1993 Proceedings of the Midwest Oak Savanna Conferences
GUIDELINES FOR ECO-RITUALS
Wild Onion Alliance
3432 N. Bosworth
Chicago, IL 60657
Tel: (312) 929-5565
As humans reconnect with the natural world through restoration activities,
we also need to reconnect with each other in ceremony and celebration.
"Eco-rituals" are simple, inclusive, time- and place-specific events which
help ground our spirituality, release creativity, and build community.
The following fifteen guidelines will help you invent eco-rituals intended
to reconnect the participants with the natural world. Be creative. Take
some risks. Be prepared to make some mistakes and to encounter some resistance.
Have fun with the process. Remember, our origin and destiny is celebration!
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, I'd love to hear from
- Keep the ritual simple and clearly focused.
- Choose a biocentric theme (i.e., include the entire earth
community, not just humans.)
- Gather in a circle. If more people arrive, enlarge it.
If the circle gets too large, form two concentric circles.
- Be time and place specific. Celebrate the land, water,
species, seasons, in your area and your community's particular moment in
the evolutionary history of the universe.
- Good ritual is participatory. Involve the body and the
senses. Get folks up and moving. Use smells, bells, physical movement.
Music aloud! Sing, hum, clap. (Try changing the lyrics of familiar songs
to suit your purpose.)
- Vary the ratio of darkness/silence/shadow to light/sound/"up"
vibes. Sometimes grieving must precede celebration.
- Give the ritual a shape. Some commonly-used shaping elements
- The gathering together/creating sacred space.
- Exposition and development of the ritual's theme/focus.
- Thanksgiving, offering, dedication of ourselves.
- Sending forth.
- Build trust and cooperation by outlining the purpose and
format of the ritual to the group before you actually begin. Go over the
lyrics to any songs, practice unfamiliar movements, etc. "Rehearsal" will
reduce the group's anxiety and heighten participation.
- Give people a way to not participate (by sitting on the
edge of the circle, sitting in the middle of the circle, leaving, or ??)
or to limit their participation (by remaining silent, coming forward to
do the ritual act when they feel like it, rather than in some sequential
order, etc.). Make sure people know where the exits and restrooms are.
- Avoid cultural strip-mining. Be respectful (and sparing) in
your appropriation of Native American or other ritual traditions.
Do not use them if you and your group are not willing to stand in solidarity
with the contemporary struggles of the native people to preserve their
land and culture. Develop your own indigenous traditions.
- When in doubt, celebrate the solstices, equinoxes, lunar
cycles. These are relatively non-threatening to most people (and many do
not even know what they are.)
- Tell a story and make the ritual itself a story worth
re-telling. Rituals are repeatable cultural forms.
- Eco-rituals should be both scientifically grounded and
aesthetically rich. Involve those knowledgeable about natural history,
the life sciences, etc. and artists of all kinds in the planning process.
- Make the events generationally inclusive. Create roles
for children and older people. But do not assume that every "gray hair"
wants the role of "elder". Ask first.
- Always share food and drink afterward, minimizing use
of disposable cups, plates, napkins and utensils. Let the feasting begin!