Thursday, May 13, 2010

Neo-Pagan Cynicism

I recently read a ritual called "The Council of All Beings." It goes something like this.

In a group ritual format, people gather an mourn all the ecological problems they can think of. All of them. This is followed by a kind of group 're-birthing' interpretive dance to get in touch with either the evolution of homo sapiens or else the gestation process. Lastly, people become representatives of non-human species and processes. Someone speaks for all wolves, someone else is an eagle. Participants can even choose to channel lichen (I am not making this up). There is a pause for participants to use Stanislavski's method of acting to get into their character.

The animal (and plant and geological) representatives circle around and take turns dropping character and going to the center to be the human representative. The non-humans essentially point, and say, "Look, you've screwed up my life cycles." The human representative(s) must remain silent. Then the non-humans say, "But, hey; you obviously need a gift that only I can offer, so here it is." Insert celebratory drumming here. The End.

That's right: "The End." At no point during this event (at least the description I read) are participants encouraged to say what positive actions they'll take when they return to their normal, non-ritual lives.

What bugs me about this ritual is that 1) it reinforces the concept that humanity is an "unnatural" component of the ecosystem; 2) it strikes me as putting the curse of Original Sin into the mouths of a bunch of talking animals (and rocks); 3) it's a ritual for us to receive gifts of wisdom disguised as an event to raise ecological awareness; and 4) the ritual description seems to have taken a page from the Men's Mythopoetic Movement (insert repetitive self-flagellation here).

I wonder -- did the dinosaurs have rituals like this ? Or what about the early anaerobic bacteria that poisoned themselves in the process of making the planet's current atmosphere ? And do we really need this: it seems to me a less egocentric ritual would be formed around cleaning up one's locality, turning out lights, driving less, and raising money for clean-up efforts (and education on consuming less and researching green energy sources).

My final observation is a re-imagining of this ritual: A bunch of white people gather together and some of them choose to be (and speak for) people of color....
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