“I remember them mainly by their character names…” We were talking about the people we had met over the years at various workshops we had attended before the birth of the Silent Eye and how the assumed persona of their roles overlaid memory.
“I don’t remember ‘my’ name from Alchemy…”
“I do… and I was scared stiff… but when it was my turn to introduce myself as my character, it wasn’t me who stepped forward, but the opera singer…”
It is odd how these things work. Talk about casting against type! Back then, I was quiet, shy, inexperienced and completely lacking in self-confidence… and, as far as I was concerned, couldn’t sing at all. Yet they had cast me as an internationally renowned opera singer; a diva with absolute confidence in her fame and sure of her place in the world. We were poles apart… about as far as you could get. Yet… I managed to portray the character, stepping into the role with surprising ease in front of a room full of people I considered my superiors in knowledge, experience and confidence. I even managed to make them laugh! And my surprise was complete when several people complimented me on ‘her’ grand entrance. Thankfully, I was supposed to be ‘resting’…I didn’t have to sing…
We talked about that… about how easy it is to leave the day-to-day self behind when we assume the mask provided by such a role. It is one of the reasons we use this method in the workshops, after all.
And we had, of course, been looking back on the River of the Sun … and looking forward too, to Leaf and Flame, next year’s April workshop, already underway as far as the creative process is concerned. As we have the broad outlines of the story we will be using, as well as a number of bookings, there was the almost inevitable pause as we considered who would be best in some of the ‘roles’ we will be writing for Leaf and Flame.
The annual workshop is played out in the form of a ritualised story. Each person is given a fully scripted ‘role’ for the weekend. Unlike a theatrical production there is no requirement to learn lines or to be able to act. Just to be there and read from the script. Of course, the more we enter into the spirit of the role, and the more we get to know our ‘characters’, the more vivid the experience becomes. Robes and costumes simply add to the ‘alternative reality’ we create…and these roles are never allocated at random, though we may sometimes think that they are.
For example, there was, in my mind, only one person who could ‘be’ Amkhren, the young man brought into the Temple in River of the Sun to be initiated into his role as a priest in the Egyptian Mysteries. Which was odd, as we weren’t even certain he was coming until quite late in the day and the role had been ‘his’ from very early on in the writing process, long before I, for one, knew how the story would unravel. As it turned out, the personal journey that unfolded for him, and for those closely involved with it, could hardly have been more appropriate in symbolic terms. Yet outwardly, you wouldn’t necessarily pick the tallest person there to play a child… yet somehow the role ‘fit’ in a way that transcends logic.
The roles are not simply theatrical constructs; they are portrayals of the principles with which we work and shadow forth in symbolic terms aspects of the way human consciousness aligns with spiritual principles and the nature of the divine essence behind life itself. The assumption of one of these roles can leave a deep and lasting understanding at levels beyond logical thought. What is learned may take a while to bubble back up to the surface, but for those who attend, it is a magical experience in more ways than one.
All of these roles present you with a ‘mask’… a persona that lifts you from the everyday world and allows you to express yourself without the normal constraints of modern society. This is, after all, a fictional world we create. To be ‘typecast’… playing a role that aligns with your own character or spiritual journey allows you to explore your own psyche and its relationship to the world in ways not normally possible. You can observe the interaction from a unique and fascinating angle. To be cast against type allows that exploration in new and uncharacteristic ways, highlighting those interactions through contrast between the role and the world beyond the workshop and such roles have an empowering effect that lasts long after the weekend is over.
Add to that the effects of working in a group, where a shared and sacred intent and the combined energies of those present raise a simple room to a temple of the Mysteries and you have a recipe for true magic… and magic has been defined as creating change.
I thought back to the ‘mouse’ who had been cast as the opera singer… and had once been cast as a queen of the Fae who had ‘forgotten her origins’. That too had been apt. Then I thought back to the birth of the Silent Eye and the woman who had worn vivid red and orange robes the same colour as her hair… a woman who had opened the very first weekend workshop by singing, in public… and in tune!
Does magic work? Define your terms… If what you ask is ‘does what we do create positive change?’ then my personal answer would be a resounding ‘Yes!’ I am no longer the mouse I used to be, but the woman I am supposed to be. Still a work in progress, but nevertheless… whole. And happy.
But don’t just take my word for it… come along to one of our events and meet us… and see for yourself.