Core Ritual Skills

THE WONDER: Science-Based Paganism

19-02-2024 • 43 mins

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Suntree Retreat 2024:

Season 5 - Episode 5


Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder, science based paganism. I'm your host, Mark.

Yucca: And I'm Yucca.

Mark: And today we're going to visit the four core ritual skills. Now, obviously, there are a lot of different things that can be useful in leading rituals and in in participating in them, but these are four clusters of activity. That if you're good at them, you're going to have a lot more success both in leading rituals and in submerging yourself into the ritual trance y state, the flow state where you can really have effective things happen in rituals.

Yucca: Great.

Mark: that's what we're gonna do today.

Yucca: And this is more from the lens of a group ritual than necessarily a private ritual because there's a few things we'll be talking about, like the speech part, which maybe you might do in a private ritual or maybe you don't. But when you're, when you have that interaction between multiple people and what we're going to be talking about, you can apply a lot of that to your private rituals as well, to your solo or individual.

Mark: Sure. I know people who are who are pagans and whose solo practice involves a lot of dance, for

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: because they're very movement oriented people and that's, that's what they do even, you know, in the privacy of their solo rituals.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: so yes and, and beyond that, these are good skills just to have in the world, you know, it's, it's helpful to have these.

So why don't we start with public speaking,

Yucca: Yeah. So, especially when you are leading the ritual, the words are how we communicate with each other and communicate these really complex ideas. We're gonna communicate other things through our body language, through movement, but when we're trying to communicate nuanced ideas, it's words.

Mark: right? And this is the, the whole cluster of things that go into verbal communication, right? So it's not only speaking in coherent sentences and, you know, having an interesting modulation to your voice so that you're not speaking in a monotone. It's engaging. People are, you know, want to listen to it, but also the physical ability just to project your voice out, right?

So that people that are in that space can hear what you're saying. All of those things are, are, they're learned skills. All of our speaking abilities are learned skills. I mean, we watch little kids slowly accumulate the ability to communicate about complex

Yucca: Right? We start with a half a dozen sounds. Words that are instinctual, that are, I'm hungry, I'm in pain, and that's it. Everything else that, how many thousands of words do we know in each language, right? Each language's vocabulary amazing,

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. And clearly, evolution has strongly favored our capacity to do this because a whole lot of brain space is taken up by our capacities to learn language and to speak. And then, of course, the whole separate factor of being able to read and write, which is a different set of skills, right? And a set of skills that we're not really talking about so much today.

Yucca: right,

Mark: Now, not everybody is a natural. Public speaker. I feel very fortunate that I happen to be gifted in that regard and that I can just sort of improvisationally talk about things that interest me not so much about things that don't interest me, but that's an ADHD thing, I think,

Yucca: mhm. And I'm the opposite. Speaking is very difficult. I didn't speak till I was four. This is all learned and hard earned hard, it was difficult to learn to do, and I'm not comfortable with public speaking, despite doing it for a living but it's, if I was to be leading a ritual, it would be something that I would do.

be practicing ahead of time. And that's just different ways of being, right? You just kind of need to know yourself that, Mark, it seems like you could just kind of go into it, you know, have a little bit of an idea and be able to know what to say in the moment. I'd have to think about that ahead of time.

Mark: yeah, often I can just go into it with kind of a mental outline. If I'm giving a long address, like an hour long, Something. I'll work from a, an outline, but that's usually only a page. So it's just, I don't know, it's, it's something that, that I have an aptitude for and I feel really fortunate for that.

And I also don't take any credit for it because it's just a genetic die roll. I happened to, to land that. The, so there are a variety of different techniques that you can use in order to improve your ability. To, to do public speaking, it's, it's very, very difficult for people to remain interested in watching someone read something aloud.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: That's very challenging. So if you can speak from an outline, like on an index card, that can be A much better way to go, but if you need to, like, write out the first sentence of every paragraph or something to kind of give yourself a launching point to go from there are just some practical things you can do that will make it easier for you to do that in a ritual context.

Use a binder, for example. It looks a little more formal, and you don't have to worry about pages shuffling all over the place. You can hold the binder, you know, like people do when they're singing in a choir or something like that, and just refer down to it, and then look up to make eye contact with people in the group so that they feel engaged.

That eye contact piece is very important.

