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Complex or Simple?

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on April 18, 2011 | Comments (1)

I was working on the second part of my 3-part series concerning the 110 years of Llewellyn (you can read part one by clicking HERE), when I had a realization I thought I’d share. Last night, I attended a wonderful Pagan full moon ritual held by a local coven. As is found in virtually all rituals, there were speeches. Now, it so happens that this group has some excellent writers. Some of the speeches were longer, poetic, and evocative. Some were shorter, direct, and to the point.

That got me wondering: which is better (by which I mean more effective)? Long, elaborate speeches as are frequently found in ceremonial magick rituals, or shorter, less flowery ones?

Passion and Emotion

Crowley suggested using imitation Olde English (with “thou” and “thy” and “hath” rather than “you,” “your,” and “have”) to indicate that the words of ritual are more than ordinary and thus induce a state of mind that you are in a magickal rather than an ordinary situation. This certainly supports the use of elaborate invocations and evocations found in the classic grimoires from centuries past. But is it necessary? Is it even useful?

There is a story, I don’t know if it’s true, about the famous author, Ernest Hemingway. Supposedly, while at the famous authors’ “round table” at the Algonquin hotel in New York City, sitting with other wordsmiths, he bet them that he could write a short story of only six words. Everyone put in $10. Hemingway wrote six words on a napkin and passed it around. He won the pot.

Ernest Hemingway in 1950

So why did he win? His six words told a complete story. But perhaps more importantly, they brought out feelings and emotions in all who read it. The story had a far greater impact than the few words that told it.

And that, I believe, is the secret. Certainly what you write is vitally important. Your ritual must be complete just as Hemingway’s story was complete. The words must fully express the intent of the ritual, properly call on any spirits or deities you work with, and ceertainly use the correct correspondences. What I’m talking about here transcends getting the facts right just as the classic play Oedipus Rex transcends the plot: “Oedipus kills father, marries mother, becomes king, and when he discovers what he’s done plucks out his eyes.”

The choice of words for a ritual you compose,
whether complex and ornate or simple and direct,
need to bring out the passions and emotions of participants and any observers.

I’ve been to rituals where people read long, boring speeches that have literally put me to sleep. I’ve also been to examples of the same ritual where the same speech, being well spoken, fired me with emotion, direction, drive, and excitement. The presentation of the words, as well as the words, was vitally important.

Crowley understood. The words must bring out something special in you. Even Abramlin the Mage had it right when he wrote you should “enflame yourself with prayer.”

So if you design a ritual with complex and ornate speeches, make sure they have meaning and will excite both the practitioner and anyone else involved in the ritual. If you design a ritual where you say little or even nothing, make sure the actions and words you do say fire every atom of your being toward achieving your goal. And when saying the words, say them with meaning, passion, excitement, and intent.

Hemingway’s Six-Word Story

For sale:
Baby Shoes.
Never worn.

Reader Comments

Written By Nathair
on April 19th, 2011 @ 11:44 am

Thanks for the shout out, Don. We’re glad that you enjoyed yourself.

Your article is right on. One of the things that we try to impress upon our students is that as a priest/ess it is their job to make the words live. They have to make what they are saying real… I mean why would a spirit answer a call if the priest or priestess doesn’t even believe it?

This is one of the reasons why, if something is written ahead of time, we require that it be committed to memory. This allows the structure of our left brain to merge with the creative power of our right brain and give birth to something greater than the words on the page.

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