We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 21 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world, spoken by Rory Mackenzie on behalf of Help For Heroes:
I call upon the spirit of Autumn. The spirit of water, of the ebb and flow of emotion; of open seas and running streams, of cleansing rain; spirit of the evening sun, of twilight and of Autumn.
I call upon the spirit of Winter. The spirit of earth, of the womb of creation; of the night and the snows of winter, deep roots and ancient stones.
I call upon the spirit of Spring. The spirit of air, the breath of life; of sunrise, and of new life and of new growth.
I call upon the Spirit of Summer. The spirit of fire, of energy of passion; spirit of the noonday sun, the heat of summer, vitality and abundance.
My friends, let the festival commence!
And then, about 30 minutes in, Rory spoke these words:
The circle is unbroken,
The ancestors awoken.
May the songs of the Earth
and of her people ring true.
Hail to the Festival of the flame
of root and branch, tooth and claw,
fur and feather, of earth and sea and sky.
When the original gorsedd ceremony was composed in 1993, it was designed to bring together people of many faiths, cultures and backgrounds at a multi-faith conference in Avebury. Its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention, and Emma and I were happy to agree to the request. Plus the Paralympics have been very effective in changing attitudes towards disability, which is no bad thing.
We like to think that the inclusion of words from a modern Pagan rite in such a high profile context, seen by so many people around the world, may herald a new appreciation of the creative and inspirational role played by paganism, both historically and in the present, and a return of Druidry to the mainstream of our culture.
Blessings to all,