HPF 2016: Elemental Rites

We had a beautiful and elaborate ritual arc planned.  We were going to have a ritual each day of the festival: opening with Earth, progressing through Air and Water, and culminating in Fire.  There were to be four elemental altars, each to be staffed by one of my Keepers for the two hours before the ritual they would officiate.  My ritual crew was to gather at the altars and process throughout the camp each night, calling people to ritual.

Then we had a week of torrential rains.  Capped off by a tornado on opening day.

The elemental altars were never fully erected.  My Keeper of Earth, an experienced hiker, felt that the path to hers was unsafe.  The Water alter never even made it down to the lake.  Having lost a day and a great deal of energy to the chaos of Thursday’s tornado, the oracular stations never took place.  Thursday night’s ritual, as I described yesterday, just didn’t happen.  I have since issued a public apology for all of this, but more than that … we were all looking forward to it.  It was a loss for us as well as for the community.

After a great deal of discussion and soul-searching, we decided that the thing to do was to have the opening Earth ritual Friday night and conclude with Fire as we had originally planned.  We would figure out what to do with the Air and Water rituals after we’d made it past the first goal post.

The Earth ritual was focused on cleansing ourselves of what had come before — written originally as our “mundane” lives, but expanded to include the fear and terror of the day before — and revolved around two points; “we are of the earth, we are upon the earth, and in the end, we are below the earth”; and “be here now”.  Having led the participants through a rudimentary banishing, and ecstatic chanting led by Shauna Aura Knight, we conjured the genus locus of the Gaea Retreat Center, as aspected by Lupa, to cement the deal.  We passed out hand-sewn pouches in which to collect sacred objects found or gifted throughout the festival, and concluded the ritual with a group hug, belatedly welcoming everyone to the festival.

At the end of the ritual, our Keeper of Air announced that we would be combining the Air and Water rituals for Saturday night.

The Air ritual was designed to help us discern and articulate our desires.  Our key phrases in that ritual were “breathe and think” and “breathe together, live together”, with Shauna once again leading the chants.  To the end of naming our desires, the Keeper of Air conjured the nine Muses, aspected by myself in a nine-faced mask — an experience that I will speak more on, later.  For this ritual’s tokens, we passed out cones of incense.

We concluded the Air ritual as written, and Shauna held the space by leading the participants in a chant while my crew and I switched gears, turning ritual leadership over from the Keeper of Air to the Keeper of Water.

The Water ritual brought us together to face our fears, the things that hold us back.    We brought everyone to the center of the circle as they chanted, and made them reach into a pool of water to get their seashell tokens.  Then the Keeper of Water conjured Typhoeus, father of monsters, performed by Shauna Aura Knight to claim our fears as his children.  Then everyone was brought back into the center of the circle to comfort one another.  It was written to be heavy, and it was Shauna’s chance to deploy a number of her ecstatic techniques that could not be woven into the other rituals gracefully.  The ritual thesis, dropped in the final line, was, “In the end, we must all face our fears.  But we need not face them alone.”

The final ritual was Fire.  Having sequestered ourselves, consulted the Muses, and faced our fears, it was time to act.  The Keeper of Fire spoke of rekindling the divine spark within ourselves, dimmed by oppression and defeat.  She conjured Prometheus to aid us, and he demanded an oath to pursue our ambitions before he would give us his aid.  Again, Shauna added her ecstatic chants to raise and maintain energy, and to focus it into the candles we gave as tokens — candles which serve as contracts with Prometheus, cementing the vow to act in return for his aid.

All in all, I think that the rituals went off beautifully.  There were a handful of flubbed lines and missed beats, but literally nothing that someone who didn’t write the script would notice.  My Keepers were amazing, each stepping up past their own previously conceived limits.  Lupa’s incarnation of the spirit of Camp Gaea was masterful and powerful.  Shauna’s chant techniques reinforced our script and filled gaps in the rituals that we had not known how to fix.  And Nels and Judy’s drumming helped tie everyhing together across all four rituals.  Oh, and the costumes.  I can’t wait to get the pictures back so I can show them off to you.  Especially the nine muses.  People poo-poo theatrical rituals, but it fucking works.

The feedback we have received so far has been overwhelmingly positive.  I think that I can safely say that we are succeeding in serving our community.



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