The Power of Ritual

I celebrated Canada Day this week, and plan to celebrate Independence Day with my American friends who have a cottage down the street from my place at the beach. (After all, two parties are better than one). The joys of fireworks, barbeques and the usual summer long weekend holiday rituals started me thinking about the value of ritual.

My friend the Sophia Damon (loosely translates as wise soul), tells me that ritual is an important part of our understanding of the world.  It’s how we deal with loss and how we celebrate our successes. Every year the Sophia Damon hosts a ritual to remember women lost to violence. It is one of the most powerful and moving rituals I have ever experienced.

We use ritual in many ways in branding and in organizational life. When we “eat the red one last” we are participating in a rather meaningless ritual about Smarties. When we eat the middle of our Oreo cookie first, we are participating in a ritual. Many of these rituals serve to hold our community together or to create a sense of shared meaning. For example, when engineers graduate in Canada, they have a ring ceremony, where each engineer swears to uphold the duties and requirements of their profession. This creates a shared meaning and understanding of their obligations. Doctors have the Hippocratic oath.

Ritual is a powerful tool that reinforces shared values and meaning. For me, the Canada Day ritual reinforces the importance of shared political and social values.  It also reinforces the value of community, as I walked down to the beach to see the fireworks with my friends and neighbours over Lake Huron. In spite of all of our challenges as a country, and the frailty of what we have built, I still know that I am thankful that I have received all of the blessings of living in Canada.


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