ceased so everyone could witness and participate in the ceremonial rites. At these moments, the mundane matters of daily life no longer mattered. We knew. We simply knew that it was time for our consciousness to be attuned and fully aligned to the story we saw before us. For one person’s story was every person’s story.
These days, the average ceremony (in this culture) can last anywhere from five minutes to about 45 minutes. Generally, they last for twenty minutes or under. There is no timeline for rituals of the heart, but one of the things I’ve learned as a Heart-led Celebrant is that we live in a culture where many people find it hard to let go of daily life and to be fully present at a ceremony. Perhaps they’ve only witnessed church-based or registrar cookie-cutter services and therefore they go into them expecting to be bored (if they’re not invested in religion) or that they’ll hear the same scripts as at previous services. More often than not, wedding guests endure the ceremony so they can get to the bar. Ditto many naming ceremonies. Mourners just want the funeral ‘over with’ not understanding the difference that a beautiful, personalised ceremony can make: it is designed to be deeply healing and affirmative, and not something to be endured.
Where is our ability to simple ‘be’?
As a culture, we have lost touch with how to engage our primordial need for wholeheartedly entering into sacred space and honour rites of passage. We move so quickly, filling our diaries with appointments, and our spare time with TV or social media. Modern life distracts us from our essential self. Our bodies and brains are numbed through dead foods and sugar-laden beverages. Many people are just trying to get through an existence devoid of meaning. How often do people stay in jobs they don’t like in order to keep a mortgage paid up, even though each day they die a little more from spiritual hunger? The same can be said for relationships and other situations. We stay, knowing that a life of compromise is certain death of self.
Attention spans are now notoriously short, so gathering into the stillness for twenty minutes to respectfully honour and celebrate a life, the union of two lovers, or welcoming a child into community is something that we’re not equipped for. We lack the sacred learnings of our people simply because our times have not taught us to embrace what we instinctively feel in our cells: ceremony is a place of storytelling, singing or chanting, healing, transition, and respect for those in the centre of the story. We can sense it at our core ~ that need for something deeper, profound, life changing, but we’re uncomfortable entering into the spirit of it because our culture keeps us distracted from the essential work of navigating our inner terrain. How can we feast on spiritual sustenance when our world keeps us believing famine is our lot? Where is the nourishment to be found when we don’t have space to feed our essential selves?
Heart-led Celebrants are bringing back the essence of what ceremony is about. In my training of Heart-led Celebrants, we look at what ceremony means, not only for the people involved, but also for the celebrant. We understand how important our ongoing commitment to personal growth and protected learning time is because “who we are” is infused into every aspect of our lives, including the writing and officiating of ceremonies.
The journey of healing is something we use to illuminate a person’s way. As Heart-led Celebrants, we are there as Guardians of the Threshold while our ‘client’ makes their way from the old, familiar way of life to their new one, whether it’s a transition they’re undergoing willingly or not.
We are Keepers of the Circle and Holders of the Space with our Word Medicine and consciously choreographed rituals.
Rituals embed messages of wisdom, archetypes and ancient storytelling deep into the human psyche. A ritual isn’t something we use to ‘fill in space’ and stretch out the timing of a ceremony, but is a consciously chosen ‘picture’ in the story we’re giving, and sheds light on the journey our client is undertaking.
I have often seen these checkpoints for what it takes to become a celebrant:
. a computer, printer and access to the Internet
. a phone line
. pen and paper
. Sat Nav
. Accountant (because you’ll be self employed)
. You need to be able to write a ceremony
. You can stand up and deliver said script to audience
While the common requirements to become a celebrant include a checklist which looks like you’re applying for an administrative job (and those skills are necessary), the essentials for becoming a Heart-led Celebrant include:
♥ Deep-level empathy
♥ Ability to remain composed no matter what’s going on around you
♥ A good storyteller
♥ Soothing energy
♥ Unflappable nature (in your work life, at least!)
♥ Ability to relax clients and allow them to feel they’re in safe, confident and competent hands
♥ Excellent listening skills
♥ Rich with ideas
♥ Excellent standard of client service
♥ A mediator
♥ Awareness of self and others
♥ Have experienced grief (if not of a person, at least of some sort of major loss in life)
♥ Can perform rituals meaningfully and with reverence
♥ Respects ritual
♥ Ability to stand in silence
♥ Strong sense of duty
♥ Being willing to serve
♥ Well-articulated voice
♥ And probably the most important of all: they leave ego behind, because although they are Holding the Space, they know that they are not the centre of attention and that the ceremony isn’t about them. They are the spine of the ceremony, not the body.
In her practice, s/he becomes:
♥ A weaver of words
♥ Specialist in ritual
♥ Gatekeeper of silence
♥ Energy Curious and Aware
♥ A chameleon: she matches her energy to her clients
♥ Explorer and pioneer of inner terrain: always seeking new horizons and landscapes
A Heart-led Celebrant lives a life of ceremony infused with daily rituals and awareness of stillness, reverence and commitment to engaging with soul nourishment. It would be impossible to be the Guardian of the Threshold for others if we weren’t able to do it for ourselves.
© Veronika Sophia Robinson
Founder and facilitator, Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training