Music is something that is normally present in my life. When I am driving long distances, I prefer to have music playing – instead of conversation, if someone is riding with me. When I write, I always have music playing to help put me in the mood to write. As an aside, I currently have The Eagles’ “The Last Resort” from their “Hell Freezes Over” album playing at this moment. When people find out that I am a Pagan, they think that I will have Wendy Rule (awesome), Damh the Bard, Spiral Dance, or some other Pagan musician playing over my speakers constantly. Truth be told, I have material from those artists and quite a few others – but usually my speakers have something a touch more mainstream on. That usually disappoints some folks, as it seems that some folks think that being a Spiritually-oriented person – be it Pagan, Christian, or otherwise – means that you are just that every waking moment of your life (and you are – just not the way they mean it).
I’m sure that there are people out there that are like that…except that I am not one of them. My Pagan beliefs are a part of who I am. I can’t shake that whenever I want. Twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year….that’s what I am. A Pagan. However, being a Pagan doesn’t mean that I chew on my Druidry every moment of my day. I don’t have Damh the Bard on solid rotation on my music play-list every single day. My Paganism, and my Druidry, casts a wider net than that.
When I started down my own path in the Christian faith, I saw a lot of this in the southern Baptist perspective. See, I grew up in a non-religious household, attending Catholic schools. Mass was an extended performance of rote symbolic gestures made once per month with my class. At one point, my teacher commented to my entire eighth grade class that I knew the proper time to kneel, the proper method of genuflection (making the sign of the cross – I think that’s the right term – its been a long while and then some) – and I wasn’t even a Catholic. For me, it was an example of the emptiness I saw in the Catholic faith, coupled with the constant pounding of the faith’s perspective in mandatory “Religious Education” classes. When I had the chance – after I graduated high school – I took steps into other areas of faith. My first stop – and last – within the Christian faith was the southern Baptist environment. Here, I found the same empty gestures made every Sunday – once in the morning and once in the evening, as well as Wednesday nights. Sing when prompted. Stand at certain points. Sit quietly and observantly at others. Much like the Priest in the Catholic mass, the Pastor was my intercessor between myself and God. Without them, I could not “properly” understand God.
Much like what I described before about some of the assumptions made about Pagans, I saw a lot of the same within the southern Baptist environment. During this time, I was very much a hard rock and heavy metal listener. Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Tygers of Pan Tang, Krokus, and others were main music staples for me. I was delighted to find a Christian heavy metal band in Stryper. However, I was told by the Pastor the church that I was attending that the members of Stryper were “of the devil” because they chose to dress like KISS, Motley Crue, and others. However, I listened to the lyrics of the band as well. They sang lyrics that praised Jesus as Savior, just as “accepted” Christian artists like Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patti, and others did. Furthermore, I was being tempted by Satan because I continued to listen to secular music. However, nothing was said about the music director’s second job, playing country and western piano at a local bar on Fridays and Saturdays. Nothing bad about that. For me, it wasn’t the music director’s job I had issues with – it was the hypocrisy of accepting what he was doing, which certainly didn’t seem to play well against the concept of “good Christian behavior.”
Eventually, I left for the Air Force, and stumbled on to Paganism. However, when I hear people question why I don’t have Pagan music on twenty-four hours a day, or comment that I should be at my Pagan studies every free waking moment that I have – I am reminded of the same cloud cast upon what Christians should be doing. None of that really works for every single individual. Where others may prefer Pagan music on their speakers, mine are usually crowded with Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead, Phish, Iron Maiden, the Tygers of Pan Tang, the Bangles, Halestorm, Eloy, Coyote Oldman, Pantera, and others. But it isn’t the music that makes me a Pagan. The music is just the backbeat of my normal day. How I choose to interact with my environment on a daily basis helps inform my own Path of Pagansim and Druidry. Paganism and Druidry are what are in every breath that I take, every step I take throughout the day, what I eat, what I drink….essentially how I live. The music is a part of all that experience, but it is not the definition of how I experience.
The really great thing about what I am loosely describing here? Its not the same for anyone. How we choose to experience is up to each one of us. What we experience, while coming from the same sources, can vary so wildly that the directions one can go with it are amazing. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
PS: As I finish writing this, my iTunes player has shuffled me on to the Grateful Dead’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee” from their March 18, 1971 concert at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. Damn good stuff, especially here on what would have been the late Jerry Garcia’s 79th birthday.