Confessions of a tired former chorister

When last I sang in an Episcopal church choir, I wore a black ankle-length cassock that buttoned all the way down the front. I took pride in buttoning it all the way up to my chin. Over it, I wore a surplice, a loose long-sleeved white garment with a square yoke. I always paused in front of the full-length mirror on the back of the cellar door and made sure it was hanging just so over my shoulders.

Except in the hottest weather, I usually wore that over all my clothes, top and bottom, or a dress. Toward the end of the choir season, in late May and early June, I often wore a top I could remove easily, so I could wear the cassock over just my bra. For a long time the choir had hideous orange-red cassocks made of some horrid polyester blend; the lining of mine would stick so closely to my skin in hot weather that taking it off sometimes felt like peeling away the skin with it. They were eventually replaced with a light-weight wool blend that was much more breathable as well as more dignified.

What the choristers wore was nothing, however, compared to what the celebrant wore. From the outside in, he was garbed every week in silk damask chasuble, stole around the neck, maniple around the wrist, rope cincture around the waist, alb (white robe), amice (detachable collar of white robe), cassock, clerical shirt, trousers, and whatever underthings he was accustomed to. (I make no assumptions.) I wonder that he did not simply pass out from the heat. Occasionally someone did pass out, either in the congregation, or amongst the numerous acolytes. An Anglo-Catholic Episcopal church can put on quite a show.

All of this may explain why I’m actually very informal, these days, about ritual. I’m still just a bit burned out after all those years of cassocks and chasubles, Gregorian chant and incense, more people sometimes milling about the chancel than were sitting in the pews. Except for really important feasts of Antinous, I am mostly content to make simple offerings and address the gods off the cuff, not casually, just not reading written words or reciting a memorized form. There are plenty of holy days that do have some ritual texts and I happily use them; I’m also, as my readers know, constantly writing texts for ritual and devotional use. But a bigger holy day just means more offerings, more formal prayers, more prayers overall; it doesn’t, for me, mean dressing up, doing anything special with my space, or anything involving what a friend of mine calls “high protocol”.

I admire and perhaps envy people who are doing religio Romana with all the correct ritual protocol and gestures, in Latin, and people who can cast an effective circle in a few words, and especially people who have enough physical space in their homes to have a separate room for spiritual and magical work, or even just for multiple shrines instead of one big one. That’s just not me, right now. I figure if the gods want fancier ritual from me, they can give me a bigger space to do it in.

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4 thoughts on “Confessions of a tired former chorister

  1. I’m with you on this…

    I try to maintain an atmosphere of “formal informal” in my rituals involving others. I was told by an Australian Wiccan that my second Foundation Day ritual (in 2003) was the most formal ritual she’d ever been to, and yet about 80% of it was improvised and made on the fly…some of the forms have become more established since then (it was the first time I invoked the Obelisk of Antinous, for example), but anyway…

    There are real liturgical queens out there (*ahem Michael Sebastian Lvx ahem*) who love the liturgical drag…I go back-and-forth on that. I do like dressing up, and I do like clothes that feel special and suited to particular occasions, activities, or events. But most of the time? I only really wear special things for PantheaCon and (possibly) Foundation Day with any regularity. I have a stole, and some arm cuffs I wear, for pretty much most major ritual events (involving others), but beyond that, not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love me my liturgical drag. In fact, I just commissioned a friend of mine to make me damask apparels for my alb and a new stole.

      Like

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