I am an over-thinker. Before all things, I plan, I worry, I prepare, and I plan some more. The day before a big trip, I am unstoppable, chaotically creating order. My partner knows to just stay out of my way; he can’t help me, so he might as well let me burn through my anxiety productively.
When I’m preparing to run a ritual, I do tend to over-prepare myself and the participants. I’ve mentioned before that I have felt that exhaustive explanations of what to do during the ritual can hurt the flow of the energy. I’m also starting to think that my tendency to be exceedingly exact in my planning can interfere with the mystery of ritual.
Group ritual is, in part, theatre, so it does have to be written with a mind to how it will perform. You have to think about where people will stand and walk, what you want them to see and hear, and how you are going to transition the group smoothly from one activity to another. However, group ritual is sacred theatre, so some room has to be left for the magic of what can’t be planned. A good ritual gets a group united and in the right state of mind, sets a theme and opens a space to explore it at a deeper level, beyond logic. The process by which that space is created can be analyzed and rehearsed, but then rational thinking has to take a back seat to intuition. It is a challenging balancing act, and one I’m still working on.
Returning to pre-ritual explanations, I have found that too much detail about how everything is supposed to happen works counter to that magic frame of mind. When you’ve filled everyone’s head with cues and stage directions, they stay in their analytical minds and may spend the whole ritual thinking about what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to it, not about why they are doing it.
Explaining too much is my natural inclination, but when I fight that impulse, I sometimes go too far the other way and don’t explain enough. In a recent ritual, I had to awkwardly cue each person’s line because they had no idea that it was their turn to speak. At one point, I even cued the wrong person, resulting in a combination that made no sense and necessitating taking a mulligan on that section of the ritual. We smoothed it over and still got to a good place, energy-wise, but that is to the credit of Silver Spiral and years of working together. Without enough explanation, especially of an unconventional ritual, your participants may be edgy, trying to guess what is going to be expected of them next.
After the ritual, Robert suggested numbering the cue cards to make the readings go more smoothly, and Richard pointed out that I hadn’t given people a lot of time to read over their parts before starting the ritual, so those are great places to start. Then, it is just a matter of analyzing the ritual explanation process until it is no longer analytical in its results…