Do I control the puppet or does the puppet control itself?
Last week I received a question from one of our new puppetry students in India. She asked:
“I just watched the Introduction - What is a puppet?
Here, you mention that "there comes a time where you have to let go control of the puppet” - Could you explain this further- I believe as a controller, we do have control over the puppet's movement."
"So the world of of paper, this magical, mystical world takes us back to the real roots of puppetry, the beginning of people using puppets - the shamanistic function, where the high priest or shaman used to manipulate an idol or a puppet and make it come alive for the audience, for the followers. bringing the ancestral spirits to life so that people can empathise, can believe. And can breathe with the character.
For me letting go of control is a type of meditation and also for the puppeteer to believe enough in the ‘material’ (the puppet) to let go control and TRUST that the ‘material’ will guide the puppeteer and revert to the “Magic” function of the puppet to become liberated from the puppeteer. It’s a philosophy you could delve more into, if you like, but for me, this is a very important spiritual part of the role of the puppeteer!
'Puppetry has been an ancient form of storytelling and entertainment for centuries. It involves the use of puppets to convey a narrative or message, and it requires a puppeteer to manipulate the movements and expressions of the puppet. However, beyond its entertainment value, puppetry also has spiritual and shamanistic functions.
In many shamanistic cultures, the puppeteer is seen as a mediator between the physical and spiritual realms. The puppet is viewed as a vessel through which spirits can communicate with the living. The puppeteer's role is to give control over to the puppet, allowing the spirit to animate it and convey its message to the audience.
This spiritual function of puppetry can be seen in various cultural traditions worldwide. For example, in Bali, Indonesia, puppetry is an integral part of the Balinese Hindu religion. The Wayang Kulit, or Javanese shadow puppetry, is a traditional form of puppetry that is used in religious ceremonies and performances. The puppeteer, or Dalang, is seen as a spiritual leader and mediator between the gods and the people.
Similarly, in Native American culture, puppetry is used in healing ceremonies and rituals. The puppeteer creates a puppet that represents the illness or ailment that the patient is suffering from. The puppet is then manipulated in a way that mimics the symptoms of the illness. By giving control over to the puppet, the shaman is able to communicate with the spirit of the illness and offer a healing solution.
In some African cultures, puppets are used to communicate with ancestral spirits. The puppeteer creates a puppet that represents the spirit and allows it to take control. Through the puppet, the spirit is able to communicate with the living and offer guidance and advice.
The act of giving control over to the puppet is a powerful one. It requires the puppeteer to let go of their ego and allow the puppet to become the vessel for something greater. This act of surrender is seen as a form of spiritual practice that allows the puppeteer to connect with something greater than themselves.
In conclusion, puppetry has many functions beyond its entertainment value. In shamanistic cultures, the puppeteer is seen as a mediator between the physical and spiritual realms, and the puppet is viewed as a vessel for spirits to communicate with the living. By giving control over to the puppet, the puppeteer is able to connect with something greater than themselves and offer a powerful form of spiritual practice.'