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Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm an urban secular pagan: What does that even mean?

I've been looking for the right site for this series of article for a long time. Examiner.com is awesome, but doesn't encourage personal writing. And I have yet to find a mainstream pagan site that pays for blogs.

What's an unemployed pagan with a yen for writing to do?

Why set up blog (with google adsense), and just start writing. Maybe I'm shouting into the nothingness of cyber space, but here I am, metaphorical megaphone on hand, ready to go.

So I am an urban secular pagan, which is absolutely a mouthful, but it's the exact phrase to describe my religious beliefs.  Don't worry, I'll pull it apart and then stick back together for you.

Let's start with the easiest part, pagan. According to religioustolerance.org paganism is a fairly new religion, having been created in the 1940's by Gerald Gardner. He may have been influenced by an older, pre-Christian, European religion. Or he may have made it up completely. As far as pagans are concerned it doesn't matter. Our dogma is only poetry, pretty words trying to describe a larger truth that we don't quite understand. We're not supposed to take it all literally.  When and where this started is irrelevant.

Most pagans believe in a goddess and a god, with a large emphasis on nature

 Now for the word secular. Essentially it means not being affiliated with a religion.

Yeah, I am very aware of the contradiction. But the great thing about paganism, what in fact drew me to it in the first place, is that you worship however you want. You don't have to follow any particular path or ceremony. Paganism is about how you act in your everyday life, not whether or not you dance skyclad under the full moon.

And for the record: I live in Pennsylvania. There are very few nights where being naked outdoors is good idea. Even if the weather co-operates You have watch out for assorted bugs, various natural objects like stick and rocks, and wild animals. Just saying.

Anywho, since there is no such thing as an Ostara and Yule Pagan, my way of worship just as valid as the most hardcore Gardnerian Wiccan. I don't dress in robes, I don't have sabbats in the woods under a full moon, and I don't say "merry meet" or "blessed be" to people. But everyday is a gift, and should be treated as such. And everyday should be lived in as much harmony with your surroundings as possible.

Yes, I am a Concrete Earth Mother, and this is my tale.



Friday, July 29, 2011

The Bacchanalia

We all need our releases, the guilty pleasures that get us through the everyday schlepping that is life. If we don’t allow ourselves those periodic releases, things get to be too much. We hear the baby cry, but we really don’t want to get off the couch.
One release just about everybody likes is music. We all have our favorite songs.  A fun new global obsession is what’s on everybody’s playlist. Another release is booze. Add them up, shake in a group of people and you have the  great-grand pappy of all releases: a bacchanalia.
I’m not using this term in it’s historical sense.  Nor is it a term I’ve found in any pagan literature. So why am I using it here? Because the point of all religious worship is to connect to something greater than yourself. It’s all trying and earning to join a greater whole. And anybody who has been to a concert, standing shoulder to shoulder within a hot, wet, mass of strangers, moving and singing along to song that they love to the very bottom on their soul, knows the feeling of giving yourself up to greater whole.
And with all seriousness, concerts are the closest modern equivalent to the ancient bacchanalia. For those who skipped the link allow me to quote: “The most famous of the Greek Dionysia were in Attica and included ... a festal procession ... a drinking feast [and] dramatic performances in the theatre of Dionysus.[1]
Tell me that doesn’t sound like a rock concert to you?
I never went to a concert in high school, mainly because I never really liked any band enough to go. In college I went with friends to their favorite bands, but never did I initiate any such endevor.
I didn’t discover the power and joy of a bacchanalia until after I had children. To my college friends, stop laughing. It isn’t just drinking, its the “festal procession” and “dramatic performances”. Watching you boys wrestle when you got drunk doesn’t come close!
And I didn’t discover my all time, mother of all favorites, can never do anything wrong  musically in my mind, band until I was legally old enough to drink. And they didn’t tour until after my kids were born. Seriously, it was a long time coming for me folks. And when it finally came, I had been a practicing pagan for well over a decade. My first concert was a SHOCK to say the least. I'm not a big crowd person, and I prefer my excesses of well... anything, in smaller, more private groups. But one concert and I was in love with the whole scene. Much to my husband's amusement.
I had my latest bacchanalia this week. And strangely enough, I wasn’t supposed to. We’re having money trouble, and favorite band or not, new album or not, we couldn’t swing the cash. I told my message board the bad news, and then put on my big girl panties. I refused to get upset about it. Sometimes life sucks and that’s just the way it is.
So imagine my surprise when a friend sends me a message saying, “Fans like you don’t miss concerts.” And sure enough, three days before the show, I get confirmation of backstage passes and free tickets.

Yeah, I was a special guest!

Yes, we went, and yes, it was glorious. Never mind we got there too late to meet the band, and that I totally forgot to get a picture with one of their guest guitarists that I did meet. I had an amazing time. I was one with the music and one with the crowd, and the open sky above me. I felt the breezes off the river cool my sweat drenched pig tails, and I lifted my hands above me in joy for its meager relief from the heat before I was swept away again into the moment. I sang every word of every song and reveled in single moment. I forgot about the bills, and the kids, and my book. I forgot about everything, and I loved it.
And just as odd as the miracle tickets was the hangover the next morning. Since it was a weekday the rule was no drinking unless we met the band, which we didn’t.
I tried to claim it was the twenty-four hour flu our son came down with that day, but it feels like the wrong explanation. After all, he and I hadn’t seen each other in twenty-four hours, and his babysitter didn’t get sick.
Do I really think that the god Dionysus struck me down with a miracle hangover? No, I think the release I got, the dancing, and joy, the oneness with masses, I think that has a price, a physical toll. I get to destress, but in return, the next day I am reminded that stress is never really gone, and that real life is everyday. The bacchanalia is beautiful and necessary. We shouldn’t shy away from the impulse to have fun, even indulge in drink and... debauchery. But we can’t let those impulses run our live either.
The physical toll a good bacchanlia puts on your body reminds you of the mundane. Yes, sweetheart, you may have a headache, but the baby isn’t going to change himself. You still have to do what needs to be done. But now, even with the headache, you can smile a little easier, remembering the joy and heat and massive love of the crowd.
Kinda makes you wanna be a rock star huh?