The Order of ChAos presents|
EARTHING The TUNNELS of SET
A METAMORPHIC RITUAL THEATRE Production
at the EXODUS Festival
FULL MOON ECLIPSE and NEW YEAR 2001-2002
Interactive rituals involving physical journeys through the magickally-charged Tunnels of Set playground wound off from our performances of THE CHORONZON MACHINE Ritual Opera at the EXODUS Festival For New Year 2002.
The rehearsed opera itself was very different from its Melbourne opening launchpad, being outdoors at the festival. Not only did this allow for Amordios to construct the Tree of Life Machine larger and us to elaborate the set and space considerably, but it also opened us to a response from the elements to our ritual. They did so with fervour.
Upon other nights of the festival we invoked Nightside reflexes of the Tarot characters from the Opera (it being a journey through the dayside paths/ tarot trumps) and met new in-it-I-ates (and init-theywereaten) who journeyed into the Tunnels of Set.
To determine which tunnel they would enter, punters spun the Wheel of Fate, on the large Malkuth Wheel of the Machine, which had the major arcana of my BOOK ov ChAOS Tarot pasted around its rim, and the chaostar centre of The Wheel of Fortune Card thereof as its larger centerpiece.
Pulling the dried emu claw handle would set the Wheel of Fortune in motion, which in turn would set each Sephiroth Wheel above it on the Tree of Life Machine spinning, via the pulleys and bands (like the paths of the Tree) between them...
The Hierophant/Priest (usually played by myself, sometimes by Evan or Amordios(above)) or Priestess (Hiedi) would invite "the Spinning of the Wheel" to those who wandered into our webbed space and who were willing to partake of the journey, then would send them down the appropriate tunnel, then preparing (including sometimes changes of tools, talismans and costumes) or alerting other ritualists to recieve and interact with the in-it-I-ate in relation to their chosen fate/card when they emerged into the appropriate chamber.
The tunnels were interlinked in such a manner that crossings were difficult but some could and some would change tunnels and alter their path.
But before we further delve into these Tunnels of possibility let us return to the elementals' spectacular response to our first outdoors performance of THE CHORONZON MACHINE Ritual Opera:
It was a full moon, a blue moon and a partial lunar eclipse the night before new year's eve 2001-2002. Many were saving their energy for the calendrical rather than lunar peak on this first night of the festival (30th Dec 01) but we had our space all set up and ready to open on this eclipse night when the doorways betwixt the worlds were also open.
We had decided to do a dress-rehearsal-come-performance to initiate the opera into its new set and context and to adapt ourselves to cast and opera-tional changes. Believing it would be better at our second Exodus performance, I failed to have this ritual filmed and so only words and memories remain of a rather wondrous spectacle:
As we initiated the performance to a small audience of about thirty and the wheels of the Machine began to turn, great rain clouds rolled in. Distant thunder rumbled softly above and away as Evan cast the circle in the
Magician (ATU I) Scene of the play.
Throughout the ensuing scenes the black clouds came in, I oblivious to this at the time caught in the creative expression of the entities I had invoked.
By the Hierophant/Blasted Tower Scene they were ready to burst, and did so on cue with our ritual elemental theatre, in a most amusing manner!:
We (I as the Hierophant, Karl and Alex as Jackals) built a 'house of cards' from the 5' high cardboard tarot trumps presented at the beginning of each scene, I explaining the sequence of the Fool's journey as we constructed this Tower, in which coupled opposites came together.
As I revealed the pattern of this cosmic order, two celestial voices began to chant the word, 'Harmony....' harmoniously. We looked up to see two glowing white-clad angels floating serenely in the black night stage-left. This time I was almost as surprised as the audience, for the effect of the black light, dark stormy night, white gowns and their elevation on the roof of the Gobblyn-Bus was quite profound.
In my theatrical 'lesson' I progressed through the twinned trumps, eventually reaching my own card, the Hierophant. Opposing this bastion of order and systemization was The Blasted Tower card, which I presented as representing, 'Chaos and unexpected change'. With trembles of anticipation we placed the Tower card atop its namesake opposite the Hierophant.
The unexpected change did not occur as expected (at least from the audience perspective) and the house of cards stood fast.
I began to scratch my head and murmur, 'Ahh...' in mock confusion. 'Chaos and unexpected change!' I demanded expectantly, but there was none.'Um ... thunderbolts and lightning!'
In the way the play had been rehearsed and performed previously, this was supposed to engender no response, but that night the heavens responded. A mighty burst of thunder rumbled overhead perfectly on cue, and lightning flashed, starkly lighting up the space for a split second.
