Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Ritual

Theatre for God and Creation

I had a powerful experience this weekend. I participated with a group of Wiccans in a ritual celebration of Samhain. (Samhain being the Celtic word for what we now call Halloween). Wow. At first, it felt like "open air theater". And then it became much more profound. I was reminded that Theater evolved out of Ritual, and suddenly, profoundly, I understood why.

The event itself was challenging for me. We've been conditioned to see the world through a particular lens, and while we talk about openness and tolerance of strange ideas, (or even ideas we proclaim as not so strange), to actually place oneself into the world-view of another, and actively participate, is another thing entirely. Especially when that world-view requires that you let down your guard and be intimate with the the world in a new way.

In other words, it's one thing to root for your friend's baseball team because you're visiting from another city. It's another to participate in a Samhain ritual with a coven of witches.

And I admit that I was a little anxious. How much of this whole shebang was I really up for? How much of myself would I be able to give to it? And it was expected to last six hours. (Six hours?! Hello? When was the last time you went to church for six hours straight?)

But all this is prelude. I went. I participated meaningfully, and as the time passed, I entered the ritual more fully and willingly. The ritual had many parts, including honoring the elements, the cycles of the year, and the ancestors.

But the centerpiece for me was the ritual re-enactment of the Sacred Hunt, where the hunter becomes one with the prey, and through the process understands what it means to sacrifice oneself, what it means to die and return to the arms of the Goddess Mother, and what it means to be reborn on the other side of Death.

I have been facing, experiencing, and interacting with Death quite a bit lately, as a kind of "personal adviser" to my healing and spiritual work. This very sophisticated (dare I say "elegant"?) force in the Universe has been incredibly instructive and stunningly illuminating.

So this ritual was relevant for me on many levels. It was a challenge to be fully present, it was an opportunity to explore new ground, and it was another window into the teachings I've been receiving.

But what was MOST powerful was the "meta-experience". I experienced, for the first time, the real power of ritual. I've heard the words about why we do ritual, the role it's supposed to serve in connecting us to the past and all that. But those words never really had any weight or consequence for me. I think it's because I never really had a handle on the utility of connecting with the past.

Now, I do.

When I re-enacted a story that has been played out countless times over the past 25,000 years - The Hunt - and attempted to understand what was sacred about it, to see it in sacred terms, with sacred truths to be mined, something deeply and powerfully magical happened.

I felt the nature of reality, the fabric, very deeply that night. It was like a flowing drapery or cloak, a shifting, velvety fabric draped across the universe, with the folds and creases as our experiences.

Through the ritual, I found that crease, that fold, that vein in the fabric of creation that has been worn and polished over 25,000 years. I felt the continuity and connection with all of history and all of creation in that experience. The Hunt is such a powerful current, because it was/is so essential; it was like touching a fundamental harmonic of the song of creation. And for me, my perception about the nature of the world and the nature of reality was transformed.

I learned sacred truths. I participated in a community, creating something special. And I could go on and on and on about what I learned. But it was because I touched reality in a new way that I learned. I was able to harvest so much. It wasn't the ritual that taught me. It was the way ritual brought me into contact with deep reality that taught me.

That was Magic.

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