Text, Performance and Ritual Cohesion:

Tips on how to use your mind/body to more fully bring energy into the spoken text within your rituals:

There is a fairly popular occult public ritual called the Gnostic Mass. This mass is a very fine piece of group ritual written by Aleister Crowley for the use of his one of his orders. Because of its familiarity within the occult, I’d like to examine this work as an example within this article.image2-2 What I am talking about goes beyond the Gnostic Mass and magick; it is one of those places where the concerns of the actor, any actor, perfectly overlaps and applies to the concerns of the magician. In the theatrical world it forms one of the most important concerns of any performer’s skill set. I am talking about what is universally known as ‘text work’.

When the Gnostic Mass ritual is performed well it can truly be a powerful, initiatory experience. I have seen any number of masses, and I have also had the pleasure and privilege of studying the particulars of the ritual with Lon and Constance Duquette, by far some of the most experienced and knowledgeable practitioners of this rite.  I don’t think I am speaking beyond my real understanding or knowledge of the rite when I say that the mass is a public dramatization of the central secret of all magick—the climax of this ritual is a Eucharist, a magical gesture where a substance is essentially made into god and then consumed.

However, I am often disappointed by one part of the mass in particular, having rarely seen this section succeed as a performance, and which has had serious implications for its effectiveness as a rite of magick. To be clear, my remarks are strictly limited to an understanding of what is required during this part of the mass as far as performance technique is concerned, painfully aware as I have been of what was missing. I hope it will be clear to all my readers, I am simply being critical of the performance technique of the ritualist, something anyone with the proper training in the field of dance, theatre and performance can appreciate and comment on.

The scene in question requires a specific energy, which is performative in nature, and which is essential to the quality of the magick created. The part of the mass I am referring to is where the Deacon recites a long list of names made up of male saints, historical and mythical; and I deem it to be the hardest part of the mass to pull off. This is due in part to the fact that it is a long list, which is traditionally a very difficult textual problem to solve—ask any professional actor about this; and also because it requires, not so much an embodiment of what the speaker is suppose to represent in the moment, but the ability to project the name as an energy onto the Priest. With each name there should be a very precise and almost physical imprinting onto the spine of the Priest by the Deacon despite some physical distance between them. The Deacon being limited to a hand gesture and the act of speaking the name, a ritualist tasked with this role might ask how this is even possible.

Good text work can be summed up, from an audience’s perspective, as something that is easy to hear and understand. In other words I should not have to focus on what is being said in an effort to follow the sense of the words. Quite the contrary, the words should be loaded with a life that will do something to me, even as a totally passive spectator.

From a ritualist’s perspective this loaded potential is about the ability to generate and use energy. One of the simplest ways to express what this requires is in the negative: someone who is totally relaxed while speaking will be hard to follow—what they are saying, and image1-6why they are speaking will be lost to me despite my best efforts to pay attention and get something from the moment. This is bad.

If we imagine we are responsible for giving a word or a group of words energy, then it is easy to imagine words with so little life that they barely make it off the body of the speaker, let alone travel the distance to any desired location to do some sort of work!
Those feeble words might have some resonance for the speaker, but it is a private experience. Group work on the other hand will demand the experience be shared.

Here are a list of four tips on how to use your mind/body to more fully bring energy into the spoken text within your rituals:

  1. Know what you are saying and why you are speaking and then own that intention to the best of your ability. Do not filter your efforts through any other intention, like the need to be relaxed or at ease; many actions are not served by these objectives. If you are speaking, speak to be heard!
  2. Give with both hands—in other words, don’t be afraid to act. In the moment of action there is no room for self-doubt, or indecision. Speak as though your words were the truth.
  3. Imagine your words are a force that flows from the center of your being—know where this force is going and use more than enough energy (articulation and volume) to land them on their target.
  1. Push against the floor with the whole of both of your feet; feel this effort emanating from your core; and then, from that foundation in your lower abdomen push the sound of your words into the space before and about you.

In the Performance Movement Magick workshops we work with a number of techniques that are specifically about the creation, shaping, and projection of magical force. Much of this work has revolved around the use of physical gesture, but is equally applicable to our text work. The astute student will easily understand how these techniques can be modified to enhance the power of the spoken word. At the same time future workshops are also being planned which will deal specifically with how to apply these methods to our text work.

Whether you are cursing a demon, invoking the most high, giving expression to an archetype, reciting a list, or playing Lady Macbeth in a theatrical it all comes down to the same consideration: is your expression animated enough to do justice to your intention?

Join us at our upcoming workshops in LA at PerformanceMovementMagick.com

– Robert Allen

© 10/29/16


%d bloggers like this: