Ritual Drama for Rhiannon

I just love ritual dramas. Without over much effort, I find that they are capable of raising great energy to honour our Gods and Goddesses. The key is to keep them simple — no more than 3 or 4 parts, keep the dialogue to a minimum so that people don’t need to memorize too much, and stick to the main elements of the myth; having a good narrative flow means that actors don’t need to know every word… as long as they know the story and their part in it, they can ad-lib freely and the story still unfolds as it should. I have found that having a narrator role helps a lot to describe scenes that are difficult to act, and to fill in details such as time and locations changes.

Our Grove performed this at Samhain this year, but it could be suitable for any High Day. We had only two props; a foam toy sword, and a large futon cover that worked well as Pwyll’s bag. Wooden hobby horses would have been nice but we got along find without them.

Rhiannon and Pwyll

Roles

Narrator
Pwyll
Knight
Gwawl
Rhiannon

ACT I

Narrator steps forth, saying:

“Upon a time there was a king in Wales,
and Pwyll was his name. One day,
he came to his castle at Narberth, and there
had a great feast with his men.

After this feast, they all went for a walk
to see the land until they arrived at a tall hill…”

Pwyll and knight walk forth.

Pwyll:

“What is yonder hill?”

Knight:

“That is called Gorsedd Arberth.
It is said that if a man should stand upon it,
he shall either receive a great wound,
or else see a wonder.”

Pwyll:

“Hm! I fear no wounds with all of my knights here present.
However, I would gladly see a wonder. Therefore
I shall go forth to the top of the hill.”

Pwyll climbs the ‘hill’.

Rhiannon enters, riding slowly by.

Pwyll:

“My men! Is there any among you who knows
yonder lady?”

Knight:

“There is not, Lord.”

Pwyll:

“Go run after her, and meet her,
that we may know who she is!”

Knight runs comically fast, while Rhiannon rides away.

Knight returns, saying:

“Lord, it is idle for anyone in the world to follow her on foot”

Pwyll:

“You speak the truth.
Let us return to the palace, and upon the morrow
we shall return with a horse of our own to try to find her.”

Pwyll and knight exeunt.

Narrator:

“The next day, Pwyll again sat to feast with his men,
and when they finished, they returned to the Gorsedd Arberth.”

Pwyll and knight walk forth.

Pwyll:

“You wait here with the horse while I climb the hill
to see if I can spy the maiden.”

As Pwyll climbs, Rhiannon enters, riding slowly by.

Pwyll:

“Behold! Here is the lady of yesterday!
Ride forth and learn who she is!”

Knight:

“This I will gladly do!”

The Knight mounts and chases as Rhiannon rides by.

Narrator:

“It seemed to Pwyll’s knight that his horse would
surely catch up to the lady’s within a few short paces,
but it was naught to be, and the lady drew further
and further away, until his horse was exhausted,
and he returned to Pwyll in defeat.”

Pwyll:

“I see that it avails not that anyone else should follow her.
Let us return to the castle. Tomorrow I shall ride
after her myself.”

Pwyll and knight exeunt.

Narrator:

“The third day, Pwyll once again sat to feast with his men,
and once again when they finished,
they returned to the Gorsedd Arberth, this time with
Pwyll’s own horse.”

Pwyll and knight walk forth.

Pwyll:

“Saddle my horse well, while I climb the hill
to see if I can spy the maiden.”

As Pwyll climbs, Rhiannon enters, riding slowly by.

Pwyll:

“I see the lady coming, give me my horse!”

Pwyll mounts and chases as Rhiannon rides by.

Narrator:

“It seemed to Pwyll that his horse would
surely catch up to the lady’s within a few short paces,
but it was naught to be, and the lady drew further
and further away…..”

Pwyll:

“Oh maiden! Stay with me!”

Rhiannon stops and says:

“I will gladly.
And it would have been better for your horse
had you asked me sooner.”

Pwyll:

“My lady, what is your errand?”

Rhiannon:

“My errand is my own.”

Pwyll:

“Will you not tell me aught of your purpose?”

Rhiannon:

“I will tell you, that my chief purpose is to seek you.”

Pwyll:

“This seems a wonderful purpose to me.
Will you tell me who you are?”

Rhiannon:

“I am Rhiannon.
My father seeks to give me away against my will,
But no husband shall I have but you,
unless you reject me.”

