Pagans like to say, "What is remembered, lives." Memory is re-membering, the act of giving life to the past through rituals of witness.
When it comes to questions of how to respond to the cultural demand to "honor the soldiers who died for you," I find that the problem is not so much that I do not want to comply, but that I literally do not know how. Assuming, of course, that our honor and memory should take a form other than silent complicity in the continuing violence and militarism of our government — what should my honor look like?
"It's funny how family can bring you back to yourself because they know you so well and for so long, they treat you as if you were always just the same. Which is exactly what can drive you out of yourself, too, after a while. Because of course, you're not."
I'm usually somewhat solemn around this time of year, sitting quietly at my desk listening to the quiet rain and even quieter fog outside my window, enjoying the damp quiet day in my own little way as my not-at-all-damp-thank-you cat quietly looks on.... But not this year. This year, something's gotten into me. A bit of trickster spirit, maybe. A bit of fire. Since March, which is when Sir Terry Pratchett died, a part of me has become really, really angry. Another part of me can't stop praying.
A couple years ago I wrote 7 Ways to Enjoy a Sex-Free Beltane, in honor of all those single and/or disinterested folks out there who were looking to celebrate the reason for the season without necessarily having to "get down," "jump on it" or "funk it up." Weirdly, that post did not become the runaway viral sensation I was anticipating. This year, though, things will be different. If there's one thing people like more than having sex, it's avoiding death and thoughts thereof...
It's not the idealists that bother me. I like idealists. The world desperately needs idealists...
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?"
In my last post, "Honor for the Dead," I mentioned that this year as part of our family Samhain celebration, we crafted prayer bead bracelets to help us connect more deeply with our ancestors. A bunch of you have asked for more details on how to make prayer beads of your own, so I put together this handy-dandy step-by-step tutorial. Let's do some magic!
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?
For me, Salmon has claimed her place along the year's wheel at Samhain-tide. The salmon run at Piper's Creek begins by the first day of November and lasts as late as the winter solstice. It is a time of cool, steady rain, a time of death and consummation. It is the in-between time, just after the Celtic New Year, but before the dawn of lengthening days. A time when new life begins in the dark, buried beneath the gravel of the streambed, invisible and silent. I think in many ways, modern Paganism is in this twilight time before rebirth as well. Seeded and kept alive from generation to generation after two millennia of broken traditions and scattered, assimilated cultures. We strive to root our traditions in the land, in a sense of place and in the presence of earth, but the social systems upstream don't make it easy.