Some of these essays first appeared in the Scarlet Letter.
All essays written by Fr. Pnesomauma unless otherwise indicated.

DRAMATIC RITUAL        

[Ritual Conversion | Feasts of the Times | Dramatic Meetings |

Dog Dramas | Canonical Dramatic Rites]


Ritual Conversion

Hair of the Dog

On Saturday the 28th of May [1994 e.v.] the Smoking Dog Project brought its first dramatic ritual activity to fruition with a series of nine "Regulifts." These were an application and elaboration of material that I had received from the magicians of Collegium 93 Camp in 1992 e.v. The ritual was based on the Ritual of the Mark of the Beast, available in "Liber V vel Reguli" (published in Gems from the Equinox, as well as the appendices to Magick in Theory and Practice).

The text of Liber V makes it clear that the published version is itself a devotional adaptation of a ceremonial ritual, "for the daily use of the Magician of whatever grade." In fact, the original ceremonial version was published in The Magical Link, vol. 6, no. 2. The next step that resulted in the technology of the Regulift was to make that devotional ritual dramatic, so that is was enacted by a small team for and through a subject. The actions of the ritual were divided among three operators, who performed them on the subject.

Since the stated purpose of the Ritual of the Mark of the Beast is "to invoke the energies of the Aeon of Horus," the effect of the dramatic ritual would be to align the energies of the subject with the 93 Current--a sort of Thelemic magickal tune-up. All accounts seem to indicate that this goal is served amply by the ritual as currently developed, but some other benefits emerge as well.

The 'lift makes a great instructional tool on a non-rational, experiential level for the subject. The Ritual of the Mark of the Beast is a big, complicated piece of work. I and others have found learning the devotional form relatively simple after being subjected to the dramatic version.

The ritual is also an education for the operators. Fra. Sharash, Fra. H.S. and I learned the ritual so that we could rotate roles and each perform all of the parts. That led to a more thorough and objective understanding of the mechanics of the devotional ritual than any of us had had previously. We also gained valuable perspective on the processes involved with dramatic ritual, relevant to future work as officers for initiations in the Order.

Other transformations among the three types of ritual are certainly possible; the magical literature is full of them.

It is pretty clear from the account of the Evocation of Bartzabel given in Equinox IX that Crowley still considered that ritual to be ceremonial in nature. But from the perspective of Fra. O.V., who served as the "material basis" for the evocation, the ritual was decidedly dramatic.

The reverse case, of dramatic to ceremonial conversions, is the most well-exercised and amply demonstrated type of ritual adaptation, as given in the Z2 documents of the Golden Dawn. These papers apply the structure and mechanics of the Golden Dawn Neophyte initiation to a wide variety of thaumaturgic and theurgic ceremonial work. Analogous operations could certainly be performed with O.T.O. degree materials, which should of course remain under the seals of those degrees.

Dramatic rituals were frequently converted to devotional work in Crowley's practice. For example, in the magical record John St. John (Equinox I, special supplement) we find the effort "to construct from DCLXXI a perfect ritual of self-initiation, so as to avoid the constant difficulties of various God-forms." DCLXXI is Liber Pyramidos, the ritual for the initiation of a Neophyte in the A.'. A.'. The devotional character of this "self-initiation" is further emphasized, as Crowley writes,

Crowley's work in pursuit of that Knowledge and Conversation also furnishes an admirable example of conversion from ceremonial to devotional ritual. Liber Samekh is Crowley's devotional adaptation of the Bornless One, an old gnostic invocation that the Golden Dawn had relegated to ceremonial use.

With the variety of conversions available, the applications of the existing canon of Thelemic ritual are profoundly expanded. In the context of an order such as O.T.O., where magicians can work together on dramatic ritual, this momentarily exhausted Dog exhorts any and all to work at adaptations from the devotional and ceremonial to the dramatic.

Feasts of the Times

The Feasts of the Times is part of the effort of the Smoking Dog project to develop communal thelemic rituals of celebration for the "cross-quarters"; of the solar year. Thelema already provides symbolic acknowledgement of the solar maxima (solstices and equinoxes). The number of feasts can be doubled by including the midpoints between those dates, when the Sun is is the second decan of each of the fixed signs of the Zodiac. These holidays have traditionally been recognized by Christianity as a way of preempting their celebration by pagans. This Smoking Dog Project enterprise is designed to provide thelemites with symbolic resources to celebrate these occasions in terms of our own mythic environment.

