I often find myself at odds over what to do with the winter solstice. A lot of my fellow pagans are really, really jazzed about the narrative of the light triumphant returning after the longest night, but it just doesn’t do much for me. I get it, of course — the Triumph of the Light is a wide-ranging cultural trope, so I feel a little surge of excited joy when listening to songs about it, or ritual that use the narrative structurally — and I certainly mean no disrespect to anyone for whom the return of the light is a meaningful narrative: I’m very glad for you! But it doesn’t do as much for me, and I think I figured out why.
Honoring the triple fire
Tonight Three Cranes Grove celebrated Giamonios, the Gaulish end-of-winter moon. It was a small group of us, just four — we celebrated the Thargelia in honor of Artemis and Apollo as our public spring cross-quarter ritual just yesterday, so most people elected to stay home. But our intimate gathering provided a relaxed, informal resumption of our outdoor druid moons, where we cleaned out the firepit in our nemeton and rekindled our fires. At this moon we honor Belenos, god of the fiery sun, and honor the triple fire of sacrifice, inspiration, and fellowship. Our working in this small-group setting gave us the opportunity to speak from the heart: each person volunteered to speak on the fire in one of its three aspects, and I volunteered to tie them all together. So, with appreciative credit to Lisa Lea, Jan, and Thorne for their explications of the fires of sacrifice, inspiration, and fellowship, respectively — and with apologies for my rephrasing and reconfiguring of their words — some thoughts on the fire at the center of all.
When in doubt, make offerings: orthopraxy as guiding force
Three Cranes Grove celebrated the festival of Imbolc this past Sunday, and it was a hard one for me: essentially, I wasn’t in the ‘right’ headspace. I’d had a nonstop week leading up to it, I’d agreed last-minute to take on more parts in the ritual than I’d anticipated, I had nine hours of choral rehearsal scheduled around the rite, Jarod and I had spent the night with our godson after his mom gave birth — which to be utterly clear, was a joyous duty we were happy to take on, but was just one more thing in a very busy timeframe — and overlaying it all was a pervasive sense of fear and despair surrounding the Trump administration’s activities. I was pretty frazzled. I went to Imbolc out of a sense of obligation, rather than desire. And so, as I posted on Facebook that evening, I was amazed to discover after the fact that even the memory of the rite was deeply moving and grounding. I ended up exploring the issue of why and how my meta-experience shifted throughout the course of ritual with a friend, a graduate student in Old Testament archeology, and in the process of explaining religiocultural differences while also trying to draw parallels to his Evangelical Christianity, I came to a better understanding of the ways orthopraxy functions for me as a member of ADF and as a ritual practitioner. Continue reading “When in doubt, make offerings: orthopraxy as guiding force”
Godly gaps and human strength
Right off the bat, let me disclaim: this is a little bit about druidry, but mostly it’s a shout-out to my husband (though it takes a little bit to get there). Jarod and I have our problems — all couples do. And over the past couple years, there have been times when the problems have been really awful: we’ve had plenty of fights with heated words and forceful arm-waving; I’ve cried myself to sleep at least once out of despair; and (worst of all) there’ve been too many occasions where quiet words fade off into silence, each of us staring into the distance. And in those times, I’ve often beseeched the gods for help. Continue reading “Godly gaps and human strength”
We’re all leaving: death and the glory of life
It’s near a week past Samhain, but I feel like it’s still haunting me. In the Catholic Church where I was raised, most holidays aren’t really a single day, but rather the high points of longer periods of preparation and continuance, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: I’m still in Samhain’s penumbra, or perhaps I might say I’m living through Samhaintide. Whatever I call it, I’m still strongly feeling the mantle of death and the dead on the world as we begin the journey into the dark half of the year.
Continue reading “We’re all leaving: death and the glory of life”
Worshiping forces of nature: the question of harm
I’ve been thinking, for a good six months now, about the question of benevolence (or malevolence) when it comes to the worship of the old gods. Specifically, I’ve been wrestling with what it means to worship gods who are closely identified with natural and elemental forces that, while they may at times benefit us, may also harm us grievously. In many ways this is almost the druidic version of the question of theodicy: the Christian attempt to reconcile the evils of the world with the existence of a ruling god seen as both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. It doesn’t entirely track, of course — rare is the pagan who proclaims an all-powerful or a perfectly good god — but the parallels are there.
Continue reading “Worshiping forces of nature: the question of harm”