Theater for Ritual 1

1) Describe the origins of theatre and how it relates to ritual in at least one ancient Indo-European culture. (300 words minimum)

We don’t have too much direct evidence of early theater, but from what sources remain, mainly wall paintings and other artifacts, we can surmise that theater began as a way to relate events and stories that the culture considered important to preserve.  The relation of stories and events was cyclical in ancient cultures, and as the actions of the storytellers, or ritualists, were carried out, so was the actual act within our world manifested.  Thus, these ceremonies where experiences were related were also a way of making sure those experiences would happen, such with a hunting ritual echoing the desired outcome of the hunt.  “These actions moved from habit, to tradition, and then on to ceremony and ritual.” Then, as ritual and theater became entwined, as the ceremonies and stories began to be valued for their entertainment, and as the rehearsal and repetition of the stories continued to grow, they moved more towards what we see as the basis for modern theater, as seen in Ancient Greece and other Indo-European cultures (Robinson).


Within Ancient Greece, theater, ritual, and myth were well entwined, and drama itself became a way to honor Dionysos, one of the Greek gods, particularly during Dionysia ta astika, the City Dionysia.  During this festival one of the big things that would happen was a competition of various dramatic works.  It should be noted that the temple for Dionysos in Athens was within the theater precinct, indicating a distinct overlap in the use of theater and ritual.  The plays that were performed “were never secular entertainment but always taught piety, morality and moderation, and the comedies afforded the poet a chance to make political statements that might not otherwise have been tolerated” (M, Sean). Interestingly, this was a festival that foreigners, outsiders, were able to take part in, whereas many of the civic celebrations in Ancient Greece were reserved for citizens and their families.  Civic religion in Ancient Greece was notably separated from household worship, but in the case of ritual, the civic festivals contained elements of theater so that they would be accessible to all citizens within the city.  The ritual honoring Dionysos came first, and was only later that this became an event more focused on entertainment, and thus, theater. We see this in the festivals like Dionysian ta astika where the entertainment that grew out of them was informed by the rituals that were their foundation.


2) Explain “intentional movement” and why it is important in ritual. Include how movement can both aid and detract from the ritual experience. (100 words minimum)

Intentional movement in the context of ritual is when all movements, from small gestures to full body movement, are performed with intent and focus.  This means that when you gesture in ritual you only do so if it’s necessary, and you make the movement complete, rather than half-attempted, or half-hearted.  This lends confidence and authority to your speech and any magical actions you may be making, and helps the audience focus on your words and better direct their own energy to the task at hand. It can also help solidify the look of a ritual, and get all celebrant and ritualists in the same headspace, if all celebrants are making the same gestures and motions.   For example, if you include a gesture when praying to the Shining Ones, such as raising your arms, raise them completely into position, and be willing and able to hold that position for the whole invocation.  Don’t be surprised if many of the other celebrants and Folk copy your motions. Likewise, when you move in ritual, you should only move when necessary to get from point A to point B, such as to make an offering or take the Waters around to the Folk.  When gesture and movement are not intentional, this has a number of effects, including making the ritual and ritualist look unpolished and unsure of themselves, as well as distracting the Folk gathered and thus disrupting the flow of energy in the ritual (Thomas “Well Trained Ritualist”).


3) Explain your understanding of the circles of concentration. (200 words minimum)

The Circles of Concentration, as Rev. Thomas describes, are about finding a focus in ritual in order to both lead and experience a better ritual in terms of energy and logistics.  There are four circles that exist in a ritual with more than one or two people.  The first circle encompasses the self.  The focus on this level is all about your own awareness (where you are, what you’re saying, etc.), and being able to continue to act without giving in to the critic that is babbling away in the back of your mind about all the things you might be doing wrong.  I would also say that the focus on the self in this first circle is important to maintain the self, especially in the face of doing intense trance or magical work, where the boundaries between what is you, and what is another may blur (Thomas “Circles of Concentration”).

