From the Ashes – a ritual

Last night I undertook a full moon ritual.

I had asked around to find a cleansing ritual and this was sent to me. I have never done anything quite like this before and I wasn’t sure what to expect though the site describes it as “a powerful way to invoke this (a ritual being a set of actions, often with symbolic value, performed in a ceremonial manner). Releasing. Letting go. Unburdening yourself. Purging”.

First full moon of the new year.

First full moon of the new year.

It felt serendipitous that Thursday 12 January also happened to be the first full moon of a new year. What better time to make a new start?

I met with Ellie Harrison to get her input on ritual in performance. She talked to me about taking “a side-step from normal life” that every aspect of the ritual should be thought about and planned carefully to mark it out as significant. It makes sense – if you think about a wedding or a birthday, these events usually involve new and/or specific clothing, colour schemes and specific ceremonial items (both include cake cutting for example). She encouraged me to think about all the materials I intended to use and what I would wear to elevate the event in my mind, to take me out of the everyday.

She also talked to me about the three kinds of ritual:

  • Affirmation – those group rituals we participate in in order to belong, to affirm who we believe we are, such as football matches.
  • Suspension – rituals that take us out of ourselves and our everyday lives for a short time, what I like to think of as “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.
  • Transformation – rituals that mark a change in/for us, such as weddings, christenings and funerals.

Mine was to be a transformative ritual. The idea being that I would be unburdened, freed of negative feelings that I have been carrying unnecessarily for years. Interestingly I felt the healing began to start as soon as I had made the decision to do this. Possibly even sooner. When I first recognised myself in what Brene Brown said about shame and worthiness.

My ritual therefore marked a line in the sand. Or rather a full stop and also a coming full circle. By putting behind me the intensely painful experience of drama school I can more fully focus on the very positive experience I am now having on my MA – because of this I chose to locate myself outside the space we have been having our classes.

I did create a Facebook event and invited others to do their own ritual, wherever they may be, if they wished but I consciously decided not to document it in its entirety because I wanted to be in the moment. I wanted to leave technology out of it. To be at one with the moon (and the cold January night!) – she finally decided to show her face through the clouds. I had chosen simple, soft, comfortable clothes in blue to reflect the sky/moon, took off my shoes and settled. Unfortunately windy January nights are not conducive to tea-lights so my circle of light was a bust. I felt surprisingly unselfconscious, it was easy to focus (and I managed to not to set myself or the blanket on fire). Despite the cold, once my ritual was complete I found myself reluctant to blow out the candle. I sat with it for several minutes. I love to watch open flames…

I have never considered myself a spiritual person but since having some issues with anxiety about five years ago I have embraced meditation, Mindfulness and have even participated in some CBT therapy. I appreciate the power of the mind and the benefit of positive energy – if nothing else having a positive outlook makes you feel better in the short run. I did not notice a magical moment of transformation but I came away with a sense of inner calm (and inner cold!) and the quite pleasant smell of bonfires on my skin and clothes.

What the website does not say is what you are supposed to do with the ashes afterwards. It feels disrespectful and anti-climactic to throw them out. They feel loaded with intent and keeping them around seems like bad ju-ju (if one believed in such things). So as a final act I intend to send half back to where it began and scatter the other half where the ritual took place. The end. Full circle.

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