Over the weekend, I wrote an entire blog post for today. This morning, I find myself not wanting to publish it, as its another screed on politics. I don’t think I need to go that route. This is, after all, a blog aimed towards my Spiritual Path – not a blog aimed at ranting on politics. My politics are not my Spirituality. Instead, let’s take a different path for today, shall we?
Too often, when I talk with non-Pagans about my Spirituality I am assailed by their mental images of me performing human sacrifices, drinking blood as I toast Satan, or wild orgies with multiple partners. Well, human sacrifice just ain’t my bag. Taking a life is an affront to what I believe is sacred and should never be done unless absolutely necessary. Just my two quid. Partaking of blood? No thanks. I’m not overly fond of the sight of blood, even when I am testing my blood sugars for my diabetes. And Satan? A Christian construct for “evil”. I’m definitely not a Christian of any sort. As for the wild orgies…never seen that happen. But if you could point me in the right direction…no, I’m kidding. But I’ve never seen an orgy of any sort break out in a Pagan ritual environment. Not saying that it never happens – just that I’ve never seen such an occurrence in my three and a half decades on my Pagan Path. But ritual? Yes, ritual happens. A lot.
There’s this common thought, particularly from non-Pagans and newbie Pagans, that Pagans do rituals for everything. Making coffee? There’s a ritual. Taking a pee? There’s a ritual. Stepping outside to go to your car? There’s a ritual. Listening to a lot of that, I always get the feel that Paganism should be a secular version of the Catholic faith. We should all be on your knees or prostrate before the altars in our homes – honoring the Gods with every exhaled breath. I used to get frustrated at such thoughts, but these days…I just smile to myself and silently giggle. There are Pagans like that, which there is nothing wrong with. But I’m not that kind of Pagan. I do my rituals when I have need to do so, usually at the seasonal celebrations of the Wheel of Life…which I don’t really hold to that construct. My view is that it is more like a trail that I have walked throughout my life, with the points of seasonal celebrations viewed as way-points. That’s a discussion for another time though.
For me, I see my everyday existence as a ritual, of sorts. Working my way through the day, troubleshooting issues as each arrives, finding solutions to help me get on to the next necessary task, eating, sleeping, playing, flirting, talking, discussing…its all part of my honoring my Gods with my efforts. I’m not some holy man. I’m just a simple Druid making my way through Life, one single day at a time. I can’t predict the future. I subscribe to Alan Kay’s perspective: “If you want to predict the future, invent it.” (For those who are wondering, Alan Kay is a computer scientist, who is one of the fathers of Object-Oriented Programming) I know many folks within Paganism get caught up in the nets of Tarot and work towards seeing the future. I’m not one of those people. A single day at a time is enough for me. Frankly, that’s just my perspective. Others with a different perspective, I’m glad that it works for them.
Which leads me to ritual itself. Not really the “hows” of it. That varies widely depending on the tradition or the practitioner or even the reasoning behind it. Rather, I want to lean on the “why” of it, which will provide an even wider set of data points than you could ever imagine. Everyone has their own reason behind the rituals that they have in their lives. From making coffee to deep, religious perspectives. All of these will differ from person to person to group to tradition. However, I came across a quote from Joseph Campbell that I felt lends a touch to this “discussion” I am writing here.
A ritual can be defined as an enactment of a myth. By participating in a ritual, you are actually experiencing a mythological life. And its out of that participation that one can learn to live spiritually.Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth“, p.228
Here, Campbell is discussing the spiritual (or if you prefer, religious) aspect of ritual. I am not entirely sure that every ritual can be described as a re-enactment of a myth, but I would posit that the ecstatic aspect of ritual does provide an injection of feeling that brings an individual (or group) much closer to any mythological aspect that they are approaching. As an example, at a Pagan Pride Day here in Dallas, John Beckett (and the group of Pagans with him) led a moving ritual for Cernunnos. I, unfortunately, did not get to participate since I was watching the cash box for the vending side of Pagan Pride Day. However, I was just up the hill from the ritual, and I could feel the energy emanating from it. The ritual was powerful, heart-felt, and from what I heard from those who were much closer – there was an energy and feel that was incredible to experience. In this instance, the ritual provided an exact fit to Campbell’s definition. I would also hold that not every ritual is going to provide this type of feeling nor should there be an expectation that it will. Rituals hold very different meanings for others.
If you’re looking to dig even deeper into rituals, I would recommend Rachel Patterson’s book “The Art of Ritual.” In it, you will find discussions on tools, examples of rituals, and some discussion on the meaning of those rituals. In my opinion, its an excellent starting point, particularly if you are looking to connect stronger in your rituals.
For me, ritual is about taking a few moments to honor the Gods in a very specific way. I don’t do a ton of rituals anymore. I have specific time frames to do what I do. But I certainly don’t need to drop to a ritual moment for everything. I don’t lie prostrate before the Gods to honor Them. For me, living my life intentionally as a Pagan is enough. But I’m also not in the habit of pissing all over what ritual means to others. We all approach our Gods and our lives in our own way. It would be absolutely profane of me to declare my way as the “only way.” Because its not.