In March of 2009, I helped to host a Unity ritual bringing together many Pagan leaders in Chicagoland, and also hosting Oberon Zell. That ritual was featured in an online magazine in Chicago, the Gapers Block.
I encourage you to check out the article, and to post a comment if you are so inclined.
It’s an interesting article, and begins in a way that is somewhat making fun of Oberon and the Unity Ritual, however, at the end the author discovers that he, despite himself, really enjoyed the experience, especially how the community came together at the end to dance, sing, and build communal energy together with the chant.
“‘Weekend With the Wizard,’ it reads, ‘Oberon Zell-Ravenheart in Chicago.’ His photograph is especially striking: posing in front of a bookshelf, sporting the requisite flowing, white beard, Zell-Ravenheart gives the impression of a low-budget Dumbledore. His purple robes and wizard’s wand seem decidedly costume-shop. But there’s a peculiar intensity to his gaze, something almost perversely otherworldly — the man is obviously on a weird trip, and the opportunity to join him for the weekend seems less an invitation than a challenge.”
That’s how the article starts off; the guy was coming to the event assuming it would be entertaining, at best.
“The final ritual is an exercise in group ecstasy, led by Shauna Aura. It begins modestly enough, as a simple, melodic chant: “Pour it out for me, pour it out for me/Anything you give me, I will drink.” Gradually, with each repetition, the chant gains momentum, the sort of gradually-escalating intensity seen at rock concerts and evangelical tent-meetings — even the most skeptical wallflowers are swept up in the mass feeling, and get up to dance and sing. People are circling the candlelit altar, clapping and stomping and screaming with abandon. Suddenly, the chant drops out, giving way to a wordless, pulsating hum. It’s a totally spontaneous, genuinely moving moment, and it sends shivers down my spine. I forget, for a moment, all about wizards and unicorns, forget that I mostly came here looking for a cheap laugh; the simple joy of being in a room full of people, singing and dancing and feeling at one, is more magic than I could have hoped for, and if this is the sort of spell that Oberon Zell-Ravenheart is capable of casting, then perhaps his claims to wizardry are not as far-fetched as I’d believed.”
Really incredible what that ecstatic energy will do, eh? 😀
The article, for me, is a great reminder on a lot of levels how everything I say and do at an event has impact. While I’m not directly quoted, it was actually me saying something that was sort of taken out of context.
“…a colorful, makeshift water altar commanding the center of the room, covered in goblets and candles and crystals. Some 50 or 60 people of all ages and descriptions are milling about the room, talking and laughing and singing. The mood is boisterous, the style of dress flamboyantly geeky, a more-is-more Ren-Faire aesthetic of amulets and leather. “It’s all about the ritual bling,” quips one young pantheist.”
That was actually me, joking with one of the folks who was helping me set up the altar. I was totally kidding, but the journalist thought I was serious. Granted, I didn’t know there was a journalist there as he didn’t introduce himself to me until after the ritual. But it reminds me to be careful with what I say. That anything can be taken out of context.
I’m humbled again, and somehow reading this article has remembering my Rites of Passage ritual (similar to an initiation/ordination) at Diana’s Grove, standing once again in that gauntlet of people holding candles. “We believe in you, Shauna,” they all said. “Don’t let us down.” The memory of that still brings tears to my eyes. Each of us who steps in to this work becomes a leader, whether or not it’s what we intended. Leadership is responsibility, and it’s impact. Those of us who stand up to do, have more impact. Our words are louder.
I’m reminded both to be more careful with my words, but also I’m reminded that some days, what I do can have a really positive impact doing this work that I love.