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My ritual team began planning our upcoming ritual like usual-- via frantic emails and phone calls ("Did you know it was February already?! Crap!"). I was in a somewhat Erisian mood that day or something, and I wanted to do a Discordian ritual at Gaia. You know, shake things up a little. Kick people out of their comfort zones. Generally act like lunatics. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
We had a lot of elements to incorporate into this ritual. It was a New Member Sunday, meaning that some, if not all, of the ritual had to focus on welcoming the new members into the community as they sign the membership book. But we also needed to make sure that the other people attending would not be bored to tears, and that the ritual would be active, inspiring, and transformative for everyone. Plus incorporate Gaia Community's values of "caring for the earth and each other." Plus reaffirm and renew our vitality in the midst of the late winter slump. You know, the usual. The title we were given was "Reconciliation" -- nicely generic, we could go anywhere with it.
Inspiration struck. We could do a Sacred Theater style ritual. Here's the Concept:
You know, Paris, Trojan War... same story, modern setting. Since it's modern, the goddesses all reflect their modern archetypes. Hera looks like a hostile takeover on the hoof. Athena looks like Queen of the Hackers. Aphrodite looks, well, yummy. And Discordia...
In every generation, there is an underground counter-culture, devoted to playing by their own rules, having some semi-self-destructive fun, and generally pissing off the establishment. The bohemians of the 1920s... the beatniks in the 40's... the hippies in the 60's... the punks in the 80's... and now, the ravers.
We wrote the ritual. We made revisions. We passed out parts to facilitating priestesses. We planned every prop, every action, every part. We warned the new members of their part. We teased the community with tidbits of information. Everything was planned.
Which was probably the first mistake. Never invite Discordia into a ritual and expect to stay in control for long.
The day of the ritual, I geared myself up in "Discordia Drag"... Black leather pants, tight torn shirt with Erisian sigils, electric blue eye makeup,
dark blue lipstick, and glittery sparkles. I loaded up the car with the props, and then remembered that I was supposed to have golden delicious apples for everyone for the post-ritual munchies. Well, that's what Price Chopper is for, right? So I strolled right in, in full costume and makeup, drawing many stares. A couple of people actually crashed their grocery carts as I passed. Woot. I picked out twenty-three golden apples, paid, and motored off to Gaia.
I walked merrily in, bearing props, and was met by a slightly stressed priestess. "Hera and Paris have food poisoning and can't come today! I can stand in for Hera if you give me a script, but who can play the part of Paris?"
We have just lost cabin pressure.
We look around. There is one male in the room: David, one of the new members, who showed up early to bring a boombox. We swoop in for the kill.
"Hey David, do you want to be Steve today?"
"Steve is sick, we need someone to play his part. Here's what you need to do..."
We filled him in on the first half of the ritual, not quite getting to the making-a-decision-between-the-three-goddesses part. We accosted the KidSpace teacher of the day and explained the kids' part in the ritual. We put together the altar in the southwest corner of the circle (why the
Hel not? It's Discordian!). Twenty-three golden apples, a stuffed blue penguin, a Salvador Dali-esque backwards-running clock, a carved wooden cat with a parasol, all on an electric blue altar cloth.
Those of us playing goddesses got together to touch base and run through the script. People started filtering into the circle, so we took our places. Athena had brought a sparkly black tophat, which made my outfit complete. Well, that and the Very Large Fish.
Some people began to drum on doumbeks and ashikos and folks began to dance in the circle, which has become an informal gathering tradition for our rituals. I walked out of the shadows, costumed, made up, and carrying a four-and-a-half foot velvet catfish under one arm. I signaled the drummers to wind down, set the fish down in an empty part of the circle ("Stay." ::pat pat::), and bowed to the gathered circle with a flourish of the tophat.
"Welcome to Gaia Community, an Earth-Based Unitarian Universalist Congregation!" I rattled off the standard welcome and introductions, then launched into the ritual.
"The children today will help us invoke the elements. Come on out here!" Four smiling kids scampered to the center, waiting for their cue. They had all been told that when I said "Go!", they were to sing a song. They were all given different songs, although none of them know that.
The kids started to sing, got about two words into their songs, and all stopped and started giggling (just as I'd planned).
"That was just right. Thank you for your help." Perplexed and giggling, the kids sat down again.
"Today I am Discordia, the goddess who turns things topsy-turvy to see what they're really made of. So today's ritual might be a little different than what you're used to."
"Some say I'm crazy, but I know some of the mysteries, too. There's an old story about how I started the Trojan War - you might have heard it."
"But what if that argument were here and now? What if these conflicting desires were in YOUR life? What if it were YOU, or another member of this community, just like Paris, in a way, living a simple, mortal life, following the ways of the Earth Mother, Gaia, what if YOU were faced with the choice and the opportunity?
"Zeus is throwing another party, and I've been left off the list again, so why don't we crash their party? Shh I'll hide you so they won't see you. Oh, I won't be rude, after all, I always remember to bring a gift" I pulled a sparkling golden apple from the belly of the Fish and laughed.
Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite walked in, talking and gossiping...
Discordia: "Hello, ladies! Lovely decade for a party, isn't it"
The goddesses stopped and looked shocked/worried/pissed.
Hera: "What do you want?"
Aphrodite: "Oh, no you always cause trouble."
Athena: "What will it take for you to leave?"
Discordia: "Oh, don't be so suspicious. I just wanted to give you a present. Pretty shining golden ball, who's the fairest one of all?"
Hera: "That's one of the golden apples of immortality. How did you get that?"