The second circle encompasses not only the self, but also the other celebrants in the rite.  The focus on this level is about staying aware of the other celebrants for logistical purposes, but also feeling connected to them on an energetic level so that you are able to work in harmony with each other.  This harmony between all the celebrants leads to a more fulfilling rite both amongst themselves, and for the ritual attendees (Thomas “Circles of Concentration”).

Which brings us to the third circle, which encompasses not only the self and the other celebrants, but also the Folk.  The focus on this level is about being attuned to the Folk.  Can they hear? Can they see? Are they engaged?  This is the circle that I often refer to as the “Bardic Lasso.”  When I am acting in the role of Bard for a rite, it is not simply the person who brings the lyrics to pass out and leads the songs.  The Bard is the person who is intimately aware of the energy level and engagement of the Folk, and helps to hold everyone together in the ritual, and bring the energy level up and down as needed throughout the rite (Thomas “Circles of Concentration”).

The fourth circle encompasses not only all the human players at a rite, but also the otherworldly participants, the spirits.  The focus on this level is where the purpose of the rite often is: feeling a connection with the spirits.  A strong fourth circle will allow the celebrant to effectively call to a spirit, and as they see the spirit approach, because they are still connected to the second and third circles, so too will the other celebrants and the Folk.  This allows everyone present at the ritual to feel that connection (Thomas “Circles of Concentration”).


4) Describe the advantages and disadvantages of the three ritual configurations (proscenium, thrust, and round). Note how a ritualist can maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of each configuration. Offer at least one type of ritual that would work best in each configuration. (100 words min. for each configuration)

The three types of ritual configurations are proscenium, thrust, and round.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each configuration.

A proscenium configuration is where the audience is arranged in rows facing a (often raised) stage.  This is the configuration that Three Cranes Grove uses in our Dublin Irish Festival Lughnassadh Rite, which typically draws between 300 and 400 people.  Some advantages that make this the configuration that makes the most sense, particularly for this ritual, are that the majority of the audience has no problem seeing the celebrants, and since we are mic’ed, hearing us as well.  Some disadvantages to this configuration are the possibility of being accidentally upstaged by another celebrant who is onstage as they move or fidget, as well as the distance from the celebrants to the audience lessening the energy flow between the two and a decrease in the interactiveness on the part of the audience.  Another disadvantage that we’ve had to account for by having rehearsals is the stage size and amount of celebrants with speaking parts.  When the stage is small, only so many people can be active celebrants in order to minimize time between parts.  We also have to rehearse movement and blocking so that everyone knows where they should be, and how to get from Point A to Point B when they have to move (Thomas “Well Trained Ritualist”).

A thrust configuration is where three sides of the ritual space have audience members, and the altar typically takes up the fourth side, pushed slightly forward.  This is the configuration we use for the vast majority of our public rituals in Three Cranes Grove.  One advantage is that when a celebrant has to speak they can put their back either to the altar or to the fourth side, so that no audience members are behind them.  We often stand in front of the altar for all speaking parts that don’t requiring working at the altar, such as taking the Omen or working the Return Flow.  This could be a disadvantage, and does require awareness on the part of the speaking celebrant that they don’t turn to make an offering as they are still speaking because this turns their back to a portion of the audience while they are still talking, and thus those people can’t easily hear them.  There is also the advantage to this configuration as it relates to energy flow and participation of the audience.  The audience can feel a part of the action (Thomas “Well Trained Ritualist”).

A round configuration is where the action and speaking all happens within the center of a circle (or egg shape, as a lot of our “rounds” end up being).  This is the configuration we use in a lot of the semi-public and private rituals, such as members-only Druid Moon rites, at Three Cranes Grove.  When we set up this space it is most often outside, and the fire is at the center.  If we have a more formal altar, it is either at the center near the fire or off to one side of the ritual space.  Because this space has a lot of disadvantages as far as the audience being able to effectively hear or see what is going on, we rarely use it for larger rites, and try to stick to rite where all the audience members are intimately familiar with the ritual structure and often will all have some part that requires participation as well. The advantages we experience using this space is that each person is a part of the action, and in these smaller rites, folks can make personal offerings to the Kindreds from all sides of the fire without the awkwardness that often happens with folks waiting in line to approach the fire.  I find this configuration is also extremely useful in magical work because the energy flow is so much better.  The person who is leading the magical working stands at the center to direct (both the folk and the energy), making sure to turn their head and body as needed so all in the circle can see and hear (Thomas “Well Trained Ritualist”).


