A Few Words on Ecstatic Dance and Ritual Symbolism

(This was written for The Egg, a Spring Equinox ritual taking place on 15 March 1997 in Rochester, NY. For more information write me at reynard@vivanet.com)

Caveat: No one is obliged to participate in any aspect of this or any ritual that makes them uncomfortable. Of course, sometimes being uncomfortable can be a good thing, but we advise all participants that each individual is the best judge concerning whether or not they should voluntarily engage in activities that may bring about physical or psychic stress. A person with a heart condition should not engage in heavy exercise without consulting a physician; likewise, one who has a weak grip on consensus reality should not engage in activities that are likely to trigger a psychotic crisis.

This ritual is likely to draw participants from a number of different backgrounds and experiences with dance, from people who have never set foot on a dancefloor in their lives to skilled experts. Talent in the outer manipulation of one's body, however, is not a prerequisite for participation; in fact, too much attention on outer form may actually be a distraction from the focus of the ritual.

What is most important is the use of the music and how you move your body to it in order to obtain a trance state. A bass rhythm between 130 and 150 beats per minute will alter consciousness by default; the repetition can function as a point of focus for your mind in the same way that a mantra or chant when repeated long enough will lose literal meaning and shift one's attention from the immediate surroundings to what some may refer to as a daydream. When one enters this state of mind with the intent of "going somewhere" in particular, this is what is sometimes referred to as shamanic journeying.

Any repeated motion can be used in order to augment this trance state; even better is when this repeated motion causes enough physical stress to shift one's focus away from the body. This effect can be observed by anyone who has ever done any distance running; the body's endorphins trigger a high that can be used to get out of one's body. Thus, the ideal movement would be one that is strenuous enough to get the endorphin effect but simple enough that one can easily repeat it over a long period of time without concern over getting it wrong. Thus, movements like running in place or jumping up and down in one spot can be used, as well as the "heel-toe-heel-toe" dance common among certain Native American peoples. I commonly use a four-step motion, planting my right foot to the right, moving my left foot close to my right foot, then reversing direction.

Within the energy-raising portion of the ritual itself, we will begin by circling the central altar three times in a deosil (clockwise) direction. The number three is significant because it represents a temporary shift from balance (two, the yin and yang) toward greater stability and completeness (the four legs on a chair, the four corners of the earth, the four mythical elements). Clockwise direction is significant because the sun rises in the east, arcs southward relative to our location north of the equator, and sets in the west, indicating a forward progression in time to when our desires can manifest themselves.

After the group circles the altar three times, the individuals will disperse throughout the room in order to find room to dance individually. As this dance is performed, it may be useful to visualize spiraling out of the Earth's gravitational pull in order to journey outward to find what it is that needs to be brought back in order for our desires to manifest. As you journey you may encounter other beings, planets. or planes of existence. Know that the circle cast earlier in the ritual will provide you with the safety necessary to proceed.

Finally, as the music builds to a final crescendo, return to the Earth and the room with the thought-object and/or energy that you have collected and direct it at the central altar, where the energy will be absorbed by the objects on it. Afterwards there will be a brief "grounding" so that we may be fully aware again within our consensus reality (home again home again jiggity jig).

Rev. Reynard

Announcement of Technoshamanic Spring Equinox Ritual

Spring Equinox is a time of thaw, a time where seeds split open to become seedlings, and eggs hatch to bring forth new life. It is a period of great hope for the coming year, but also a time of great danger as newly sprouted seedlings risk consumption by growing birds or rodents, who in turn face the threat of roaming coyotes or foxes. Rapid change and rapid growth burst forth during this period of peak increase.

In our daily lives, we all hold ideas in our hearts and minds that we would like to see manifest. Everyone has hopes and dreams of a destiny in which our ideas come to fruition; likewise, it is the hope of many of us that we will live in a world of peace and justice with a future that works. It is with the expectation of bringing these intentions to life that S'BAT CUUPS will conduct its Spring Equinox ritual.

On [date & time here] we will celebrate "The Egg", a technoshamanic ritual of visualization and energy raising. This event will combine the elemental symbolism of ritual magick with elements from the rave/dance subculture, itself a maligned and slandered entity of youth and raw energy facing the threats of official government repression and corporate misappropriation.

The ritual will begin with the casting of a magickal circle for physical and psychic protection of the participants, followed by a welcoming of the four elemental powers manifest in common appliances. Next will come a "grounding meditation", a point of stability upon which the participants can draw the energy necessary for the work at hand without exhausting themselves. Going with the technoshamanic theme, this meditation will focus on electric current.

The magickal working itself follows, beginning with a meditation on the possibilities of the egg. At this point we will visualize our hopes and ideas for the coming summer and beyond, and project them into one or more eggs. These will be placed on a central altar. Next comes a moving journey and raising of energy through music and dance; live electronic musical accompaniment will be provided by a longtime supporter of Rochester's underground dance music scene. As the music builds to a crescendo, the energy raised will be projected into the eggs on the central altar with the intent of hatching the ideas that the eggs represent. Following will be a "simple feast" in which these eggs are consumed, with the hope that as we eat them, we will be able to bring our ideas and ideals to fruition.

Finally, we will end with another grounding meditation that will prepare us for re-entering ordinary existence, followed by a dismissing of the quarters and opening of the circle. Refreshments, hugs and conversation will be provided afterwards. A few preparatory words for newcomers and oldcomers alike: this ritual will begin promptly at 6 p.m. Plan on arriving by 5:45; there will be no one admitted after 6 p.m. We mean it. Also, please be prepared to stay for the whole ritual; it should last about an hour.

All are welcome at this ceremony, but please come with the customary PLUR (peace, love, unity and respect). Also, for those of you who choose to indulge, we need you sober for this ritual; it is difficult to build the necessary focus otherwise. In keeping with the rave culture focus of our ritual, we will most likely be using candy eggs. Let us know if you would like a hard-boiled egg, should you be allergic to chocolate or diabetic. Optionally, you can bring your own decorated eggs or egg-shaped jewelry should you wish to wear the energy raised instead of eating it. Also, bring your intentions of what you would like to see happen in your life as aided by the ritual process.

Accessibility considerations: This ritual will involve vigorous dancing for willing participants; however, it is not necessary to do so in order to participate. The trance-inducing nature of the music is such that one may use it for a sitting or lying shamanic journey as well as a moving one. For those who do choose to dance, we recommend clothing and shoes that you would feel comfortable wearing if you were about to run two miles. High heels are not recommended; shoes with soles that will mark up our floors are RIGHT OUT! Also, we plan on using a strobe light as part of the ritual; if you are epileptic, please notify us in advance and we will make alternate plans.

And, of course, as always, please do not lick the participants, juggle live animals, or poop in the wastebasket.

Any questions? Please contact Dave Duncan (Rev. Reynard) at reynard@vivanet.com