The ALTAR ritual

This was a ritual of emergence from old patterns and old identities. In many cases rituals require the acknowledgment or witnessing by one’s community, family, or peers. In this instance when one sheds a previous skin the person may also be shedding previous ties to people. In having the ritual live in a public setting  complete strangers as well as close friends could come and choose to be a part of his temporary community. It gives the seeker an opportunity for being seen in their new beginning post ritual with no immediate commitments to anyone but themselves.

Tiger was painted in colors and symbols that were received when preparing for the ritual. These were spiral patterns and abstracts of the flower Bird of paradise. These were also painted on the faces of the Guard, Ryan Duncum, and the drummer, Andy Walker. Tiger was then encased in plastic wrap to keep out all other influences from his inner journey. I spoke soft words that allowed him to descend into his journey as he lost the use of all but his ability to breathe and hear the drums through the mummification. He was then laid down upon his altar of green cloth, bound, naked, and the only lighted object in a dark room. As people came into the gallery they could also walk into the dark room and bear witness to another human as they journeyed, trusting in the people he has never met to neither harm him, or disturb him. He became in that moment a cocoon, an object that holds life, transforms life, but is not in itself inherently alive.

When the time came I walked out into the gallery veiled and summoned them to the room to gather in witness to the ritual. I welcomed them, and asked them to join in the temporary community that would acknowledge the rite of passage and emergence for this man. The drumming sped up as I gently cut away the plastic cocoon, allowing cool air to touch his skin for the first time in an hour, or an eternity. As I blew gently on his eyes, pushing away the remains of his wrappings, he emerged hands crossed over his chest eyes cast down. Then he raised his eyes, spread his hands wide, and stood in front of the people, acknowledged in his journey, reveling in the new person he had yet to get to know. Still, happy, elated, but fragile I wrapped him in his cloak and to the last sounds of the drums he left his dark space, his cocoon, his old self behind.

I left with him, placed him in ritual aftercare, and then returned. Thanking the audience for their participation, and welcoming them to my show I invited them to look at and experience the intimate rituals of others.

The live drumming was performed by Andy Walker, a wonderful artist to work with. He is a dynamic percussionist and I know it was a challenge to maintain such a slow rhythmic for the space of the observation and the cutting away.

Listen to a short clip or the whole thing.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

Coral Mallow's Altar ritual event at Evolution House, Edinburgh.

These photos were the gift of the incredibly talented Tanya at Rockstar Vanity Photography.  I am so happy to have had an artist of her calibre document the ritual. Follow her exploits here!

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