Ripe for ritual

We are all moving through, and hopefully out of, a period where many of our well known traditions and rituals have been stopped, postponed, edited or required to be re-imagined. 

Currently, in Phase 3, all of us at Agnostic Scotland are working closely with families and couples who would like to include rituals as part of their ceremonies. Certain rituals can be achieved during the current restrictions, it just takes a little bit more planning, consideration and creativity. 

Read here for a little more detail about rituals in the time of Covid-19 and here for the current Scottish Government guidance. 

‘Postponed’ Soulful Celebrant

Over the last few years, the value of ritual and ceremony has become prevalent in all our lives here at Agnostic Scotland. As celebrants we are often asked to hold space for ancient ritual and traditional ceremony. We are also asked to create new rituals and ceremonies to celebrate important occasions for couples, families and communities. There are many moments in life that are ripe for ritual, possibly even more so now that we are beginning to move out of the lockdown period and all that has brought.

Taking time to reflect on the traditions, events, or actions in your life that have had to be paused can be a meaningful exercise.

Soulful Celebrant

For generations families and communities have created their own traditions & rituals. They have all got to start somewhere, now is the time to consider rekindling or creating them, and at the moment inspiration is everywhere.

Edinburgh Celebrant

A post on The Female Lead last week shared a wonderful gender reveal celebration with a couple introducing and welcoming their son Grey. Using modern gender reveal rituals and traditions, Grey’s parents announced how they had got it wrong 17 years ago when they told the world they were having a girl.

Yesterday I listened to author Emma Donaghue and Jane Garvey on BBC Radio Woman’s Hour talk about birth and the grand drama that it is in our lives but how it is not celebrated at all these days. Emma suggests this is due to it being so common and ordinary. Maybe we need more ceremonies and rituals that recognise the quiet heroism of women and acknowledge the warrior status of pregnant, birthing women and mothers that Naomi Woolf talks of. 


Let’s all start looking at ritual and ceremony with fresh eyes, ponder a little on the need for us as humans, as families and as communities to create and have celebrations and ceremonies. Consider the need for blessing-ways, vow renewals, gender reveal celebrations, family blending ceremonies, business launches, openings and of course memorials. For many, grief has been on pause, Onie writes about this beautifully here. 

Last year Andrea conducted the opening ceremony of a new yoga studio. Lane Yoga  is a wonderful community and connection focussed, inclusive yoga studio based in Leith, Edinburgh. We will leave you with an extract from her Soulful Celebrant blog back in January: 

Agnes Pachacz

I was honoured to be asked to collaborate, write and choreograph a ceremony which was to be incorporated into a free community yoga class that was planned for the opening weekend. We decided to base the ceremony on the cardinal directions and create a short ritual based on each of the elements associated with them.

The idea was that everyone present would be taken on a journey around the beautiful new space. We would be introduced to the cardinal direction and it’s associated element with some words. We would then take a moment to ponder each element and support the positive intentions being conjured by the creation of the studio and the space with a thought, a merit or a blessing. Each cardinal direction was represented by an important member of the Lane Yoga community. In turn they each performed a small ritual based on the elements associated with the direction accompanied by the beautiful sounds of a singing bowl. 

Kat Gollock

We began in the East, where the sunrises and considered Air, the invisible element that can be lively or still. With this element, just as with a sunrise, we can find the dawn of new ideas or the light of new beginnings. Moving South we explored the element of Fire.  In this context we considered fire as a beacon of life, offering renewal, success and abundance. 

Kat Gollock

Turning West we contemplated Water. Lane Yoga is next to the Water of Leith and close to the Firth of Forth. We were reminded of the stability and constant presence of the ever moving river and sea. Finally to the North where we considered the solidity and generosity of the Earth element. 

We rounded up the ceremony by offering time to reflect on the collective message of support we were all offering Lane Yoga and were encouraged to dedicate positive thoughts, love and merit to the space, to Moira and Helen, to everyone present and the wider community. We then moved into a wonderful yoga practice followed by a gathering and refreshments. 

Our little elemental ceremony had the ability to support everyone present to move away from their ordinary lives just for a few moments, just as a yoga practice can do, and bring their hearts and focus to themselves, the space and to the intentions of Helen and Moira and the Lane Yoga community they have created.

We would encourage you to explore the value of ritual for any of the times in your life you want to mark or celebrate in some way.

Ritual has the potential to return you to what matters.

The C Word

Things we have been pondering on your behalf.

We realise many of you may have questions about your upcoming ceremonies whether they be Wedding ceremony’s, Naming Ceremonies or Vow Renewals. Even more so now that venues are being told to close their doors.  For some, you will find the decisions are being made for you and for others you’ll feel confused with inconsistent advice and choices.

Please try not to worry. It’s important to stay calm so that preparations and decisions can be made that are right, and safe, for you and your family and friends.

A lot of what is going on is out-with our control and this feeling of lack of control can exacerbate anxiety.

Take a breath, pause and plan.

Love My Dress

Try use an acronym like BRAIN to help get things into perspective:

Benefits

Risks

Alternatives

Instinct

Nothing


Get together with your partner, discuss with wider family members and even close friends and guests. Do some serious WedMin and write these headings down and brainstorm, list, get everything out there.


What are the Benefits of carrying on as planned? For you and for others.


What are the Risks? Think of your family and guests, ages, travel, number of guests, finances etc


The Alternatives – what are they? Talk to each other about all the available options. Have you spoken to your service providers about potential alternatives, if not, do.

What is your Instinct, your gut feeling? Tune in and trust.

What if you decide to do Nothing different right now?

