Where do we seek healing and renewal when the comforts we usually turn to are the very things that are harming us — when gathering together for the holidays and singing songs and sharing food might actually make us sick? It is not only the elements of fire and air that can cleanse and heal. When these are out of balance, we can turn to the heavier, cooler, "darker" elements of water and earth to seek out healing.
We might try to follow where the clown leads, but we cannot hope to pin him down. It is only when we stop insisting that the clown be just one thing that he is free to become the multiplicity of being that he really is.
Pagans like to say, "What is remembered, lives." Memory is re-membering, the act of giving life to the past through rituals of witness.
These days our society is moving further and further from the simple conception of gender as a binary: male or female, man or woman. We are beginning to recognize that gender is complex. In the natural world, scientists continue to discover undeniable examples of how sexuality is multifaceted and fluid, from the parthenogenesis of blacktip sharks to the three distinct sexes of the midshipman toadfish. But we're not there yet. Binaries have kept us trapped for a long time, defining us by what we are not or what we supposedly cannot do, rather than by who we are and what we're really capable of.
Our knowledge, instead of leading us to certainty, betrays us — guiding us deeper into the confused complexity of the forest, the dark wilds of unknowing. This is holy bewilderment. This is the horizon that is forever receding and can never be reached; the periphery that is everywhere and nowhere. We find ourselves spinning in circles. We look for a centered self that isn’t there, and when we find it, it is deeply bizarre. We are confronted by an Other that can never be centered or normalized. This is the call of the Wild One. Welcome to the hunt...
The latest issue of the Alternative Religions Educational Network's newsletter just came out this past weekend, and I was excited to be included as one of those featured in an interview with the editor, Christopher Blackwell. We chatted about my background being raised in a liberal Catholic tradition flavored by my father's Irish heritage, and how that shaped my spiritual journey towards Druidry as I live and practice it today. It was great fun!
One thing we touched on was the Oran Mór, or the Song of the World. Chris asked me to talk a little bit more about how this cosmological concept is reflected in my Druidry. You can read the excerpt here, or check out the whole interview.
I try to answer an intriguing question put forward in an essay by Sionnach Gorm:
"How do we, as devout polytheists, reconcile the historic reality that our ancestors (at some point in the 5th-6th century CE and with no evidence of coercion) chose to turn to a god of bells and tonsures, of monks and scriptures, of Rome and the Papacy? Why would they 'abandon' the gods of their ancestors, and choose this newfangled Christ and his missionaries?"
There is always pressure to either romanticize or demonize the past. As it recedes into the distance of memory, its complexities are all too easily lost in the mists. The veils of time fall across our vision and we glimpse only vague impressions of a landscape, a culture, a handful of faces on the edge of our perception that seem to change and fade when we turn to look again. What does it mean to part this veil, to honor the ancestors?
We know he can’t stay in his current state of denial — we know he has the potential for greatness that demands he rise to the occasion, to become better than he was before. But that doesn’t make that transformative moment any less painful, nor the grief at the loss of humble John Smith, the old, limited self, any less poignant. The truth is that we grieve the old self because we love the old self, deeply, and the old self was a self of love. It had to be. Otherwise, we could never have been able to transform in the first place.
The significance of Beltaine reaches beyond merely being an agricultural festival focused on fertility and fecundity in service to the community, with romance acting as a bit of grease we can indulge in now and then to keep the Wheel turning. The holy day at the height of spring is also a day of ecstasy in the original sense, a day on which the attraction of life-force can pull us beyond ourselves and into communion with a larger Mystery, beyond tensions that might keep us too rigidly locked into unhealthy or hampering community bonds once they have outlasted their benefit.
Along with Samhain, the other hinge of the year, Beltaine serves as a liminal time, a time of thresholds and permeable boundaries. The great ecstatic mysteries of sex and death dominate both these holy days.