On Ritual & Tradition


This time last year, Easter and Passover were fast approaching and the topic of Ritual & Tradition came to mind. Curious about exploring the meaning and relationship of both, we sought out a group of artists, designers, craftsmen, and social entrepreneurs to come together and offer their perspectives, experiences and thoughts at the studio workshop of st / Co.

Below, Jenny Clevidence reflects on our evening of dialogue.




on ritual & tradition // Jenny Clevidence

Ritual, when it’s heartfelt, is like a time capsule. It’s as if thousands of years ago somebody had a clear, unobstructed view of magic, power, and sacredness, and realized that if he went out each morning and greeted the sun in a very stylized way, perhaps by doing a special chant and making offerings and perhaps by bowing, that it connected him to that richness. Therefore he taught his children to do that, and the children taught their children, and so on. So thousands of years later, people are still doing it and connecting with exactly the same feeling.
— Pema Chodrun
Photo Credit:    Vinobosh Photography

Photo Credit: Vinobosh Photography

Where and how does ritual and tradition exist?

My own experiences with ritual and tradition span from things learned in childhood growing up with a traditional Chinese grandmother to more recent rituals that have been learned through nature based work and studies in yoga. Although my sense of ritual felt rich and alive, I learned through the dialogue On Ritual & Tradition, just how vast a territory we were exploring together and the varying viewpoints on ritual or tradition. 

As I listened in, and even more so tuned in to what was being shared that night, there was a subtle sadness and grasping to remember the traditions of my own heritage, mostly my Chinese roots. It reminded me that growing up as and surrounded by others whose families are melting pots, there is a risk of losing traditions as we create new ones. I also noticed the strong stance that can be held around what defines a ritual, which made me wonder if the practices I considered rituals were really so. Yet with every new definition or example that was offered up, the rigidity of what defines a ritual loosened and expanded.

What felt most true at the close of the DIALOGUE that evening was that ritual is something that can only be defined by the one who is practicing and made sacred by the meaning that they hold for the act of making tea, holding ceremony, hand grinding their coffee, or wearing their lucky hat while writing. In this way, we all walked out with a more expansive view of ritual and tradition, and what felt like a collective commitment to continue with these practices in our lives, to pass along the ones that have been held in families and communities for generations, so that the historical ones don’t get lost as we find new ways for ritual and tradition to be created in our future.   

As a reader whose own inner dialogue may have started wondering about your sense of ritual and tradition, I would pose a few questions that as a group we answered that night:

What does ritual and tradition mean to you? 

How do they show up in your life?

What makes something a ritual or tradition and why are they important?