08/22/2013 by syrbal-labrys
Life is not tidy. Dichotomies abound. I find summer particularly messy. And the month of August is the messiest of all, to me. Even this moderate Nor’west summer month finds my energy ebbing just as I need it to step up to keep gardens watered and weeded. And then, the brewing and cooking, jam making and canning that have long set the clock of my summertime life….the demands seem overwhelming to me in August.
Pagan traditions seem particularly apt at marking life’s annual clock with festivals to keep a steady beat through the seasons, it is one of the things I like about pagan life even though I live it as a very solitary hermit sort. For instance, I like a harvest-linked festival in August though I don’t attend one; I LIVE it instead — on ladders picking honeysuckle blossoms bound for the mead pot, in the garden picking produce and basing supper on that selection instead of planned menus on the calendar, and over steaming pots of fruit that will be set like gemstones in glass jars to recall summer to me in the dark of winter. And yes, at the other side of the year’s wheel, in February I will have no lambs, but I will stand over pots of steaming water making beeswax candles to light my ritual year.
Ritual? Pish and tosh and pshaw, you say? Well, mankind responds to things inexplicable; our links to the numinous world are not marked in clarity and precision. There is a modern-day presumption that all religious impulse is a weakness setting one up to be manipulated and used. Nowadays, instead of living my hermitic pagan life semi-defensively doesn’t mean fending off aggravated Baptists verbally assaulting me in parking lots for the “Darwin fish” on my car, it means making clear to skeptics (rather like myself) that no, my spirituality is not a sign of idiocy or weak-minded follower status. It is not a sign of me falling victim to a charismatic dude with cool tattoos and a beard. It does not mean I think I can make my eyelashes darken with a spell. Nor does it mean I want to BE a charismatic sort with cool tattoos bringing others under my sway like Svengali in a skirt. It is based upon experience and not on the words or revelations of others. Of course, to say you have had mystical experiences is tacit acknowledgement of being cracked/crazy. If that is what I am? So be it. I function, my life holds together with remarkable coherency and the analytical, critical bits of my mind don’t go “Boom, crash!” every time I am questioned about my life and beliefs. And although my son and I brew many gallons of mead and herbal beers; I find little need to drink very much of it to get through my days.
But in another way, my habit of viewing my day to day life as a sacramental function of unity with the world I love, sees the judgement of either religious or irreligious sorts as irrelevant. I don’t think whether or not one has any belief in deities or an afterlife is the main event, to be honest. As Thomas Paine wrote, two centuries ago….revelations are to the person they are FOR, not for anyone else. The main event is how one lives here and now, how one relates to other living creatures and to the planet we live upon.
I am more concerned with MY OWN behavior, if I examine ethics, than whether or not my neighbor has an abortion or not. I worry about controlling MY impulse to occasionally slap the crap out of some raving lunatic screaming about “sluts killing babies” than I am about controlling the lives of others. I don’t have much regard for hierarchies in religion or bureaucracies in governments because I think both lose their ability to relate one on one….whether they are talking to people OR any presumptive deity. I think humans should worry more about life here and now than obsessing about who does or does not get into any idea of ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’….because those are things we cannot know with certainty. But we CAN know about humans dying in war, of disease, of starvation; we can know about species fading to extinction, we can know about dooming future generations. Why not address those things here….heaven, if there is one? It can bloody well wait.
So, my sacraments are human things. Making lemon vanilla jam, or key lime black cardamom jam, or picking huckleberries for salmon salad. Recycling. Picking up trash at roadside. Taking in an abandoned animal.
Repairing a broken heart, listening to a friend. Remembering the dead, because they are absolutely real. These are my rituals of reality. That I nod my head to Herne/Gywnn ap Nudd/Shiva* as I do it, or send a mental smile to Hekate….that is religion and yes, absolutely between me and my gods; and irrelevant to the general populace. What SHOULD matter to the world of living beings around me is how what I do affects THEM. I live as gently as I can; I love as fully as I am able. Consign me to hell, or call me brainless and beguiled if you will…..that also is irrelevant to my reality.
*Yes, all the hard polytheists may freak out at will. If “they” laugh and tell me they are the same, I am not arguing.