A few times in my life I’ve been gifted with untreatable pain and now is one of them. These days I’m lying awake at night, unable to find a tolerable position, obsessing about what is wrong with me and how it might be getting worse. Promising to fix myself tomorrow with better diet, more meditation, increased self-awareness—bemoaning whatever failure of self-care led to the problem in the first place. Unable to concentrate during the day, experimenting with various combinations of food, drink and drugs to escape sensations that continue to demand my attention. Forced to acknowledge that I am getting older, decaying in my own skin. Fretting about how this makes me less of a companion, less of a teacher, less of a person.
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
Witches often point to the Law of Three or the last lines of the Wiccan Rede as the source of their ethical beliefs. The trouble is that even those simple guidelines can be controversial. It’s a wonderful goal to “harm none,” but it’s virtually impossible in practice. Just by driving to work, I harm the environment. The Law of Three has so many different interpretations by now that it can really only be a loose reminder that we get back what we send. Further, since we have no central authority, many people object to each of these for their own philosophical reasons.
So what’s left? It’s also easy to point to the words of the Charge of the Goddess, which tell us that “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” That’s a great start. Every time you are experiencing or causing love and pleasure, you are in accord with the Goddess. Still, there’s a lot of grey here. You can’t just orient your life around love and pleasure. Your job may not provide either, but that doesn’t make it unethical. I hate vacuuming, but that doesn’t make it immoral....
Druidry is all about relationship, and you cannot have relationship without some form of communication. It may not always be in words, human to human, but opening those lines of communication helps us to perceive that the world is more than just our own sense of self. When we begin to see that there are other perspectives, other points of view we also come to an awareness that the world is being experienced by each being individually, in a collective state of unity dictated by space and time.
Events around the world this year have shone a spotlight on discordance, in human to human relationship, and in human to other-than-human relationships. Violent attacks, disregard for the environment, the increasing gap between the rich and the poor and more can be attributed to an "Us" and "Them" mentality. When we remove this dualist point of view, and encompass a more holistic approach, we see that what we do to others, we do to ourselves. In Buddhism, it is acknowledged that suffering exists in the world, and that this suffering is caused by the illusion of separation. If we look deeply enough scientifically, anthropologically, and even spiritually we can see that there is more that binds us together than tears us apart.
Hildegard von Bingen wrote: “The soul is not in the body; the body is in the soul.” (Vol XXII, No. 5). This is a concept that I’ve been thinking about all week, and how we have tried to place unnatural limitations upon the body and soul based on our dualistic way of thinking. I suppose a true Zen answer would be the body is the soul and the soul is the body, but right now I’m enjoying thinking that the soul contains the body. Next week I’ll probably veer off into a more Zennist approach.
For this to happen, the soul must accept the body, not the other way around. As I’m not entirely certain that there is even such as thing as an individual soul, it’s an interesting concept. What if the “life force” on this little ball of rock hurtling through space is all soul, all an expression of soul? What if everything is an expression of the Earth’s soul, or the soul of the universe?
Ksama in Sanskrit means forgiveness. An indispensible word on the spiritual path at practical and cosmic levels, ksama is a virtue that, perhaps more strongly than any other, binds us to a tantric life. Its practice requires that we move beyond our ego and take sanctuary in the naked truth of reality. It is a gateway to Her through relationality (one of the five-fold qualities of the Dark Goddess), a way of creating connection across divides of difference on inner, outer and causal levels.
At times, forgiveness means making a choice to be present with another. It can also mean holding a space of respectful distance in order to let truth unfold. In its many manifestations, the path of forgiveness is a tall order in a world filled with insecurities and vitriol. So many of us harbor terrifying yearnings to be loved—terrifying because we fear we are unworthy of another’s love or worse, somehow unlovable. But as a mechanism for unleashing the power of unfettered love—the antidote to much of our struggle—forgiveness is worth taking the time to understand and practice....
Most Pagans I know are pretty nice people. They will drop everything to help a friend in need. They respond to healing requests that are broadcast by acquaintances over social media and participate in activism in a quest to heal the earth and bring justice to the world. We value that watery ideal of compassion and seek to manifest it in the world.
Celebrating the turnings of the Wheel of the Year encourage us to meditate on the cycles of life. This year celebrating the Winter Solstice has proven is harder for me to enter wholeheartedly than often in the past. At the Solstice we celebrate light’s return, and with it the rebirth of life from the mystery of death. This year perhaps it is fitting that it falls on the dark of the moon. Yule honors the return of light while I am living in a society where the lights seem to be going out.
Ultimately my post will be positive, very much so. But let us not pretend it is easy to see any growing light beyond that of the sun itself....