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~  August Supplemental  ~


Sacred Dance: A Moving Component of Ritual Theatre

By Xia


In 2004 Temple of the Goddess incorporated as a Pagan temple in California and began exploring ritual theatre in a modern context. The spiritual artists who began the journey lent their talents in a multitude of ways: writing liturgies, dance and choreography, music and song, acting, costuming, puppetry, mask-making, scenery design, altar art, and much more.


What evolved is beyond what I, as the founder, ever could have imagined. The seed of the vision was there, yes, but it was together with the selfless offering of time and talents from so many artists that helped birth the form that Temple of the Goddess is now presenting to the public on our Sabbats. With every public offering, each evolution and expression of ritual theatre, I am more amazed with the final outcome . . . until the next Sabbat when the dancers, musicians, writers, choir, actors, altar artists, costume, make-up artists, set decorators, mask-makers, ritual producers, communion bakers go all-out and amaze the audience with something that they never could have imagined.


Over the last five years of ritual theatre, dance has been utilized in multiple ways: spoken word, liturgical dance, serpent dance, ballet, solo pieces, group choreographed numbers, physical theatre, expressionist art movement, and last but not least the dance form which holds our evening of ritual theatre together -- collective group drum and dance.


We constantly surprise one another with the archetypal depth of the creative work. At our 2011 Spring Equinox Sabbat, dancer and choreographer CandyJo Dahl, performed a spoken word piece, Resurrection, written by Eileen Rosenteel, reprinted in We'Moon 2011 and read by actor Marcella Lentz-Pope.


I plucked out my wing feathers-they said I belonged on the ground.

I stopped dancing and singing-they said I had no rhythm.

I silenced myself-no one was listening.

I stitched my eyes shut-So I didn't have to see what was happening.

I dug my own grave and lay in it-So I didn't have to feel the pain.

So I could be at peace

In the emptiness.

There in the pit

I found my bones

In the marrow of my bones

There was strength

In the pulsing of my blood

There was rage

In my flesh-Desire

I clawed my way out of that grave

Using my strength, rage and desire.

Carefully I cut away the stitches

To see the truth

I whispered my words o myself

I started to sway and hum

To my own music

Now I am gathering feathers.


The goddess choir members unanimously said they were so "blown away" by CandyJo's dance, that they missed their cue for the next song. This honest confession shows the power of dance, art, and the artist who surrenders ego so that Spirit comes through and embodies "the divine other." Or becoming a "hallow bone" as Lakota Shaman, Frank Fools Crow described the process of spirit, healing, and art.


Our vast assortment of artists presenting ritual theatre, including the goddess choir and musical ensemble, have become known as the Mythic Players. While multi-generational in scope, the Players range in age from eight to eighty and we have been blessed with an outpouring of talented young people: dancers, actors, musicians-from the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts. These amazing young people were drawn to the natural artistic expression of the Pagan religion.


In spring of 2007 a young dancer offered a magnificent en pointe ballet piece to Lisa Thiel's Spirit of the Plants sung by singer/actor Lora Cain.


The Spirit of the Plants has come to me

in the form of a beautiful dancing green woman

Her eyes filled me with peace

Her dance filled me with peace

the Spirit of the Plants has come to me

And has blessed me with great peace

Her eyes fill me with peace

Her dance filled me with peace

The Spirit of the Plants has come to me

in the form of a beautiful dancing green woman


The dance was breathtaking. The ballerina, dressed in green and wrapped in silk vines and flowers, seem to extend from the ground up to the heavens. We could almost see green shoots and flowers where her toes touched the floor.