Yucca: Yeah. And the, and it's a practice thing as well, but the length of eye contact is going to depend on how many people you have in your group. But often Your one to three seconds is kind of that sweet spot where it's, you're acknowledging the person, but not, it doesn't become uncomfortable. You're not,

Mark: Right.

Yucca: having it feel like they're being examined or peered into.

It's There's just that moment of connection. Now, if you've got a group of 20 people, you don't have time to make three second eye contact with every single person there. But if you have a group of four people, then that's a, you know, you just gotta have to judge it in the moment.

Mark: Right. In the, in the case of that group of 20 people, you can pick individuals out of the group that you make that eye contact with and then maybe use a different set the next time you look up so that eventually everybody feels kind of included. And the, the trick with eye contact, which I know is very uncomfortable for some people, is that you can look somebody right between the eyes, straight between their eyebrows, and you're not making eye contact with them, and they won't know it.

Yucca: And it's, yeah, it still feels like it. Rather than focusing on, you know, when you're making true eye contact, you're really looking at one of the pupils, right? But you don't actually need to do that, yeah.

Mark: Just, just that little bit of difference at any kind of distance at all, they're not going to know. In many cases in ritual settings, we're working under low light conditions, so that makes it even a little bit fuzzier. And that's a way that you can keep yourself from becoming as self conscious as you might be by looking someone straight in the eyes.

Yucca: Right, because if you are, now this is if you're leading it, you are keeping track of a lot of things. in your mind at that moment. But for the eye contact, being a participant in a ritual, there's the eye contact with the person who is leading it and with the others, and that's just a nice, that's a nice trick to have, just a nice tool, not trick in like a manipulative way, but just a nice tool for your social toolbox.

Mark: Sure. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's a way to self, save yourself from a feeling of, that you're too exposed. Because that's the thing about eye contact is that it feels very exposing to both of, both people who are, who are meeting their gaze. And so if you fudge a little bit, it, it can make you feel a little bit less exposed and more confident.

Yucca: right.

Mark: Now I, I, oh, go ahead.

Yucca: Oh, I was going to say, and it can be something on just the eye contact is something that can be very powerful when it's consensual, right? Like if some of the most powerful experiences I've had with others is just sitting and having a few minutes of just looking into their eyes.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: And it can just be really, really moving just a very powerful experience.

But it has to be consensual, right? And that's, that's something that we need to mention about everything with ritual, is that there needs to be consent for whatever is happening in the

Mark: Indeed. And that's why it's important to give people an overview at the beginning of a ritual about what we're going to do. Now, that doesn't mean exposing every little detail. It can be fine to have things that are surprising not in a negative way, but you can have, you know, surprises along the way that transformative and go, Oh, wow, look, that's what's happening now.

But you do want to make sure that everybody has pretty well signed on to going on this ride with you. That's,

Yucca: Especially if there's going to be any physical contact,

Mark: Oh, yes.

Yucca: right? Like, if people are going to hold hands or, you know, put their hands on someone's shoulder or anything like that, that's, it's really important that people know that that's what they're getting into. Because people have very different experiences with that.

They don't owe it to us to explain why they're not comfortable or are comfortable with it. That's their business, right?

Mark: Exactly so. Um, and I, I referenced a minute ago something, and I'm, and I'm glad that I reminded myself about this because, okay, so, so you're listening to the things that we're talking about here. You've got your, your outline in a binder, and you're, you know, reading that first sentence or getting the reminder of what that next little statement is supposed to be about, and then looking up and looking at people between the eyes so that you don't have to feel uncomfortable about actually meeting their gaze, and then you realize that you can't see what's on the page because you're in low light conditions, and then you get out your flashlight, and And try to hold it in your mouth and read at the same time.

And it doesn't work

Yucca: for everyone listening, Mark literally put a flashlight in his mouth in that moment that you just happened to have right next to you.

Mark: Yes, there happened to be one on my table here. So what you want to do is you want to have some sort of a light source that will clip to your binder, One of those, you know, little, you know, night,

Yucca: lamps so that you don't wake your partner up in bed, sort of thing, or yeah,

Mark: Very useful tool for a ritual leader to have. They make a, a little light, they've got a little shade on them so that it isn't blinding to other people.

And it really gives you the light that you need without being too obtrusive.

