If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you likely saw my post about which rites or rituals are in my upcoming dark supernatural high fantasy romance, A Heart of Salt & Silver.
There are quite a few in there, and it was so much fun to write them.
But rites and rituals are more than just fun to write.
They’re major worldbuilding tools, and deserve proper attention from writers. You can’t just write a pretty ceremony or a dark, broody ritual and not pay attention to the context.
These things have bigger implications for the world, the characters, and the plot than just being some party they go to.
Rites and rituals say a lot about the culture they exist within. You can learn a lot about a group of people by studying how they mourn, how they celebrate, what they mourn, and what they celebrate. That shows you what that group of people values.
You should also pay attention to what kind of ceremony is held and how much of a commotion they make about it.
So, let’s say your book includes a wedding (or whatever you call it in your fictional universe). The level of pomp and circumstance put into that ceremony can show the role those domestic partnerships play in their society.
If it’s pivotal to their culture, the entire village might turn out for the big ceremony. If marriage is seen as more of a merger of power and wealth, the decorations and the food and the finery will likely take center stage.
In The Regonia Chronicles, Daen Tribe partnering ceremonies include a lot of singing. They honor their ancestors, the Drennar, with their voices. Singing pervades nearly every aspect of their life. So naturally, it’s part of every rite and ritual.
They wear special headdresses made with antlers and local flowers, showing reverence for nature.
They get new tattoos done in a vibrant shade of blue, the same shade of blue that decorated their ancestors’ skin (you know, before the last of the Drennar died out from a mysterious illness contracted while exploring the deep recesses of space, leaving Daen tribe to its own devices on Regonia).
Their relationships are very important to them, and divorce is not a thing for them. As such, the tattoo for their partnering ceremony is VERY large, so much so that the specific location where the tattoo is placed can only fit one.
So, just showing a partnering ceremony tells A LOT about their culture.
Now, you can get deep into the details during the planning stage (if you plan) or while writing. You can go into the symbolism behind each color and how those colors came to mean those things.
You can fill a summoning ceremony with lore, telling your reader which gods or demons or creatures are more receptive to the pleas of mortals.
You can plan out each and every possible symbolic meaning for each piece of plant or animal matter used in a ritual sacrifice, whether all that detail finds its way into the final draft or not.
But be careful, despite how important these rites and rituals are.
If you tend to procrastinate, this has the potential to swallow you. And at some point, you have to write the story.
And on that note…
Keep reading. Keep writing.