I laid in bed this morning sometime after dawn, the birds were singing, the dog was quietly snoring and for the second year in a row I realised that I hadn’t crawled out of bed at some ungodly hour to greet the sun. Not that it’s really that sunny here at the moment, the weather quite predictably for mid June is warm, muggy, plenty of thunderstorms and overnight rain, but often quite overcast.
I’ve been contemplating my apparent ritual apathy for a while, last year I wrote at length as to how you can use Solstice to connect to the Fae and it struck me this morning that I had shared a very personal solitary rite, not a group affair, and I realised how it was indicative of my current personal mindset. It’s really easy to blame Covid and three lockdowns, but the reality is though that the wheel has fallen off my year, I think I’ve been missing a wheel on my wagon for sometime now and surprisingly I feel ok with that. I don’t think it’s heresy to not celebrate the wheel of the year (all or part) and I do think you can still call yourself Pagan (if that is what floats your boat) if you don’t adhere to an agrarian based ritual construct.
Ritual is really important, it is what gives us meaning and comfort and the ability to cope when life throws us a curve-ball. Patterns and certainties sustain us, as humans we look for them all the time to explain how we think, how we feel, what we believe. Group ritual based upon those patterns, something that I normally deeply crave, is a way for community to draw together to celebrate life’s cycles, births, deaths and marriages, successes and failures. It bonds us in shared experience, shared tears, shared laughter. In short, ritual IS magic. That is the biggest mystery of all and unless you experience it, you will never know it.
So how do I reconcile this? I work within two traditions that have a heavy ritual focus that hangs quite literally upon the wheel of the year, Druidry and Initiatory Wicca.
Until now I haven’t. I’ve skipped sleep or dragged myself out of my bed to drive to a cold dark field to “do ritual” more often than not for other people. I’ve opened my home time and time again, cooking and cleaning, preparing space for people to celebrate, and clearing up after, because “community right?”. I’ve waxed lyrical for years saying this is what it means to be “priesthood” and I still believe that to be true, don’t call yourself a priest or priestess unless you are willing to serve. If you want to do it like the ancestors then you need to accept that the Shaman was as hobbled as the Blacksmith, tied to a community they had no choice but to serve.
So how am I ok with not celebrating the wheel if I believe this? Because at the end of the day the Wheel is just a pattern, one that most people can get behind, they can see the changing season, they can experience the biting cold of the longest night, the may blossom scented joy of that first warm night outdoors with a bonfire, the sensation of the wild hunt chasing at their heels as the nights draw in and the leaves scurry around their ankles. They make sense, until they don’t. Because the wheel of the year isn’t the only pattern and if you or your community find a pattern that works better for you then you would be foolish not to use it. Don’t tie yourself to a man made construct just because.
My own practise for now seems to be moving closer and closer to a pattern that loosely follows the lesser Sabbats and for some time the irony of Solar and very masculine worship somehow taking the forefront in Pagan practise hasn’t escaped me. Everything in its balance though and there is the ‘gotcha’ I’ve still lit a candle, I’ve still chosen a solar incense for my altar this morning. I have still acknowledged the pattern and both given and drawn energy from it. Maybe because I’m not quite ready to go full on heretic and divorce myself completely from what is now quite a powerful egregore. Or am I? Maybe now is the time? Do I have a better pattern? Do you?