A typescript of an early Spring Equinox ritual has survived, taped inside one of Ronald White’s notebooks. It is most likely the ritual that was composed for the Regency’s first Spring Equinox meeting, in 1967. It was certainly composed no later than 1968, since after that date, the Regency rituals were held in the open air (except for the Candlemas ritual).
The ritual is similar to the Spring Equinox ritual described in the New Pagan’s Handbook, but there are some significant differences.
The typescript includes an invocation to the Goddess, which was delivered by the women.
I shall not be able to post anything this coming Wednesday, owing to pressure of work. I hope to be able to post more material next Sunday, 7th December.
When I posted the Christmas Play last week I noted that it was headed with a ‘3’, and commented that pages 1 and 2 were lost. It turns out I was wrong: looking at a couple of pages headed ‘The Midwinter Festival of Yule’, I discovered that the second page was numbered ‘2’, and that the last paragraph mentions the Christmas play in a way that makes it clear that this short essay is intended as an introduction to it.
These sheets are a carbon copy. At one point a passage a couple of lines long has been overtyped on the master copy, and part of this cannot be deciphered.
As I said in my comments on the Christmas Play, I think this material shows Chalky at quite an early stage of working out his system.
The Midwinter Festival of Yule
J. G. Frazer in The Golden Bough notes the pagan origin of Christmas: “It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the 25th December the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day … Augustine exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on account of him who made the sun.” (p. 472). Frazer argues (pp. 833 & 842) “If the heathen of ancient Europe celebrated, as we have good reason to believe, the season of Midsummer with a great festival of fire, of which the traces have survived in many places, it is natural to suppose that they should also have observed with similar rites the corresponding season of Midwinter; for Midsummer and Midwinter, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, are the two great turning points in the sun’s apparent course through the sky, and from the standpoint of primitive man nothing might seem more appropriate than to kindle fires on earth at the two moments when the fire and heat of the great luminary in heaven begin to wane or to wax … Indeed with respect to Midwinter celebration of Christmas we are left to conjecture; we know from the express testimony of the ancients that it was instituted by the church to supersede an old heathen festival of the birth of the sun, which was apparently conceived to be born again on the shortest day of the year, after which his light and heat were seen to grow till they attained their full maturity at Midsummer … In modern Christendom the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice appears to survive, or to have survived down to recent years, in the old custom of the Yule log.”
But there are other elements to this pagan festival which are not fully drawn out by Frazer who mentions the general and widespread worship of the sacred oak but fails to pursue the question of why the Yule log is invariably oak.
Chalky seems to have winnowed his early papers fairly thoroughly, and not a lot has survived. I conclude therefore that what remains is material to which he attached some value. This ‘Christmas Play’ is a carbon copy on a single sheet headed ‘3.’. Sheets 1 and 2 have not turned up.
The use of the word ‘Christmas’ in place of ‘Yule’ indicates that this is a very early attempt by Chalky to devise a seasonal ritual. It is not known whether it was ever performed.
The words to the song ‘Lord of the Dance’ were written by Sydney Carter in 1963 to a traditional Shaker hymn tune. It became extremely popular quite quickly, and was widely used, for instance, in school assemblies. Chalky was fond of this hymn, and it was sung at his funeral in its original, Christian form.
A Christmas Play
Part One is solemn:
The oak king dressed in oak leaves is beaten with holly clubs. A branch is chopped down (the beheading) and carried to the fireplace which should have bright (paper) flames. A wren (Bran’s sparrow) flies out of the oak and hides in an ivy bush. A robin flies out of the holly tree and chases the wren.