5) Choose a being of the occasion appropriate to a specific high day of your choosing and describe a theatrical method of conveying the mythology of that being to others during a public performance. (300 words minimum)

For Three Cranes Grove Spring Equinox Rite in 2015, we chose to honor the Vedic Gods, specifically Indra.  Indra is a Thunder-God, and the being that won the Waters for the Folk in Vedic Lore.  We get many spring thunderstorms in Central Ohio (along with the occasional tornado, derecho, and general rainy weather), and as such Indra seemed like a deity that many could find a connection with, even if they did not follow the Vedic Gods in particular.  The story of Winning the Waters is one that is not only common across Indo-European cultures, but also essential to our understanding of the Waters of Life within ADF.  This meant that the Folk were already familiar with the idea of these Blessed Waters being given to us by the Shining Ones, and that they could make connections of that winning of Waters to their own gods.

Because we’ve been working on incorporating children’s programming into every ritual, and because the Vedic mythology is not something that many in our community are familiar with (most leaning Celtic or Norse in their practice), this was an excellent opportunity to tell this story in a way that involved the children of our Grove as well as was easily understandable by all attendees.  To this end I wrote a short play with three main parts, and a selection of other less involved or optional parts, to tell the story of Indra winning the Waters during the Return Flow section of the ritual. I kept the lexile (reading level) of the play low in order to help the children learn their lines and to make it easier for everyone to understand.  I referred to the Rig Veda (1.32) when writing the text in order to pull lore-specific imagery in to the text.  (I have included the text of the playlet below.)

The ritual was performed in the thrust configuration, and thus so was the play itself.  The audience was arrayed in a general arch shape around the altar and the performers.  This made it fairly easy for everyone to see and hear, though we did have to account for some rather strong winds, and make an extra effort to speak loudly and clearly.  The part of Indra and Vrtra were played by two of our older children, and they rehearsed their lines beforehand, and were quite confident.  I was the officiant for this ritual, and employed the Circle of Concentration in this role.  It was imperative, particularly because not only was I telling the story, but I was also working the magic for the Return Flow.  Thus, I was aware of myself in my speaking role, aware of the children performing alongside me, aware of the folk watching the ritual, and aware (very keenly) of Indra as the Waters were infused with the blessings we received.  It took a lot of concentration and a lot of energy to be able to old all of that energy and focus together, but I also felt it worked extremely well for relating the mythology of Indra winning the Waters and performing the magic of the Return Flow.

“Indra Wins the Waters”

This playlet was written for the children’s programming for Three Cranes Grove 2015 Spring Equinox Ritual honoring Indra.

 Lexile: 680L (late 3rd grade, early 4th grade reading level)


OFFICIANT: The person who is doing the Return Flow portion of the Ritual

INDRA: The Vedic Storm God

VRTRA: The Dragon

CELEBRANTS: The folk at the ritual

STORM-BRINGERS: sounds of the storm (can be the same as the CELEBRANTS if needed)

Optional Cast:

DRAGONS: Vrtra’s family

SACRED COWS: to represent the Waters and Blessings

*following the Seer’s pronouncement of a positive Omen*

OFFICIANT: These are indeed good omens.

OFFICIANT: But you should know that until Indra won the Waters for us, we could not have received these blessings because Vrtra the Dragon hoarded them all for himself and his family.

OFFICIANT: Here is Vrtra now, and he is holding onto [omen], [omen], and [omen].

VRTRA: These gifts are mine! All mine!

OFFICIANT: But the people wanted the blessings too, and they knew only the mighty Indra could help them now.  So they called out with one voice: “Indra, Give us the Waters!”

CELEBRANTS: Indra! Give us the Waters!

OFFICIANT: Listen: Do you hear him coming?  Here comes Indra the Storm-Bringer!