Yucca: and you can get them in kind of a, an Amber, reddish light, too, and that's really nice because that doesn't spoil people's dark vision as much as like a bright white or blue light might.

Mark: Right. I actually saw a park ranger giving a campfire talk using one of those.

Yucca: Mm.

Mark: seemed like she was new or something, and, you know, didn't quite have the whole wrap down yet necessarily. She

Yucca: memorized the entire thing.

Mark: Right. She did a great job, but she had to refer to notes and didn't actually use a binder. She used a clipboard, but, you know, same kind of deal.

Yeah, and, and she used that amber color. So that people could look up at the stars because part of her part of what she referenced was was stars.

Yucca: Right. It was a nighttime activity that you were doing. You weren't out in, you know, the middle of the day, noon, the baking sun. Not in

Mark: right. No, we were around a fire and the fire, of course, made some light, but the, but not. I mean, it's going to, that's, that's right. It's going to cast a shadow towards your face, so that's not going to do any good. And it's flickering to begin with, which just makes it very unreliable for reading. So that's a, you know, a little, a little tip that, you know, will actually do you a lot of good if you're doing public speaking in a, in a dark,

Yucca: would really encourage people not to use your phones as your light when you're in a ritual setting because just the presence of a phone or a tablet or something like that can really pull people out of the present moment. And the, there's, we, we have a pretty big issue in our society where, with the what is it called?

Fubbing? Where people, when their phone is out? In social situations, and somebody's looking at the phone, and then the person who's interacting with them is getting the social signal of, I'm not interested in what you're saying because I keep looking at the phone and so there's a, a lot of people have a emotional, often unconscious, but emotional response to the other person's got their phone out, they're not interested.

Mark: right.

Yucca: So when we're dealing with symbology and metaphor that, that can be something that's very triggering for people, is to have that phone out.

Mark: Great point. I'm really glad you brought that up. And that's another reason why you don't want to have your notes on your phone or on a tablet. I know it's convenient. I know it means that you can just type everything up without printing anything out, any of that sort of stuff. But removing, removing most forms of digital technology from the ritual circle, It helps, and I'm not entirely sure why it helps, but it does.

There's something about that technology that is just so riveting for people, it draws their attention so heavily, it becomes much more difficult to be present, and that, of course, is core to what we work to do in a ritual space.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: Um, I, I'm reminded, I've just started, I've started game mastering a game for the first time in 37 years.

Yucca: Oh, wonderful.

Mark: had our we're playing Shadow Dark. And we started week before last, I'm gonna run another session this week. And one of the things that I, I, I told them, this is gonna be the most painful thing that you're gonna have to do all evening. I made them stack all their phones on the table. If you touch them, you take damage.

Yucca: oh, that's brilliant.

Mark: You, you, you

Yucca: But yeah, it hurts. It can be really uncomfortable to be separated from it.

Mark: Sure, because whenever people are, are distracted or bored or uncomfortable, their go to is to bury themselves in their phones. And it's, you know, we, we had a very lively, good social interaction throughout the game because people were engaged with one another rather than with their phones. So, you know, waiting for their turn.

So, yeah, that was a great thing.

Yucca: Mm hmm. You know, I think that there's a lot of parallels between game mastering and leading a ritual.

Mark: I

Yucca: So many overlaps between those skills, because on both, you're, you're, it's, both things are collective storytelling, and as the ritual leader, or as the game master, you're guiding that experience, but you're not controlling that experience.

Mark: Yeah, that's absolutely true. And, and that has occurred to me before as well that tabletop fantasy role playing games or, or any genre of tabletop games are, they're a group ritual. They, they are a thing that we do, we get together, they have certain kinds of cultural conventions, like rolling dice and, you know, waiting for your turn and all that kind of stuff.

And they are consensual behaviors to create a group experience, which is what a ritual is, right?

Yucca: Right.

Mark: Yeah. The goal isn't necessarily personal transformation, it's entertainment.

Yucca: Yeah. Although sometimes, there's, you can have some pretty emotionally powerful experiences.

Mark: yes, absolutely. Yeah, I've had players weeping, I've had players falling off their chairs laughing. There's, there's, there's, there's a lot there.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So, that's,

Yucca: Yeah, let's go to our next one,

Mark: Yeah, that's public speaking. And the good news about public speaking is that the more you do of it, it will become easier. It won't necessarily become easy, but it will become easier. And that's true of all of these skill sets that we're talking about today. The next one that I want to talk about is singing.

