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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

January 11th, 2011

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04:23 pm - Ritual Studies comes to the Liturgy Meetings
Last night, I finally received the draft of the Ritual Studies Journal I put together for the Grove. It looks nice, it's got plenty of space for omen-keeping, and it's got the essential writing-prompts that I want to make use of built in. Plus, it has my drawings of different ritual configurations (based on my "Theatre for Ritual" studies) so that I can explain things with a bit more visual information.

I experimented with a lower quality of paper for this book in order to keep the price low, and it seems to have worked out alright. There are some priting mishaps on the paper, but generally speaking, everything is legible and appears to work just fine. The thing I was most concerned with was the durability of the book: I want people using these for about a year, and one can put a lot of wear-and-tear on a book over the course of a year if you're dragging it to outdoor rituals and writing about your omens and experiences. So far, so good, though: I think it will hold up nicely.

Our liturgy meetings have generally been about the upcoming ritual, but I've come around to the notion that we shouldn't focus on "the next rite" so much as on "ensuring the practice."

Let me explain:

You might think of High Days, rites of passage, and other major rituals as "desserts." Yes, you could live off those alone, but imagine getting "enough to eat" from cheesecake alone, and you see the issue: "special" and "seasonal" rites must be the treats and the joy of our lives, not the staples: they are no longer as sweet if they are all we eat, after all.

What, then, provides the staple of our religious selves? That is the meditation, daily prayer, and devotional work that we do. Our morning prayers are our eggs, toast, and bacon; our afternoon mediations are our chips and sandwich; and our evening devotional rites are our steak and potatoes. These are the things that feed our souls, not the sugary treats we often enjoy.

Keeping up the daily rites, the moderate worship, and the mindful prayer ensures that the "special" rites remain special. I would be willing to argue that if the High Days have lost their lustre in your life, you likely aren't keeping up with the daily work you know you should be doing.

At our last ritual (Rivros), I asked a simple question before assigning parts: "Who has done work at their shrine in the past week?" Only 4 people raised their hands, and I gave the parts to those people. . . for they had been practicing. It didn't matter that they had not been practicing the specific part I gave them, or that they hadn't finished their DP, or that there were other people who had more experience than they did. What mattered is that they weren't depending on the experience provided by the Grove to get their work in. They weren't interested in *only* eating cheesecake. . . they also wanted rice and beans so that when they had the cheesecake, it tasted sweet.

They could, through their experience of the sweetness, pass it along to others.

And that is what a good ritualist does.

So, the liturgy meetings will begin to become more about the staples than about the desserts. Sure, we'll still talk about the upcoming High Day, but the liturgy meetings will involve practice more than talk. We will learn about the ritual process by doing it rather than by letting it settle upon us and rot our spiritual teeth.

At least, that's the aim.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: coldcold
Current Music: "Ballad of Spider John", -JB

(37 comments Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:January 12th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Whether it's what you meant to say or not, the question that you asked was "who here has done their daily devotionals everyday for the past week?". J and I have both gone over it in our heads several times, and that is definitely what we both remember hearing at least. Add to that an offhand comment of something to the effect of "if you didn't do your devotionals and haven't finished your DP you just get to watch" and you had at least two people feeling completely shut out of the ritual from the start. Had the question actually been, "who's been keeping up with their devotionals" or "who has their devotional life in order" or something to that effect you would have had at least 2 more hands up, and I'd venture to say probably more.

I do have a, for the most part, daily personal practice, but purely devotional work is only part of that and isn't something that I feel is necessary every single day. It may be the bread and butter of my personal practice, to continue the food analogy, but the domestic ritual, experimental magic, trance work, and all the other components of my practice flesh out the menu. The bread and butter may be enough to sustain me, but it's not very fulfilling in isolation.

