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ADF Clergy Retreat: Stagefright, Rejection, Instrumentality, and Joy - Chronarchy

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October 8th, 2012


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11:55 am - ADF Clergy Retreat: Stagefright, Rejection, Instrumentality, and Joy
I'm in the process of working through the last of the notes so I can ship a summary to the ADF Clergy list about what went down and who got volunteered for what at last weekend's retreat, but one particular thing that my notes never can capture is the remarkable number of side conversations we have as Priests about Our Druidry, and the fellowship that we experience at these retreats. And I wanted to give a little window into the weekend for folks, because I have a few readers of who hope to eventually be at these retreats. . . and because some of the topics are actually of more use to some of our members, too.

Stagefright and Our Priests

One topic that came up early on Sunday morning, not as the part of any session or work that we were doing, but just as part of our breakfast general discussion, is how we interact with stagefright.

I mentioned, in response to someone's comment, that I get really terrible stagefright before rituals: it's almost as if my stomach has been tied in knots and I've been kicked in it as well. I get nauseous, and I sometimes have a strong desire to "call in sick" at High Day rites.

Early on, I managed to work with it because I had to. Without me showing up, we never would have managed to get the Grove onto its feet, as at one point we were severely limited in both the number of skilled participants and the number of props we had on hand (and the props lived with me). During the time that I had to show up (lest the cosmos crumble around us), I learned something through my introspection, though: if I was able to get started on the rite, I could manage to complete the rite without too much fear washing over me (though it was always there).

As we've gotten more skilled ritualists (and as I've become less integral to our Grove's ritual life), I've found that the stagefright remains, but through some introspection, I've learned that if I can overcome it long enough to come to the fire and state the opening prayer, I'll find my center and all the panic will drift away: I'll do something familiar, fun, and freeing. This is probably why I'm not particularly skilled at the "pre-ritual huddle" piece we do: I'm still in knots at that point.

Others at the retreat mentioned their own struggles with stagefright as well, though not all of it was in ritual. Some of us feel it more strongly when we sing, or dance, or perform poetry. Some of us feel it when we call others on the phone.

So, in short, I want to tell folks that over the weekend I learned that many of our Priests experience stagefright: we've got coping mechanisms in many ways that help us get over it, but it really does tie us up in knots as much as it does anyone else. So, if you feel a bit frightened before you do rituals (or ritual parts), don't worry: you're not alone. Practice will help, so push through it, and keep going.

My Study Program Coursework Got Rejected, Oh No!

One thing that a lot of us don't realize is that nearly everyone who submits work toward our study programs in ADF is going to have an initial rejection of that work. . . and that anyone who does any study program beyond the Dedicant Path is likely to face rejection multiple times in the course of doing the work.

Since all of our work is generally "pass/fail," we're real keen on ensuring that the student's response actually meets the "pass" bar before moving them on. Sometimes, people forget to answer a part of a question. Other times, their answer is unclear. Once in a blue moon, something is actually wrong, but that's pretty rare.

But everyone, from the Archdruid on down, occasionally has something returned to them in the process. We don't to a good job of communicating that, because at the end of the process all we see is completed work that passed. It's usually not clear that every "passed" item is likely to have been through at least one revision (sometimes two or three) in order to meet the accepted standards.

So, I guess this is my way of saying, "If your coursework gets rejected, take comfort in knowing that just about everyone has had it happen to them. Let it motivate you, not frustrate you. Fix it, and move on!"

Instruments of Oddity

Given all the people who play instruments that are not guitars in ADF, I'm sometimes surprised that we don't have the "ADF Bassoon and Tuba Corps" I mentioned in my recent tweet on the same. We're full of bassists, flautists, and French horniests (that's what they call someone who plays the French horn, right?), but it's the drummers, guitar players, and other mainstream instrumentalists who end up performing. Why hasn't anyone started an ADF band. . . or at least an ADF orchestra?

