Transformation. Ah, now we’re down to it. The third—and to my mind the most important—aspect of ritual is transformation. The whole purpose of ritual is, like the Hero’s Journey, to change the individual and his society.
From simple rituals like shaking someone’s hand upon being introduced to them [now our social interaction is different than it was a few moments ago] to bar mitzvahs [now the boy is a man] to Catholic confession [now your soul is unburdened by your sin] to GHP [now the student makes intellectual, emotional, and social connections that he/she didn’t before] to Burning Man […], we do not remain the same after undergoing the ritual process.
With a labyrinth, as I’ve said before, the change is entirely internal and personal. Simply walking through a labyrinth is not likely to produce a change. The trick is to walk it mindfully, to be open to its suggestions. It is amazing to me the different ways my own labyrinth can speak. Sometimes it’s the turning from one direction to another. Sometimes it’s the approach to the center. It has spoken through the length of the path; the return journey; what I was wearing (or not, as the case might be); the sculpture/totems at the compass points; the calligraphic patterns in the bowl in the black granite center; the chakra/rainbow candles along the Western Path; the view from the center.
I have taken problems in with me and found solutions. I have had problems present themselves. I have found peace, and I have found perturbation. I’ve had profound revelations, and trivial realizations. I’ve expressed gratitude, joy, bitterness, grief.
And it’s the ritual that does it. Getting up from the fire (usually) and making the decision to approach the Path. Standing for a moment at the entrance. Walk. Listen. See. Stand at the center. Return. Exit.
Meaning and transformation: I haz it.
Who knows what we will find at Burning Man? We’ve already talked about the structure of what we will offer, but we do not know what transformations that participants will end up with. We cannot know. We cannot even know what transformations will be wrought upon us. But if we offer a ritual, and Burners approach it as a ritual, then transformation will occur.