If you go through all of the above and decide to change nothing at the moment, that’s fine. Sit with it for a bit and return to the discussion.
You can wait to see what else unfolds and revisit your list, notes and conversations at anytime. Maybe start again adding and subtracting aspects previously considered, newly discovered and advised by Government.
Reflect and reschedule if necessary. If you’re ceremony is with one of us at Agnostic Scotland and you want to discuss options for a Plan B date. Get in touch.


You have each other and that is the main thing especially right now. Remember why you are planning all of this in the first place – because of love and trust.


What if you decide to, or have to, postpone your ceremony?
There will be no charge to reschedule the date of your ceremony. If your celebrant is not available then one of our Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrants may be. Pencil in a Plan B date as soon as possible.


Would you have to pay anything extra to change your date?
There is no extra charge to hold another date. Your deposit/fee would be transferred to the new date.


What if your Celebrant becomes ill or has to cocoon at home at the time of your ceremony?
At Agnostic Scotland we have discussed how to cover ceremonies in case of illness. Your back up Celebrant would have access to your final ceremony script and they would make contact with you to say hello and talk through anything with you prior to the ceremony.
We know that currently, with the support of the Registrars, we can obtain emergency discretion for a change of Celebrant, as long as that Celebrant is a member of a recognised belief body, if required due to illness.
We have also reached out to the National Records of Scotland for further advice in this ever changing situation.


Current Guidelines
The National Records of Scotland are currently drawing up guidelines for registrars. You can check here. You will probably know that in England (where Celebrants cannot legally conduct marriage ceremonies) Church wedding ceremonies are currently limited to the minimal people required which is 5.
The National Records of Scotland are currently drawing up guidelines for their own registrars. Keep an eye here for updates. You will know that in England (where celebrants cannot legally conduct marriage ceremonies) Church wedding ceremonies are currently limited to the minimal number of people required which is 5. Civil ceremonies, which are carried out by a registrar, are to be judged on a case by case basis.
The Church of Scotland have issued guidance saying only close family should attend weddings, but they did not state a number. In regard to civil ceremonies in Scotland it seems to depend on the registrars, and of course, the venue. After many venues being ‘told’ to close yesterday you may need to talk to your venue.
At the moment the government cannot instruct ‘organisers’ to cancel events but hopes organisers will follow advice to support our public services in responding to Covid – 19. Legislation may change this so keep up to date.
For WHO advice re: social distancing and more click here and from NHS Scotland here


What if important guests can’t make it to your ceremony due to number restrictions, travel restrictions or illness?


Have a cry then get creative.
Film the ceremony
Live stream the ceremony
WhatsApp video call
Tribute/blessing from the guests who can’t make it
They could pre record an audio or film piece to add to the ceremony or during speeches
Represent the person using symbolism – wearing something of theirs or something that you feel represents/includes them

Soulful Celebrant


Other wedding suppliers
Talk to them. Ask about a back up plan and discuss options. Communication is key.
This can get things in perspective, help feelings of helplessness and anxiety. It also allows you to feel and connect with the support that is out there.


What you can do to keep yourself safe and support your community.
Eat well, get plenty sleep, access your usual exercise regime, get fresh air, minimise Social Media – wash your hands – and ask for support and help. Talk things through with your nearest and dearest. Use BRAIN. Keep yourself informed with all the latest Government guidance and advice, health, and otherwise. Reach out to others. Support your suppliers who are likely small businesses by postponing not cancelling.

Sara Shakeel


Are the Agnostic Scotland Celebrants keeping themselves safe?
Yes, we are! We love hugs, kisses and shaking hands but are saving that for a later date. We’re washing our hands, eating well, getting plenty of sleep and leaning into our Celebrant community for support. We are keeping ourselves up to date with all the latest advice from the Government and the Ceremony Sector. It must be acknowledge that keeping ourselves safe may also mean our advice to you would be to postpone your ceremony or go ahead but with only immediate family members, maintaining suitable distance. This is something we will discuss with each couple.
We are also acutely aware of the need to support other Celebrants and small businesses at this time as well as our families, friends, neighbours and local community.

The Wedding Collective


Reflect and reschedule if need be – don’t cancel L O V E


If you do decide to postpone take time to consider how you will spend the day that you were going to get married. Make an event of it, a ritual, for just the two of you, make it positive and make it part of your story, part of your ceremony and part of your wedding day when it comes.

Trees for Life

Loch Katrine
All images by @soulfulcelebrant

Last year we decided to support a project run by Trees for Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Caledonian Forest, a rich habitat found in the Scottish Highlands. So on Christmas Eve 2019 we bought a digital grove and have begun to donate trees. Our grove has now been populated with 60 native trees and you can have a look here

Our Agnostic Scotland grove is being planted in honour of the communities and the families whose ceremonies we conduct. Every time a couple are married, exchange vows or express their life commitment to one another we will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When babies are welcomed by family and friends we will plant a tree to celebrate their arrival. When families gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died we will plant a tree in their memory. When communities come together to collaborate and celebrate through ceremony and ritual we will plant a tree in support.

As Agnostic Scotland celebrants we are privileged to help individuals and families navigate important transitions in their lives and planting a trees in support of this wonderful rewilding project is such a perfect way to show our appreciation to all the remarkable individuals, families and communities we are lucky enough to encounter through in our work. It is also an opportunity to express our respect, gratitude and hope for the natural world that sustains us all.

For those of you who we have connected with recently or are working with currently we have donated trees to thank and honour you. We hope you enjoy thinking of your native Scottish tree happily growing into mature trees that will transform hillsides into young woodland, then mature into wild forests for future generations to enjoy.