At our 2009 Hallows Eve, Marcella Lentz-Pope choreographed a haunting modern dance to "The Burning Times" by Charlie Murphy, sung by David Jacks. The seven dancers imbued the music and lyrics with such power, that we were transported to another time:


In the cool of the evening, they used to gather

'Neath the stars in the meadow circling an old oak tree

At the times appointed by the seasons

Of the earth and the phases of the moon


Throughout our years of presenting ritual theatre in a large public arena, dance has been consistently used in ever-creative and often unexpected ways. A component of our evening of ritual theatre is a one-act mythic piece, ancient myths retold in modern ways: sometimes as ancient ethereal pieces and sometimes as a modern retelling of an old story. Dance is often a part of our mythic stories as well as "physical theatre" which is using the body to tell stories with extreme physical movement to represent, individually or cohesively, a mood, a piece of furniture, or the breadth of a landscape. These representational physical myths can be equally as powerful as character-driven protagonist vs. antagonist myths.


Our original myths deftly weave the seasonal celebration with a story honoring an ancient archetype, based on the temple's yearly theme. Our 2008 Hallows Eve ritual was about slowing down and embracing the dark of winter. The mythic dance, Revelations of Kali, used this theme to honor Kali, the Great Destroyer. The temple musicians created a soundscape under the narrator while Kali's guardian worshipers called her forth to dance:


Slow Down. Seek the Within. The dark approaches. Dark death of winter.

It is the season of Kali. Creator Destroyer. Many armed dark Goddess. She is change and transition. From the bonfire of our griefs Kali emerges. She comes. Creator Destroyer. Her tears flow. Enraged at lost dreams, wasted lives. She cries for us. She cries for her children. We offer our sorrows and errors. Purify them Mother. In the divine fire of your cosmic dance.


Terrifying. Magnificent. Kali's dance of death transforms life. Fearful goddess of cemeteries. Regenerator. Serpent Mother. Life Death Rebirth. Growing shedding. Eternal regeneration. Creator Destroyer.


We breathe. We release. We shed our fears. Protectress against evil, she is strength and power. Kali dances for renewal. The Great Mother continues her life dance, watching and waiting for the moment of rebirth.


Kali, Creator Destroyer shows us truth. We face our fears. Kali frees us of fear. Her blissful dance frees us from fear of death. Death is the mirror of life.


Kali. Many-armed Goddess of Time, dances endings and beginnings. Through song and dance, Kali calls us to step onto the bridge of time where past meets future in the eternal now.

[Excerpt from Revelations of Kali by Xia.]


When audience members enter our evening of ritual theatre, they become ritual participants with a pre-ritual activity that will guide their personal ritual experience. The ritual begins with an opening song and costumed dancers which pre-sage the evening ahead. Following the opening are thematic poems, songs, dances, spoken word goddess liturgies, and music -- all of which lead to the culmination of the evening's myth.


Each original myth ends with a narrator inviting the participants to get up, move, dance, and visit different altars to do their own personal enactment which was modeled in the myth. One of the altars is a small private alcove beautifully and thematically designed by Temple of the Goddess art director, Ruth Ann Anderson. Here they individually visit the Goddess archetype honored that evening. The often-masked deity offers each participant a blessing and a give-away to remind them of the lesson learned in the myth. Temple musicians are drumming and chanting while the participants dance and complete their enactments.


At the 2009 Summer Solstice, our mythic offering was called the Mythic Dance of Pele. The mythic players, as guardians of her volcanic crater, gather and beat their chests, chant and call Her forth…Pele, Pele, Pele, Pele. CandyJo Dahl, as Pele, arises and dances on the rim of her mighty cauldron while the narrator gives voice to the myth.


In the undulating flow of her lava,

the breath of her pulsing magma,

Her dance speaks to us.

Watch and listen.

From the steaming tendrils of her hands,

the spellbinding eruptions of her holy body, She calls you.

In the cellular liberation of Her mythic dance, She speaks.

She offers her story to you.

Listen . . . listen to the pulsing

of your inner life force, the voice within,

emerging from the flames of desire and passion,

creative urges riding the wave of thought and form.

Mighty power of the unyielding mountain,

She overflows with love and daring.

Ancient Fire Woman,

Calling us to courage and change.

