Aspects of pandemic life are beguiling. Witnessing my neighbours enthusiastically embrace ritual as a form of communication, is a deeply odd experience. It’s fascinating and challenging in all the right ways. It hits me in the heart and flips my mind and perspective, just like all good initiations should.
It reaffirms the foundations of the village.
Yet, I can’t forget how we arrived in this moment. The pain and suffering endured by generations of our ancestors, trauma that negated the will and truth of the human spirit.
We followed dark paths that dismissed the mythic foundations of human society.
The weekly celebratory ritual of clapping for those working or volunteering on the front line has become a strange signifier in our lives, demonstrating we no longer exist within the confines of the normal.
Emotions are elicited in this collective statement of intent. A recalling of the deepest form of community is taking place. It connects us all and amplifies the strangeness of what we’re engaged in right now. Each of us is exposed to the collective power of activities that are outside the bounds of normal experience. Irradiated with the splendour of the mysteries. A door has opened and we are all flooded with experiences that are alive, alien and strangely familiar at the same time.
The key question is if we will permit others to close this door again.
The clapping has become a liminal amplifier, communicating that we no longer exist in the same streets we once inhabited. Our faces might look the same, yet our expressions are utterly different. A layer of facade has been stripped from us all.
All ritual at its basis, is technical. We take specific actions over and over again. To break apart or build new systems. To aid us to inhabit experiences/ landscapes/ stories far beyond the realms of normal.
All ritual is a form of questioning. For example, we might ask through ritual: What is love? What is this plague? What is the truth of my existence?
The initial instigating question for the clapping ritual appears, at first, to be:
How do we show appreciation and gratitude to those on the frontline who are risking their lives?
I believe it also has a deeper meaning, that forms the engine parts of the ritual action. These are linked to emotional states, informing actions, demonstrating that those locked down, do still have agency, and do still exist.
Communal clapping is an act of theatre, demonstrating perfectly that the world really is a stage. We are performer and audience. We are extant within a story that requires a signal of witnessing, that in turn, activates a mythic remembrance of our folk memory, and how vital ritual once was to the health of the world.
Within Theatre of Manifestation and other forms of ritual theatre, clapping is viewed as an act of banishment, signifying the end of a play/story. Spirit possession is a fundamental aspect of the work. When an audience claps, they are attempting to banish those spirits and are communicating to the gods that the ritual has ended. The sound of the clap is an auditory border, between the wondrous and the mundane, denoting the ending. This links to other rituals such as banging on wood, or the banging of staves during folk dancing.
It’s beneficial to understand that stories have their own form of agency, and continue to exist after the audience has exited the landscape of the narrative. On one infamous occasion at the Horse Hospital, F00lishPe0ple carried/ushered members of an audience out into the street to stop them from clapping.
On Friday, we celebrated VE Day. Group celebrations were banned due to the lockdown and government guidelines, though it was suggested that the populace should instead have tea on their lawns.
What might this look like through a prism of wonder?
Walking around our village on VE day was simply stunning, it felt like my entire village had created a grand unifying story, an immersive ritual, starting with the notion of what VE once stood for, then taking that to the furthest reaches of imaginative space. No longer restricted by societal norms, and unfettered by the dismantling action of almost seven weeks in lockdown retreat, the villagers created a space of deeply weird connective stories, that elicited a feeling reminiscent of early British science fiction. I was supplanted to a franchise of the Village from The Prisoner, that was celebrating freedom and a recalling of the mysteries.
Old gramophones wistfully played 45's, whilst some of the older generations abandoned the lockdown and congregated on lawns dressed in finery. Every imaginable form and colour of tea pot were displayed at tables, beneath a never ending line of psychedelic bunting, running from here to eternity.
It was astonishing. (If not a little disconcerting.)
You can never stop a storyteller seeing the landscape of the story unfolding. In narrative terms, this is the story node/beat, where the villagers think the danger has passed, only to have the monster descend and destroy the entire landscape.
I don’t believe this initiation is over.
We have stepped outside the confines of what I thought was possible in the street I live in. There is delight in these non-ordinary experiences that offer different perspectives on what we’re living through.
I’m wondering if they hold a key to what happens next.
What if this is a commencement?
Our opening salvo in a war against the restrictive confines of the normal?
What other actions might we imagine taking, that unify? Shatter. Combine. Or call forth the required wonder to reimagine alternative futures?
Is it a fact that our dreams have become unbidden for a reason, to allow our minds to become impregnated with the deepest treasures of the subconscious? The dangerous gleaming shards of trauma we buried, resurfacing in new shapes. Chimeras of wonder, to be utilised as fuel to traverse the realms of wonder.
What if we take our bright, neon memories out into the air? Display our hopes and dreams in wild actions, where our bodies are transformed by movement. What if we unchain our voices, to scream our joy, love, pain or forgiveness out onto the world, for the land to hold, dismember and consume before our eyes?
I have come to understand actions that support beauty and wonder, create a space to receive answers outside the scope of what we once thought possible. In a peripatetic exploration of what we have been told is permissible, outside the prison maze of the normal.
How do we express the multiplicities of this experience? There’s an action for each feeling. A movement for forgiveness. A mantra for anger. Golden tears for the trauma we’ve inflicted upon the world and upon one another.
What might the poetry in this apocalypse be? How do we lament and call for forgiveness?
There is a ghost, close to us, a memory or recalling. Perhaps it’s from the distant past, or could it be from the distant future? We can feel it close, we can’t see it, we’re on the precipice. How might we entice it out into the open? Into full view for us to see?
Collective catharsis of the unconscious.
Now is the moment to slough off debts of emotion, pain and suffering.
If there was one thing you could do, just one thing, over and over until the end of time, what would it be? Would it be pleasure based? Would it be a communication of love?
Let us offer our deepest secrets to the wild wind, in gratitude to the mysteries that opened the door.
Perhaps in doing this, we will succeed in naming the unnameable.