Yucca: which shares a lot with much of what we've just been talking about with the speaking, but has, has some additional Elements added onto it.

Mark: Right. And it does different things. It taps different parts of the brain, and it's much more accessible to the emotional self than, than linear language. There's something about intoning and making harmony and the kind of poetry that tends to be associated with with the songs that you sing in a ritual state, in a ritual setting,

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: all of which, It's just transformative.

It moves you emotionally, and that is, of course, a very important part of what we work to do. Yeah,

Yucca: And depending on what the song is, it can still be vocal without being verbal. There's many rituals that I've been to that have just had Just had sounds, like, just vowels with the, with the tune and that, that's a nice thing for those of us who aren't really wordsy people or who find lyrics to be difficult to, to catch on to.

Some people are really fast with that, right? You put it, my, my youngest, you put anything in a song and he's got it. He's got the lyrics to it. He's got the words. And like, how are you even singing? You know, we'll listen to songs in languages he doesn't speak, and he's singing along with it, right? So some people's brains work that way, and other people, I can, I can get the melody, but what are the words to that?

I don't know. So it's a nice opportunity sometimes to have the songs that are just sounds that people can just join in with if they're comfortable with it or not, right?

Mark: right. And that raises two really interesting things for me. The first of which is that I like for it to be a convention in the rituals that I do that if someone just can't get the lyrics or doesn't like the lyrics or whatever it is, they can just ah along, you know, they can just sing the vowel ah and still, still get the melody out there, right?

So that they're participating, so that they have a role, and that's a perfectly acceptable role. The other Is that there's this wonderful practice called circle singing. I don't know if you've heard of this.

Yucca: Keep going, because it could mean several different things.

Mark: it's a directed, like, like a choral director kind of program where The choral director will sing one line and will teach a group of the participants that line, and they'll sing it over and over and over again, and then the choral director sings another part for another three people that interlocks with that first melody, so what you end up with is this, and you can have, you know, three, four, even five parts if you're really good at this what you end up with is this very intricate, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.

Sort of tapestry of sound the musician Bobby McFerrin does this a lot. He used to do a New Year's Eve singing in the New Year's circle song event at the Glide Cathedral in San Francisco every year. And it's just, it's a cool way for people that aren't going to do lyrics and may only need to You know, seeing a very simple, repeated line to still be fully engaged in participating in making something that's really cool.

Yucca: yeah. Just make sure that there's a group of people for each line, that you don't have one person trying to remember and carry that so that when they do so that they can Use the other person as help for when they forget the line or get a little bit confused because they're hearing the other song and, you know, so don't try, don't put one person on the spot for it who's not, you know, the professional singer.

Mark: right. You can also do this with round. There are a lot of, of musical rounds that, you know, you teach one line to one group of people and another line to another group of people or you teach the whole thing to everybody and then you start them off set. So one person sing, you know, one group sings the first line, and then the second group starts singing the first line again as the first group continues to do the second line, and you just go around like that.

And rounds can be very beautiful and really trance inducing to sing.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So singing, it's, and I know there are a lot of people out there who are like, I'm tone deaf, I can't sing I can't carry a tune. That is true for some people. It is true for some people. And what you may want to do instead is to learn how to use your voice rhythmically.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: So, instead of having to carry tones, you can just bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, kind of along with whatever the, the rhythm of the musical piece is, so that you still have a way to plug in.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: But the other thing is that a lot of people who think that they're tone deaf just haven't tried. They haven't, they haven't practiced. I, I wouldn't,

Yucca: And not try, but

Mark: try isn't the right word.

Yucca: built the skill over that have that it has it doesn't necessarily come natural

Mark: Right.

Yucca: to build that skill is something that takes time and takes exposure just like we were talking about with the public speaking

Mark: Yes. That's, that's, that's what I meant. I didn't like the word try either, so thank you.

Yucca: but yeah it may be something that just takes the exposure and time and and really and it's going to take different amounts of time for different people right and we're all coming at it from different emotional experiences

Mark: Right, right. Yeah and this actually leads us to our third skill set, which can be something that you can replace singing with. This is rhythm and drumming or percussion of various kinds. Because there are people out there that have a wonderful sense of rhythm and are terrific in a percussive sense and just particularly good at following a tune.