*STORM-BRINGERS shake noisemakers as Indra enters the stage*

OFFICIANT: In the thundering clouds with his lightning bolt in hand, Indra demands:

INDRA: Vrtra! You have to share the blessings!

OFFICIANT: Vrtra roars mightily and retorts:

VRTRA: No! These gifts are mine! All mine!

OFFICIANT: And the people knew Vrtra was going to hold onto those gifts of [omen], [omen], and [omen] with all of his might.  So they again called out: “Indra! Give us the Waters!”

CELEBRANTS: Indra! Give us the Waters!

OFFICIANT: And Indra heard their plea and prepared to do whatever was necessary to win the waters for the people.  He again shouted to Vrtra:

INDRA: Vrtra! You have to share the blessings!

OFFICIANT: But Vrtra again roared his denial and shrieked:

VRTRA: No! These gifts are mine! All mine!

OFFICIANT: Indra grew angry that Vrtra wouldn’t share the blessings with everyone, and as his anger grew, so too did the sound of the storm.

*STORM-BRINGERS shake noisemakers*

OFFICIANT: The people knew now was the moment.  Now was the time to give Indra all their support.  And so they called out one final time: “Indra! Give us the Waters!”

CELEBRANTS: Indra! Give us the Waters!

OFFICIANT: The storm rumbled as Indra went into battle with the mighty Vrtra, his lightning bolt held high.  With a flash he struck down Vrtra with his lightning bolt.  The Dragon bellowed as he fell.

OFFICIANT: The waters, the blessings, the gifts were now free.  The mighty Indra won them away from Vrtra the Dragon and brought them to us.

*INDRA brings Waters to OFFICIANT*

OFFICIANT: These Waters are infused with the blessings of [omen], [omen], and [omen].  “Behold! The Waters of Life!”

OFFICIANT: As these Waters are poured out for each of us, remember how they were won for us, and how we sing the praises of the Storm God who won them.

OFFICIANT: See how the gifts of [omen], [omen], and [omen] can flow into our lives.  See how they can flow into our grove.  See how they can flow into our community.  See how you and the world can be renewed and rejuvenated by these Waters so courageously won and freely given.

OFFICIANT: Drink deep, Children of Earth, and be blessed!


6) Explain how you would prepare and deliver three of the following pieces for public performance, and include an audio or video clip of your performance of each. (50 words min. each explanation) 

Audio for all 3 pieces:

 a) Strong meter and strong rhythm: selection 1

Ye who love the haunts of Nature,

Love the sunshine of the meadow,

Love the shadow of the forest,

Love the wind among the branches,

And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,

And the rushing of great rivers

Through their palisades of pine-trees,

And the thunder in the mountains,

Whose innumerable echoes

Flap like eagles in their eyries;-

Listen to these wild traditions,

To this Song of Hiawatha!

When reading a text with strong meter and rhythm it is important to take note of the punctuation, and when delivering it, speak to the end of the punctuation, not just to the end of the line.  You must plan beats and word emphasis.  In this piece in particular, that means lines 6 to 7 and lines 9 to 10 should be read through without undue pause at the line break.  It is also important to note where there are literary devices that are included for emphasis in the poem, for example, the parallel structure in lines 2, 3, and 4 with “Love the…” and the alliteration in lines 6, 7, and 10 with “rushing…rivers”, “palisades…pine”, and “eagles…eyries”.

c) Complex thought with complex meter: selection 3

Context: Hamlet has discovered that his uncle murdered his father to gain the throne. Hamlet is wracked with indecision about how to avenge his father and has gone into a deep depression, which stifles any action he might take. In this speech he has just seen a Player enact an emotional scene about the death of Hecuba, queen of Troy.

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

Is it not monstrous that this player here,

But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,

Could force his soul so to his own conceit

That from her working all his visage wann’d,

Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,

A broken voice, and his whole function suiting

With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing! For Hecuba!

