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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Ritually speaking

Heather Curlee Novak

My Unitarian upbringing is filtering through my consciousness and I find myself questing spiritually once again. I talked with a witchy friend about her craft with deep curiosity and openness. My fascination with energy medicine, crystals and incense feels more spiritual and downright witchy compared to my church’s Sunday services. I discovered the word for ‘witch’ actually meant ‘wise’. I considered the witch hunts in patriarchal societies where men in power were afraid of losing that power. It feels painfully familiar in this day and age. I’ve been reading, talking and learning about the power of energy, intent and words. I’ve been learning a lot about habits, rituals, and why we do what we do the way we do.

Jewish Shabbat candles on Friday nights, Pagan candle magic, Lutheran candles and rites and repeat after me’s…they are beautiful rituals. In our family, being served cake in bed on the morning of your birthday is a whole thing. God help me if I serve anything but pizza for Friday Night Pizza and a movie with the family. Many people have a strong tradition, a ritual, of a big Sunday Dinner. Some of us take tea or coffee drinking to a ritual. French press or scheduled coffee maker...whole beans only and at least two pushups against the counter while waiting for the coffee maker to finish.

According to Wikipedia, a ritual has four dimensions: content, frequency, intensity, and centrality. They can be characterized by traditionalism, symbolism, and performance. Ari Shapiro recently interviewed author Dimitri Xygalatas about his book “Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living” he said ,“Rituals are important to human life…even when they help individuals, through their anxieties, connect to one another.” I thought that was curious…the idea of ritual being connected to anxiety. I myself am not an anxious person. I have heard of folks who have to check their locks or something similar a certain way or amount of times….a compulsion but also a bit of a ritual. Outside of church attendance my only ritual acts I’d been aware of were binging whatever I watched on Netflix or napping in the afternoon.

I balk at anything like rules or “must dos” but I do admire ritual from afar. When I found out I was 1% Jewish from a DNA test, I tried to make a Friday night Shabbat happen….because I liked the candlelight. The other 99% of me got in the way. Instead, I asked myself what I liked about that ritual. It was the dark night warmed by candlelight. I liked the weekly ritual and invitation to slow down shared by family. I realized I could make my own ritual instead of appropriating another culture’s. While my family isn’t quite on board yet, I have begun lighting candles on Sundays (or Mondays!) to welcome the evening. I often light candles in the morning to give our home that soft sweetness in an otherwise busy morning.

I covet the ritual of a daily walk. (I’m pretty sure my poor doggo does too!) I haven’t made that new habit, that life affirming ritual happen yet. We are sporadic and it is always wonderful! Walking in the neighborhood I see things more slowly than when I zoom through in the car. It takes me longer to move through the spaces and places, but it also calms me and helps me take better care of my sweet pet. I like the idea of long daily walks, but do not know how to make them not just a habit, but a real ritual for myself. Unlike many rituals, there is no group with me to keep me following along.

Considering possibility in my daily life has led me to take many of the small things more seriously. I’ve begun giving thanks for all the hands along the food production line when I eat a meal. I’m lighting candles more often. I’ve putting down my phone a little more and watching the tiny interactions available to me. As I seek more magic in my life, I can see the value in everything. Recognizing life through small rituals makes me more aware and present to the whole wide world. In making space for ritual in daily life, I discover more life in my days.

Music: Chant of the Mystics: Divine Gregorian Chant "O filii et filiae" by Patrick Lenk

Heather Novak's professional history includes sales and customer service training and troubleshooting for businesses, but she loves motivational speaking best. Heather leads church events for youth, singles and women, has spoken for Chicago Apartment Association and many organizations throughout Indiana. Nowadays Heather is just another stay at home wild mama trying to loose some weight, keep some sanity and enjoy her life. She is being raised by two little girls named Portia and Libby and is indulged by a guy named John who was gracious enough to marry her. Heather blogs about F Words: Feisty Faith, Fumbling Family, Fairly Healthy Food, Failed Fashion and Fabulous Friendships. You can find her at