I suppose it's the same reason that the Ohio State Pagan Student Association never got the "PSA All-Bass Band" organized: bassists play bass because they don't really want to stand out there in the limelight.

The Joy of Our Druidry

One of the key things we talked about over the weekend is where we find joy in Our Druidry and how we can bring that joy to others. The actual session we had on it was full of big ideas and grand theological notions, which was pretty cool, but it's not the point here (it's really for a separate blog post). Instead, the point is our post-Saturday-Night-Rite revelry, which was greater than any other Retreat's joy.

We did a working that could be best described as a "Convocation of Our Allies," but it was not a terribly complicated rite, so we didn't need to go in-depth over the ways we experienced it as we have in the past. Instead, a few of us journaled about our experience, and then we started filling up Ian and Sue's living room and we started singing. For about 4 hours straight.

We would perform alone or together, with Ian, Sue, or Crystal on guitar; Errach on squeezebox; Fox on mandolin; or with no accompaniment at all. There was country and bluegrass and modern rock mixed in with sea shanties, English folk ballads, and Sanskrit chants. There was a huge sing-along to "Ordinary Day" (a song you must know if you've been hanging out long on the ADF scene).

It struck me at some point during the evening, as I watched us just be together, that the joy we find in Our Druidry is very much the joy we find in others, and our relationships with them. Whether folks were singing, listening, or just being close to each other, we were all there, in that place, not worrying about the administrative side of ADF, differences of opinions, or politics. We were all just being Druids and friends.

Oh, and I got a new nickname over the weekend, apparently: Rev. VanillaLeather&Chains. It's got some good flow to it, so I think I'll keep it.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: "No Plane On Sunday", -JB

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From:chronarchy
Date:October 8th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
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Stagefright works in mysterious ways, doesn't it? :)

I just get it all the time. It can be worse some days (like at really large festivals, or if I'm less prepared), or easier others (a High Day rite I completely planned, for instance).

I wonder if it's worse for those of us who are shy, in general, or for those of us who are outgoing? I'm not sure.
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From:kargach
Date:October 8th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
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I've played cornet and baritone in my grade school band (I got to play baritone for the usual reason: I was the only kid strong enough to carry it around), and also learned electric organ. And I'm seriously considering getting a ukelele and learning it well enough to perform my Portal opening version of "The Rainbow Connection" without having to argue with Missy about the key change on the last verse. >8)

I definitely feel a nervousness before performing or leading ritual, but I've never had it strongly enough to call it "stage fright". But I know lots of liturgists who do - Hek, I know solitaries who feel that way when doing solo rites - and I'm glad to see us talk about it with the public so they don't think that they're the odd ones.
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From:kargach
Date:October 8th, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)
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And the singing was amazing, even though I knew far fewer of the songs than I'd have expected. I'd forgotten how long it had been since I'd done a Hindu chant, Marae used to do them all the time when she was in SLG and I always loved them.
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From:chronarchy
Date:October 8th, 2012 06:57 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I didn't know a whole lot either. But then, no one cared how many people knew them, which was pretty cool, too.
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From:chronarchy
Date:October 8th, 2012 06:56 pm (UTC)
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Indeed, the solitary experience of speaking out loud in ritual is actually often worse (fright-wise), because some people become weirdly self-conscious when it's just you and the Gods for some reason. It happens to me, as well. "Why am I speaking/singing/dancing when I'm the only one here?" The answer, of course, is "I'm not the only one here," but it's hard to remember that sometimes :)

Looking forward to that "Rainbow Connection" piece :)
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From:athenamsb
Date:October 8th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
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Hey! I was not arguing. ;)

I would love to have a recording of the Rainbow Connection gate song. It is really quite clever!
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From:kallisti
Date:October 8th, 2012 11:12 pm (UTC)
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We are glad to provide the music that holds ADF together, GBS has been a big part of the Canadian Folk scene for decades, and much of the local Pagan community are fans. Start any GBS song at any local event, and you will half the crowd singing along with you! I've been lucky enough to have seen GBS in concert about a dozen times so far...the last time just a month ago along with some 10,000 other GBS fans at the Ottawa Folk festival! Add some Stan Rogers, with a bit of the Rankin Family, you have just about a good over view of Canadian East Coast/Celtic music scene.