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,

That he should weep for her? What would he do,

Had he the motive and the cue for passion

That I have? He would drown the stage with tears

And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,

Make mad the guilty and appall the free,

Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed

The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,

A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,

Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,

And can say nothing;

Again, it is important to take note of the punctuation, and when delivering it, speak to the end of the punctuation, not just to the end of the line.  Hamlet is speaking here in angst, not just in poetic meter.  It is also important to know the emotion that is meant to be conveyed in the text and relate that in voice and tone, as well as words spoken.  In this case, Hamlet in self-deprecating and indecisive, not sure what to do as he’s preoccupied still with his father’s death.

 d) Prose: selection 4

But Skadi, daughter of giant Thiassi, took helmet and mail-coat and all weapons of war and went to Asgard to avenge her father. But the Aesir offered her atonement and compensation, the first item of which was that she was to choose herself a husband out of the Aesir and choose by the feet and see nothing else of them. Then she saw one person’s feet that were exceptionally beautiful and said:

“I choose that one; there can be little that is ugly about Baldr.” But it was Niord of Noatun.

It was also in her terms of settlement that the Aesir were to do something that she thought they would not be able to do, that was to make her laugh. Then Loki did as follows: he tied a cord round the beard of a certain nanny-goat and the other end round his testicles, and they drew each other back and forth and both squealed loudly. Then Loki let himself drop into Skadi’s lap, and she laughed. Then the atonement with her on the part of the Aesir was complete.

It is said that Odin, as compensation for her, did this: he took Thiassi’s eyes and threw them up into the sky and out of them made two stars.

In this one, it is again important to note what the emotion is in the story.  In this case, there are points of the story that are humorous, and so knowing where that humor is, and acknowledging it with your facial expressions, is important in conveying it.  I also had to check pronunciation on a few of the names in this one (Thiassi and Noatun), being unfamiliar with them.  Generally, this means that I needed to work on speaking through them with confidence.


7) Write a statement of purpose for a rite of your choosing and one invitation for each of the Three Kindreds. Submit a video (of no more than ten minutes of total length) of your performance of all four pieces.

Hellenic Full Moon Rite Statement of Purpose:

O Makares, Blessed Ones,

I call out to you on this night of the full moon,

As it grows in power, ever luminescent.


We come to you each month

As the moon waxes and wanes

marking this time as sacred

and this place as sacred.


We come now to makes offerings

as our ancestors did before.

To reforge the sacred *ghosti bond.


Be welcome Theoi

and join us in our rite.



The Children of the Earth call out to the Ancestors!

Those of our blood and our bone,

Those of our heart and your hearth,

Those of our friends and our folk.


We call out to those Mighty Dead and Ancient Wise

Poets and Priests

Those who have walked this path before us

and have use the way

Ancestors, Mighty Dead,

Accept our offering.


Nature Spirits:

The Children of the Earth call out to the Nature Spirits,

Those Beings who swim and crawl and wriggle and fly.

All the beings of the this Earth wherever they may come from.

Those who dwell in light and those who dwell in shadow,

Seen and unseen.


Natures Spirits:

Animal friends, Mineral friends,

Plant kin and Earth kin.

You who walk with us in all that we do

showing us the ways that we might honor the gods.

Nature Spirits, we honor you.


Shining Ones:

The Children of the Earth call out to the Shining Ones:

Bright and Mighty Theoi!

You who are the first children of the Mother,

Eldest and brightest.


You of craft-folk, you of grain,

you of hearth, you of sea, you of land.

Hunter, gatherers,

forge-tenders, grain guarders.


Gods and Goddesses all:

We call out to you as you share your wisdom and your love.

Shining Ones, accept our offering!


Works Cited

Griffith, Ralph T.H. Rig Veda. Sacred Texts, 1896. Web. 8 Jan. 2015. <;.

M, Sean. “Dionysia Ta Astika.” Temenos. Hellenion, 8 Nov. 2008. Web. 09 Nov. 2015. <;.

Robinson, Scott R. “Origins of Theatre.” Origins of Theatre. Central Washington University, 2010. Web. 09 Nov. 2015. <;.

Thomas, Kirk. “Concentration in Ritual.” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF, December 22, 2009. PDF file. 03 Jan. 2016. <;.

Thomas, Kirk. “The Well-Trained Ritualist” Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. ADF, November 19, 2009. PDF file. 03 Jan. 2016. <;.


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