Rituals, Ceremonies and Rites of Passage play a great part in knowing where we are and where we are going within our Pagan society, whether it be as a Solitary Practitionor, Coven Member, High Priest, High Priestess or merely as someone interested in how we conduct ourselves within the limitless boundries of Wiccan/Pagan or other Earth Based Religions.
What EXACTLY is a ritual? Well, it can be something as simple as starting each day off with a daily devotional prayer or affirmation to the God or Goddess or something as complicated as an Esbat Ritual or Sabbat Ritual. It is something done with repetition even if the words or movements change at specific times of the day, the month or The Wheel of the Year.
Ceremony, as far as we Wiccans/Pagans are concerned, is something done within ritual. It can be a consecration/dedication of tools to the God/dess, Magick or Spellwork, etc. It is almost always a part of a ritual and can also include a Rite of Passage Ceremony for one or more members of a group or gathering.
A Rite of Passage is exactly what it implies......a specific happening within a Pagans' life that either occurs at a specific time or age or as knowledge is aquired and recognized and of course the Final Rite of Passage, which is known as death in the mundane (Muggles) world. The Rites of Passage include, but are not limited to, Birthing (Wiccaning/Paganing/Siening), Coming of Age, Initiation, Handfasting, Midlife, Priestess and Priesthood, Elderhood and Final Passage.
While the Christian Community and The Catholic Church in particular swears that we as Pagans have stolen all of their various forms of ritual, ceremony, liturgy, litany and rites of passage from them and adapted it to our own "twisted" form of religion, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it is the Church that aquired (has taken, borrowed, or whatever) most of what they, themselves utilized in the Catholic Mass and "The Way of the Church", i.e., candles, incense, censor, staff, septor and to that added extravagent robes, hats, suppression of other faiths, oppression toward any differing religious doctrines or dogmas and the like.
As Oberon Zell of The Church of All Worlds has said in his now famous paper on the subject, we Pagans were not "born in original sin". We are "THE OTHER PEOPLE"; We were born into a state of "original bliss". To read the complete article written by him, please visit The Church of All Worlds website and read this article, as well as all the other articles both he and his wife, Morning Glory Zell have written over the years.