There is no reason why ADF doesn't have an orchestra, other than the fact that most of the people are so widely spaced that they can't get together to practice too often. I would look forward to hearing music like The Imperial March for when the AD comes on stage, for example .

I, too, often deal with stage fright...although, strangely, not so much during rituals...other public performances, yes, heck, I even get it strongly calling someone I don't know! Strangely, if I am calling for someone else, I'm ok...

ttyl
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:October 9th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
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I do enjoy Great Big Sea :) Canadian music is actually often quite good :)
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From:athenamsb
Date:October 8th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
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It struck me at some point during the evening, as I watched us just be together, that the joy we find in Our Druidry is very much the joy we find in others, and our relationships with them. Whether folks were singing, listening, or just being close to each other, we were all there, in that place, not worrying about the administrative side of ADF, differences of opinions, or politics. We were all just being Druids and friends.

Yes. This. This exactly.
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From:uberrod
Date:October 9th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC)
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Regarding stage fright, the hardest part is the starting of the ritual, that is the moments before one says, "ok, let's start." Once started things are better. That, and having to lead singing I find horrible. I really don't have much confidence in myself as a singer and when leading songs you really have to put yourself out there. You can't just blend into the background of the other voices.

The weeks before my Sif ritual at Summerland was hard. I was freaking out since I set myself up to do what Ian had done and I have such respect for Ian as a liturgist. It was daunting thinking about doing such a ritual with Ian in the audience, not to mention other big wigs in ADf. I think the perceived threat of the situation was the biggest thing. Except for a few parts I was doing the whole thing myself.

But Sif and Her Chieftains had promised me that it would go well, so I had that to fall back on. I knew I would get good results and that really helped. It was then a matter of focusing on the task at hand, trying to go slow and deliberate so I didn't flub anything.

Although I did forget to use the staff that I had so meticulously prepared. And I almost forgot an offering to one of the Chieftains.

But yeah it can be nerve wracking leading ritual. But if you can remember that the people in the audience are really not judging you that harshly and are friends I find it easier to cope. Or at least pretend that the audience isn't judging you. I think being shy or introverted makes it worse because you are more prone to feel harshly judged. Outgoing people are more, "Hey, look at me!" and want the attention while shy people don't want to be noticed.
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From:chronarchy
Date:October 9th, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, Ian is a hefty stick to measure up to :) But from everything I've heard, it went quite well.

The singing part I'm less concerned with these days, though it used to be terrifying to me. Part of it is that I've just done it more, but another part is that I think (though I've no real way of knowing) that I've gotten a bit better at it. Plus, I do it after I've gotten started :)
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From:uberrod
Date:October 9th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
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Although after facing a big challenge successfully, subsequent efforts are easier because you can always look back and say, "Hey, I did X, this current things is no problem." This is another tool to use to ward off stage fright.
(Deleted comment)
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From:chronarchy
Date:October 9th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
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Looks like I might be swinging through on my way to Topeka in March, depending on a few things. I'll know soon, I think :)
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From:erinelfdp
Date:October 9th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
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I've only ever heard French Horn players referred to as "Horns," but something tells me if someone stood up and asked all the horns present to get out their instruments, it would lead to an excessive amount of behind-the-hand snickering.

I actually had a conversation with Jan recently about other instruments in ADF. I don't play guitar, and while I like to sing I'm not incredibly good at it, so I just sort of assumed that I'd never make it as a bard. I do, however, play flute quite well. She managed to convince me (a little bit) that playing flute at rites would be a GOOD thing, and not awkward at all.

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