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23 November 2012 @ 07:42 pm
YaaD Work: Class 8: Ritual Filling  
This is one of the reflection papers I wrote as part of my Year and a Day (YaaD) of study with Fieldhaven Coven.

The question is drawn from the Greenhaven Tradition; the YaaD course is not published on the Greenhaven Tradition website, but is made available on a person-to-person basis. Material that is not so closely held is available at http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/

Class 8, Paper 1 (after reading, before class discussion): If you have attended a ritual, describe it. What was the main idea? What activities did it include? What worked or didn’t work for you, and why? Share your experiences in a one-page paper.

Assignment submitted February 18, 2012

Writing Assignment: YaaD Class 8 – Ritual Filling

I don't remember what year it was, but it was a Samhain ritual, with Malachite and Lady Raspberry and Rainbow serving as leaders. The overall theme was not revealed until the post-ritual discussion.

I know I've forgotten bits of it, but here's what I do recall. The day began with a guided meditation, moving from a warm dark place into a bright, hard-edged world, followed by a period in which the leaders offered to tend to whatever needs or wishes the coveners might have. After that was a period of games and activities. If I'm remembering correctly, that period ended in a game where we each had to "identify" ourselves (based on a tag stuck to our back) by asking each other questions about ourselves. I think dinner fell somewhere after that, and after dinner we were formed into a drum / tambourine / music circle.

During the circle, people were taken by Lady Raspberry or Rainbow to the hallway connecting the two parts of the house, where they were met by Malachite and asked for payment to cross through. (Over the course of the day, there had been opportunities to earn, win, and find tokens to be used for this payment, although again, we hadn't been told that in advance.) Our instructions on attaining the far side were to meditate on those who had crossed over before us, to connect with them, and when we were ready, to present ourselves again to Malachite.

What I had not expected, and should have, was to be asked for payment on the return trip. I hadn't acquired a second token, but I did, coincidentally, have a quarter – which was about the same general size and weight as the tokens – in my pocket, and I handed that over. I don't remember if I asked then or later what would have happened if I hadn't had the quarter (or another token), but whenever it was that I did ask, I was told that I'd have been asked to suggest what I could pay, what I would give in return for the passage.

When I heard that, I started crying, because the only other thing I could think of to offer as payment would have been my memories of the event or my impressions during the meditation, and losing those would have been like experiencing my friends' and parents' deaths all over again.
For what it's worth, this experience changed my mind about something I'd thought for years that I wanted. I have some memories that are painful, that can still, literally decades after the fact, evoke fresh embarrassment and humiliation. I had wondered about asking whether hypnosis could block those memories where they wouldn't bother me anymore. I no longer think that would be a good idea.

Given that this was a fairly experienced group of people, no one got upset; I was let alone but not left alone to get through it. (That is, I wasn't left alone by myself, but no one pestered me or badgered me.)

Finally, after everyone had been across the Styx and back again, the ritual was ended and we met for discussion.

I thought it was very clear that the theme had been the cycle of life, from birth through infancy and childhood, to self-definition and adulthood, and death (with the extra added return across the Styx, thank you!); I'm not sure if it was that obvious to other participants. I felt the whole day had worked really well, in terms of putting me in the appropriate states of mind; I only wish that I hadn't fallen apart over the last part. On the other hand, I was upset because I was so deeply immersed in the ritual and its meaning, so that speaks well for the designers and leaders.

I would love to do such a day-long experiential ritual again. I'm not sure if this same one would be as powerful a second time, but I don't know; it might be. It would also be fascinating to do this ritual again from the other side, as one of the leaders, rather than as a participant.