Theater for Ritual 2

Building on the theories in Theatre for Ritual 1, this course delves deeper into the practicum of how we work in public ritual.

The primary goal of this course is for students to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively utilize physical techniques, such as voice, internalization of text, props, etc., to enhance ritual.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will increase their awareness of the importance of internalization of text and effectively apply this technique in ritual.
  2. Students will demonstrate knowledge of the importance of voice in ritual to include developing an understanding of projection and diction.
  3. Students will demonstrate increased knowledge of physical techniques, such as internalization of text, the use of space, props, theatricality and movement in ritual.

1) Text Internalization: Describe internalizing text and concepts. Explain the difference between internalized and memorized text. What advantages or disadvantages does internalizing text have when compared to reading from a script? (100 words minimum)

When first beginning to do ritual work, it is common to read directly from a fully written script.  As you grow more comfortable with the structure and the phrasing that is used within the rite you may begin to memorize the script. Eventually, through continued work and exposure, that little bit of memorized script will become internalized in your brain.  If someone starts speaking that piece, your brain will automatically fill in the rest (Thomas 25).

For Three Cranes Grove the most evident piece of our rituals that is internalized is the Cosmos Prayer by Ceiswr Serith.  One of the ways to intentionally internalize text is to recite it in many different scenarios.  We say it after every attunement in every rite and before every Grove meeting.  Out of this set prayer that has been internalized, you will now hear some of our more experienced ritualists riff on the language when they speak, often speaking of “the flame that burns at our center” and following up the declarations of where the spirits are by saying “and we are surrounded now by all the numinous beings of land, of sky, of sea.” The text, which began as a bit of script in the Order of Service, was memorized, and then through exposure became internalized, and then through continued use has been improvised around.

While a script is useful for learning new liturgy, it is also extremely difficult to manage well.  For example, when a ritual is scripted and I am performing the Return Flow, there is no way I can juggle the vessel of water, my sickle or bell branch, the script, and maintain the eye contact and energy of that module in the rite.  Instead, I rely on my internalization of the common phrasing used in the Return Flow to perform that part.  

2) Vocal Performance: Describe the importance of support and resonance in vocal projection. What role does diction play in communicating ideas? (300 words minimum)

Beyond the writing and the actions that form a ritual, it is our voice that allows us to truly deliver the liturgy, guide the energy, and perform a meaningful rite.  For our voice to be at its best we must work on vocal projection, and at the basis of vocal projection is the breath.  

In order to have strong and directed sound when we are speaking or singing, it is important to have good breath support.  You can do vocalizations as well as exercises, such as crunches or explosive breathing, to increase your breath support and make it easier to have a strong and directed sound in ritual (Thomas 4-6). I would like to note that you should be aware of your body during these exercises, particularly if you have asthma, not only to stay safe in the moment, but also so you know what to look out for in ritual if needed.

Resonance is another key aspect of vocal projection and is when the sounds you are making are amplified in certain areas of your body.  There are three main areas of the body where sounds resonate: the face and nose (also called the mask), the throat, and the chest.  Generally speaking, resonating your voice in the mask will carry much farther than resonating in the throat or the chest (Thomas 6-8).  

Finally, one last thing to consider for vocal performance in ritual is diction.  Diction is our ability to speak in a crisp and clear manner that can be heard across distances.  While not as important in day-to-day conversation, it is imperative in ritual.  Because sound is distorted as it travels across distance, particularly if we are outside (as our rituals often are) using clear articulation and enunciation are important.  Even inside we may have individuals who are hard of hearing and cannot clearly see our lips moving.  Our ritual attendees rely on being able to hear us and understand us in order to meaningfully engage with the liturgy, and that requires good diction (Thomas 8-9).  

3) Ritual Revisions: Write a simple ritual and internalize the text. Perform it three times (not more frequently than once per week) and take notes regarding the performance each time. Describe the changes you made during the process and why those changes were made. (300 words minimum)

Basic Script:

Earth Mother I call out to you to support me in this rite as you do in all my work.  Be with me especially tonight as I return these offerings spent back to the Earth.

Garanus Crane, standing one foot on the land, one foot in the water, eye cast to the sky, be with me now in this rite.  I come to the edge, where spiritual meets mundane, where sacred meets profane, and I ask that you help me to stand in both worlds tonight.

Kindreds, I have made offerings through the week, and you have partaken of these gifts I’ve brought.  I know that you have taken your fill, and I now seek to return the dross to the Earth.  So, be present with me now, that anything you have left to gain from these gifts you may take into yourselves before I dispose these husks of offerings.

Earth Mother, I bring this fresh offering to you, for all you do for me regularly, but also in special thanks for taking these spent offerings back into yourself where you will transform them through your unique magic back into gifts anew.  