And that's okay. That's perfectly alright. Um, the, the evocative nature of rhythm and drumming and what it does in our bodies cannot be overstated. know, a good complex drumming riff almost forces us to move. I'm a very heady person, and I grew up over medicated for ADHD, so I twitched all the time. I had lots of tics. So, you know, my body kind of betrayed me a lot, and I've always had kind of an ambivalent relationship with it because of that. The, but still, when I'm in a ritual circle and there's good drumming going on, I want to move, you know, I, I, I want to go.

Yucca: yeah, that's, I share that experience. I'm also very, very much in my head a lot of the time, but it feels like it just pulls my awareness down and into my body and kind of spreads it out to a more body awareness and just brings me down to that connection and I feel much more connected with the ground and the rhythm and the, it's just very powerful.

Mark: Yes, very much so, and I've, I have a lot of conjectures about why that might be, most of them having to do with a mother's heartbeat.

Yucca: yeah, because we all started out hearing. Hearing it,

Mark: yeah,

Yucca: her pulse was there.

Mark: right, all the time, and it got faster and it got slower and,

Yucca: and you got the, some of the, not all of them, but some of the hormones crossing the placenta into you, so you're sharing some of those feelings with her as you're associating what her heart is doing.

Mark: right.

Yucca: You're also getting to hear all the gurgles of her digesting and all of that stuff too.

Mark: Right. That's true.

Yucca: But that heart, that ever present heart,

Mark: Yes. Yes. And the sort of the, the softening sound of the lungs, breathing in, breathing out. There's probably a little bit of a stretching sound with the diaphragm

Yucca: You probably feel that, too, as you're taking up more space.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: And then you probably kicked her in the diaphragm a few times and she went, Right, no

Mark: out maybe, maybe not to do that again.

Yucca: what your experience later on in life, we all started That way with that very primal experience of being before our minds and brains had really developed the way they are now before, at least I think, I mean, we're human beings, but, you know, even before that, but before we really did. come into being an aware person in the way that we are

Mark: sure.

Yucca: individuals on the outside, that's, you know, I like thinking about all of that, about thinking about that transition between going from just being a part of her to being our own people, and then, yeah,

Mark: And the whole sort of unboxing experience of, you know, turning the lights on in various parts of your brain and, you know, all that kind of stuff. It's really fascinating.

Yucca: yeah and just the, I think the development of how we, so this is something, we often talk about you know, growing a baby, right? And as the mothers, we are, sort of, except it's actually the baby that's growing themselves. Their body is telling themselves what to do. We're supplying all, we're supplying the home for that, all of the supplies, but from the moment that, that cell, is following its own instructions and becoming its own person.

And it's just amazing the different, you know, what we do know of it and the different steps of, like, when certain things develop. Like, when they start being able to sense light, right? About halfway through, you can shine a light on your belly and they'll start kicking because they can see the light.

But a week before, they couldn't see the light. They didn't respond to it because they Physically couldn't see it, and now they can, and I, it's just a, I think it's an amazing process, and we, we've just barely begun to, to scratch the surface of understanding what's, what's happening. And we all went through it.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: Don't consciously remember it, but I think it affects us later on, which

Mark: Oh, I agree.

Yucca: the rhythm,

Mark: Yeah. I absolutely agree.

Yucca: it's speculation on our part that our connection to rhythm is connected to that heart, but it seems like, this seems like a logical path to take.

Mark: Yeah. And I mean, many babies when they're very young will be responsive to rhythmic music.

Yucca: Absolutely.

Mark: know, it's like if there's, if there's a strong, steady beat in something, they will move to it.

Yucca: Yep.

Mark: So that's all to say that it's coded very deeply in us to be responsive to that. You know, to the pulsing of rhythm and the ability to create that, even if it's just a steady beat, like a heartbeat kind of beat. It doesn't have to be Zakir Hussain playing the tablas. I mean, if, if you're, if you have a good sense of rhythm and you're interested in putting in the time that it takes to develop, you know, those wonderful Middle Eastern or African or Indian or

Yucca: Or any, yeah, there's

Mark: any culture, you know, Amazing repertoires than, you know, do that because we need more of that in the world.

