So. There has been some talk lately about Ordeal Work, possibly because the Dark Oddessey folks now have an entire programming track based on Ordeal Work – how to facilitate it, how to handle it, how to go through it. This facinates and excites me, but it also scares the shit out of me.
Granted, maybe that’s part of the point.
Going by what various Ordeal-Dancer/Facilitator types have said, I’m going to guess that there are a LOT of people who look at Ordeal work and go “Dude… you’ve *got* be a masochist to do that stuff”. I’m guessing this because I keep seeing people who are invovled in this work going “No, that’s not the case at all! It can actually be really counter-productive if this stuff turns you on!” and you generally don’t get people protesting unless someone is Gettin’ It Rong somewhere.
And yet. Because, while masochism is definitely a thing that transmutes pain into pleasure, it isn’t (from what I hear) nearly as 1:1 as all that. Someone I know IDs as a “dark masochist” and, the way she describes what she does and what she craves, sounds a lot like she’s the kind of person who could actually get something out of an Ordeal Ritual.
I think that one of the reasons – besides the routine (I think?) use of SM tools (floggers, whips, flesh hooks, bondage) in a fair number of these rituals – that it’s assumed by outsiders that an Ordeal Dancer needs to be a masochist to get anything out of the ritual is because masochists are wired to be able to get Somewhere Else via pain. In a lot of cases, that Somewhere Else is sexual ecstasy/pleasure. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only Somewhere Else available to someone who is wired to be able to walk through that particular door.
Does that make sense?
The reason an Ordeal Track scares the shit out of me is that, while I would love to know how to craft and facilitate ordeal rituals for others, I have zero interest in undergoing them myself.
Sure, I’ve been through Life Changes that, in retrospect, I could probably classify as ordeals.
Certainly my divorce and subsequent year-and-a-half of terrifying and unpredictable changes-a-go-go was clearly (a) a case of My Lady Of Change flinging bowling balls at me until I got the hang of surfing on unpredictability, but in that regard it was also (b) useful.
Therapy, if you go into it actually wanting to Fix Yourself, is (a) pure hell in a hand cart, but also (b) useful.
That’s an important word.
I once had a professor say that the difference between “nut case” and “shaman” was whether or not the person’s trip to Crazy Town brought back useful information.
To put that another way: Is someone going into the Inner World or the Other World in a way that they can (usually?) control and (and/or?), while they’re there, are they able to learn and/or find stuff that’s needed in the Awake World and bring it back? Or are they being dragged into it in a way that they can’t control or defend against, or even possibly understand, and just have to ride out until it’s over? I think that you probably start out as one and learn how to be the other, granted, although Del would be the right one to ask about that. (Hey, Del, do you want to weigh in on this one?)
Anyway. “Useful” was the key term there, too.
I don’t think I would bring back anything useful from undergoing a ritual based in physical pain. I think I’d just be broken and damaged. And what the hell use is that?
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For what it’s worth, I was one of the ordeal facilitators for the Ordeal Track at DO. There were only two instances of anything involving physical pain in the whole tack–one where I punched something into the attendees and in the final culmination ritual where the final station involved some manner of piercing, from hypodermics to hooks and that was self-selected by the attendees. Most of the activity was energetic and verbal.
I personally haven’t seen a well-structured ordeal that involves pain leave someone broken or damaged. Shook up, yes. Different than when they came in, yes. Emotionally vulnerable and raw, yes. Absolutely broken? Not in my experience but my experience is not everyone’s obviously. It was interesting that people who progressed through the final ritual were given the choice of how they wanted to finish–and all of them, even the ones who said that blood/pain was a hard limit, chose the hooks.
With all of that in mind, not all ordeals involve physical anything. I’ve never had a physical ordeal, but I’ve been through incredible emotional ordeals both of my own doing and the doing of the Powers. For me, that’s because I have such a strong tie to the physical–I’ve been putting myself through physical trials for fun for years and, if I were to have a physical ordeal, it would be harder to get me where I needed to go because of that. I don’t think I’ll escape from having a physical ordeal forever, but it’s not the only path. The most powerful ordeal I ever saw was a person who was placed in the center of a circle of salt while the facilitators verbally embodied qualities that he had identified as problematic in his life. If he left the circle or succumbed to his anger, he failed the ordeal. No physical interaction at all.
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