Deep Cuts

Deep Cuts: Ritual Songs

It’s amazing how many rituals we participate in without realizing it. That’s because in our culture the word sags beneath the weight of its heavy connotations. Rituals are pagan, Satanic, antiquated, at the very least least foreign. Ritual killings. Ritual sacrifice. Ritual initiation.

Put yourself in the place of that old cliche, the hypothetical alien that just landed on Earth, but in this case you come from a planet where the concept of “ritual” is already known. You land in wholesome America City, America, the home of the most American Americans to ever America. In fact, you land on the Fourth of July–parades, soldiers, floats, bands; the night sky filled with fireworks.

The next day you stumble upon a funeral, the dearly departed laid out in a satin-lined box, inanimate head resting on a comfy pillow. Flowers, speeches, bowed heads, a procession, more speeches, the box lowered into a hole.

On the third day you visit a building filled with small humans, the hatchlings, divided into groups of thirty quartered in rooms, each managed by a full-sized human. The hatchlings stand on their hind legs and face a piece of cloth attached to a pole. They place one paw upon their breastplates and in unison they drone what sounds like an oath.

Your observations continue for months. The hatchlings disguise themselves and the adults pretend to be frightened or delighted before handing them candy. A couple of lunar cycles later the occupants of each home kill a tree, drag it inside, and cover it in baubles.

If you can get out of your frame of reference for a little bit you’ll notice all kinds of rituals that we engage in, and when you think about them they’re pretty weird.

Here’s one of my favorite personal rituals: Each Wednesday I make a themed playlist comprised of songs from my personal stacks. Don’t ask me why I own a Quiet Riot album. Even if I knew, I probably wouldn’t tell you.

P.S. Don’t forget to wear green next Tuesday, else I’m obligated to pinch you.

“Love Ritual,” Al Green.

“The Headmaster Ritual,” The Smiths.

“Ritual,” Ghost.

“Ritual Fire Dance,” Czar.

“Backyard Ritual,” Miles Davis.

“The Ritual,” Quiet Riot.

“Ritual Dance,” Michael Hedges.

“Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin,” Frank Zappa.

There you have it: Eight songs for your spring rites. What did I miss? I’m listening.

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