Maybe it’s because so many rituals revolve around food that women often become the keepers of tradition and the purveyors of the sacraments.
While the rituals of the church were mostly owned by men, women owned the ceremonies of the home, usually played out at the table. We marked the passings, of years and events, of success and of loss, of the new and the venerable.
My family wasn’t big on ritual. There were always a hoard of objects to be put out, but I became responsible for ceremonial meals even before I became full time caretaker for my parents. The sharing of words and emotions, though, of meaningful conventions, well, that wasn’t something my parents really engaged. The whole family around one table was good enough for my father, and my mother just wanted to make sure her tastes were satisfied.
I would often write tablegraces for holidays, even though I knew my parents wouldn’t accept them, instead just giving one copy to my sister who would just accept it.
I went through a big birthday this week and all I got was one bag of groceries from my sister who knows that I have had limited transport for the last five weeks while being stuck with her bum car. I did cook my own traditional birthday dinner, an old marked down corned beef boiled dinner and a frozen pie, but I ate it alone.
This is one cost of never being a mother in the world, never being able to create rituals that support, affirm and celebrate my family.
The truth is that, like most women, I need the emotional impact, cleansing and affirmation of ritual. There is a reason why women buy crystals, oils, tapes and dvds to try and bring some of the sacred into their life. Doing the hard, mundane, routine work of being the mommy demands context, a connection to something bigger.
The people at mega-churches know that it’s easy to get women into the door, but it’s hard to get men. The reason women and families don’t go to church is because men resist going, so they make those churches as man friendly as possible, entertaining and non-threatening.
Sadly, I’m a damn theologian. I find it hard to celebrate badly thought through beliefs, hard to assent to sloppy doctrine. Just because it sounds good on the surface doesn’t mean that it is the kind of understanding that can help bring clarity to your life. It only takes a little twist added to a good tenet to make it turn bad. Just good feeling doesn’t really make it good ritual.
I know the elements of good ritual. It doesn’t don’t use much theology, just enough for context. It does include, though, good food, stories, tradition, humour, and as much good company as can be found.
Participating in the elements of good ritual, though, isn’t something I do enough of.
And, as a woman, it is something that I need.