When it comes to ritual, whether or not a group uses scripts radically informs how the process works. In terms of picking a group to join, aside from geography I think this is one of the most important issues to consider. Groups that favour scripts are also more likely to favour robes or other pre-agreed dress, whereas groups who favour improvising are likely to have a looser stance across the board.
The advantage of a script is that everyone knows what they are supposed to do and when. For someone new to ritual, this can be very reassuring. It also makes the ritual easier to run – once the scripts are distributed, off you go. Stick to the script and all will be well. As running a group is a scary thing to dive into, having a script means setting up a new ritual group isn’t as intimidating. Imagine going into a circle with a bunch of strangers and no clear plan…. (I have, it is intimidating, but I loved it.)
It’s not even necessary to create a script – there are plenty out there, especially OBOD derived ones. Again this gives the reassurance of doing the right thing, the comfort of framework, the ease of being able to move between different groups and still know how things are going to work.
Those of you who frequent my blogs will know that ‘ease’ ‘comfort’ and ‘reassurance’ are not things I tend to advocate. Fine if that’s what you want, but it isn’t for me. In the case of scripting, here are my issues.
1) A scripted ritual cannot respond to circumstances as you find them on the day – weather, mood, recent news, unexpected inspirations. Consequently a scripted ritual can turn out to be totally inappropriate and there’s no fixing it as you go.
2) Scripts are handed out, roles allotted. This means someone is very much in charge, picks who will speak and puts words in their mouth. Not very egalitarian. It means new folk are less likely to find an active role, in open rituals.
3) There is no scope for bringing creativity to your role in ritual. Words in ritual can be pure poetry, they can be your bardic expression, your moment of connection with the awen. Improvising draws on bardic skills and allows participants to respond to each other. Scripts keep you locked into a plan.
4) Using a script defines a form for the ritual to take, and assumes that the ritual forms we have are optimal. I think every group is different, and that in ditching the script you have more room to find out what works for you, to craft ritual forms specific to place, time and people as well as finding your own words.
5) You can get a script ‘wrong’ – muff lines, throw other people out. You may find it hard to read, especially in poor light or rain. As with a stage play, if someone lands on the wrong page, it can all go to pot. As everyone else can see the script, a person who muffs their lines is going to be totally obvious and potentially a lot more uncomfortable.
6) Scripts assume good literacy skills, and being able to see. This will not necessarily be true of everyone. They also focus the ritual on verbal content, narrowing options and risking reduced opportunities for folk who are not verbal in their expression of Druidry.
I’d advocate trying it both ways, and seeing what works. Letting go of the script safety net can be scary, but it is liberating. I think the Druidry that comes from free flowing inspiration is wilder, and a lot richer, in so many ways. I appreciate it might not be for everyone, but you won’t know until you try!