To dismiss something because it seems obvious has been the source of many grievous errors even in the most concrete disciplines.
Some of the elements of language we don’t now recognize as ritual were actually former rituals. The handshake was a disarming process and bragging was a ritual both in Norse and Japanese cultures, but there is something deeper to ritual. Wedding ceremonies to birthday parties, if they have meaning it’s because they have a message. In the case of metaphysical rituals, the message isn’t necessarily a social one. Much like auto-suggestion the ritual is a statement of intent.
What is auto-suggestion? Self hypnosis. We use it all the time, both negatively and positively.
Is that like having a mantra? Yes. If you use a mantra in meditation knowing its meaning, during the meditation you aren’t thinking about the mantra, but it’s still going in your head. If your mantra is the word love, you aren’t being analytical during the meditation, therefore you aren’t screening anything or doubting anything. The word and associated ideas with love are triggered in your mind without you having to struggle. It’s struggle that makes things like ritual not work. Even meditation is a form of ritual.
Weddings are a mantra? No, mantras are one thing, but vows are another. If the wedding ceremony is undertaken mindfully and many people don’t (for a lot of people it’s sort of a secular technicality), but if meditation and soul searching are a part of the preparation for ceremony, and the steps are taken carefully with their symbolic meaning in mind, then yes. It’s very much a ritual of a metaphysical sort.
Marriages have a low success rate these days, and ritual is scorned. When they had statements like, “These two have come here to be joined in the eyes of God and those gathered”, well, originally they meant it very seriously. To this day some people still report shivers as they feel the power of a Catholic mass which is very ritualistic. There were formal funeral ceremonies also. In the case of religious ritual the intention is rather much like yoga. Union. They seek unity in the congregation and unity between the congregation and God.
Religion is not the only application of ritual. Many athletes will recreate the circumstances that seemed to allow an amazing win. High school has its rituals also, and they also tend to do the same thing. Either integration or ostracism and the effects can be long lasting even past high school. In metaphysical functioning, it depends on your tradition and exact goals, your spiritual experiences.
You’re talking about superstition? Superstition is any surviving belief, so some of that is either a complete though simple ritual, or a forgotten piece of a larger one like some of the rote prayers some people use or even the mantras. Ritual is any act letting you express your intent, and it has power in that expressing intention you move both your awareness and your inner mind to embrace and actualize it. Like hypnotism to stop smoking, it has worked.
Rituals include words to describe intent? Words, actions, symbolic tools, we operate on multiple levels. Everything you do can potentially be a ritual, but the intention, the focus, has to be there.
Then why have a word for ritual? Why not just call them actions? To single out actions intended to operate on a metaphysical level. It’s sort of a way of engaging the butterfly effect.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.