Saturnalia was a Roman festival involving presents, revelry, and a little bit of bad behaviour. First there was a radical reversal of the established social order, when for a brief period of time slaves would become masters, and masters would become slaves. Another cool aspect of the celebration involved a statue of Saturn, bound in straps -symbolizing the restrictions, responsibilities and limits of our lives. At the festival, these strictures were untied as revellers lightened their load, danced and rejoiced. After the festival of debauchery and hi-jinks, everything would revert to normal social order. From all appearances, people had resumed their regular roles and responsibilities. But after letting off steam, they now did so with greater ease and freedom. Spirits were lifted; folks were kinder, jollier, more tolerant towards each other. Clearly the ritual had magic in it.
This ritual, of my own creation, was inspired by Carolyn Casey’s description of Saturnalia in her book Making the Gods Work For You. It was originally performed in my living room, but you can do it anywhere. Saturnalia originally began on December 17 through December 23, but I think you can do it anytime you want to: be free of restrictions, fear, or move into a more peaceful relationship with that which you must do.
Do it when:
-You feel burdened by your obligations and responsibility to others.
-You feel limitation, lack, fearful, anxious, worried.
-You’ve been too “good” or too “strong” for too long.
-You’ve been denying yourself anything – especially pleasure and joy.
-You feel enslaved, under someone’s thumb, and/or need your authority back (note: the root word of authority is ‘author’, as in being the author of your own life and choices).
In preparation, ask:
What fears and anxieties are keeping me enslaved?
What responsibilities are bringing me down?
Am I blaming other people and their situations for my problems?
The ritual: Get a string and tie it around your belly- the string representing the burdens, responsibilities restrictions, limitations that tie you up in life and are currently weighing you down. Then do as the Romans did: untie it. Afterwards, feast. Dance around the room and make faces. Jump up and down. Listen to music. If you can get your partner to play with you, even more power to you. Raise some hell.
After you’ve sufficiently loosened up and laughed, willingly step back into the commitments you’ve consciously chosen. Vow to take on future commitments more consciously. Vow to see the emptiness of fear; fear can only have a grip on you when you believe what it tells you.
Choose to leave behind any unfulfilling authority stealers. These can be fears, like the fear that something or someone in your life has the capacity to annihilate or destroy you, when the spiritual truth is: your light can never, ever, be harmed. These can be behaviors, like approval-seeking. Or instances when you’ve violated your integrity by neglecting to tell another person when they’ve trespassed your boundary, or you’ve failed to act on that knowledge yourself.
Then, take a deep breath. Inhale back your authority. Feel the integrity of this act.
image: Twelfth Night