Theatrical Considerations in Ritual

By Oberon Zell

Oberon Zell graced the January 23rd Lost Chord Awards with the evening’s convocation. Herein he speaks to ritual.

OZ-wand (copy)      Morning Glory and I were both very involved in theatre throughout high school and college. As a member of the Thespian  Society, I immersed myself in everything from set design, costuming, and makeup to on-stage acting. Morning Glory and I both regularly got leading roles in many of the school plays, and we remember them each fondly these many years later. We consider our theatrical experience to be perhaps one of our most important trainings for our later vocations as Priest and Priestess—especially for large public rituals. And we highly recommend this training to anyone who is really serious about wanting to create and perform rituals and ceremonies. Nearly every community has a local community theater where plays are performed several times a year. Look them up, and go try out for a part. Even a walk-on or extra role will teach you valuable lessons to lend depth and authenticity to your performance and staging of ceremonies—especially in how to project your voice and your energy

Ritual and theatre were originally one. They began around the campfires of our most ancient ancestors, from the time we first learned the  mastery of this most magickal Element. For our very humanity began with the taming of Fire. All our magick—and all our culture—came first from the Fire. Gathered around our blazing hearths, we sang our first songs, made our first music, danced our first dances, told our first stories, and performed our first plays. These performances recounted the experiences of our lives and adventures for the rest of the clan, enacting, in time, the tales of our ancestors, the mighty deeds of our legendary heroes, the myths of our gods, and the Mysteries of Life, Death, and Rebirth. For hundreds of thousands of years we did this, and only in the past 2,500 years did “theatre” begin to be distinguished from “ritual.”

If theatre is to be defined as involving the art of acting a part on stage, that is the dramatic impersonation of another character than yourself, we begin with Thespis. A figure of whom we know very little, he won the play competition in honor of the Greek god Dionysus, in 534 bce. While it is uncertain whether Thespis was a playwright, an actor or a priest, it is his name with which the dramatic arts are associated in our word “Thespian.”  (Tupelo Community Theatre, n.d.)
All Greek drama was dedicated to Dionysos, and performed in the context of sacred rituals in his honor. And for the next 2,000 years after Thespis, the vast majority of Thespian performances continued to enact religious rituals, pageants, and “Mystery Plays.” So there is a rich historical lineage and tradition of dramatic ritual, and ritual drama. Good ritual is good theatre.

Read play scripts to learn how to stage and script your rituals dramatically—and how to write them up so they can be easily understood by the performers. Learn how to designate characters, costumes, sets, props, and stage directions. Learn to make ritual implements (“props”): magickal tools, staves, scepters, streamers, etc. Learn to design and create appropriate costumes, such as simple robes and colored tabards for the four directions; as well as masks, wings, tiaras, helms, and headdresses for different spirits and deities, etc. Learn to create dramatic sets, with altars, gateways, henges, ritual fires, tiki torches, banners, etc. Learn special effects to add a flair of drama—such as powders to make the fire flare up in different colors. And develop a good stage voice to reach to the outermost fringes of the largest Circle.

And most importantly , learn how to memorize your lines! Nothing detracts more from the effect of a ritual than to have the performers carrying around paper scripts, and reading aloud from them! However, for certain formal rituals (such as Handfastings, Initiations, Dedications, Rites of Passage, etc.), it is not untoward to have your script bound into an impressive-looking binder as a Grimoire or “Book of Shadows” which will sit open on the Altar as a prop—perhaps even on a stand. An image of a Pentagram or Magick Circle Mandala on the cover will give it a real mystical aura of credibility. After all, magickal rites are often referred to as “Bell, Book, and Candle.”


 Oberon Zell Ravenheart  

Founder of Green Egg and Church of All Worlds. Headmaster of the Grey School of Wizardry. Unicorn Wrangler. We are certain Oberon is an Elven magic maker who has stepped out of legend to be with us here on this Earth at this time.


Reference

Tupelo Community Theatre. (n.d.). Ancient Theatre. Retrieved 2016, from TCTWebstage.com: http://www.tctwebstage.com/ancient.htm

 

 

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