Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Beltane, Apparently. One Year On...
Well, Cat encouraged me to reflect, so here I am (while avoiding work, too - a double achievement!)
As I said on Twitter this morning, I fail to connect with Beltane. It seems to me that everyone loves this one, while I seem to connect with the less obvious ones (like Imbolc). Admittedly, I'm saying this after only about a year of proper Pagan practice, so I've only 'done' Beltane twice now, and I'm sure I'll come to connect with it later. But right now I'm looking out of the window at a wet, cold landscape, and it doesn't really feel like the beginning of summer. That hardly matters, though. Things are happening out there, and I love my view from the window and across the allotments - I can see birds (LOTS of birds), the neighbourhood cats, and the changes in the land reflected in the little rows of gardens, including mine. In the past couple of weeks I've been delighted to see two herons and a duck hanging around outside my window. I never would have noticed them a year ago.
I started thinking of myself as properly Pagan around Beltane last year, so I suppose I've done a year - although, as I keep saying, I also think of my spiritual journey as an unbroken line, with this as a new but not unexpected stage on the journey. But anyway, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start reflecting on where I am after a year. I keep asking myself what I've achieved. I think it's the wrong question. This is about spiritual process, not reaching levels - no one's going to give me a certificate for any of this. (Except maybe OBOD. Heh.) In my spiritual process this year, I've done everything from learning how to connect with land spirits to working with gods to learning how to do some magic to starting to notice the cycles of the land around me more (with delight). I've started a podcast - part of my life's work of helping other people to tell their stories (see also my PhD!) - and we have seven great episodes so far. I'm connecting with myth and learning to work with altered states of consciousness. I'm really enjoying the OBOD bardic grade, even though I always have an "Aaagh, too New Agey!" moment when I first read about what I'm meant to be doing this month on the course (I always 'come round' to most of it). I'm developing a daily spiritual practice that probably looks nothing like anyone else's, and I wouldn't be happy if it did look like theirs. Big things and little things, although I'm not sure which is which. Things have happened. I've changed. But have I changed 'enough'? I don't honestly feel like I've achieved very much. I don't know if that matters, though.
I'm really struggling with the healing emphasis that I see very strongly around me in the Pagan community. Not because it's a bad thing - it's wonderful. But I have reservations about the way it's approached and talked about by many Pagans. Too many of them don't seem to see the normative ideologies inherent in their philosophies of healing - by which I mean the socially constructed ideas about what is 'normal'. Which, believe it or not, we mainly inherit from Christianity. I've written about this in other places, so I won't go on about it, but why am I mentioning this now? Because I can't go to rituals or spend much time outside or do much 'practice' at the moment - and, as much as I'm working on learning how to be myself more authentically, I still feel almost guilty about that. And yet, when I feel like that, I think I'm still thinking from Christian frameworks. There will not be a heaven and I will not have a perfect body there. I have a different body that reflects the wonderful diversity of life, right now. OK, so right now the rain is causing me screaming-level pain, but that's not always the case. I have to be really creative about how to connect with the world, when other people wouldn't think twice about going for a walk, and I value that. I wouldn't have noticed the duck and herons in my neighbourhood if I was able to wander out into the countryside. But the land is right here, too. I'm not limited. I just have a different perspective from you.
I'm not someone who is going to do a lot of 'achieving' or 'doing' in my life. I'm far better at *being*. This is something I've been trying to accept about myself for a long, long time. Every since I heard the Christian myth of Martha and Mary, which still inspires me. In the tale, Martha is rushing around trying to serve her guests, who include Jesus. Mary, her sister, is sitting with Jesus and listening to him. Martha eventually gets really angry and says to Jesus, "Tell my sister to help me serve the guests." He (essentially) says, "Martha, why are you rushing around trying to *do* all the time? Mary has made a better choice." I think of my little, insignificant activities as Mary-stuff: meditation, or sitting in the garden, or doing little bits of gardening that I can manage, or my daily spiritual practice which has to be fairly short and simple and so has to be meaningful. I could try to force myself to do Martha-stuff, but would I really gain anything? My perspective, as it is, is just as worthwhile as anyone else's.
There's a lot that I still need to reflect on. I haven't figured out how possible it is to mix Christianity with my Pagan path (although the Christianity is refusing to go away). I can't always work out what to do with the OBOD course, when the emphasis of it starts to feel like a different kind of Druidry from what I want to work with (but it's always extremely useful anyway). I don't know what direction to move in next, with my learning and experience (but stuff always starts turning up - like the Druid Animal Oracle I randomly started to work with, and am loving). So, in the coming year, I'm going to start listening to my intuition, my guides and my gods - and screw what everyone else thinks. I am myself, and my journey is mine, and my perspective is always going to be a bit foreign to everyone else. But I can't be authentically myself by worrying about what everyone else thinks all the time.
Happy Beltane! And now I really should go and do some work. I have a PhD to pretend to be doing...! And later on, I will go outside, and share in the mysteries of the land in the little stretch of it behind my house. Even if only briefly. And with painkillers. And wine. :D