In two weeks time we will be in Derbyshire, just a mile or two from this enigmatic valley for the Silent Eye’s annual weekend workshop.
The story we will explore is set within the local landscape and at many of the ancient sites of the area. We work in the landscape for the three other, more informal workshops that we host each year, but for this one, we are bringing the landscape within, to create a sacred space in miniature that echoes the wider world; a microcosm within the macrocosm.
That is part of what is meant by ritual drama. We take a story, drawn from myth, imagination, or even stranger sources, and play it out symbolically. The story always addresses some of the spiritual and psychological principles behind the human journey and, through such rituals, we seek not only to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the world, but to set in motion the wheels of change.
This year, the story is inspired by sites we have visited often and know well and, over the weekend of the event, we will share some of them here and open the doors of the temple a little to share a glimpse of what we do. Raising awareness can have more than one meaning…
As soon as you mention temples, rituals and robes, people react. Some are intrigued, some scoff or shy away and others make the mental equivalent of the ancient sign against witchcraft. The Mysteries have always been shrouded in secrecy and there is good reason for that where the inner teachings are concerned, for they represent an experiential journey which must be taken, not taught. It is called by many names in many systems, but essentially it is the quest for the realisation of the true Self and its orgins…and how we can apply what we learn to our daily lives in order to grow. The journey for each of us is as individual as we are, and there are as many paths to that realisation as there are stars.
The robes are worn simply to signify a change of state… our intent to step aside from the world for a moment to align ourselves with the sacred, by whatever name we know it or through whatever paradigm we approach it. Within the ritual drama workshops, we may also use costumes, which serve the same purpose but with a more precise symbolism. They also help set the mood for whatever theme we are using and allow us to attune to it more readily by appealing to the imagination.
The sacred space that we call a temple is, on the face of it, no such thing. It is a large, sunny room with its curtains closed and a few symbolic items that serve a similar purpose to the robes. We don’t worship dark gods…in fact everyone is free to choose their own definition of divinity and, every year, we have an eclectic mix that ranges through a whole spectrum of beliefs, from shamanic to druidic, from Qabalists to ministers. That is one of the joys of these workshops, that folk from so many from different paths can work together as one and share their differing beliefs in harmony, learning from each other in mutual respect.
We don’t go in for sacrificing goats (or anything else) either. Quite apart from being a pointless waste of life, it would be exceedingly messy and land us with a heck of a cleaning bill. The only blood likely to be sacrificed is on the point of a sewing needle while making costumes. In spite of the number of times we have had to disappoint those who were expecting to learn we got up to something more exotic, the only thing we sacrifice is time and energy.
The ritual dramas are scripted, with each person taking a role for the weekend. The scripts are read, not learned, so there is no demand for memorising, and each is crafted to tell a story. We’ve even published some of the scripts, so there is no mystery there. On the surface it all seems pretty safe and innocuous…little more than amateur dramatics without the bother of rehearsals. So why on earth do people come half way round the world every year to attend?
There is more than meets the eye to what is brought to birth at these workshops and the effects can be deep and long-lasting.
It is a communion of spirit. People of many paths but one intent come together to share a journey of the heart, mind and soul that leads towards a common goal. The focused intent and dedication of the Companions are the magical ingredients that change everything and when we come together, what comes into being is greater than the sum of its parts. Many small candles, each no more than a single flame, together can illuminate the darkness. Words that seem no more than a story when seen on a cold page become fraught with meaning when awareness shifts from the mundane to the sacred and they are voiced with emotion and understanding. Doors are opened in the mind that lead to paths as yet untrodden. Simple robes become sacred vestments and an ordinary room becomes a timeless Temple when filled with that dedication to the Light.
“…a pale blue light rises behind the seated Temple officials. The East is flooded with its purity, and I am blinded by its intensity.”
The single flame that symbolises the Eternal Light is kindled in the heart and its glow lingers. Such magic is not born of words or gestures, not will you find it in the robes or the trappings of ritual. It comes from within when we turn ourselves to face the Light and we find ourselves within It. .