Hours before the majority of the Companions arrive, the work has begun. Some must be trained as fire marshals, some look after the room allocations, welcoming those who arrive… and others… well, okay, largely the same ones actually…. and chiefly those dignified beings otherwise known as directors of the Silent Eye… become temple monkeys.
Quite where the epithet originated I could not say, though I have my suspicions. It is apt, though, as we pretty much swing from the rafters in an attempt to get everything right for the first ritual drama of the weekend. By this time, of course, anything we have not packed will have to be improvised. Everything is planned in advance right down to the last detail, from a spare lighter for the central flame to a small blob of Blu-Tack.
Cars, stuffed to the brim with props, furnishings, technical equipment and costumes, must be unloaded. Robes must be hung, small items laid out where they can be found. Scripts… beautifully bound by one of our Companions, must be distributed. This year there was also a document entitled ‘Temple Monkey Pack’…
Although we know the venue very well by now, each year is different and our needs can change, not only year to year but day to day within an event. Every one of the ritual dramas will require something different. As we worked to set up the Egyptian Temple, we had already begun to plan what we would need in place for next year’s workshop, Leaf and Flame. All these details must be furnished before the Companions gather at the door, every time. Yet all this detailed preparation is no more than window dressing for the mind, designed and employed to enable the attention to move beyond the conscious care of everyday into the less familiar realms of being.
We always have help, somehow. This year we were to transform a second room for one of the rituals and sleeves were rolled up in earnest by a good many… yet what greeted them next day was not the shape they had constructed, even though the details were the same.
As the physical objects are put in place, the mundane seems to fade into the background and a temple space not built with hands settles like a mantle over our place of working. We work in a place that is neither more nor less sacred than any other… a simple room. Bricks and mortar do not build such an edifice. Yet, because of the focussed intent of those who attend such events and because of the history of such working there… it takes little to transform an everyday room into a place hallowed and alive with that indefinable peace that characterises any place where many come together as One.
Yet, although we shape and build a space, just as we craft and write a story for the rituals and prepare and research for the sharing of knowledge, what we are really doing with all this is shaping a vessel which we trust will be fit for purpose… an empty cup to hold a draught we do not create but which, we know, will answer the thirst of those who drink from it. When all is done, we raise the vessel and let the light stream in to fill it with a clear draught.