My mock confusion became real confusion, as I murmured, 'Ahhh...'
On the other side of the stage Kara and Evan as The Emperor and Empress began to writhe together, he moaning, 'Ahh...'
As Melek Taus (doubling my roles as I was replacing Ra'en as the Hierophant in the Melbourne performances) I began to rub my itchy nose, 'Ahhh...'
The angels' chanting broke down into a fragmented, 'Haar... haar... '
As we all cycled through a sequenced round of, 'Ahh..'s, the volume, pitch and intensity of our cries raised. The blackened sky boomed and churned again.
Evan's cries of ecstasy exploded orgasmically, as a great sneeze erupted, 'ahhh...HAVOC!' from me. The luminescent angels screamed, 'HAVOC! HAVOC! HAVOC!' from above, and as the Tower of Cards finally collapsed, the sky split wide and tumultuous rain lashed down and filled our outdoors theatre.
Already some of the audience had run for their camps, and those that were left now huddled into the small shelter over our Mongolian chai tent.
The storm was far too intense to even consider continuing the performance - we were more intent on getting all the cards and other props out of the onslaught as fast as possible.
Once we had done so I apologized to the shuddering remnants of our audience, explaining that we would attempt to complete the opera at a later date of the festival, and, 'Don't worry, the Sun card is coming soon...'
The following evening was New Year's Eve. We opened our space so that the Wheel of Fortune at the base of the Machine could be spun by all and sundry, and then the Tunnels of Set be explored by those who dared.
Which tunnel one took was determined by which trump was chosen by one's spinning of the Wheel. Continuing in my role as Hierophant, but now one of psychopompous nature, I would direct in-it-I-ates to the appropriate tunnel entrance -webbed funnels of woven string and textured threads led off (via labia-like entrances) into tunnel tubes of blotchy crimson or moss-green stretchy fabric which had to be crawled through on hands and knees. The previous night's storm contributed to the atmosphere, the tunnels being damp and smelling slightly of mould.
Eventually, after a few curves and bends in their dark dank journey crawling through them, the tunnels would open out and the traveller emerge into a chamber. There they would be confronted by a theatrical representation of the card they had chosen or its reflex archetypes.
Some basic ideas or imagery had been devised for most of the trumps, and others were improvised if spun; and all the interactivity opened to spontaneity within themic contexts. My experience of the tunnels up until these journeys (for we discovered as much ourselves in the ritual process as those who journeyed our initiatory playground) had been that they were deeper, more subconscious strata of the dayside paths or trumps rather than outright polarizations of them; and our work over the new year demonstrated and confirmed this theory further to me. It is only because of the initiatory and hidden nature of the tunnels that some see them as potentially threatening or negative.
My conclusion is that the tunnels of set or nightside of the Tree of Life is basically a Qabbalistic metaphor or thelemic model for the ancient shamanic journey, within the context of the tarot ATU. The classic shamanic form of the tunnel as an entrance provides astral access to underworld shadows of the extant trumps.
If people spun the tunnel of Lafcursiax (reflex of Lamed, Justice/Adjustment ATU 8), for instance, they would meet the Nightside Maat, and feel the sting and spark of her electric ostrich feather, hooked up to the power via a welder. Truth hurts! Well not necessarily, the experience can be most pleasurable for those who surrender to it, but it certainly delivers a shock!
The Tunnel of Zamradiel (reflex of Zain, ATU VI The Lovers) would lead to Kara and Teresa dressed up in matching makeup and jewellery and a single joining bodysuit as Siamesetwins -the Gemini archetype taken to an extreme, with these totally bonded beings struggling to assert their independence from each other in a humorous display of conflicting wills.
But one time on the last night of our interactive work someone spun this tunnel and Kara and Teresa were not in a frame to perform (due to a conflict of wills beyond the parameters of 'playing' the character/s!), so Hiedi and I performed an alternative expression of deeper strata of the Lovers path:
The night before we had discovered in a private session in the electric bondage chamber (a beautiful velvet-draped structure she had made from eight thin and flexible bamboo pools pulled together at their apex) that Hiedi has a fear of electric shocks. She wished to overcome it, but was not yet ready to feel the electric feather. She would not let me tie her up at first because she thought I might electrocute her, and it became an issue of trust. Eventually she consented, and after a light whipping even eventually allowed me to run the ostrich feather gently along her body without allowing the wire which conveys the voltage to touch her. This showed a gradual opening up of trust towards me, and the following night we realized that this was often actually what bondage is about in the context of a loving relationship -the trust required to submit oneself to another in a position of vulnerability.