So now, Kindreds, you’ve received offerings this week and all that is left of them now is their mundane shell.  I return these husks to the Earth that She may make use of them in here way.  

Garanus, for standing with me as I balance between the sacred and the profane, I thank you.  

This work is done.  So be it.  

Week 1 Notes:

It took me awhile to settle on what I thought would be both useful and doable for this weekly rite. I settled on a ritual for disposing of the offerings I’ve made throughout the week that are just sitting on my altar.  They have a tendency to just sit there for some indeterminate amount of time until I remember to take them out, and then it’s without fanfare. So, this whole thing is kind of like a stretched out Prayer of Sacrifice in the manner that I do it public ritual, combined with a Return to the Earth thanking portion.  

I’ve tried to work in some new turns of phrase for this ritual work, rather than falling back entirely on my useful way of speaking.  Most of this has manifested in the way that I’m referring to the offerings that have been left sitting on my altar.  I toyed with “dross”, “husks”, “offerings spent”.  I don’t know which I like best, and I may still decide to mix and match. It may also just depend what was offered that week.  This week there are a couple of coins, so dross might make more sense.  But there is nearly always grain, so “husks” makes sense in that scenario.  I also haven’t settled on “spiritual and mundane” vs. “sacred and profane”.  I think I like the sound of the second, but it is different than my normal so will take a bit more time to internalize well. 

Week 2 Notes:

So, I definitely feel like this is a useful ritual, but I am frustrated with the “no more than once per week” part of the requirement.  I don’t work well on a weekly schedule and do much better on a daily or monthly schedule, so the simple act of managing how and when to do this rite has been hard to manage, and I’m finding myself wanting to do it more frequently.  I found my second performance of this rite didn’t end up as long as I my first one, or as long as I wanted it.  I left out a lot of the fancy language that I had wanted because my kids wanted to “help.”  So, while my language regarding Garanus and the Earth Mother are pretty solid and established, my language for how I’m transferring my spent offerings definitely shortened up.  I think having both versions of this ritual will end up begin useful. This kind of rite, where it is a very practical thing that I’m doing, I often end up having my children with me.  I did settle on “offerings spent” or “spent offerings” as my wording rather than dross or husks.  That certainly felt right for this type of work.

Week 3 Notes:

This week I finally feel like things have solidified into a useful ritual.  I’m happy with where my language has ended up.  I’ve settled on the shorter version, probably because it’s easier to fit into my day.  It is also closer to my more casual way of speaking with the Kindreds.  All in all, the language has gotten easier and seems to make sense and flow better than it did in the beginning.  It’s less wooden and stiff, and much better matches my natural tendencies when speaking in ritual.


The ritual I chose to write for this course was a ritual for disposing of the offerings I’ve made throughout the week.  They have a tendency to sit on my altar for some indeterminate amount of time until I remember to take them outside, and then it’s without fanfare. The whole script ended up kind of like a stretched out Prayer of Sacrifice in the manner that I do it public ritual, combined with a Return to the Earth thanking portion.  

While I was resistant to this work to begin with, it has proved useful.  I understand that the point of this question was to help us see where we need to move from memorization to internalization.  However, the process for performing a rite no more than once per week is not how I learn new ritual language, instead preferring to internalize through daily work.  I think my revisions and quality of work would have been better had I been able to perform this script every day or every few days instead of being forced to stretch it out.  Additionally, having the habit of doing the work more regularly than once per week helps my kids become more familiar with it, and as they are still young it is difficult right now to find time to pray without them.  They always want to help, especially when I’m doing something new and different.  That in particular made internalization difficult because I had to adapt on the fly to accommodate their rapid changes.

Most of the revisions I made were to word choice, rather than intent or actions, I think in part because the intent and actions required for it were very straightforward.  Having a clear intent helped a lot because I knew exactly why I was doing the rite, which meant that the words came more easily.  Because I had set up the outline for the script in my head, and had a picture of the couple of points I wanted to touch on in each portion, it made it easier for me to internalize the text of the script.  In doing the work over a period of time I found which words and phrases rolled more easily off the tongue, and which felt right for this particular work.  

4) Performance: Submit a video recording of at least yourself performing a ritual, taking into account the following performance elements:

  • Intentional movement
  • Internalized text
  • Vocal projection
  • Diction
  • Use of ritual space
  • Use of props
  • An original descriptive performance that describes the lore of the beings of the occasion, such as: Story telling, Playlet, Ritual drama, Poetic story telling, Story telling through song

Three Cranes Grove, ADF – Autumn Equinox 2019, honoring Teutates

Three Cranes Grove’s Autumnal Equinox Rite is arguably our most casual rite of the year.  It is our anniversary rite and so we try to make it fun and make every grove member feel like a really valuable part of the group.  One of the ways we’ve taken to doing this is by writing the name of everyone who wants a part on a popsicle stick, and then pulling at random for who is doing each part.  With the exception of making sure the kids aren’t doing a part beyond their skill, these aren’t stacked at all.  They’re completely random.  And what that shows and means is that anyone is capable of doing any part.  It also lends some humor to the rite because we literally have no idea who is doing what part going in.  When I am the Priest in Charge for this rite the only thing I’m definitely doing is making sure the ritual moves forward.  I provide the connecting bits throughout the rite and essentially direct traffic.