But just the ability, you know, I have a good rhythm sense, but I'm, I have ADHD and it's very hard for me to do things that I'm not good at for a long period of time until I become good at them. So I just have a frame drum, a simple, round. Frame drum. And I use that for creating sort of a drone y rhythm, heartbeat sound in rituals.

And it makes a big difference.

Yucca: mm hmm,

Mark: It's a really big difference. So I really encourage all of you that are developing your, your ritual tool set, you know, to get shakers or claves, you know, the wooden things that hit against one another or Or a drum and just start, play around. It's fun. It's fun to do.

Yucca: And earlier we were talking about, you know, some of the caution around phones and technology and things like that, but I do think that there can be a place for the recorded music as well especially when it comes to the drumming and keeping a beat and things like that. When you have a group of people.

And you have multiple instruments. I mean, to me, that's golden, right? You have the whole group doing it. But if you're in a solo situation, or, you know, your hands are busy doing lots of other things, or whatever it is, you know, there's a lot of great things recordings of, of drumming and rhythm and things like that.

Mark: Yeah. And there's been a resurgence or, or a surg I guess, which is sort of the first thing of of groups that do very sort of ritually trancey kind of music groups like Dead Can Dance and Wardruna and ung and you know, some groups like that, that really, you know, they're really exploring that. That way that rhythm can really influence us at a physical level and that stuff can be great ritual music, can be really useful.

There's actually a page on my blog that is musical suggestions for ritual, and there's a long list of different possible things that you can choose from for, with different kinds of flavors and styles.

Yucca: Mm hmm. Yeah. My suggestion would be, though, listen through to what, to what it is before you use it in your ritual. Because sometimes there can be a little bit of a surprise in there that was like, Ooh, that was not, that was not what I was going

Mark: That wasn't what I was looking

Yucca: this ritual. Yeah.

Mark: Yeah. That's a good point. Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah. Now that, I think. moves really nicely into our final one, which is movement itself. I have a hard time hearing a rhythm and not moving to it.

Mark: Huh.

Yucca: Because it's just, as we were talking about, it's just so powerful. There's, I mean, they're so connected. The Venn diagram of, of rhythm and movement to me are, they're not quite a circle, but they're pretty close.

Mark: They're pretty close. Yeah. And I, I find rhythm to be such an invitation to movement and because I'm so heady most of the time, my body is really thirsty for that kind of activity. So it's, there's a very, there's a liberating quality. To, you know, moving, like moving in a ritual circle and dancing and, and, you know, interacting with a fire and interacting with other people and just all that.

That sense of freedom. It feels like flying in a way. It's, it's, it's a very strong, very free, very, very filled with yourself kind of feeling like you're expressing yourself in a really full way.

Yucca: and a couple of things to keep in mind if you are the one designing or leading the ritual with a group of people to have options for different levels of mobility. So some people may need to have a chair or something to be sitting in, and may not necessarily be able to do a big spiral dance around the fire or something like that.

And so having natural options for them. To be able to participate is really important. Go ahead.

Mark: Yes. And what I was going to say is that when you blend These ritual skills, you can give people opportunities to do things that, that are within their abilities, right, that are consistent with their aptitudes, what they're interested in doing and what they can do. So, you know, you can have some people who are sitting and drumming and other people who are up and dancing and singing, you know, or You know, some combination thereof.

I remember I was at a Fire Circle ritual. God, it's gotta be seven years ago now. And there was all, you know, we were, we were in this really high point in the ritual and dancing and, you know, the drums are thundering along, you know, very intricate, super talented drummers. And then suddenly they stopped and everybody slowed down but kept moving. While someone did a spoken word piece, and it was beautiful, it was just this, this, this rapt moment, you know, when you could almost still hear the echoes of the drums because it had been so loud and so fervent and so intense and then suddenly downshift and it all went into this other place,

Yucca: someone suddenly starts whispering and everyone has to lean in to listen to what is that whisper? What are they saying?

Mark: Exactly.

Yucca: wow. Wow.

Mark: Which is why I like the, the center portion of a ritual after invocations and creation of a safe container to be somewhat improvisational, you know, that there's room for different people to contribute different things if there's time and if that's the kind of ritual that people want to do.

