by Abigail Spinner McBride, Michael Wall and Joshua Levin
AlchemiFire Rituals are a unique and ever growing experiment. We invite you to leave your preconceptions and expectations at the Gate, and open to new possibilities.
And on we’ll go, into the darkness, on through the night, under the stars and into the light, the Fire will burn, the Circle will turn, and lead will turn to gold.
Within the AlchemiFire Ritual, we co-create an experience of interactive, collaborative, spontaneous ceremony which ebbs and flows over the course of our journey to dawn. We seek inspiration from each other, and from the seven stages of the alchemical process. To be clear, because the process unfolds extemporaneously, it is never exactly the same, although there are apparent similarities in the pattern.
The AlchemiFire Ritual can be thought of as Spirit-based improvisational artistic-ritual theatre, using spoken word, dance, chant, music, ceremony, mime, acts of service and other elements as the creative palette. Whether we kindle the fire anew, or breathe life into old coals, the flames ascend and the magic begins. Musicians coalesce and weave rhythm and silence. The dance of the heavens above is re-created as we flow around the Circle heart-fully, mind-fully attending to each moment. Our intention is to celebrate and inspire each other. We look for ways to contribute our energies, our innate gifts and practiced talents. The more we give, the more we get. Our aspiration is to encourage each other to stretch and let go into our creativity, to shine as brightly as stars, and to become our highest visions. With music, dance, chant, shared poems and prayers, and service in a sacred Ritual, we move from darkness through sunrise.
Personal and collective energy is generated as we remain engaged in this meditation/play/work together. We channel this energy into transformative possibilities. We are moving through the seven stages of Alchemy in the intra-personal, inter-personal, and transpersonal sense of purifying and refining our essence, on the journey of becoming. For more detail on the seven stages, please read the article Universal Fire Circle Alchemy.
Our intention here is to offer you ideas and approaches which will spark your desire to “Bring It On” inside the AlchemiFire Ritual framework…
We often use the expression “Bring It On” as an enthusiastic invitation for people to look within themselves to find an expressive gift that they could offer to the group. Examples might include a song, a memorized poem, an exquisite costume or mask evoking a particular archetype, or an especially delicious food offering. We all have a wide variety of skills and creative expressions. When we “Bring It On,” we draw from these, for the delight, education and inspiration of the community.
Consider the portals of music, voice, movement and service, and how each of these are channels for “Bringing It On,” and also how these portals can be accessed during the seven stages of the night to dawn process. We invite you to create offerings which other people can participate in, rather than just witness. For example, a call-and-response spoken word piece… or a new chant we can all learn together. We remind you, “brevity is an art, and the soul of wit.”
Below are a few examples of offerings from each of the Four Portals which might appear in the Seven Stages of the Alchemical process. The idea is not to present you with a script of what will, or should happen – rather to provide an example of possibilities which can be used as a map for “Bringing It On” at the AlchemiFire Ritual:
- Calcination (root chakra, Saturn, survival)
- The basic themes of Calcination include: heating up, burning up, turning to ash, confusion, doubt, rigidity, fear, shame, avoidance, death.
- Example offerings from the Portal of Voice could be chants like “Where there’s fear, there is Power” or “Cast it to the fire, feed it to the flames,” or a spoken word poem about ashes. The Portal of Music could offer up a focused, tightly structured rhythm, which might provoke spontaneous choreography from the Portal of Movement emulating casting negativity into the fire. A Service Portal offering for Calcination could be stacking firewood, smudging people as they enter, or collecting kindling during the day.
- Dissolution (sacral chakra, Jupiter, blending)
- Key themes include: dissolving, purifying, sweat, letting go, inner voice, inner vision, remembrance, softening, melting, beginner’s mind.
- Bring it on from the Portal of Voice with a chant like “I dissolve in your ocean, I surrender to you, I release into your real ease, I am yours through and through,” or with spoken word relating to purification. Portal of Movement offerings could include soft, gentle movements, wave-like dances, or flowing veils. Service Portal offerings might include wiping the sweat from a drummer’s brow, a hand-washing ceremony, or refilling the water bottles. In the Music Portal everyone might grab an instrument – even a rattle – and dissolve into the groove!
- Separation (solar plexus chakra, Mars, choosing)
- Common themes include: choice, cutting away, release, accepting difference, being different, taking action, taking risks, healthy defense, leaving the familiar, discernment, rising above.
- Offerings from the Portal of Voice which might include “I release and I let go”, “Steppin’ into clarity”, or “Free the mind from judgment”, or spoken word pieces about choice. The Portal of Movement could reflect these themes with a ritual representation of cutting away. A dancer might share a tai-chi or martial arts style of movement. From the Service Portal, an offering tied into Separation could be tending to the food altar, tidying up and separating out the empty containers. Perhaps the Musical Portal offers the Circle moments featuring only frame drums, or perhaps a jam using only metal instruments like bells, chimes and gongs.
- Conjunction (heart chakra, Venus, joining together through love)
- Core themes here include: creation of the lesser stone, coming together, joining, union, loving, balancing opposites, merging of above and below, integration, connection, communion, collaboration.
- Examples of offerings from the Portal of Voice could include chants like “I am the fire and the union of opposites,” “We love you, beloved,” or “We are the power in everyone, we are the dance of the moon and sun,” or spoken word pieces like Khalil Ghibran’s “When love beckons to you…” Offerings from the Portal of Movement might include a guided partner dance, or postures of heart to heart connection. One could activate the Portal of Service in Conjunction by bringing a food offering of heart-shaped cookies around the circle, collaborating with others in creating Rangoli, or placing a vase of red roses on an altar. An expression of the Music Portal might hear soloists taking turns and playing in duet, while the others in the ensemble revel in weaving subtle variations which express the unity hidden within the diversity of their parts.
