3 Old Men: mapping the field of ritual, redux, part 5

: Ritual sound & language :

[original post here]

What is the role of silence in the rite? … Do the people consider it important to talk about the rite, avoid talk about it, or to talk during it?  Are there parts of the rite for which they find it difficult or impossible to articulate verbalizable meanings? … How important is language to the performance of the rite?  What styles of language appear in it — incantation, poetry, narrative, rhetoric, creeds, invective, dialogue?  In what tones of voice do people speak?  … To what extent is the language formulaic or repetitious? … How much of the language is spontaneous, how much is planned?

The ritual itself, the transformation of Old Men, was done in silence, and I think it was good that way. I don’t know what others were doing, but I was soaking in the energy and trying to return it to my fellow Old Men and to the space. I think also that the visual of the Old Men performing their ritual in silence—as if we’d been doing this for years instead of for the second time in our lives—was quite compelling and beautiful.

(Think about that last bit, guys: we’d literally done the ritual only once before, at the runthrough out at Craig’s in September. We had no official way of making assignments or changes—and yet we did. More than one burner was astonished to find that we were Alchemy virgins, and a lot of their impression came from watching the solidity of the ritual. It looked ancient.)

Of course language was important to the agons—we had to engage the participant with the blessings/struggle. As far as I know, we didn’t actually codify the language there, although I don’t think anyone strayed very far from, “May I bless you?” / ”Will you bless me?” / “I offer you a struggle.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

And then language became critical for the experience: either our improvised blessing or theirs, and the choice of the struggle. Silence played its role as well: I never explained the struggle to the participant, just pushed into the space and did what felt right. Question for discussion: did anyone else develop specific language/actions for their versions of each agon?

As for talking about the rite, many people did and thought it was important to do so. I agree. I like to hear what people brought to the experience and what they got out of it. I think Craig’s instincts are correct that we should eventually provide a “decompression” space, perhaps with food and/or music.

Music was always welcome. Will’s Bach suites were amazing, and of course after sundown we always had Incendia for company. I do wonder how, if we added drumming, bells, or flute laying as a regular thing, that would work with Incendia going full blast.

One thought on “3 Old Men: mapping the field of ritual, redux, part 5

  1. When I was the one offering the blessing, then once I saw that a participant had chosen my exit, I focused on the participant and began to formulate the blessing as I watched them walk. Often I would use the element of the compass point as a basis: earth, air, fire, water. If I thought the person had encountered something deep out there, I tried to make the blessing about the journey and the search.

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