On Finding Treasure: Mystery Plays of the Goddess
During the summer of 1994 I began to have ideas for an alchemical allegory based on the legends and landscape of Glastonbury and Avalon, featuring the mysterious Nine Morgens who rule the Isle of Avalon and Merlin. Alchemy is the mystical science of the blending of the inner and outer elements of the psyche in order to find the Philosopher’s Stone or in other words the Stone of Sophia, who is also known as Wisdom. Wisdom throughout the ages and in all religious traditions is a feminine quality by its very nature, appearing in the form of the Goddess Sophia or Lady Alchymia. Part of this quest to find the Philosopher’s Stone involves the making of a substance which can transmute ba
se metal into gold, both a physical and a mystical experience. The processes of alchemy are as mysterious and obscure today as they ever were in the past. I began to read some alchemical writings in my attempt to understand what it was all about.
One of the fundamental alchemical experiments involves the heating together for a long time, sometimes years, in a sealed vessel of a prima materia – primal matter with red and white elements. During the long process they pass through various stages of transformation changing in colour from black to white to red to yellow (interestingly all traditional Goddess colours) with various stages in between, one delightful one known as the peacock’s tail when the contents of the athenor sparkle with iridescent blue and green. The uniting of the red and the white appears in many mystical traditions, the red symbolising the blood of the womb, of life and woman, and white representing the seminal fluid and sperm of man. Their union culminates in the rite of the Sacred Marriage both internally creating wholeness and externally in sexual communion.
In the early autumn when I had understood as much as I was able about alchemy and wisdom I wrote a play entitled AND THEY CALL HER NAME WISDOM – A Hymn of Praise and sent the call out for participants. Performers came forward for most roles, except for the main female lead – Jasmine. We began rehearsals without her and creating music with Jana Runnalls, Lydia, Katrina and Moses. Jana is a fine musician and singer who had recently moved to Glastonbury from Devon with Katrina. Everything was going fine except for some reason, I couldn’t find the right woman to play Jasmine. One person came forward then withdrew, then another took it on but also withdrew, just two and a half weeks from the performance date. It was strange because until now it had always been far easier to find women performers than men, but the tables had turned and now there were more men available than women. I couldn’t take in what was happening at first. Where was the synchronicity of Ariadne’s energy wave I had always relied upon – the belief that someone would always turn up at the right moment to play a part. For some reason it wasn’t happening. I had always trusted that everything would be alright in the end and that everything that happened was as it was meant to be. Now it seemed She had let me down.
No-one suitable appeared to play Jasmine and anyway it was all too late. No-one could learn the lines in time. We decided to postpone the production until the following year.
Stopping production when it was underway was awful. Energetically it was like being hit by a truck. The energy was all flowing forward and then it stopped and we all lurched forward. For a few days we were in shock. But there was nothing to do but wait until the energy wanted to move again. After a while some realisations began to dawn. It became obvious that by trying to perform a sacred drama about alchemy we had of course synchronously entered the alchemical process itself and since alchemy involves spending a lot of time being heated up in an enclosed space, we would just have to wait for as long as it takes, until the time is right and the processes of transformation have taken place.
Beltane 1995 came but the energy wasn’t there for performance and it seemed we were postponed at least until Samhain or the Winter Solstice. Then a nightmare entered my life. Just after Lammas 1995 I found a thickening in my breast and was diagnosed as having breast cancer. My life took a nose-dive as I experienced the debilitating yet life-saving effects of conventional medicine and faced my great fear of dying. The pain was alleviated by large doses of complementary medicine and the love and prayers of many friends. Cancer is a disease of transformation. The theory is very simple – transform your life or die. But what on earth does transformation really mean and when you’ve faced all you can face? Is it enough to stay alive?
The play of synchronicity is a major feature in the creation of sacred drama and I am as susceptible as any of Ariadne’s participants to the touch of her spirit. A little insight came to me as I sat in hospital waiting for my first injection of severely poisonous chemotherapy. The doctor appeared with two large syringes, one filled with a bright red fluid and the other with a clear whitish fluid and began to slowly inject them into the back of my hand. It made me smile as I realised that in this alchemical experiment the red and the white were being united in the athenor of my body. Oh! Ariadne always has a trick or two up her sleeve to catch the unwary. I can only pray that a little of her wisdom will come my way as this process of transformation continues.
Cast Lists and Production Details
THE BEAUTY IN THE BEAST
Apple Mac/The Great Goddess Herself Pauline Watson
DANCERS Lynne Dodd, Howard Dodd, Colin Harrison, Carol Huck, Yohanna Modzelewska, Oshia Drury, Pete Williams, Paul Hunter, Clive Andrews & Dee Mellish
THE SCAPEGOAT – A Beltane Mystery Play
Aphrodite Liz Gilbert
MUSIC composed, played and sung by Tim Hall, Lydia Lite, Sheena Johnstone, Willow Roe, Susheela Milburn, Chris Craig, Vivienne Andreae, Lawrence Sharpe & Dante
Sponsored by Neil Godbold, Community Education Officer & Somerset County Council, Community Education Committee
Satianni/Daisy Sleuth the Detective Carla Billinghurst
MUSIC composed, arranged and played by Tim Hall, Lydia Lite, Mike Orunie, Oshia Drury, Russ Stanley & Vivienne Andreae
Sponsored by Barry Dodd & Neil Godbold of Community Education, HTV and Artcraft.
SPINNING THE WHEEL OF ANA
Guardian of the Eastern Gate Peter Vallance
MUSIC composed by Tim Hall. Songs performed by Tim Hall, Lydia Lite, Sally Pullinger, Kelvin Brown, Rana, Oshia Drury, Dreow Rune, Vivienne Andreae, Willow Roe.
Sponsored by some special angels Barry Taylor, Charles Shepherd, Edwene Gaines, Elinore Dettige & Street Theatre Workshop Trust.
THE SACRED MARRIAGE
Yeshe, Tibetan Nun Su Newcombe
DRAMA COACHING, DIRECTION with Sue Palmer
Sponsored by Mendip District Council and the Foundation for Sport and the Arts.