Religion and Play

The Dallas Morning News Religion Blog is a shadow of its former self. It’s been de-staffed – about all that’s left is the weekly “Texas Faith” forum. But this week’s question gave me a perfect opportunity to introduce some explicitly Pagan material. You can read the whole thing here.

The question was: “We live in society where so much attention is devoted to work. But we’re headed into August, the vacation month. What do your spiritual paths say about the role of play?

Some of the responses were good, but many confused “play” with “rest” or “reflection” (both of which are important, but different from “play”). My answer:

Here’s another view, from the modern Pagan tradition. This is an excerpt from The Charge of the Goddess, usually attributed to Doreen Valiente. It is the words of the Mother Goddess to us, her children:

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in my presence; for mine is the ecstasy of the spirit, and mine also is joy on earth. For my law is love unto all beings.”

In these moments of what Larry Bethune calls “joyful, self-forgetful celebration” and Amy Martin says is “to be like a young child, in a natural state of joy, capable of wonder, seeing only love”, we are free from judging and being judged. We can experience the joy of being part of the human family, and the “ecstasy of the spirit” that comes from experiencing Goddess / God / Ultimate Reality. The free association of play also has the practical benefit of stimulating our creativity, helping us to see old things in new ways.

The secret, as always, is balance. We have to work or we’ll starve. And we have to work more than just enough to survive – that’s the reason our species moved from hunter/gatherers to 21st century civilization. But we don’t have to be “productive” all the time.

Because when we try, we lose our souls.

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About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.