As you can see, I fell off the poetry wagon but hope to get up again soon. The prompt involving anagrams of my own name did me in, but I am determined to pick up the pieces soon and cross the metaphorical finish line! You may have speculated about the abrupt change from the profane to the sacred in my last couple of postings. I’ve been wearing my priestess robes, creating a talk, slideshow and workshop. Afterwards, playing catch-up, I updated my novel Magdalene A.D.’s Facebook page and decided to worth share it here.
For those of you wondering about the Pilgrimage Walk. It went well. I set up several stations in and around the labyrinth that represented places a medieval pilgrim might actually have encountered on pilgrimage to Compostela, Aachen, Canterbury or any number of other places. My pilgrims came dressed in broad-brimmed hats, and sandals, carrying staves and journals. They were given a Pilgrim ‘s guide describing four shrines, a tavern, a spring and two obstacles and the central sanctuary. Each site had something interactive to engage them and an identifying small paper badge to pin on their clothes as proof of the journey. Unlike in a regular walk, pilgrims could speak, interact and leave the labyrinth to visit the shrines. It was sacred theater at its most fun – outdoors with perfect weather.
I was first introduced to the concept of sacred theater by Lady Olivia Robertson, founder of The Fellowship of Isis. She invited members of the audience, who thought they had come to observe an event, onto the stage to interact with the performers as bit characters in a reenactment of an Egyptian myth. Think of the medieval Passion plays in which local townsfolk took on the parts of various characters in the Christ story. They would practice all year to present it at Easter. The village became actor, audience and producer in the retelling of an ancient sacred story with the purpose of creating a transcendent emotion connecting each participant to God.
Sacred theater in enacted storytelling designed to elicit transformation by evoking emotion in a sacred context, thus inviting the presence of the gods and opening the audience and all the players to an encounter with Spirit. “When you create within a sacred paradigm”, playwright Elizabeth Fuller said “you find a strange thing. You are communicating with, and being fed by, sources you know are within you, but have a much greater reflection somewhere else. You are in touch with something timeless.” Chris Olander, a dear fellow poet, once advised me to consider whatever stage I stepped upon as sacred space. It changed the level of my performance and almost eradicated my stage fright. Now I invoke Brigit, Celtic goddess of poetry, before every performance.
Sacred Theater can also be a marvelous vehicle for personal transformation It employs many sorts of tricks, tools and devices. Think, for example, of the power inherent in masks. A mask can hide, transform, or reveal. It can temporarily eclipse inner critic, the cynic, the coward replacing them with heroes, queens and magicians wielding great magic and power; it can lower inhibitions and break down defenses turning the painfully shy wallflower into a diva; a mask can reveal the divine energy contained in each soul.
My pilgrimage around the labyrinth counted ribbons, pinwheels, prayer flags, wading pools, incense, cheap wine and an ice cooler swathed in red chiffon among it’s props – just enough of a prompt to allow imagination to take wing. Theater need only create a suspension of disbelief in the audience for one moment. The nature of the universe being what it is, a moment can hold eternity, allowing for all manner of magic to take place from the most subtle of enlightenments to overwhelming epiphany.