Energy is a scarce and precious asset while engaged in prefigurating utopia. The deliberate design and enactment of rituals can have a huge impact on the quality and density of the social fabric woven by a group of people. The goal of rituals in this context is to formalize transformative experiences that generate shared meaning, stronger personal bondings and a higher degree of coalescence.
A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed in a sequestered place and according to a set sequence all imbued with symbolism and meaning. A ritual marks an event where the ordinary is suspended for a certain time, and an access to the “magic circle” occurs, offering perspective and a narrative about life's meaningfulness. In that sense, it's tightly connected to well known fields of enquiry such as narrative therapy, ritual anthropology and game studies. This tool will help communities navigate their transitions by supporting the co-design of rituals in order to charge and hold collective spaces. “Rituals provide a nameable container for managing transformation and making meaning.” Ritual Design Toolkit [source]
Building blocks for transformative experiences and rituals (based on Patterns of Transformation and Ritual Design Toolkit) The people are who the ritual is for. The space is where the ritual takes place. Sometimes work is done to ensure that the space is prepared for the event, and that the space will support the energy and activities expected. Symbols represent or support important aspects of the ritual. These can be art, iconography, signs, flowers, candles, costumes, masks, etc. T Rituals occur in a defined time, and sometimes on a schedule. Also, sometimes rituals play with time. Energy is shaped and created as you manipulate these elements of space, time, and symbols for and with people. The Magic Circle It is the invisible perimeter between everyday life and an experience where different rules of engagement are at play. The magic circle describes the limits of both the formal rules of an experience and the informal norms that an experience allows for. It can literally feel like magic to be inside one thanks to the seemingly inexplicable shift in logic for how things happen and what is meaningful. Structure The ritual structure dictates how participants move through the space inside the magic circle. It can be organized by rules that dictate what participants can and cannot do during an experience. Rules can be implicit or explicit. But rules don’t mean much without goals and possibilities. A well-crafted ritual structure frees participants to pursue goals and possibilities with focus and abandon. The structure in rituals A ritual is both part of life, and outside of the rest of the flow of daily life. It happens in a defined place and for a defined time. For a ritual to be effective, you often have to explicitly and carefully manage the entry and exit to the magic circle. The entry phase transitions you from a time of habit to time of ritual and opens you up to what will occur during the ritual. The exit phase transitions you back to time of habit. It helps you integrate what happened. Common activities are naming the changes or realizations experienced or setting intentions/commitments for the future. Sometimes it includes recognition from a broader community or follow-up events over time .
How to design your own rituals (based on Ritual Design Toolkit)
You can use the following process as a rough guide for collectively designing rituals. If you need inspiration you can check some of the secular rituals performed by Enspiral.
1. Establish context & goals: Make yourself comfortable, fill out the sections of the Ritual Context Canvas, and see what emerges. This is a freeform & generative way to set a foundation for the rest of your ritual design process.
2. Clarify intentions: Lay out the Intent Cards, and select the ones that match your goals & context. Set the others aside. Pick a primary one and put it in the middle. Cluster any others around that primary intent in a way that makes sense to you.
3. Envision flow: Look at the intents and methods you’ve chosen so far, and start to string it together over a timeline, using the Ritual Flow Map. Keep in mind space considerations and other objects you may need, from your initial brainstorm.
4. Select methods: Lay out or flip through the Method Cards. Select the ones that may match your goals & intents, and cluster them on top of your intent cards.
5. Reflect, prototype, & iterate: All along the way, check in on how you feel. Is it resonating? Look for ways to prototype with yourself and with others. Is it working? How can you make it better?
6. Ground & prep to facilitate confidently: Bring and arrange whatever support you’ll need to feel confident as you facilitate: notes, materials, food, water, a friend to help. But remember that the quality of your presence real-time is the most important thing, not how thorough your preparation was beforehand.
This tool is to be used specially along the following movements presented in the Prefigurating Utopia framework.
Ritual flow map