It may perhaps be an argument of semantics as I will admit that I don't really know if *my* definition of devotional work and *your* definition of devotional work are the same thing. I actually agree with you to a point that those who have their personal practice in order are better able to lead in corporate practice. That said, whether or not one has their personal practice in order does need to be by their judgement, not the judgement of anyone else.

I'd also like to point out that for at least some, the group work is a hell of a lot more than just "dessert". It may be a function of geographic isolation, but for J and I, we're not making the 7 hour round trip drive just for dessert. There is a lot of nourishment that comes from meaningful spiritual contact with others and given our level of isolation from anything resembling a pagan community we really cherish that time and try to make the most of it.
[User Picture]
Date:January 12th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
the question that you asked was "who here has done their daily devotionals everyday for the past week?".

Then that was my bad, entirely, for it is not the question I intended to ask. Nor is it a question I really have an interest in.

Rather than try and explain my metaphor again (because, as my favourite high school teacher used to say, "metaphors are like rubber bands: stretch them too far and they break, often painfully for the person who kept stretching."), I'll try a different explanation that cuts the metaphor down:

I'm not suggesting that High Days have no value, or that we should cut them out (then again, it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that after Monday's lunch-and-desert combo). What I'm suggesting is that we can't live off them alone. . . or that we possibly can, but we won't experience them as the same source of joy and we won't be able to pass that joy on to others in that setting.

In essence, I'm not devaluing the High Day experience here. I'm upvaluing the hearth shrine experience and the practice that goes with it. If we take the notion that High Days and rites of passage have low value, then the point of being an ADF Grove is lost entirely.

So when you think on the metaphor I built above, you can really only apply it to a universe of "things that have meaning and are valuable". . . and I'm not afraid to say that some things of value are worth more than other things of value, for to do so doesn't decrease the value of those things that are worth less. Or something like that.
[User Picture]
Date:January 13th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
I actually like the metaphor a lot, although I would have gone with something finicky, time consuming, planning intensive, and totally worth it, like baklava or quiche.

Neither of which I would base a diet on, either.

But we weren't hurt by the idea that we don't get 357 days of the year off. Or even 345 of them. I was the biggest pusher of personal practice in Huntington back when I was just a Chaote.

What hurt us was that you phrased it as a pop quiz, and that meaning to or not you attached a standard to it of daily. Daily in its sense of same thing at the same time every day is not doable in any way for either one of us, nor do our personal practices require it. At this point, neither one of us is blocking our time out in 24 hour predictable chunks.

What we are doing, however, is some of the most exciting devotional work I've ever done. I'm more personally connected to, and fueled by, the Kindreds of my heart, old and new, than ever before, as 3 1/2 hours of excited chatter between the two of us on the way up would indicate.

Which is why it set off much of my symptomology when, wittingly or unwittingly, you tied the value of our ability to contribute first to a standard that we do not hold to and do not need. Had you actually asked if we liked where we were at devotion-wise, I wouldn't have triggered, I'd have just raised my hand. But instead, it came off as a pop quiz.

And when, I presume, not enough hands went up for that, you switched instead to DP completion as a standard. Which goes against all the promises I've been told that no one was going to look down on me because I hadn't completed. Having fought that very issue, I've been told repeatedly that not having filed my documentation shouldn't make me feel any less worthy than any of the other things that shouldn't make me feel less worthy.

Because ultimately, Sunday night I was made to feel unworthy. Despite having my devotional life together to the liking of myself and my Kindreds, using up the only full day off from work I'd get for two weeks, and making the drive, I was told to "just sit and watch" until I improved on something I wasn't even told we would be graded on. which does appallingly remind me of the Christian churches of my youth, as well.

And worse, I watched my sister, who struggles with the same mental issues and worse physical ones, who recruited me and taught me ghosti with the Kindreds by example, be told the same thing. The former triggered me, that just hurt.

