Sunday, July 16, 2006

One-trance pony

Chas Clifton recently blogged about a change in the big-ticket events at pagan festivals he attends. They used to do large, participatory rituals. Nowadays, that pattern has apparently shifted, at least in his neck of the woods, to rites involving multiple priests and priestesses "drawing down" an aspect of the Wiccan Goddess and people either waiting for their turn to come in a circle or filing into a tent where the aspect's carrier is ensconced, in both cases for very brief consultations. I freely admit I have all but no experience with Wiccan rites aside from being a very occasional attendee of same. At the same time, I've been studying trance possession for the last three years and know people who've been at it for far longer. My background has left me a bit bemused by this usage of the talent.

I've both attended and been involved in rituals that contained trance possession and involved larger groups. I've attended a Hrafnar-run seidh ritual, in which the seidhkona will often embody deities from more than one tradition during the course of the evening depending on who's asking the questions as well as reaching out to speak with any requested dead person. I was one of three women selected to carry Brigid for a public ritual attended by over 200 people. But in neither case were the trancing individuals set up as a private oracle in a tent. I know of a different seidh group where something similar to that is done, but even then, we're not talking about long lines and ten-second visits. I grant you, the Brigid ritual included what we called the "rock star" routine in rehearsal. The three of us performed rapid greetings to everyone who we could reach in our thirds of the space. But greetings are not consultations.

What can you get in a few short seconds from an aspected deity? A fortune cookie quip? Is it so difficult to get in touch with the numinous that people have to stand in line to get a brush with it? And is there real community in a ritual where you only get a group vibe going long enough to allow the drawing down to happen, then you stand and wait until your turn is up and either leave for the next event or watch until everyone else is done before it's closed? The Christian churches know the value of audience participation. Are there Wiccans who are forgetting? If so, I feel sorry for them. If Wicca is a religion where all are priests, this shifts the power structure outside of that approach and into a system of priests and congregation. That brings it closer to the Christianity so many people within Wicca left behind. That would only reinforce the suspicion many outside Wicca hold that the more modern versions of it are Christianity minus the rules and with a Mommy Goddess Who doesn't do more than give hairpats and consolation. And truly, I don't know of many deities Who would easily tolerate being treated like a divine ATM for long. The ramifications are many, I fear, unless my distance on the issue is introducting mistaken impressions.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Finds and fantasias

I don't know if this find is going to pan out the way the initial talk about it is going, but I have to say the first wave of chatter about the remains of what may have been an ancient astronomical observatory being found in the Amazon has been interesting. I love finds that turn assumptions on their heads.

At the same time, my cynical side is flirting with the notion of taking bets on how long it'll be before someone hypothesizes the Druids either went to or came from Brazil. The second most likely claim will be that some of the Atlanteans escaped north while the rest went south, thus the parallel observatory situation. Before you claim none of us are that stupid, it's my understanding that Diana Paxson's deliberately fabricated names for Freyja's chariot-pulling cats in a novel Paxson wrote have since been taken for ancient lore.

And of course, if this first wave of hypothesis doesn't pan out, we'll hear far less about the debunking and still have to deal with the "Amazonian Druid" contingency. I suppose it won't be much worse than having to face the AD&D crowd.