Pwyll:

“If I had all the ladies of the world to choose from,
I would choose thee!”

Rhiannon:

“If your words are true,
meet me this day twelvemonth hence
at the castle of my father,
and I shall have a feast prepared for you.”

Pwyll:

“This I shall surely do!”

Rhiannon:

“Be mindful to keep thy promise!”

ACT II

Narrator steps forth, saying:

“On that day a year later, Pwyll
arrived at the hall of Rhiannon’s father
and there was much rejoicing!”

Rhiannon:

“My lord, you have come!”

Pwyll:

“I would never miss my own wedding feast!!”

Narrator:

“And indeed and a great banquet had been
prepared for Pwyll and his men,
of all manner of delights — pheasant and
venison and succulent roast boar,
and great flagons of mead
and in joy they all sat down to feast…

Gwawl enters:

“My lord.”

Pwyll:

“Greetings, sir. Won’t you join our feast?”

Gwawl:

“I shall not, as I have an errand which is to ask of you a boon.”

Pwyll:

“Whatever boon you ask of me,
so long as it is in my power to grant it, I shall.”

Gwawl:

“You have given your word before
all of these gathered nobles.
Here then is the boon I ask, that you
give me the hand of Rhiannon to be my bride,
and this wedding feast.”

Rhiannon to Pwyll:

“Never did a man make so little use of his
wits than you have just done.
Behold this is Gwawl, the man that my father
would give me away to against my will.”

Pwyll:

“Lady, I did not know who he was!”

Rhiannon:

“Never mind, you must now give me away
to him, since you gave your word before all.”

Pwyll:

“I cannot do so!”

Rhiannon:

“You must, but first, take this bag, and then…”

Rhiannon leans over and whispers to Pwyll.

Gwawl:

“Lord, it is fitting that I have an answer.”

Pwyll:

“As much as your request is in my power to give,
you shall have it.”

Rhiannon:

“You may have me, as I am within my lord’s power to give,
but as to this feast I have prepared it for him and his men,
and I will not suffer it to be given away.

Return here twelvemonth today and I shall
prepare a feast for you, that I may become your bride.”

Gwawl:

“In one year, then, my fiance.”

ACT III

Narrator steps forth, saying:

“On that day a year later, Gwawl
returned to Rhiannon’s palace, and there
was laid out for him a great feast
as had been promised.”

Gwawl:

“This is good food!”

Pwyll enters in the disguise of a beggar.

Gwawl:

“Greetings, sir. Won’t you join our feast?”

Pwyll:

“I shall not, as I have an errand which is to ask of you a boon.”

Gwawl:

“Whatever boon you ask of me,
as long as it is just, you shall have it.”

Pwyll:

“The boon that I ask is simply that I may have
my bag filled with some food from your feast.”

Gwawl:

“This is a just request and you shall have it.”

Gwawl acts as if putting food into the bag.

Narrator:

“Gwawl continued to stuff food into
the beggar’s bag, turkey legs and
mashed turnips, and pheasants,
and venison ribs, and loaves of bread,
but no matter how much food he
put in, the bag was never full.”

Gwawl:

“By the Gods, will your bag never be full?”

Pwyll:

“It will not, unless a noble man of great wealth
should get in with both feet and stomp
the food down, and pronounce ‘that is enough’.”

Gwawl:

“Very well, put your bag down and let us
get this over with.”

Pwyll puts the bag on the ground and Gwawl steps
into it. When he does, Pwyll pull the bag up over Gwawl’s head.

Pwyll:

“Knights! Come quick!”

Knight enters:

“Yes, my lord?”

Pwyll:

“Come! Let us play a game of Badger in the Bag!”

Knight enters:

“Yes indeed, I love playing Badger in the Bag!”

Knight begins to hit the bag with his sword.

Gwawl:

“Hark! I do not deserve to be slain in a bag!”

Rhiannon:

“My lord, he speaks the truth.
But you are now in a position to make demands of him,
so demand that he renounce his claim upon me,
and seek no revenge against you, in exchange for his life.”

Gwawl:

“This I will gladly agree to.”

Pwyll:

“Then I shall accept it.”

Pwyll releases Gwawl from the bag. Gwawl exits.

Narrator:

“And so it was that Rhiannon outwitted
her unwanted suitor. And soon thereafter she and Pwyll
were married amidst the great feast and rejoicing.

However, they did not exactly live happily ever after,
but that is another story.”

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