Athena: "We went through this last time, with you saying we had to decide which of us deserved the apple most, that it should only go to the fairest of us."
Aphrodite: "That's right, and Paris decided it was ME. So hand it over, Discordia."
Hera: "Hold on a minute sister. We saw how you cheated your way through that one. It started a colossal war! Obviously, it should go to someone with more integrity than you. Someone like me."
Athena:"Oh, and you're the pillar of integrity around here? With the coming of the internet, my gifts of intelligence and innovation are becoming highly prized among mankind. Your days of feudalistic greed are over."
Hera: "Men desire wealth and power now more than ever, and I can give it to them. The apple should be mine."
Athena: "Two words, ladies: Bill Gates. The apple should be mine."
Aphrodite: "Ha! Your internet is being used to create shrines to me! Porn sites, dating services, fashion and beauty sites, and hundreds of shrines to my special haven of beauty and glamour and sex: HOLLYWOOD. The apple should be mine."
Discordia: "Some things will never change." (the bickering swiftly went downhill; Discordia stopped them before they became violent)
Discordia: "Ladies! We could always settle this the old-fashioned way."
Hera: "An arena battle?"
Discordia: "Get a mortal to choose."
Aphrodite: "Oh, and where are we going to find one of them around here?"
Discordia snapped her fingers and the goddesses started and looked around at the circle.
Hera: "You tricked us."
Aphrodite: "How did you DO that?"
Athena: "How long have they been watching us?"
Discordia: "Aphrodite, since you won last time, you get to pick the mortal this time."
Aphrodite bounced and clapped her hands, or something equally girlish.
Athena: "Is that such a good idea?"
Discordia: "Trust me."
Hera: "I hate it when she says that."
Aphrodite began to check out the men in the circle, seemingly unaware of the women. She picked David.
Aphrodite: "I want this one."
Hera: "I'm sure you do."
Discordia: "So, mortal, it's up to you to hear the case of each goddess and choose which of them deserves this," (handed him the apple) "the golden apple of immortality. Can you feel its power? It can make a mortal become one of the gods, and it can make a god nearly unstoppable. Aphrodite won last time. She is the goddess of love. Have you ever been in love?"
Discordia: "Have you ever tried to STOP being in love?"
David: "I think I see what you mean."
Hera: "Listen, I can give you riches beyond your wildest dreams, I can make you powerful. People will respect you, listen to you fear you. I can give you kingdoms, countries. Do you like Costa Rica?"
Athena: "Don't waste your time with her. Nowadays, the people who have knowledge have power. I can open your minds to new realms of possibility. Nothing you desire to know will be beyond your reach. You could hack through the internet, create genetic code the way painters create masterpieces, you could win the Nobel Prize, take mankind into space"
Aphrodite: "Athena, you're such a geek." (she started trying to seduce David) "I know what men want. Just think of it. You could have any woman in the world. I can do that. Two if you're Pagan. You could have the most beautiful woman in the world and have her be completely yours."
Discordia pulled him away from Aphrodite.
Discordia: "Maybe the kids should get out of here before she does something kinky. Go now in peace..." (the kids and teachers went off to KidSpace for their own special activity)
The three goddesses each took a turn trying to seduce David with power, intelligence, sex...
Discordia: "Remember, last time somebody gave her the apple, he ended up losing his family, and starting a war that tore his country apart. Maybe you'd better take a walk, clear your head of that perfume. Every choice you make, every action you take will have results, repercussions, consequences and rewards. But you have to commit to something, and stick with it for better or for worse, or else you'll never grow." (she looked to the rest of the circle) "Why don't you all join him, stretch your legs a bit, think about what you would do. These goddesses are notoriously fickle. If they change their minds, it could be one of you making the decision. Better think about it a bit. Walk the circle with your friend here."
The lights dim a bit and Discordia began to play a drum, softly. The three goddesses took positions along the outside of the circle, with Discordia in the center, and the attendees walked in a circle, listening. The voices of the goddesses rose and fell, weaving in and out, trying to seduce the mortals with their gifts and offers of power - Hera, physical power, wealth, and political influence; Athena, intellectual power, innovation, and talent; and Aphrodite, emotional power, beauty, glamour, sex, and love. Discordia in the center talked about the golden apple, of immortality, magick, and spiritual power. And questions. Every once in a while, the same questions came up, from different voices, at different times, sometimes echoed by the other goddesses. "What would you choose? What do you want? What do you need? Do you need our gifts? If you could have anything..."
This went on for maybe 10 minutes, but it felt like more, in a good way.
Discordia: "It's time to choose, mortal. Go back to your seat and make your judgement."
Discordia makes everyone in the circle say "I choose" before she gets to David and makes him make his commitment.
Discordia explained how this all ties into New Member Sunday.
Aphrodite read Gaia's Mission Covenant Statement.
Athena read the UU Principles and Purposes.
Hera called the new members to sign the book.
The kids walked in, wearing decorated signs saying "I'm a Chicken" Except one sign said "I'm a Gorilla" (damn the luck, we couldn't find roller skates) and one said "I'm a kid in a sign".
Discordia: "And now we must all participate in one of the most sacred Discordian traditions. We must all do the chicken dance to a Danish accordion orchestra!" (she started the tape; yes, it really was a Danish accordion orchestra)
Dancing, laughter, polka, celebration! At one point an attendee was dancing with the Very Large Fish on her head like a hat...
Closing -- Discordia solemnly said, "And they moved into the prince's castle and lived happily ever after. The End." ...and walked out. With the Very Large Fish.