But I've had great experiences with that sort of thing. So movement and yes, people can be very self conscious. I, you know, as I described, I had a difficult relationship with my body and I didn't start dancing until I was in my late twenties. And a low light condition helps.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: You know, that sense that you're not being watched by other people really helps.

Yucca: And a timing in the ritual I think can make a really big difference for people because it is something that is a little bit, can be a little bit uncomfortable that. Most people are not comfortable jumping straight into dancing, right? So, it might be something that needs a little bit of warm up to get to the place where people feel like they can can do that, right?

So maybe you, you work towards it with some of the spoken and then moving into the singing and then into the dancing. And just, just kind of know your audience, right? If you're working with a circle that you see every You know, every

Mark: Few weeks or

Yucca: then you're going to have a, it's going to be a very different relationship than this is the once a year summer solstice celebration that you're doing at the Pagan Pride Festival.

Mark: Right, right. Yeah, that's a really good point. You know, obviously, making tailorings and adjustments for for whoever it is that you're going to be working with in a ritual is really key and there is a way to work with people of every level of ability, every level of ability. Of uniqueness, in terms of their aptitudes, their capacities there's, there's stuff that can be done that can help people to come into a ritual space.

Yucca: Mm hmm.

Mark: So, it's, it's, but it, having these four tools in your quiver there's a mixed metaphor, having, having these four arrows on your tool belt,

Yucca: Yes.

Mark: It's a good way to start because then you have the capacity to pull out whatever seems to be the right thing for that group of people at that particular moment.

Yucca: Mm hmm. Yeah. And these are things that you can incorporate into your solo practice, and that's where a lot of the practice that we've been talking about. We'll start,

Mark: Mm

Yucca: right, becoming comfortable with the singing or the dancing I'm saying those ones in particular because those ones are ones that I think are really hard for our culture.

We have a very, very sedentary culture. We're very much expected to stay still and seated and especially in social situations. We find, we're very uncomfortable with movement overall.

Mark: We're also uncomfortable with sound, to some degree. I mean, this varies from culture to culture, but, I mean, British people will tell you how loud Americans are, but having lived in Spain, Americans aren't that loud.

Yucca: No, depending on which part of Spain though, right? Even

Mark: Well, yes.

Yucca: in Basque country, their opinion of the Andalusians, you know, is wildly different,

Mark: Oh yes,

Yucca: But yeah, so it depends on, on what cultural context but speaking very, very broadly of, of you know, North American, so American and Canadian, we tend to be compared to say, somebody from the Mediterranean, we tend to be pretty, we tend reserved and I'll, you know, we don't talk with our bodies as much and we don't get up and dance and, you know, that sort of thing is very difficult for us.

Mark: right,

Yucca: And so it might take some time getting used to doing that on your own and then practicing in a group and the more times you do it, you know, the, the The more practice you have, the more skill that you're going to build up in that. And it's okay if it takes some time, but it's worth it, I think, right?

Because I think that those rituals can be really powerful and just very enriching,

Mark: yeah, yeah, that's definitely been my experience and I don't claim by any means to have fully mastered any of these things even the ones that I'm naturally good at and so it's a work in progress and that's always great because it's not about getting there, it's not about arriving, it's about the process of evolving over time, which is what we're about.

Yucca: right?

Mark: For as long as we get, we can evolve.

Yucca: Yeah, it's kind of like an evening walk. You don't take the evening walk to get to a place. You take it for the enjoyment of going out and, you know, the birds are singing and changing their tune and the air feels cool and, you know, all of that experience. It's about that.

Mark: Right. Exactly. So this has been a cool conversation, Yucca. Thank you so much.

Yucca: Yeah. Well, and I look forward to, in just a few short months, doing some rituals with you and the rest of the folks coming to the Sun Tree Retreat. So that's coming up.

Mark: We're actually releasing the program for Suntree Retreat this week.

Yucca: Mm

Mark: there's, you'll if, you know, you're in the community in various ways, you'll see various promotions to, to make sure that people can download that and take a look at all the Rituals and workshops and, and things we're going to be doing.

So, and shout out to Michael O'Halloran, Michael O'Halloran of our community who's done a lot of work on that program.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So,

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: thanks everybody. We really appreciate your listening to the podcast and welcome your, your input and your questions as always. We'll see you next week.