On the longest day of the year,

Pele invites us

to dive into the mystery of life's churning chaos

surrender to the destruction of the known

and embrace the potential, the power, of the unknown.

The bonfire blaze of Her dance

has a life of its own.

Let yourself go

Dare to lose yourself

in the frolicking flames of possibility.

[Excerpt from the Mythic Dance of Pele by Xia.]


At the end of Her dance, Pele blesses the audience before returning to Her Volcano womb where she awaits a visit from each participant. The narrator then invites the audience to get up and join in the evening's enactment:


"We invite you to join us in dance, in movement, in contemplation. Visit the altars, in any order that you wish. As you look with courage into your unfolding future, you can place your fears into Pele's cauldron of transformation. Dance the joy of your own fiery liberation. Visit Pele in Her Volcano womb and receive a digging stick, a magic wand, to guide your way. Come dance the dance of the Summer's Sun. Dance the passion of your creative expression. Dance. Dance. Dance."


This form has been very successful in offering participants an artistic spiritual experience honoring the seasons of the Earth. Temple of the Goddess' Sabbats are ritual theatre that combine mythology and art to re-connect us to the Earth as well as strengthen our connection to the Earth. Our seasonal rituals are multi-media programs combining music, dance, liturgy, spoken word, visual art, and participatory theatre which fuses drum and dance with personal enactment. Temple of the Goddess' multi-cultural events are open to women, men, and children.

© 2011 Xia

Reprinted from Circle Magazine, Issue 109, Summer 2011



Nancy Ann Jones honored for a life well-lived

by Joanne Elliott


Temple of the Goddess' first Hagia Sophia Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Nancy Ann Jones, an artist and priestess in the Pagan community on August 6, 2011.


The ceremony took place at the chapel of the Neighborhood church in Pasadena around the time of Lammas, first harvest. This helped to remind us all that there are those in the community from whom we can harvest great knowledge and wisdom. As the Pagan community continues to mature we grow by learning from the Elders who have gone before us.


Attendees caught a glimpse of a life well-lived in the words of Nancy Ann's friends and family. Temple members Anne Gauldin and Ruth Ann Anderson (RA) expressed their gratitude for Nancy Ann's friendship and mentoring. Artist, Robin Howes also told us how much Nancy Ann means to her and how she was inspired to become an artist by being in Nancy Ann's presence.


One of the highlights was the life well-lived segment given by Nancy Ann's daughter Denise Gomez. She not only shared what it was like to grow up with such an inspiring and encouraging woman she also recited the words of her four siblings so they could all participate in the celebration. The love of Nancy Ann's children showed through, especially in the act of two daughters traveling a long way to help celebrate their mother's life.


Of course this celebration included ritual music, song, and dance. The Temple of the Goddess choir performed Lisa Thiel's "Gaelic Prayer" to open the ceremony and her "Lammas" to close it. But one of the most moving moments was the choir singing Wendy Rule's "Shine" to Nancy Ann.


Temple of the Goddess welcomed Miranda Rondeau back in her role of honoring the ancient ones with her deep connection to the frame drum and spiritual singing.


Three other Wendy Rule songs were sung by Minni Jo Mazzola. Her unique and powerful voice continued to move the audience into sacred space throughout the ceremony. Minni Jo also helped open the sacred space by dancing to the Goddess Creation Myth by Xia.


Dance is always a part of Temple of the Goddess rituals and Candy Jo Dahlstrom donned a leotard painted by Nancy Ann to dance for her. CandyJo, with palms painted red, also brought the Legacy Poem by Lisa Noble to life through her graceful movement.


To honor wisdom, Kamala danced with the temple snakes as Xia read "Power of the Priestess" by Pamela Eakins. The snakes entwined about Kamala as she swayed wrapping her in their wisdom.


The presentation of the award saw temple founders Xia and Pythia offering the crystal glass award etched with the Temple of the Goddess symbol, the award name, and Nancy Ann's name to Nancy Ann. She was also gifted with a beautiful statue of Hagia Sophia donated by Suzan of Goddessgift.net.


