RE-ENCHANTING THE FOREST: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World by William Ayot
There’s an art to self-revelation – a fine line to walk. Too much, or wrongly put and it’s a massive turn-off. But just enough, straight from the heart, and it’s like clear water for the soul, however anguished the story.
It’s the latter sort of self-revelation you find in William Ayot’s new book, Re-Enchanting the Forest. You learn as much about him as I would imagine any lover or confidante would learn. He really does bare his soul, but it feels like a privilege to walk alongside him as he talks about his discovery of the value and power of ritual, weaving in discussions of our need for the rediscovery of its sacredness and its psychological necessity with vignettes from his own life – woundings and revelations that transformed him, that made him who he is today.
He looks at our need for ritual to mark our rites of passage, to mark moments such as separation and divorce, to grieve those we have lost, to celebrate the seasons or our coming into elderhood. And as he does this, William offers his insights into the practicalities of ritual – the way one can make offerings, smudge a circle, call on the ancestors.
William has worked in the theatre, written plays, and has been involved for years in the men’s work that began life with the insights of Robert Bly, so he brings with him an understanding of the magical potential of performance, as well as the necessity for authenticity that men’s work evokes. Re-Enchanting the Forest has an inspiring foreword by Mark Rylance, who writes that such is the importance to his life of ritual that he has marked the eight solar and lunar festivals of the year with friends for the last twenty-five years – in itself a fascinating insight into the life of one of our finest actors, which reinforces the point William makes that ritual can provide stability and connection with the past and with tradition. And yet it also holds a contrary potential too – the power to disrupt the status quo of the psyche or of a society. As Rylance points out: ‘William Ayot revives here the potent and ancient role of ritual as anything but meaningless routine to keep the powerful in power. Quite the contrary.’
Ritual as a means to alter the way power flows in the psyche and in the world, ritual as healing, ritual as a means for self-discovery and for going beyond the self into a wider and deeper sense of awareness, this is what Re-Enchanting the Forest is all about. It’s powerful, soul-nurturing stuff.
I have read this book and loved it. I can’t add anything more to Philip’s review except that all men who have an ounce of empathy in them should read it.