- Fermentation (throat chakra, Mercury, speaking)
- Key themes include: rotting, decomposition, refinement, peacock’s tail, practice, speaking your truth, growing, evolving, deepening, patience.
- An offering from the Portal of Voice might include chants like “On the other side of release,” “Die and be reborn again,” or “Break it down to the basic blocks,” or extended toning. A spoken word piece about refinement and patience could fit well. A Portal of Movement offering that reflects the theme of decomposition might feature gestures and motions that start heavy, and become more and more rarified and light. A Portal of Service offering for this time could be to offer water to those in circle, or to gently encourage someone to stay engaged. In the Portal of Music perhaps the didgeridoo players position themselves all around the dance track and create a sonic bowl of pulsing sound. Dynamic exchanges between drummers and dancers, melodic exposition, as all manner of inspired and unexpected musical magic pours forth!
- Distillation (third eye chakra, Moon, introspective visioning)
- Unique themes include: separating the subtle from the gross, harvesting, polishing, purifying, concentration, simplifying, choosing, transcending, integrity, prophecy.
- An offering from the Portal of Voice could be chants like “Illuminate us, create us anew, purify and transform, make us like you,” or “To align my design with the rhythm divine,” or a spoken word piece about a prophetic dream, or a vision you had. The Portal of Movement could offer a few moments of standing on the Mars orbit, eyes closed and looking inward as we sway to the swirling sounds. An offering in the Portal of Service could be looking around and picking up any trash or debris in the circle, or reading the prayer ties, or making a journal note about an insight or new direction that has come to you from the night’s journey. In the Portal of Music the ensemble makes wise choices about musical offerings most suitable to the Moment. These expressions could feature lighter sounds such as frame drums, temple bells, chimes or singing bowls.
- Coagulation (crown chakra, Sun, illuminating):
- The major themes in the final stage of the work include: gold, synchronicity, sunrise, crystallization, embodiment, radiance, quintessence, returning to earth, coming together, completion, satisfaction.
- An offering for the Portal of Voice could include the group letting go into an extended OM, or people speaking sunrise salutations or prayers. The Musical Portal might offer an ecstatic, energetic eruption of intricate, refined sacred sounds… or completely let go into Silence. From the Portal of Movement, we might see offerings of spiral dances, or mudras greeting the sun. From the Portal of Service, there could be offerings of fresh, juicy orange segments, gold anointing, or gifting each other. Remember to take a moment to appreciate and honor yourself, and your willingness to explore life and participate in its mysteries.
Thoughts on the Transitions Between the Stages
There will be several ritualized transitions during the Ritual each night as we move through the alchemical process. At the start of the Ritual, there will be an Opening that expresses ideas and intent which relate to Calcination and Dissolution. As the night moves on, we will similarly note the transitions into Conjunction, Fermentation, and Distillation, and at sunrise, we’ll arrive at Coagulation.
Special attention should be given to what will happen immediately following these transition points. Toward that end, you are encouraged to meditate on possible offerings which will be aligned with these 7 stages of the Work. We’re walking a careful balance between being spontaneously inspired in the Moment, and planning and preparing to provoke progress. It’s a balancing act; be prepared to offer something when the time is right, without being attached to whether your offering will actually happen. Sometimes a more suitable offering might occur just as you were about to start something, and a well placed opportunity within the flow of the group improvisation may not come around again that night. Trust that there is time and space for everything – and patience with the process is a lesson in itself.
Here are a few brief examples to provide a better vision of what this is like and how it works. After the Dissolution transition, chants about dissolving, purifying, letting go, softening, flowing, and surrendering would all be well suited. Moving into Separation, an individual or small group might offer a version of the “Enter the Center” ceremony, where celebrants step in and honor their particular background or spiritual path. In the Fermentation transition, the group might go into an extended sequence of toning or layered harmonic vocalization. These examples are only suggestive ideas, possibilities meant to open the doorways to creative thinking about what *you* or your group could do to “Bring It On.”
In these transitions between stages, or in places where the energy has peaked but nothing new has yet arisen, we strive to hold focus and silence. These extended moments of attentive stillness anticipation allow the group mind to choose rather than react, and to begin to bubble, like steam in a kettle, until inspiration moves someone to offer something new. Out of the seeds of the silence arise unexpected delights.
Our approach is to allow the previous moments to seed and inform future expressions, building off of themes and following the flow. Some of the very best things that happen are completely unprepared, arising entirely from the moment at hand. If you feel moved, let that energy find expression within the safe haven of our alchemical vessel. We support each other’s creativity and courage by partnering to help start chants or songs. If the group mind picks up on it, there will be life breathed into the words, and the whole circle will pick it up. If not, it’s enough to sing through the song four or five times and then let it go. Trust the moments as they unfold. We seek to play music that is emotionally aligned with the thoughts or sentiments invoked by a spoken word piece or chant, thereby co-creating the current in harmony together.
There are several things you can begin doing to “prepare” your offering. Now is the time to begin memorizing that poem you like. Tomorrow morning is the time to practice singing loudly in the shower, or to begin thinking about thematic costuming, props or special gifts you could offer. You may simply find your self noticing and meditating on something meaningful in your life. As you contemplate this feeling or insight, be mindful of the possibility for its artful expression in the circle. The ideas and actions that we feed in our daily life are powerfully engaged within the domain of this sacred rite. Let your artful imagination be your guide, and see what you can come up with in the hopes of inspiring others to shine….
Remember, this is all part of the Great Work, and the more we put into it, the more we will get out of it. Shine Bright!!