Ritual is ubiquitous in religion. Mention any religion, and a ritual is usually the first image that comes to mind. Rituals are closely tied to family and community; they also mark the seasons and the passing of time. For these reasons, they continue to be important not just to the segment of practicing believers but also the broader public.
Ash Wednesday foreheads
here and there
in the financial district
Tom Tico (Modern Haiku 41:2)
the last wisp of smoke
from the blown-out candle
Michael Ketchek (Modern Haiku 40:3)
When we miss these observances, we feel it.
weaving at home
Tatsuki Matsutani (Modern Haiku 41:1)
Festival of Souls
probably no water for them
in the cemetery this year
Yotenchi Agari - Composed in a U.S. internment camp (Modern Haiku 40:2, from Margaret Chula’s essay)
From a practical point of view, rituals can seem arbitrary and extraneous: window dressing when compared to the substance of religious ideas. However, ritual performs a key function, helping us manage life transitions. Huston Smith writes: “Death is the glaring example. Stunned by tragic bereavement, we would founder completely if we were thrown on our own and had to think our way through the ordeal. This is why death, with its funerals and memorial services, its wakes and sitting shiva, is the most ritualized rite of passage.” (Smith, The World’s Religions, pp. 300-301)
bouquet of daisies
a bee comes to visit
my mother’s grave
Christoper Herold (Mariposa 12)
Of course, rituals are rooted in the past. But rituals are also dynamic, changing over time and adapting to new realities: everything from new technology to more diverse audiences.
Chicago’s grotto of Lourdes--
an electric switch
lights a candle for my father
Mary L. Kwas (Modern Haiku 40:2)
the rabbi switches
from Hebrew to English
Michael Dylan Welch (Modern Haiku 39:1)
In large and small ways, each of us can turn to our tradition, and be enveloped in its warm embrace.
Chinese New Year
carrying the dragon
Patrick Gallagher (Mariposa 16)
Because many of us grew up with at least some religious/cultural rituals, I believe that this topic is fertile ground for haiku poets. Rituals open the door not only to the religious/spiritual, but also to family, relationships, childhood, the seasons, food, and much more.
On July 17, I presented a talk on religion and haiku at HPNC’s summer meeting
. At the end of the presentation, I asked the audience (about 25 people) to try to write a haiku about a religious topic of their choice. I was impressed with the quality. I was also impressed with the accessibility of the topic -- the group only had 10 minutes to compose their haiku!
Have you composed haiku around rituals, observances, or holidays that you’d like to share?