Than To Live With Fear in Your Heart

In the Denton CUUPS Yule ritual, Dolores (who was coordinating) included a Charge of the God that ended with this line: “Keep this ever full in your mind, it is better to fall upon my sword than to live with fear in your heart.” Though I’m familiar with this line, it struck me as inappropriate for a Yule circle. I started to ask her to use something else, then I decided that if Dolores (who is one of the strongest intuitives I know) put it there, it was probably there for a good reason.

It was. It was there for me.

In his 1949 Book of Shadows, Wicca founder Gerald Gardner included this challenge at the beginning of the First Degree initiation: “O thou who standeth on the threshold between the pleasant world of men and the domains of the Dread Lords of the Outer Spaces, hast thou the courage to make the Assay? For I tell thee verily, it were better to rush on my weapon and perish miserably than to make the attempt with fear in thy heart.”

Novelist Katherine Kurtz phrases it better in her excellent 1983 historical fiction Lammas Night: “O thou who wouldst cross the boundary between the worlds, hast thou the courage to face the tests which will be required of thee? For I tell thee, it were better to throw thyself upon this sacred blade and perish now than to essay the trials with fearing in thy heart.”

A challenge is rather common in initiation rituals. The Entered Apprentice (i.e. – first) Degree of Freemasonry includes a challenge at sword point, but at least in the versions I can find online, it does not include the warning against entering with fear in your heart. Gardner was writing at a time when witchcraft was still illegal in Britain, and he was writing something he would pass off as having been handed down from the burning times. Clearly, he wanted to make the point that you could not be an effective witch if you were afraid either of the authorities or of whatever you might encounter in the world of the gods and the dead.

It can also be argued that Gardner was simply being overdramatic, but if so he’s far from the only religious leader to do so. In any case, his point is valid – living in fear is no way to live.

The work-related stress I’ve been suffering from has its roots in fear: fear of unpleasant confrontations, fear of continued long hours, fear of loss of prestige, and ultimately, fear of losing my job and income. These fears, while at times overblown, are not ungrounded.

But the goal of spiritual development – in any religious tradition – is not to make life easy. As the Buddhists say, before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water. The goal of spiritual development is to learn to transcend life’s sorrows and difficulties.

Throughout my life I have repeatedly shown that when faced with real challenges I always find some way through them. Most of us do. We work a little harder, or a little longer. We get out of our comfort zones and do what we have to do. We recognize our limitations and ask for help. We recognize a lost cause and try something new. We re-evaluate our priorities and refocus on what’s really important.

I’ll get through this stressful time at work – I always have. And if my worst fears come true and this job goes away, I’ll find another one. I’ve done it three times before, and if I have to I can do it again. But this isn’t the real challenge in this situation.

The real challenge is to overcome the day-to-day, hour-to-hour fear that is the true source of my stress. It is the fear – not the long hours, not the difficult work, not the demanding co-workers – that is distracting me from my daily practice, that is keeping me from being a good exemplar of Druidry, and that ultimately is a roadblock to my spiritual growth and development. I like to talk about preparing for “something big” that’s coming somewhere down the road, but this is about as big as it gets. This is here and now.

Hast thou the courage? While Gardner’s challenge is rather dramatic, the real challenge isn’t to enter the circle with no fear. The challenge is to have the courage to enter in spite of your fears. Have perfect trust in the perfect love of the Goddess and God and move forward boldly.

The first test comes tomorrow at 7:30 AM.

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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06208142626285495635 Robin Edgar

    Maybe this will come in handy then. . . ;-)

    Interestingly enough the WVC for this comment is – messes

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06208142626285495635 Robin Edgar

    BTW Speaking of fear and all. . .

    Some cowardly anonymous U*U blogger is *pretending* that you and most other U*U bloggers who *dare* to publish my critical comments on your blogs are motivated solely by fear aka dread of the dreaded Emerson Avenger. Here are their exact words as quoted from the brand-spanking new Robin Edgar Sucks blog -

    "Most UU bloggers have either banned Robin Edgar for his insulting attacks, or post his comments in the desperate hope that he won’t attack them (at least too much)"

    It seems to me that this U*U ass*ertion of a quite evidently cowardly U*U blogger is insulting to the many (if not most. . .) UU bloggers who do see fit to post my comments for various reasons that have little or nothing to do with any real fear of The Emerson Avenger. I mean after all what is the worst "attack" that I have ever launched upon any hypocritical U*U blogger who has knowingly and willfully censored and suppressed my critical comments submitted to their blog in order to complicitly "cover up and hide" the various U*U injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy which cause "worship-related stress" as it were that I am exposing and denouncing so that they *might* be responsibly addressed and redressed, or otherwise corrected, by U*Us?

    So you and other U*U bloggers who do choose to post my comments may want to gather up the moral courage required to tell this cowardly anonymous U*U blogger why it is that you do publish most if not all of my comments.

    Regards,

    Robin Edgar aka The Emerson Sucker

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12973236204479909543 KParis

    Thank you so much for this post. It really spoke to me.

    Living with chronic fear is paralyzing. Life becomes a chore and a scary one at that. To embrace life and live without fear is something I'd very much like to be able to do.


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