Making it up as you go along...

Rhiannon Hanfman on the importance of ceremony particularly at Findhorn and her reflections on how r


Jonathan Dawson is away so I am filling in for him for the next couple of weeks and I would like to pick up the theme of ritual that he touched on in writing about a recent death in our community. At Findhorn we do rituals rather well. Rather than rely on an established forms, we make them up as we go along so our ceremonies are alive and meaningful to those who take part. We have had rather a lot of funerals in the last couple of years and no two were alike yet each was deeply moving and appropriate to the individual being honoured.

News of a different kind of ritual came to my notice in the last week. David and Ilsemarie, a couple who have been married for 12 years or more decided to separate and have chosen to mark this event with a Ceremony of Separation. Initially I thought this was, well, strange but on reflection the idea grew on me. Separation and divorce have become a common rite of passage in our society so why should we not mark it in a conscious way that does not apportion blame or bring rancour and resentment.

Although divorce is no longer a recipe for social ruin, the end of a marriage still brings a sense of failure or shame and a feeling that someone must be to blame. No one celebrates it. Children are wounded, friends take sides and lawyers benefit from the couple remaining at war. Nobody wins.

In this community we try to find better and more loving ways of doing things and this ceremony was a kinder means of dealing with what was potentially a painful situation. This separation was not celebrated but neither was it mourned, nor was the occasion used to air old wounds. David and Ilsemarie symbolically untied the knots that bound them in a detrimental way, and in love and friendship let the other go. It was done in a way that brought healing rather than hurt and that must be a good thing.

This reminded me of another unusual ceremony I attended a few years ago. A young couple I know who lived together and had a baby but were not married had what they called a Family Blessing. It was not a wedding or a christening or a 1st birthday party for the child, though the ceremony had elements of all these things. Their purpose it seemed to me was to show their commitment and say to their friends, ‘Hey, we’re a family.’

We humans seem to have an innate need to publicly and symbolically mark the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. It’s a way of saying ‘ this is important, this is really happening’. If we can create rituals that reflect what is real and genuine for us at a particular point, they are not merely empty forms but are alive and so enliven us. Our rituals, whether of celebration, grief or simply acknowledging what is, bind us together, strengthen us and bring us joy and healing.

Rhiannon Hanfman is a freelance writer/editor/designer and has been associated with the Findhorn community for more than 20 years. She has a background in theatre, publishing and science. She abandoned the science to go and live at Findhorn and currently does design work for the Findhorn Foundation and facilitates Game of Transformation workshops.

Getty
Show Hide image

Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

0800 7318496