Friday, October 28, 2011

La Balle de la Danse Macabre

“Death is a Cabaret old chum..”


“Long Live Death and Equality!”

On October 29, this Saturday, I will be directing and performing as le Maitre des Ceremonies for a presentation and witches ball to be held in the Twin Cities at the Walker Methodist Church. This is a NordCOG gathering, and it is open to the public. You can find out information here, if you are interested in attending. Of course, I won’t spoil the event by telling you anything about it, so you will either have to attend or maybe, I will do a write up about it afterwards.

This gathering is to celebrate Samhain 2011, also known as Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, the day before the Christian feast day of All Hallows or All Saints Day. This has been a sacred time for many, many centuries, and was likely celebrated by Celtic and Germanic pagans before the advent of Christianity. However, it has become a secular autumn holiday when children, and more recently, adults, participate in wearing costumes and engaging in a lot of gothic hijinks. There are haunted houses, ghost tours, trick or treating, and many large and small costume parties - both private and public. In keeping with this theme, I decided that this year’s local COG gathering should be done differently than previous gatherings, and that it should be fun as well as thoughtful and informative. Since I volunteered to produce this presentation, then I could do something really special and memorable. Here are my notes regarding this ball and presentation.

I have always been intrigued by the music Danse Macabre, composed by Camille Saint-Saëns. This tune has been the subject of a few animations, representing as it does the dance of the skeletons. I have always associated this music (and the poem that it illustrates) with the season of Hallows, so it only seemed natural that I should seek someday to incorporate into a celebration for witches and pagans. I got my wish when I was chosen to produce a Samhain ceremony for the Twin Cities NordCog.

Therefore, for the upcoming NordCog Samhain gathering, I decided to put together a simple ceremony based in part on that music. This gathering is to be a costume ball where everyone gets involved. I wanted to have a gathering that was instructive and also fun! My assumption is that everyone will be wearing a costume, dressed up as one of the dead (but no zombies!), and if someone comes who isn’t costumed, someone will apply a little bit of make up or fake cobwebs to ensure that no one just comes as they are. Because the music and the tradition it represents is French, I decided to develop a theme that was also French and quite European. I hope that this very different and distinct theme and cultural coloring will be acceptable and enjoyable to the pagan and witchcraft community.

If you have never heard the tune Danse Macabre, then you should go and hear it, since that will be the music that all of the recently departed will dance to at the ball. I will also include the poem here for you to read, since that is also relevant.

The basic message of this ball is that, in my opinion,  people live as though they were dead. They rush around, pursuing their daily agenda, all the while ignoring the glory of life that is occurring at every moment. This is especially and painfully true for pagans and witches - we live ordinary lives and miss out on the really amazing concept that we are alive but for a short time, and then we die. Such a realization should make us all stop what we are doing and pay attention to the sacredness and blessedness of life itself, since that is the source of all mysteries and goodness, and we, as witches and pagans, should be strongly attuned to life. What I am asking is that folks who attend this ball should also be aware of what it means to be alive, and how precious life is whether we are rich or poor, healthy or sick, fortunate or unfortunate. Life is a precious gift and must be lived to the fullest!

So while we eat, drink and are merry, so enjoying ourselves, we should remember that life is short, and tomorrow we might be dead. Enjoy life to its fullest at every moment of existence, or face the sad fact that in death, there is infinite time for regret and despair over lost opportunities.

In the mystery, we meet the King of Death (le Roi Mort), his mistress (la Dame de Mort), servant (le Serviteur de Mort), and the most mysterious of all, the Seeker (le Chercheur de la Mort), who leads us into the kingdom of Death and back again. We drink, eat and dance in the halls of King Death, but we can return, having learned that we must live life more fully than what we have been doing.

This is the theme that I have used to write this ceremonial ball, and I invite you to join me, since I will be your host and the Master of Ceremonies.

Frater Barrabas

Danse Macabre - poem by Paul Verlain

(translated from French)

    Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
    Striking a tomb with his heel,
    Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
    Zig, zig, zag, on his violin.
    The winter wind blows, and the night is dark;
    Moans are heard in the linden trees.
    White skeletons pass through the gloom,
    Running and leaping in their shrouds.
    Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking,
    You can hear the cracking of the bones of the dancers.
    A lustful couple sits on the moss
    So as to taste long lost delights.
    Zig zig, zig, Death continues
    The unending scraping on his instrument.
    A veil has fallen! The dancer is naked.
    Her partner grasps her amorously.
    The lady, it's said, is a marchioness or baroness
    And her green gallant, a poor cartwright.
    Horror! Look how she gives herself to him,
    Like the rustic was a baron.
    Zig, zig, zig. What a saraband!
    They all hold hands and dance in circles.
    Zig, zig, zag. You can see in the crowd
    The king dancing among the peasants.
    But hist! All of a sudden, they leave the dance,
    They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.
    Oh what a beautiful night for the poor world!
    Long live death and equality!

No comments:

Post a Comment