So when someone spun the Lovers tunnel that night we replayed the scenario with the electric feather and the in-it-I-ate seemed to understand what we were demonstrating as a deeper strata of the trump. It was poignant in its timely expression
In-it-I-ates were actually ate in it, although they would not realize this until exiting. A second tunnel led off from the interactive chambers, and this began to move around as they crawled through it, the direction of their path in flux inspired by the concept that the Tunnels on the nightside of the Tree have no stable system of inter-relation as the paths on the dayside, but are a shifting scape of crisscrossing labyrinthine potentials.
We carried the heads of the tunnels -which were actually great serpents- around in the manner of Chinese dragons. Eventually in-it-I-ates after following each shifting twist and turn emerged through the jaws of the serpent. These heads were constructed from a conglomeration of different bones, horns and wings, creating draconian apparitions of hybrid form. One was made partially from the skull of a camel, and this of course was used for exiting the tunnel of Gargophias, the nightside reflex of Gimel, the Priestess.
In-it-I-ates were ejected via these dragon jaws back into the main circle, landing before the Wheel that they had spun to begin the journey (to the surprise and often subsequent trepidation of those assembled awaiting their own turns).
The roof of this main arena was in the form of a ten-pointed star, woven from rope above people's heads, representive of Malkuth and the ten sephiroth it contains; with the tunnels branching off from its peripheries between the points. The star was created by weaving rope around the midpoints of ten tall bamboo poles, each with a flag atop it fluttering in the breeze.
Those who spun the tunnel of Yamatu (reflex of Yod/The Hermit) were told they were 'on their own' for that one, and they were greeted only by an empty chamber, but while in the tunnels they were followed by Sha on the outside whispering strange paranoid poetry; the idea being for in-it-I-ates to be unsure (especially likely if they were tripping) of whether the voices were actually external or in their own heads, and to question whether one can ever truly be 'alone'?
Those spinning the path of Gargophias/Gimel would be mirrored by The Priestess upon entrance into her chamber. As she did with Evan in the play, Hiedi would mirror-dance their movements through a gateway frame, a suggestion or mimickry of Holy Guardian Angel contact.
The mirror-world nature of the Nightside of the Tree in general was particularly exemplified in the experiences of someone who spun the Emperor card (amusingly his partner who embarked just before him spun the Empress card). As with quite a few of the people going through the tunnels, he seemed to be on drugs (it being a festival) -ecstasy I think- and was both wide open and easily disorientated. I sent him off up the tunnel of Tzuflifu as Evan dressed to meet him at the other end. Evan's spontaneous performance as the Emperor involved reflective phrases and suggestions of himself as a psychic mirror for the journeyer.
He came back the next day on his way out from the festival to express his gratitude for our work and share his experiences: After some rapid crawling he had emerged into a chamber behind the Tree Machine. He looked up at it and thought that he had returned to the central space where his journey had begun, that we had cleared the area and turned the machine around so that all the sephiroth wheels were reversed! Then Evan appeared and unwittingly started babbling to him about mirrors. It was only on the next day that the addled in-it-I-ate worked out what had actually happened.
We were playing our 'Labyrinth' and new 'Choronzon Machine' CDs a lot in the space we had created, and these often synchronized well with people's journeys, both CDs containing many tarot-related songs. At other times Evan's new band 'The Forgotten Ones' were jamming, and the eerie atmospheres and soundscapes they crafted often seemed to time well with what we were doing. A few excellent jam sessions occurred, some with the addition of myself, Amordios and Kara whom I hadn't played music with for many years. This spontaneous music and the interactive improvisational ritual theatre were a great relief to me after the many moons of more structured and rehearsed work in preparation of the Choronzon Machine Opera.
Our (members of Metamorphic Ritual Theatre) own explorations of the tunnels were considerable. Although we didn't all spin the wheel and do the journey as presented to the punters (although those who did had interesting episodes therein), each of us seemed to experience the magick of the Nightside of the Tree to some degree during the period -in our further work with electric bondage (including exploration of the erotic potentials therein), our initiations of others and in our inter-relations within the group.
Missions out of our space seemed like expeditions into another world entirely to me. One night I venture out onto the main Exodus dancefloor in the seven-headed (with snapping jaws) Choronzon costume (left) Amordios had made me. This was lots of fun!
Evan was sleeping in a tent just behind the main arena and found the space during sleep, waking and the netherworld betwixt to be charged with numerous strange phantasms.
