R I T U A L _ L A B O R A T O R Y : Labours of Herakles

Writing and musical reflections in progress. [2020]
A sketchpad for the project below.

Monthly Workshops R&D:    April 2019 - February 2020 

Previous Events:

📷: Fiona Garden

📷: Layal Hussami

Ritual Laboratory - Labours of Herakles

The over arching theme of this study became a journey into the belly of the beast - to unpack
Greek myth, underpinning many of the Western European symbolic
archetypes of patriachy. Initially hoping to unpack the semiotics of astrological magic in the context of
ritual and trance, it became about a much wider issue. Astrology and magic as it is now widely practiced,
particularly in the West, often refers to Greek and Roman narratives - although this is not the only story of the sky
- we had chosen to start with this as it increasingly praticed, and npw underlies our personal current programming
that we are trying to release.

This is a response to colonisation of the arts within the industrial complex, an attempt to understand existing
unconscious beliefs, and to embody alternatives.

A study of ritual practice and collective art practice,  as a means to conscious modification of internal states and
ways of seeing. Searching for alternatives to the aims, tools and methods of industrial art practice, as well as to
exploring the role that sound, movement and trance can support these collective transformative processes. Finding
a method. Subverting the warrior. Hacking the hero. 

Why Astrology, Why Herakles, Why Ritual?

The annual cycle of the Sun is made up of it’s progression along the Zodiacal constellations.
These signs each represent a symbolic phase in a transformation of energy, or consciousness.
They are reflected in the cycle of the seasons. This symbolic interface can act as a cipher, a tool
with which to navigate, through uncharted territory. There are 12 Signs.

We will explore the symbolism of the Astrological Zodiac by performing the 12 Labours of
Herakles in ritual form. Revealing the progressive narrative contained within the zodiacal semiotic scaffolding
and contemplate the parallels that underly these myths through sound and movement. Through 12 rituals,
occurring as the Sun moves into each consecutive astrological sign, we examine and re-balance the energy
signature of each symbolic archetype. An effort to embody a contemplative device, which can be formed,
expressed and accessed through communal performance of the arts.

In this study of the mythic Labours of Herakles, we challenged the problematic aspects of the hyper masculine, 
polarised ‘hero’ archetype, explored the finer details in deconstructing classical ideas of patriarchal duality, through
somatically assisted processes of learning and reintegration. A spell, and a prayer for change and more holistically
integrated ways of seeing. Herakles balances each of the zodiacal energies by learning from the completion of a
symbolic task, present in each of the (hacked) myth.  The myths speak to us on multiple levels as they unfold, offering
an interface for a metaphysical / psychospiritual symbolic study. Presenting us with tools and markers that we can
use to navigate constantly shifting forms. There are 12 Gates. 

As we progress, we awaken the astrological body, mapping our understanding of these
energetic signatures through movement. Beginning with Aries (The Head) down
to Pisces (The Feet). The rituals provide an interface to systematically make contact with the
astrological symbolism within the cycle of the seasons (Macrocosmic Heavens); and mapping
multiple layers of understanding onto our body (Microcosmic Earth); through visceral
engagement and focused intention. 

Collective ritual to re-interpret and bring these myths to life through movement;
whilst musicians, therapists, dancers and performers hold the space.

Some informal thoughts at the end of the full series:

“The emerging theme became about finding ways to hack and subvert the heroes journey. And turn the (not very nuanced) warrior into a more tender being, still strong (not measured only by physical means - obviously), that sees that true power is vulnerability, that care is how we create safety. A way out of all this violent programming. In our version Herakles learns that you can't beat everything with biceps !? - nor is that a very good way to live. We unpacked, transmuted and re-embodied all of the patriarchal warrior hero nonsense contained in these stories, to try understand the source of what we need to tranform in our societies, beginning within ourselves. We also aimed to give others in the story a voice, especially the women and animals in these tales who were usually brutally murdered - it was a long and painful study. We also shared many beautiful and liberating moments, I was struck by how at times we could walk into a room as a group of strangers and by the end of a session there was a sense of increased unity, intimacy and connection. 

We did our best to slowly turn Herakles into an ungendered, emotionally sensitive, caring being that could see outside themself, hacking their own stories and making peace. A great cleanse for the section of our psyches that was subjected to our collective culture without defence when we were young and impressionable. We are living in the legacy of the violent warriors who raped and pillaged the planet and still now this is right at the cultural root of our psyche. I believe that It is time to acknowledge, grieve, challenge, work together and take action to change course. Moving away from violence, domination and hero worship, towards peace, co-operation and celebration of diversity, in every way that we can.

One thing I would like people to take away from this study is that the storytelling device that you use matters. Because of all the unconscious implications. You build a house on poor foundations, it will affect the entire structure - and it will fall - no matter what techniques and fixes you try to use afterwards. We need to stop telling stories from a position of bigotry, or from spiritually bypassing perspective that leaves no space for hardship or difficulty, that is just not reality for everyone. We need to embrace our fears and our flaws and transmute them. Embody our desire for the change we wish to see in this world. Having faith, having hope, in patience and with love and understanding as a goal. (these are tough times and gentle words are golden). Having empathy for all living things. Looking after our planet and each other. Unify and liberate as opposed to divide and conquer. That's where the stories for life live, at least for me.”


[ 19 / 02 / 2019 ]