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CUUPs: Roles in public ritual

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan,alt.magick
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: CUUPs: Roles in public ritual
Date: 20 Nov 1995 13:09:49 -0800

[from alt.religion.wicca: (Mary Kuhner)]

These are ideas my CUUPs chapter has worked out about roles in
public ritual.  They probably won't apply directly to coven ritual, but
might provide some insight.

We do two types of rituals:  participant planned ones, in which the
group gathers an hour before the ritual and plans it on the spot, and
scripted ones, with rehearsals and prepared lines.  They require
somewhat different organizational tactics.  We generally have 8-15
people at participant-planned rituals and 25-50 at scripted ones.

For participant planned rituals, we've identified three necessary roles:
facilitator, guardian and energy watcher.  Facilitator and energy
watcher can be the same person, but the guardian should be separate.

The facilitator leads the planning session:  insuring that everyone is
heard, bringing out ideas and responses, helping clarify the final
form of the ritual by outlining it, and making sure that everyone is in
agreement.  This is a job for a good people person.  It requires attention
to bringing out the views of everyone present, and not just organizing 
a ritual that suits the facilitator.  At the same time, the facilitator
has to watch out for impractical or stupid plans and point them out.
("You know, we only have an hour and a half:  I don't think everyone can
tell a story in that amount of time.")  S/he also acts as an advocate
for the shy and uncertain.  ("Joe, is this really okay with you?")

The guardian deals with problems, both during planning and during the
ritual itself.  Problems can be external--the guardian is the one who
answers the door if someone knocks, deals with interruptions, asks
trespassers to leave, etc.  They can also be internal--the guardian
watches out for overturned candles, people getting dragged around in
dances, lack of real agreement during planning, etc.  The guardian
should not be expected to do anything else, such as lead a meditation or
dance, because then no one will be available to deal with crises.
This is a job for someone who can be firm and forcible.  We give the
guardian two responsibilities in the ritual itself.  At the beginning,
they ask whether there is peace on the circle--and if the answer is No,
they deal with whatever problem is brought up.  They also often cast
the circle, since its protection is part of the guardian's role, and
will cut people in or out of the circle if they need to leave.

The energy watcher monitors the progress of the ritual, and helps time
its transitions.  In a very small group this is not necessary, but in a
larger one the ritual will go much more smoothly if someone is in charge
of determining when dances will end, when everyone has had a turn to
speak, etc.  The facilitator can also be energy watcher, but this gives
them a tremendous amount of influence, and we've found it better to
divide up the responsibility.  You can have several energy watchers,
each for a given part of the ritual.  The ritual structure should take
them into account ("Mary will be at the head of the Spiral Dance, and
she'll decide when to ground it.")  This is a role for someone who is
sensitive to the flow of energy in a ritual, and self-confident enough
to make decisions for the group.

We see at least five roles in large, scripted rituals:  guardian,
director, energy watcher, greeter, toolkeeper.

In larger rituals the role of the guardian is much the same as in small
ones, though it may help to have two or more--one to watch for outside
problems (especially if the ritual is outdoors or in a public place) and
one to watch for inside problems.  This is especially important if the
ritual digs into emotional issues.  People often burst into tears at
Samhain rituals, and may need someone to comfort them, talk to them, or
take them out if they can't cope.  In a large ritual it is *vital* that
the guardian have no other responsibilities--often they do not
participate at all, but simply guard the edge of the circle.

The director is the person who deals with scripts, rehearsals, and
getting all the parts of the ritual to pull together.  They decide who
is taking each role (often by consensus, but theirs is the deciding
voice if necessary), which part to rehearse next, how to deal with
suggested changes to the script, etc.  It's better, though often not
possible, if the director avoids taking any major role in the ritual.
We've tried having two or more people in this role, but I'm not
convinced that it helps.  In our group the director is often the script
writer as well, but not always.  S/he must at least have a good
understanding of the purpose and flow of the ritual.

The energy watcher or energy focus functions much like an energy watcher
in a small ritual, but may need to take a more active role--a large
group is naturally less focussed than a small one, and may need to be
directed more firmly.  For example, in a large Spiral Dance we often
give the lead dancer a rattle, so that s/he can loudly signal the end.
It's natural in a large ritual for the Priest or Priestess to be energy
watcher since attention will focus on them anyway.  Two or more people
can toss control of the group energy back and forth, but it's simpler to
have a single person.  If there is more than one, you will need to pay
careful attention to transitions.  We wrote a Yule ritual in which the
early part is controlled by three Crones who are trying to keep the
people in darkness.  Halfway through a Fool comes out to ask the people to
light candles.  We found that the Crones had no hope of keeping control
once the Fool came out (she had a strong personality) so everyone rushed
for a candle at once, which was not the effect we wanted.

The greeter is in charge of welcoming newcomers and giving everyone
necessary information about the ritual.  You can ask the director to do
this, but if there's a rehearsal or last-minute prep going on it won't
get done, which is bad.  In public rituals it is better to err on the
side of giving too much information, rather than too little.  In
particular, anything that newcomers are being asked to do should 
be explained to them.  A greeter can teach the chants in advance,
tell the story of any myth being used, introduce gods and goddesses, and
explain what is expected of participants.  She can also watch out (along
with the guardian) for issues like food or incense allergies, physical
limitations of participants, etc.

The toolkeeper keeps track of all the physical stuff needed to do the
ritual.  You can try having everyone bring his/her own gear, but you run
the risk of lacking some essential component (vivid memories here of the
Beltane where we discovered we didn't have water or matches, and had an
odd number of Maypole ribbons....)  The director often ends up doing
this, but if the supplies required are extensive it's often useful to
find someone else for the task instead.  Another role which is similar,
and can be combined, is the person (called "maiden" in traditional
covens, but can be of either gender) who deals with tools in the
ritual--holds a candle for the Priestess, gets the charcoal lit and the
altar set up, makes sure there is alcohol in the cauldron, etc.  It is
often better not to ask the central ritualists to do this.

Settling these roles early in the planning of each ritual, and insuring
that all of them are covered, has made our rituals go much more
smoothly.  Guardians are particularly easy to forget, and particularly
important to remember.  The first time you encounter a heckler, or set
something on fire, or have the phone ring mid-ritual, you'll see why.

One final bit of experience:  if your ritual involves invoking a god or
goddess into a ritualist, do not ask that person to deal with any
mundane problems (tools, guardianship, etc.)  Have someone else clearly
named to do so, and leave the Priest/ess free to deal with the divine
energies.  I recall a Samhain ritual in which a chant went on, and on,
and on (it was supposed to end when the cauldron fire did, but there was
too much alcohol in the cauldron and it seemed interminable).  We had
one person who was supposed to be both guardian and an invoked role
(Guide of the Underworld).  I asked her afterwards why she didn't do
anything to end the chant:  she said "There's no time in the Underworld, 
so it didn't occur to me that there was a problem."  This is a fine
mindset for worship, but a terrible one for practicality....

Mary Kuhner
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