So, there’s this pandemic. And it’s going crazy in a second wave.
There’s plenty to say about failure of leadership and idiots who won’t wear masks because Freedumb and the whole sad story of this year, but it’s already been said elsewhere and it’s not the focus of this post.
No, this post is about how we can use video conferencing platforms to conduct group rituals, easing the personal impact of sheltering in place from the pandemic on the near-universally beloved celebrations of the solstice holiday season.
Yes, many of us are Zoom-burnt. We’re having to do our work, maintain our relationships and so much more through the virtual window that more of it sounds wearisome.
But this is how we can connect now, safely. This is how we can keep those fragile fires burning in our relationships, and particularly in relationships that are a part of our religious/spiritual practices. It’s better to see our beloved faces and hear our beloved voices than not to do so. So here are some things I have learned about doing rituals on video conferencing platforms.
Because video conferenced rituals require interaction with technology, it can be helpful to have attendees prepare for a ritual in advance to help them be in the right mindspace. Suggestions include fasting, bathing, grounding, meditation on a theme, and/or preparation of materials for the ritual.
One of the great things you can do with a Zoom call is to log into it multiple times. When I’m leading a Zoom ritual, I log in twice: once with my laptop, and once with my phone.
I do this in order to focus the phone on a Focus I have constructed for the ritual (I use gaffer’s tape to affix the phone to the back of a chair and point it at the Focus). This creates a participant window of the Focus and allows participants to look at this collection of symbols: it creates a central point of attention for participants even while I am participating in the ritual through the laptop.
Shared physical activities
The “action” of the ritual works best if it involves activities that participants can do at home: lighting a candle to start the ritual or evoke a particular meaning, for example, or pouring water into a chalice, or tying knots in a cord: something physical that makes the ritual more than just information mediated through a screen. I highly encourage inclusion of some kind of physical activity for all participants in your online ritual
Incorporation of screen sharing
Screen sharing is great, and it can enable you to present media that will augment your ritual. At Yule, you could use one of those fireplace Youtube videos (wonderful crackling sounds!), or a guided meditation, or anything else that inspires emotion and atmosphere. At my ritual circle’s Hallows ritual, we used this video (volume muted) to create a field of candles that we walked through in a guided meditation, each of which signified 200 lives lost to COVID. Be creative! There is a lot of powerful imagery available on the web.
Recitations, readings, and invocations work great over Zoom! Just have everyone else muted and let the performer do their thing.
Singing and playing music are great, too…if you turn on “original sound” and thereby shut down the filters and echo cancellation and all the other nifty audio effects that Zoom offers. Have ONE performer present the music: video conferencing has inherent lags that make it impossible to sing in a chorus. Have everyone else mute themselves and sing along!
Cakes and ale
Sharing food and drink is a fundamental human way of making common cause and creating community. It is warming and pleasurable to have a time of sharing food and drink at the end of a virtual ritual–a time to experience the joys of wine or pomegranate juice and chocolate, say, and have a bit of a social chat.
Which brings me to…
After the ritual, incorporate time just for visiting and socializing and spending unstructured time together. This is not extraneous: we need our social interactions with others and the opportunity to visit and converse is an essential component of an online ritual gathering.
I hope you’re able to share meaningful experiences remotely with your loved ones as this pandemic persists. Stay safe and healthy!
Got some other great ideas for online rituals? Put them in the comments!