My own dreams sleeping on the peripheries of the space, especially when packing up after the festival was over, were replete with mirror-phenomena and a feeling of the fey dimensions of the nightside.
Earthing the Tunnels was a strange trip, they being traditionally the epitome of non-corporeal ether-worlds through/beyond the Abyss, so it was good to feel our manifestations thereof then re-reflect back into our dreaming.
Creating physical analogues for these astral pathways was strange, but seemed a most tangible way for introducing their netherworld reality to those who may otherwise be locked in the mundane, via substantiation as a potential gateway.
I was reminded also of the Jewish concept of Daath being the hole left when Malkuth 'fell'. To then manifest/earth the new astral phenomena which begins to proliferate in this void ('nature abhors a vacuum') is perhaps a continuation of this process and allows the counterpoint of our 'ascendance' back to the top of the Tree, or perhaps more accurately the realization that we never left, that 'matter' and 'spirit' are intrinsically entwined anyway, and 'The Fall' is more a (reversible) shift of perspective brought about by the fundamental Christian patriarchy than an event.
Magicko-philosophical ruminations aside, we certainly had a lot of fun with the Tunnels of Set project at Exodus, especially with our spectacular finale de-construction performance. The entire system we had established with the Choronzon Machine ritual opera and subsequent elaborations was collapsed and banished along with the physical structures which housed them. We had to pack up anyway, so we thought we may as well have some fun with it!:
We performed the Tower/Hierophant scene again, extended into a performance in itself summarizing the Fool's journey as expressed in the Opera. Each card was explained progressively as we made the House of Cards from the now rather weathered large cardboard trumps, while Evan as Marduk the solar hero sliced each off the lemniscate floor pattern they had been laid out in.
I threw in references to the Tower of Babel, relating the structure we were building to the order of civilization, including the structured system of the Tarot as the paths of The Tree of Life which we were demonstrating.
To demonstrate the hierarchy which was established with the Tower of Babel I demanded that the jackals do all the work constructing the tower, as I was busy telling the congregation what it all meant. Then our language broke down, I began to bibble babble bible 025G4 babel bile bglblug yyg gglosssalia at the audience.
Evan joined in with this, including lines like, 'ddfeiv vttesg legi bukkbag steak diane minimum chips.'
After introducing my own card The Hierophant as a 'bastion of Order and systemized knowledge', a Jackal once again brought in the opposing Blasted Tower card as the symbol of, 'Chaos and unexpected change.'
When we were about to put the Blasted Tower card atop the house of cards, the audience were warned to get back. Most did so on my insistence but laughed at the idea of the pile of cardboard being so dangerous. Those who refused to move were politely informed that Metamorphic Ritual Theatre held no liability for any damages incurred...
With trembles of anticipation the card went on top, but the Tower did not collapse. No thunder and lightning this time despite my most ardent pleas to the heavens - just a stable construction, an ordered map of the cosmos. 'But there must be chaos and unexpected change -the Blasted Tower is a part of the established order of this tarot system!' I insisted to no avail -The house of cards stood fast.
Then a small titanium explosion (courtesy of Robin
from Mutoid Waste Co.) went off in the circuitry of
the big towering Tree of Life Choronzon Machine at the
back of our set. It began to spark and shudder. Those few who had refused to move back got up rather quickly now and got out of the way.
An Angel Cometh Down with a great chainsaw and sawed through one of the main support pillars (the right one I think) and the whole thing came crashing down, melodramatically slowly, with Amordios riding the back of it throwing off wheels; taking the little house of cards (the paths) down with it!
The ruins of the Machine became akin to a ship as we leapt unto its fallen back, bouncing and rattling it up and down on the Ten-Star rope web, which caused the masts around its periphery to sway and creak. The great horned Minotaur head which had been at its loftiest peak was now like a figurehead. Only the Wheel of Fate had remained vertical, sticking up through the 'hull' so that we could navigate this strange vessel upon the seas of Chaos...
The Tower is Blasted, the illusion is shattered, the map burned.
Choronzon Machine is destroyed and Naught Remains.
...(may it ever recur...) ... ...
The CHORONZON MACHINE Ritual Opera images, lyrics etc.from the original Melbourne production.
Text and Images (c)2002 Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule. Music and lyrics to 'Naught Remains' audio track (c)2002 Kestral. (Performed by The HarleQuintet: Vocals and guitar by Kestral, bass by Evan Flux, violin by Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule.)
ANANDAZONE -Website with more about the Nightside of the Tree and The Tunnels of Set, including The Shadow Tarot
MUTATION PARLOUR Homepage