The following chart shows the "cross-quarters" dates and their titles in various religions:

Date   Fixed  Sign   Thelemic Feast (per Smoking Dogs)   Pagan Celebration   Christian Holiday
2/2   Aquarius   Feast of the Stars   Imbolg   Candlemas
5/1   Taurus   Feast of Cattle, Little & Big   Beltane   Roodmas
8/1   Leo   Feast of the Lion-Serpent   Lughnasad   Michaelmas
10/31   Scorpio   Feast of the Dragon   Samhane   Hallowmas

Dramatic Meetings

In his excellent article "The Hall of Thmaa" in the third number of The Golden Dawn Journal, John Michael Greer makes the point that

Greer is writing in reference to the huge spectrum of initiatory fraternal societies in general. But his observation is more markedly true of modern magical orders such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Ordo Templi Orientis. Freemasons, over centuries of institutionalization, naturally adopted dramatic ceremonies which could contextualize their non-initiatory business, and these forms were used as models by progressively less esoterically-inclined groups like the Odd Fellows, Lions, and Rotarians. But newer organizations which focused on initiation into the Mysteries often failed to adopt dramatic formats suited to their meetings for other subsidiary purposes.

The prominent exceptions for the groups just referenced are the Equinox and Solstice Ceremonies of the Golden Dawn, and the Gnostic Mass of OTO.

Certain difficult problems are posed by the task of designing auxiliary meeting rituals for groups that already possess powerful dramatic rituals for initiation.

Secrecy

The initiations, the vehicle of the symbolic identity of the organization, are virtually always subject to formal secrecy. In an organization composed of varying Degrees or Grades of initiation, it will be necessary to exclude or carefully screen the symbols derived from the initiations, based on the Grade of the initiates involved in the meeting. Therefore, a certain measure of symbolic creativity will be demanded in order to flesh out the new ritual with a substance related to, but not exposing the initiations.

Authority

In groups where the ritual emphasis is on initiation, initiatory authority may be separate from administrative authority. The officers of a dramatic meeting, as well as their titles, will depend on how this distinction is applied to the function of the meeting--possibly a thorny political issue if not addressed at the very outset. The easiest (but not always best) way to deal with the issue of titles is to sidestep it by choosing ritual titles that do not correspond to existing initiatory or administrative positions within the organization in question.

Regularity

If a local group of a larger organization adopts its own dramatic meeting structures, there will need to be some consideration of how those structures are presented to local participants in relation to the larger organization. Early efforts in this direction could be called "experimental," while a tested and routine arrangement might be termed "customary." At any rate, it is important to avoid confusing the issue by calling a strictly local dramatic meeting format "official" or "traditional," even if it has full authorization at the local level. This caution is also relevant in combination with the issues of secrecy and authority discussed above. New symbolism introduced to avoid compromising secrecy, and new titles or ritual responsibilities invented to delineate authority, should be carefully presented in the context of their proper aegis.

Newly-developing, independent societies and orders need only worry about issues of regularity to the extent that they may help avoid pointless conflicts with existing groups. This sort of observation led Crowley to dissociate OTO from traditional Freemasonry during his administration of the former organization.

These points of secrecy, authority, and regularity are key to the effective implementation of new rituals in the context of any existing initiatory society. Failure to take them into account can amount to a disservice to aspirants and inquirers, conflict among peers, and the appearance or substance of insubordination. But the value of the work properly performed is inestimable in terms of facilitating group mission, identity, and vision.

The Smoking Dog Project has developed several dramatic meeting rituals. The Oasis Inaugural ritual was written specifically for Scarlet Woman Oasis OTO for the occasion of its new Oasis charter (to supersede its previous Camp charter). It was in part inspired by the dramatic meeting held for the closure of Aleister Crowley Oasis on Crowleymas A.L.IVo. (A.C. Oasis has since reopened.)

The Smoking Convocation is a general-purpose dramatic meeting format. It was not written for OTO bodies particularly, though it is easily adapted to their use. A modification of the Convocation ritual was used as an observance of the Vernal Equinox at Scarlet Woman Camp in A.L.IVii.

Church Meetings

Issues surrounding dramatic meetings of ecclesiastical groups are somewhat different. Secrecy is not likely to be relevant, so it is much easier to carry over customary symbolism from existing rituals. The authority issue hinges not on initiation, but on the sacraments. When a church (such as the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica of OTO) has specific modes of assigning sacerdotal authority (i.e. Priest or Priestess status), meeting rituals should be designed to fall under that authority, or to avoid sacramental functions. The Liturgy of the Word of the Law by Dionysus Soter is a non-sacramental ritual meeting designed for adherents of New Aeon Gnosticism.

Dog Dramas

Original dramatic rituals from the Smoking Dog Project:

Canonical Dramatic Rites

Where there is smoke . . .

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