5) Ritual Critique: Submit a self-critique of the video mentioned in question 4. (300 word minimum)

  • Intentional movement:
    • Because I had to keep coming back up to the altar in between each part in order to pull the next popsicle stick I was very aware of how much movement I was going to be doing.  I tried to make extra sure that I was doing that with intention to keep down movement that might be distracting or disruptive to the work.
    • During the Portal Song I did a good job clearly indicating the Hallowing of the Well and Tree.  And you can clearly tell that MJD and I are used to working together because he came up unasked to Hallow the Fire, which is how we typically managed that portion of the rite.
    • I can see my clear gestures and postures when we’re praying here.  I noticed it most especially when Mike was calling on Garanus Crane. I do need to work on the fact that I tend to rock back and forth a little bit when I’m standing still.  
  • Internalized text:
    • I called to the Earth Mother and performed the Prayer of Sacrifice in this rite.  Because the whole rite was done by ritual roulette, I didn’t know what part I was doing until I pulled my popsicle stick.  For this rite, all the parts needed to be internalized, and you can see from me and from the others in the rite really drawing on their internalized knowledge of each piece of ritual.  
    • There were a couple of points in the rite where one of the grove members doing a part left out a phrase that we commonly use.  For instance, when Shawn did the Purpose & Precedent, he left out the phrasing we use in the grove for Precedent, and I pretty seamlessly worked it in as I prepared to call the next person up for the next piece of ritual.
    • You can tell that the whole grove has the cosmos prayer internalized, and we expect to say it immediately following the Attunement.
  • Vocal projection:
    • This is a piece that I’ve always been pretty good at.  Despite the echoey pavilion were in, and the constant background noise of children, I’m pretty easy to hear.  The only point I’m not easy to hear seems to be intentional.  When Tally came up to offer to the Ancestors I was helping her, so my words were meant just for her and not for the whole grove.  She then spoke them loudly as her invitation to the Ancestors.  Additionally, when I spoke the officer oath behind their back for them to repeat, the only person you could hear was them, exactly a planned.  I’m really pleased with how this turned out.  
    • Vocal projection also becomes even more important as there are many parts of the rite where I need to talk above the noise of the chattering children.
  • Diction:
    • One of the bits I use during the Three Kindreds praise offerings is about how the spirits join us at this rite around our fire’s light.  That rhyming of light and rite definitely requires good diction to not trip over. Beyond that, I’m generally pretty easy to understand, my words are clear, and my cadence is measured.  One place I do notice a difference is when I am speaking more in a ritual context vs. when I am talking more conversationally in the rite (like when I am assigning the parts).  I’m okay with that difference I think though.  I think it makes sense in context. 
  • Use of ritual space:
    • One of the things that sometimes end up complicated for me is jumping between serving as the Priest for the rite and serving as one of the bards for the rite.  I think I managed it okay in this rite.  I also have to be aware of speaking all the connective bits in the rite and then getting out of the way for each person to perform the part they’ve been chosen for.  Often in other rites I can stay completely out of the way because folks know who is up next, but since we don’t pre-assign parts here I have to be up front and present between each piece.  
  • Use of props:
    • Probably the most noticeable prop in this rite is our popsicle sticks.  The whole rite is done without assigned parts and we pull a popsicle stick with a name on it to determine who is doing the next part.  Because it ends up a very visible piece, I lean into it and make it part of what makes this rite unique for us.  
    • The other unusual prop in this rite is our grove sickle, which we use to take the officer oaths for the year.  We give folks the option of taking the sickle around the neck or in their hands, and I like when folks choose to take it around the neck because then I have a convenient place to put the script for the oath (on their back) while I hold the sickle.
  • An original descriptive performance:
    • For this rite we sing the song Teutates (written by Rev. Ashton), as has become tradition.  It paired really well with what Jenni wrote/said in her invocation.  She talked about all the different ways that he can be seen and in the song we talk about how we each see him in our own way.  As a patron of the grove we generally see him in relation to us as the gentle gardener, guiding our voice and our work.  Being a Gaulish grove it is often difficult to have descriptive pieces in our rites because we don’t have a lot of lore to draw on.  I especially like this about Teutates because so much of who he is, is based on our Personal and Shared Gnosis, and that really comes out in this song.


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

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