Sacred Dance: A Moving Component of Ritual
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
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
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
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
Using my strength, rage and
Carefully I cut away the
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
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
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
Of the earth and the phases of
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
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
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
the breath of her pulsing
Her dance speaks to us.
Watch and listen.
From the steaming tendrils of
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
of your inner life force, the
emerging from the flames of
desire and passion,
creative urges riding the wave
of thought and form.
Mighty power of the unyielding
She overflows with love and
Ancient Fire Woman,
Calling us to courage and
On the longest day of the
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
[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,
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
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