Spring is one of those times of the year that I enjoy being outside. The temperature is not too cold here in central Tejas. Nor is it face-melting hot, but there is a promise in the air that this will be the future here. The elbow-in-the-ribs joke is that if you don’t like the weather here, just wait ten minutes. Except in the dead of Summer.
Spring also has the promise of one of the celebrations on the Wheel of the Year that I tend to avoid – Beltane. I have discussed that before, though. However, the year of lockup and lock-down that COVID-19 has provided for all of us, has uncovered a lot of other things for me. I have begun to see this past year of COVID-19 like a river in a high-drought season. As the water’s depth disappears, the stones that make up the river’s bed get exposed. Your perception of the river changes because of that. In so many ways, COVID-19 has done this for me in many places in my life – personally, professionally, and even Spiritually. This uncovering of the stones in the river bed has led me to re-examine parts of my own Druidry.
In the past, I have always tried to make two large celebrations in my nearest Pagan community. Not because the celebrations were important. My attendance was more about being able to mingle with the people there – re-igniting connections with others. The largest of these, for me, is the Gulf Coast Gathering (GCG), here in the States. I have never missed any of the celebrations. Due to COVID-19, I will have missed the last two years of this gathering of OBOD Druids. Many of these people are more than friends. They are family. Many of them, I only get to see at this gathering. Due to our busy lives, we rarely converse outside of the gathering. So, GCG serves as more than a celebration of a spoke of the Wheel of the Year. In many respects, it truly is a family reunion.
Over the past year, I have been to exactly zero gatherings. The last OBOD member I have seen face-to-face was John Beckett back in early March of last year. This past year has taught me the importance of these gatherings to what I am as a Druid, and as a person. All this time away has also taught me another perspective, that my Spirituality does not necessarily have to be focused around the Wheel of the Year. But one step at a time in this conversation.
I have never considered myself to be much of a social creature. When I was at Pantheacon, Many Gods West, the ADF Imbolc Retreat I have frequently attended, or even Gulf Coat Gathering – I was never really drawn to the celebratory gatherings that have occurred in the late-night hours. In my time at any of those events, I would retire far earlier than others for sleep. The truth be told, I always felt uncomfortable around any of those after-hours moments. My idea of winding down after any of these conferences, retreats, or gatherings was to sit around a fire and have quiet conversations about whatever subject. I have truly never been the “party-on” type of person. I do; however, miss the people that I encountered and spent time with at these events. Our discussions might take place on a porch or in a hotel hallway or across a small table in a Subway restaurant, but I have found that I crave these discussions the most. These discussions form a strong basis of how I work through my Spirituality on my own, and without them, I don’t always have the fertile ground that I am hoping for when I contemplate things, such as my own “Pagan Square Mile.”
Much of my practice has focused around the Wheel of the Year. I have worked personal rituals to the various spokes. I always found the time to attend group celebrations as well. This past year, I purposefully abandoned all of that. The exact reasoning of “why” is not important. During that time, I started questioning and rebuilding aspects of my Druidry. My heavy focus on ritual was one of those aspects that received a lot more scrutiny than I had originally intended. I had realized that I spent too much time worrying about what part of the Year I was in, and far less time being absorbed in my surroundings, and my local environment. When I worked at the college, my morning and evening drives consisted of a short ten-mile drive on a dirt road between five cattle farms. I didn’t need to celebrate the Wheel of the Year to see the cycle of death and re-birth. I could watch it through my windshield every single day. I saw cattle disappear from the various herds, obviously sold to market for food production. I would see the new baby calves Just a few days after their birth, moving on shaky legs. A few months later, these same calves would challenge my truck to a race along the fence line, a comical sight to be certain, but a definite sign of their growth. I certainly didn’t need ritual to experience the cycle of life. I only had to live and observe everything around me.
Don’t get me wrong. Ritual has a place within my life. In the smaller form of daily devotionals to Crow, Coyote, and Abnoba, I have an aspect of ritual that takes place every day. My focus on larger ritual celebrations tends to focus around the Equinoxes and the Solstices more than anything else. But ritual has never been the be-all, end-all that it tends to be for other Pagans. Before anyone thinks that I am taking a massive shit on the experiences and practices of others, I will point out that I have never said once that everyone should stop placing strong emphasis on rituals. I am simply pointing out that my Spiritual practice does not have the same manner of emphasis. I know what works for me, what calls to my soul…there is no way in the Nine Hells that I would ever believe that what I do should be done in the same manner by anyone other than myself.
Certainly, there are going to be those Pagans that will point to what I have written here and say that I am “wrong” in my approach. All I can really do is shrug my shoulders and move on. If they were looking for an argument or fight, they probably need to go back twenty years or more and approach me there. At my age, I have no desire to argue or fight about how I approach my own Spirituality. I have other areas where I wish to focus my time, and energy.
So, today brings another light-blue sky for my Sunday afternoon. I would prefer to be outside for at least part of it. I have my mask with me. My intention is to be outside, doing what I do as a Pagan…living my life and experiencing the day.