Unconventional. I hear this term a lot from folks when there is discussion of one’s Pagan practices. Typically, its aimed at me. I admit it, I’m unconventional when it comes to my Spirituality. I can typically be found bending and twisting aspects of ritual and practice. Unlike many Pagans I have encountered, I do not practice magickal workings or spells all that often. Many of my personal rituals are done off-the-cuff with only a slight tip-of-the-hat to a structure of some sort. I am very accepting of the term “unconventional” when applied as a description of me.
First, the Basics…
From my perspective, you cannot bend or twist the structure of anything – ritual, spell, magickal working, offerings…even programming code, to go somewhere mundane….without knowing the basics of why things are done that way. If you start changing things just for the sake of changing things – you’re likely to find yourself in some trouble at the worst, or having things not work at all at the best. Once you have a better understanding of why this or the reasoning for that, you can start going garanimal with altering things.
…Only Then Should You Experiment
To be frankly open and honest, I really did not start changing the basic aspects of the ritual aspects taught by OBOD until two years ago. I had been using the same basic ritual framework of OBOD for nearly seven years at that point. It was only then that I felt comfortable enough to start playing the substitution game with that aspect of my Spiritual life. And its not all been honey and graham crackers, that’s for sure. Some changes were excellent matches for what I wanted to do. Others were complete duds, with no spark showing for what I was trying for. Others…well, I can call some of those changes to be “works-in-progress”. Some were made for cosmetic reasons or for dramatic flair. Dramatic flair for who? Why me, of course. I practice most of my Druidry solo, so many of the ritual changes that I make are for me.
What Else is Different?
Well, most Pagans that I have encountered have an altar somewhere in their home. usually in a private place, and they spend parts of their days at it…in prayer, meditation, doing magick work, casting spells, what have you… Me? No altar. I had one way back in the day, back when I was trying a Wiccan Path. Not only did the Wiccan Path not fit me very well, but neither did the idea of having an altar – even for my ancestors. What did manage to sit a little better in my life is my rock circle in the backyard. Over the last decade, I have always had a circle of rocks in the backyard. The circle provides my focus, particularly when making offerings to Crow, Coyote or Abnoba. It is also where I celebrate the lives of those who passed beyond the veil that I consider to be close in my life. And when I do have the need to cast a spell or work some magick (which happens about twice a year, max), the stone circle is where I typically find myself – no matter the weather. The stones that comprise the circle have come from various places that I have traveled – mountains, beaches, forests…and each stone has personal meaning for me. So, in a manner of speaking, it serves as my altar.
Why Be Different?
Well, its not so much a manner of being different, as much as it is a way of molding a practice into something that is more personal to me. I know folks who would see my screwing around with ritual frameworks and the such as blasphemy (of a sort). And I completely grok where they are coming from. If I were into being a pure fundamentalist of my Path, I would be upset when others make changes as well. However, I point back to learning the basics first. I’m not talking about making it something you can repeat from rote habit. I’m talking about digging far deeper…understanding it beyond the level of just being able to repeat what you’re saying or go through the motions of the ritual. I’m talking about really being able to feel it in your bones, down in your soul, deep-down to where each aspect holds deep, binding feeling for you. Why be different? Because you want to reach even deeper, explore beyond, find the way that it feeds into the marrow of who you are. But the basics first….
Put a Wrapper On It
For me, exploring Spirituality is like playing extemporaneous Jazz. First off, not everyone is going to like what you play. Second, before you start trying to find the soul of the chords you play, you have to know the basics of the chords first. Otherwise, you won’t be able to find the baseline of what you are trying to riff on, it won’t sound pleasant to your ear, and it will make even less sense to you than before. In fact, it may frustrate you even more than when you started. So you gotta start at the beginning, learn the basics, master the basics, and then you can reach into that unknown territory….and really find something that is extraordinarily special to you.