As promised, here’s part two of my post on ritual safety from the organiser/priestess/etc. point of view, (part one, focusing on the participant point of view is over here.) I should note my experience here: besides priestessing for various and assorted rituals over the past few years, I’ve also been on our local Pagan Pride board for the last three years. Situations of concern have been very limited in both places (a few people feeling faint, a few times someone had trouble coming back from meditation, etc. over the course of at least 100 rituals) and I think that a lot of that is due to thoughtful planning and awareness. That said, I haven’t seen everything, and I definitely welcome other thoughts and suggestions in comments.
Today, I’d like to talk about ritual safety. And there’s a particular reason I want to talk about this. Many people reading are probably already aware of the deaths of three people due to an extremely dangerous sweat lodge set up at a New Age training in Sedona run by James Ray.
One of my favorite blogs, Making Light, posted a fantastic analysis of many of the issues involved (practical, philosophical, and everything in between). One reason I was so glad to see a detailed post go up there, however, was because another of that blog’s contributors, Jim Macdonald, is (besides being a SF author) a wilderness EMT who’s been doing a long series of occasional posts about various medical calamities. One of the things both writers do a great job of is showing others what people can do that’s actually helpful in avoiding crises when possible, spotting problems early, and giving the best possible chance for the best outcome if they still happen.
The comment threads on Making Light run long (hundreds of comments are pretty common), but I encourage taking the time to read them: the community culture (and some clear moderation when needed) keep them very useful, coherent, and meaningful (even the thread-drift is handy). In this case, there are more links to supporting information and a great discussion of other ritual and spiritual safety issues throughout. (There is also a great thread on the Pagan news blog, The Wild Hunt that’s worth reading)
However, all of this got me thinking about issues of ritual safety in the Pagan community, and I thought it might be useful to put some of my thoughts into electrons. Continue reading
So I could reference it in a post elsewhere, I just posted a version of the Tam Lin story I wrote for a ritual over here (Complete with further explanation!)
I do have more posts with content in progress – the start of the school year always scrambles my brain and my free time a little, but I’m getting back into the swing of things this week.
[The following is something I’ve written up for internal coven documents, because I wanted to spell out what I thought my role was. I’ve run most of it by my covenmate, and included some other thoughts at her suggestion.]
Or, rather, I should say roles: I think there are a number of things going on here. To many people, the HPS is the one responsible for making sure the spiritual and religious stuff happens. At a basic level, there’s three parts to this, in my eyes: anchoring the spiritual core, providing direction, and making sure the practical details fall into place.
I’ve been quiet for a few days, because I was busily off at the Fourth Street Fantasy Convention (I had a fabulous time and I am already looking forward to next year: many excellent conversations with interesting people about books and thoughts and the world in general.) It’s also sparked some thoughts about some things I really want to change in my life, and more on that in the coming days.
Today, though, a short post on something I was discussing else-net. One of the panels I was at this weekend was about the issue of message in a story: is it a good idea to be deliberately push buttons in your readers to make a point?
Emma Bull (one of the panelists, and one of my favorite authors to boot) made a comment I’ve been thinking about ever since: that all stories have your assumptions about how the world works. This comes through in the story, no matter what else you do.
This got me thinking. Ritual is, in many ways, a story.
Rituals are also stories, in their own way. Not in the sense they always have a plot, mind you – but in the sense that they have a context they exist in (what’s in their world), that stuff happens (there is a change between the beginning state and the end state of some kind), and that the successful ones have some kind of desireable emotional effect (because otherwise, we would eventually find them boring and never do them again.)