aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

How to write right rites

T.J. picked out an Eagle ceremony he liked from among the many that can be found online. Someone asked me why he didn't include the "Eagle Oath." I replied that the Eagle Oath wasn't anything official, just something that someone made up that a lot of people had copied.

Eagle Courts of Honor are like weddings and proms and whatnot. Traditions -- perhaps I should say, fads -- develop rapidly, like barnacles growing on the underside of a sailing ship. If you let them, they will put quite a drag on you.

I forget what we were presenting one time, but Anna was supposed to make the presentation. She had no script to follow, no idea what to make of the ceremonious moment. She gave the certificate to the person receiving the recognition and said, "I award you this award." Good enough.

This is not to denigrate ceremonies and the saying of great things. I am, after all, a professional arranger of ceremonies, not to mention someone who uses words for a living. But I often see people opting simply for more -- trying to do what everyone else has done, plus something of your own that makes yours distinctive. The result is mere hodgepodge. The truly important stuff gets covered over by the juggling bears and dancing elephants. Or worse, by mere talky-talk.

Our Neolithic ancestors dropped their garbage in their homes and let it accumulate. Eventually, they had to hollow out tunnels and rooms for living space. When they couldn't stand it any more, they would simply leave and start a new home somewhere else. We do the same with ritual. We pile on more until we are suffocating, and then finally someone does something different, something refreshing. As long as the core of the act to be performed is still there, the removal of all the accretions is to be celebrated; of course, it is possible to miss the point and wind up with something that is merely different, not better. That's the challenge.

The good news is, however the ceremony goes, you walk out the door afterward an Eagle. Or married. Or whatever. And then we can eat cake!

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