The celebration continued after the closing of the ceremony with Nancy Ann holding court while her friends and family blessed her with hugs. Nancy Ann's family and temple family had a chance to get to know one another. They learned how much the other truly appreciated this woman who lives a well lived life.



You are sitting around a fire after a hard day of work. The air cools and the sun sets, the frogs and crickets begin singing as the sky darkens. Suddenly the person you have been eagerly awaiting leaps to the center of the circle. Your Shaman begins her story. You have heard the story a hundred times, but the antics of the animals and the wisdom in the story never fail to give you pleasure. As she weaves her tale, the knowledge that every thing is alive, carrying its own power and wisdom, soothes your soul.

Let us join together, in this virtual circle, and share these Animal Tales. Let us once again feel how the stories connect us to the natural world and remind us that we are all part of a vast Circle of Life. Listen now as the Shaman's animal stories whisper tales of that power and wisdom in your ear.


Tonight it is a tail from the Native Americans living in western Georgia. It is a story that explains why things are the way they are. But this story also speaks of individual strengths and weaknesses, and how every creature has their own gifts.


Heron and the Hummingbird


Told by the Hitchiti Tribe from west Georgia

and retold by S. E. Schlosser


Heron and Hummingbird were very good friends, even though one was tall and gangly and awkward and one was small and sleek and fast. They both loved to eat fish. The Hummingbird preferred small fish like minnows and Heron liked the large ones.


One day, Hummingbird said to his friend, "I am not sure there are enough fish in the world for both of our kind to eat. Why don't we have a race to see which of us should own the fish?"

Heron thought that was a very good idea. They decided that they would race for four days. The finish line was an old dead tree next to a far-away river. Whichever of them sat on top of the tree first on the fourth day of the race would own all the fish in the world.


They started out the next morning. The Hummingbird zipped along, flying around and around the Heron, who was moving steadily forward, flapping his giant wings. Then Hummingbird would be distracted by the pretty flowers along the way. He would flit from one to the other, tasting the nectar. When Hummingbird noticed that Heron was ahead of him, he hurried to catch up with him, zooming ahead as fast as he could, and leaving Heron far behind. Heron just kept flying steadily forward, flapping his giant wings.


Hummingbird was tired from all his flitting. When it got dark, he decided to rest. He found a nice spot to perch and slept all night long. But Heron just kept flying steadily forward all night long, flapping his giant wings.


When Hummingbird woke in the morning, Heron was far ahead. Hummingbird had to fly as fast as he could to catch up. He zoomed past the big, awkward Heron and kept going until Heron had disappeared behind him. Then Hummingbird noticed some pretty flowers nearby. He zip-zipped over to them and tasted their nectar. He was enjoying the pretty scenery and didn't notice Heron flap-flapping passed him with his great wings.


Hummingbird finally remembered that he was racing with Heron, and flew as fast as he could to catch up with the big, awkward bird. Then he zipped along, flying around and around the Heron, who kept moving steadily forward, flapping his giant wings.


For two more days, the Hummingbird and the Heron raced toward the far-distant riverbank with the dead tree that was the finish line. Hummingbird had a marvelous time sipping nectar and flitting among the flowers and resting himself at night. Heron stoically kept up a steady flap-flap-flapping of his giant wings, propelling himself forward through the air all day and all night.


Hummingbird woke from his sleep the morning of the fourth day, refreshed and invigorated. He flew zip-zip toward the riverbank with its dead tree. When it came into view, he saw Heron perched at the top of the tree! Heron had won the race by flying straight and steady through the night while Hummingbird slept.


So from that day forward, the Heron has owned all the fish in the rivers and lakes, and the Hummingbird has sipped from the nectar of the many flowers which he enjoyed so much during the race.






Animal Tales Column brought to you by Kamala.

Animal Tales logo by Anne Gauldin, Gauldin Farrington Designs