I'm glad that you don't really have an interest in whether our devotional life dovetails into 24 hour periods. But it was the question that you asked, and that we answered, and that deeply wounded several people, and left at least 2 of us struggling with echoes of old wounds, as well.
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
C'mon, at least call me a jerk.
[User Picture]
Date:January 23rd, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
Sorry, you left a very detailed response, and I don't always process my response to detailed responses quickly. Honestly, I can often be slow at them (my record for longest time between comment and response is just over 3 years).

So, I am thinking on how to respond, not ignoring. Promise. It's gnawing at the back of my head.
[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
I had to talk some of this out with my wife, so sorry for the delay on some of this. Much of what I posted above to tanwyn is true, so I'll try not to re-hash it, though much of it applies here, too.

The first and most important part of that, of course, is the apology I posted above for mis-speaking. So let me re-hash that: I misspoke, and I did so in deep error, clearly, and did not convey my intent in any way correctly.

I should mention, too, that I actually am not familiar with the term "triggering" as anything more than a vaguely descriptive term, somewhat akin to what happens when you set off a trap in Dungeons and Dragons: I am unfamiliar with any clinical definition that it may refer to. I am also, admittedly, completely unaware of what causes triggering, and what I can do to avoid causing triggering in the future. It is simply not something I am aware of enough to resolve, either in the near term or the long term. I had Maggie try and explain it to me, but I have trouble wrapping my mind around what it means, to be honest.

What worries me about this is that while I understand that "trigger" = "bad," I do not understand a way to avoid causing a trigger response in you. I think it takes a deeper understanding of you and/or your sister than I currently have, but even with such an understanding, I am not sure I would be able to avoid it.

So, since posting this, and receiving your response, I've been working on ways to remedy the situation from my end with the future in mind. What worries me is that there may not be a way to remedy it entirely. This has also led me to question how much I can help when a trigger occurs and I am responsible for it going off: by not knowing the cause, I wonder if I can do anything effective about the outcome. Not knowing if I can even be of help if I screw the pooch is a bit uncomfortable, but understanding that discomfort through reflection is the only way I think I have to remain effective.

So, again, I'm sorry that my words cut. Again, they were not intended to cut, and weren't even intended to be those words, technically.
[User Picture]
Date:February 3rd, 2011 10:20 pm (UTC)
I'm sure he will want to reply to this as well when he gets home, but I wanted to go ahead and respond as well. I have read your comment to him, and he asks me to convey both his thanks and a bit of an apology... as far as the triggering response, you didn't do anything wrong. Something as simple as someone wearing a certain color shirt or a certain smell can be a triggering event, so it's not something that you have any real control over and isn't something to feel bad about.

I wanted to talk a little bit about triggering in the hopes that perhaps I can lend you some understanding of what we're talking about when we talk about triggers. Your D&D example is actually surprisingly apt. When something triggers us, it reminds us of something from the past and reactivates the feelings and experiences of that past event. To give an example, if I am cold or wet I will start to feel that the walls are closing in on me. My visual field will start to fade. Eventually, it can get to the point that I actually feel that I am cold, wet and enclosed in a box.... the event that being cold and wet reminds me of.

So, when you mispoke, it reminded J of some bad experiences he's had in the past with the cult he was once part of. This triggered what is called an emotional flashback. Rather than physically feeling the event, like in my example with the box flashback, he was flooded with the emotions of that past event.

Trying to avoid triggers, while admirable, isn't really a realistic goal. J and I know each other so well it literally feels like we are inside of each other's heads sometimes, and we still manage to trigger each other. I think a better goal is to learn how to deal with said triggers constructively. I think you are off to a great start as far as learning to deal with them. Hell, you've calmed *me* down after a number of them. The key here is open dialogue and keeping channels of communication clear. You can't help if you don't know what's happening.

Okay, I've rambled quite a bit more than I meant to, but if you want to talk about this further grab one of us next time we are up, or just call. :)

Also, I do want to let you know that what happened wasn't really a contributing factor to his current inpatient stay. A lot of other things have been going on that we haven't been journaling, soo... yeah. *hugs*

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