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Ritual, Theater, or Ritual Theater?

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on November 12, 2012 | Comments (1)

This last weekend I drove from Southern California to Las Vegas where I gave workshops on experiencing past lives and techniques of Tantra at the Well of the Moon shop. I’d like to thank Vicki and all of the people there for their kindness and generosity. I’d also like to thank all of the people who attended and made both workshops a success…and lots of fun!

While I was there—doing double duty as an acquisitions editor for Llewellyn—I had a chance to meet with two authors. The first was a potential author who has unique approaches to magick for children, teens, and adults. I originally met her at the Las Vegas Pagan Pride day I attended a few months ago. We talked about the book publishing process and her approach to writing. I hope we will have a book written by her soon.

My other meeting was with a Llewellyn author, Jean-Louis de Biasi. He is the Grand Master of the Ordo Aurum Solis and is a 32° Scottish Rite Freemason, Southern Jurisdiction, U.S., F.G.C.R., Royal Arch Mason, as well as being a leading member of the Ordre Kabbalistique de la Rose-Croix. Jean-Louis lives in Las Vegas, now, but he comes to the U.S. by way of France and Canada. He has several books published in France and is popular there as a writer. 

Photo of Jean-Louis de Biasi by Patricia Bourin

So far, Jean-Louis has two books with Llewellyn. The first is The Divine Arcanum of the Aurum Solis. This book is an important addition to the magickal tradition of the Aurum Solis. However, you don’t have to be a member of that group to use its information for making the Tarot cards into powerful talismanic devices.

His second book is Secrets and Practices of the Freemasons. This is not just another, tired, repetition of the history of the Freemasons (which, as de Biasi told me, is often more myth than reality). As a result of his researches into the vaults of hidden European Masonic records, this book includes rituals and techniques anyone can use. He told me he has received letters from Masons all over the world asking for more information like this as this material is often not revealed to other Masons. Now it’s available for everyone, Mason and non-Mason alike. We discussed his next two books and I think they’re going to be very popular. If you haven’t heard of de Biasi yet, you will. If you haven’t read and studied his books yet, you’ll want to do so very soon!

Ritual and Theater

I was going to post today on a completely different topic. Specifically, I was going to write on the Festival of Lights. Most of the people reading this will equate this with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. But Hanukkah doesn’t start for another couple of weeks, so why mention it now? It’s because there is another Festival of Lights, called Diwali, that is very popular in India. Its celebration pre-dates that of Hanukkah and there are numerous surprising similarities between the two holidays. Diwali 2012 begins tomorrow, November 13, so I was going to discuss this.

Diwali Celebration. Photo by Ashish Kanitkar

But something else caught my attention. This was a blog post about ritual construction. The post gives a very good outline as to how to design a ritual from a Kabalistic perspective, using the Tree of Life, the Tarot, Crowley’s 777, and some of Crowley’s ritual construction ideas as a basis. I do suggest that people read it.

It’s important to understand, in my opinion, that this post was about ritual construction, not performance. Thus, the final section of the blog which just says things like, “Once you have the temple set up in the appropriate manner, you begin with the rituals of the pentagram and hexagram. The ‘standard’ rituals for this are the Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram…” Coming from the author’s perspective, I don’t disagree with him at all. However, saying you just do the rituals is sort of like saying driving a car consists of “sitting in the driver’s seat, turning the key, and going.” There’s a lot more to driving than just those ten words! And while the blog post is good for ritual construction, I would respectfully suggest that a follow-up is needed on what is required for actual ritual performance.

Jean-Louis de Biasi and I were discussing this very topic at lunch. Merely reading words, walking in circles, and waving wands is theater, not ritual. As I said in our talk, “Many people write about magick from here [pointing at my head] rather than from here [pointing at my heart].” Effective ritual requires the creation and movement of energy. Jean-Louis agreed with me on this. He said that many Masons have forgotten this and their rituals have become ineffective. They’re just theater. He said that’s why so many Masons have written him—his book goes beyond the words to the energy that must drive the words. As those who have read either my Modern Magick or my Modern Sex Magick know, this is something I strongly agree with.

Yes, it’s important to have well-designed rituals. But without the energy to support the magick of the ritual, all you have is theater. This is one of the challenges with public rituals. Often they are nothing but theater. In my opinion, that can be a great thing. I happen to love live theater, especially theater that is mystical and magickal in nature. Unfortunately, for some people, theater has replaced magickal ritual. Sometimes I have experienced public performances where there is no power and not even good theater, but some people who attended or even participated as ritualists ooh and ahh saying how powerful the ritual was while I, and other actual magicians in attendance, give each other puzzled looks wondering what these people are talking about.

Method Acting

One of the things I discussed with Jean-Louis came from my training in acting. Constantin Stanislavsky, who created method acting, stated that actors had to project “rays” to the audience, indicating that this was more than just a role. Rather, they actually performed fully believing that if they were the character, this is what they would be doing, thinking, feeling and saying. This, in my opinion, is the same type of energy ritualists need to feel and project to create powerful magick.

All ritual is theater, but not all theater is ritual. Jean-Louis de Biasi said that the energy needs to be balanced and beautiful to be successful. I told him that I was going to be talking about that same thing in my workshop that night.

I think that some people think that theater isn’t ritual (it doesn’t have to be) and that ritual isn’t theater (and lots of rituals are terrible forms of theater). I would like to suggest that magicians might be better served by thinking that what they do is ritual theater, combining the best of the magickal energy of ritual and the best performance of theater.

What do you think?

 

A Sad Note

I regret to say that I’ve just learned of the passing of my friend Patricia Monaghan. Her writings and workshops on goddesses blessed us all. For more on her passing, please see this post.

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  1. In the Name of Symbolism  on November 15th, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

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