…and they traveled along the King’s road for seventeen uneventful nights, until…
I remember reading lines like these in fantasy adventure stories. Seemingly, these were the “boring” parts. Where the story’s characters went about the task of traveling from one location to another, doing the mundane things that travelers would do: walking, riding, stopping to eat, and talking. Especially the talking part – it would seem this would be a great place to add details to the back-story of the entire plot.
Curiously enough, this can also be correlated into one’s everyday practice of their Spiritual Path. You know, the ordinary, mundane stuff that no one really wants to talk about. The stuff that doesn’t have a sexy ritual or meditation attached to it. The stuff that can – and typically is – done on your own, with no audience there to watch and verify what you did. Just the everyday stuff. The lighting of candles and making offerings to the Gods and Ancestors, neither of whom seem to really ever “be there” during those times. You know…because the Gods have to do laundry too.
Sometimes, the mundane stuff involves just sitting down and talking too. In fact, I have always found that the sitting down and talking stuff is the starting point for a lot of stuff. Consider this, before Bilbo Baggins started out on his trek to the Lonely Mountain with the dwarven company, they all sat down for a dinner and discussed everything. Certainly, it wasn’t a dinner and discussion that Bilbo was expecting to happen, but it did happen. And only after the particulars were discussed, did the company begin its trek to the Lonely Mountain.
I have found the same happens before anything important gets underway. An idea is formed by a few folks, and those folks think of others that might be appropriate to include in the plans. They get together and have a discussion of the idea, and if possible, how to achieve the idea. After that discussion, some side discussions can be made to determine if various aspects can be accomplished. Once those plans are in place, agreed upon, and the setup completed – the idea is set into motion.
All of that certainly sounds like good storytelling, at least to me. There’s a lot of back-story that can be filled in, a lot of plans and ancillary planning to be made. All of that leads to a commitment, not be a few, but by the group as a whole. And like any battle plan drawn up, it will last just past the first contact with the substance of the plan. What follows is not easy to plan for, and usually takes place as off-the-cuff, spur-of-the-moment actions.
Is there a God or Goddess involved? Did They show up? If They didn’t, who did? What if No One showed up? Were you planning on Anyone showing up? Did the candle not stay lit? Did the incense turn out to be the wrong kind? No fresh water to use? Will a cola suffice instead? What about whiskey? A member of the group didn’t show up? Who handles that part? What were they bringing that now is not there? Can we deal with a tarp for an altar cloth? Do we really need an altar cloth? Its raining, do we still hold things outdoors? …and that’s just thinking aloud about ritual issues. When working with a group, there are so many more moving parts to consider, even if all you are doing is creating a study group.
I like to refer to stuff like this as Pagan Project Management. It can be chaotic, but sometimes it creates the most fun-filled moments, which develop into some of the stronger group building concepts around. Lots of folks lament the concept of “Pagan Standard Time”, but I don’t. If things start late, they start late. Unless we are performing a ceremonial rite that needs to be done at a specific time – everything is going to be ok. Have some fucking patience. Go to the water closet (bathroom) if you need to. Things will get going soon enough. Want to break up the moment a little? Remember, getting to the battle is part of the story too.
If you happen to show up late to the event – the car had a flat tire, the cat had an anxiety attack when you were leaving the house, the toddler was warming up the BBQ for the family dog – whatever the case might have been, don’t expect to be entered into the ritual when you get there. In fact, be prepared to be on the outside of the ritual the entire time. It will be ok. Loki is going to understand. Pan is not going to lift a leg and pee on you like a dog whizzes on a tree. Take your part as an outside observer, and leave the house a little sooner the next time. If you happen to show early, lend a hand. Move chairs, help with setup. Lift a hand. Be a part of the road crew.
See, the story of the moment has many moving parts, and many roles. Join in. All of that stuff before and after can be just as much fun – if not more – than the main ritual. Sure, the folks performing the ritual will get the rock-star moment…after all, they provided the theatrics…but the road crew deserves some of the accolades too. Even if they are a quiet, behind-the-scenes group of folks.
What does it mean to travel those seventeen days from one dramatic moment in the story to another? Well, it won’t make the most exciting reading, but those moments are the ones that forge characters together into a cohesive group. So before you poo-poo that part of the story, just remember all the moving parts that got Bilbo, the dwarves and Gandalf to where they wound up. Remember, before reaching the Gates of the Mines of Moria, Bill the pony and his cadre of ponies and horses helped to get the Fellowship into place for that ill-fated moment. Before the group gets started, before the ritual is conceived in principle – there was all the planning, all the organizing, all the gathering of the materials to get there. All those moving parts need to be considered as well.