What Shall We Die For?

Last week’s post The Storm is Strengthening – Put Your Faith In Deeper Things generated more interest than any post so far this year. It resonated with Pagans, Christians, and those who don’t like being classified. There were long detailed comments – some public, some private – that said “I don’t know exactly what it is, but I feel it too.”

Some of my friends with more experience and deeper practices aren’t particularly optimistic. They have stronger connections with the Otherworld and they know those who are coming through the Veil are doing so for their own reasons, not to be helpful to humans.

More importantly, they’ve seen enough of the ordinary world to realize that we aren’t doing much to help ourselves. And by “we” I don’t mean your average clueless suburbanite – I mean far too many Pagans, polytheists, witches, and other folks who should know better.

On one hand, I understand. Ultimately we’re just ordinary people trying to make our way through a world that’s often uncaring and unkind. We have our own needs and issues and we can’t turn them off at will.

On the other hand, massive storms (whether meteorological or metaphysical) bring a sense of urgency that should rearrange our priorities. You may be completely unskilled at carpentry, but if you need to board up your house before a hurricane hits, you’ll figure out how to swing a hammer. Perhaps more relevantly, you’ll stop fighting with your housemates about whose job it is to clean the bathroom at least long enough to insure you’ll still have a bathroom once the storm arrives.

You can’t ignore this

Well, you can, but like every other problem, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

Start where ever you will. The shredded Veil Between the Worlds. The Otherworld bleeding over into this world. The alignment of cycles of magic and of Nature. Climate change. The continuing decline of the Anglo-American empire. You can be as this-worldly or as Otherworldly as you like: from virtually any perspective, the world is changing rapidly and not for the better. The Myth of Progress served the West well for 300 years, but its time is over. The Myth of Seasons and Cycles is reasserting itself. Things don’t get better and better forever and ever. Things get better, then things get worse.

This is not Mercury Retrograde where things will go back to normal in three to four weeks.  We are on a long downward spiral and we will not see the bottom in my lifetime, nor likely in the lifetime of anyone alive today.

You can ignore it until it smacks you upside the head. Or you can start dealing with it now.

There will be no apocalypse

Last week a small group of Christians were disappointed when the Rapture failed to happen as they predicted. They join a long list of false prophets (yes, I’m borrowing that term from Evangelical Christianity with full knowledge of its implications in that tradition) over the past 3500 years who have predicted an apocalypse: a great revealing. These prophecies have a perfect record: they’ve been wrong Every. Single. Time.

Apocalyptic prophecies are eternally popular because they’re easy. In one version, the bad stuff goes away and is suddenly replaced with good stuff: Jesus returns with a new Heaven and new Earth, or there’s a world-wide consciousness raising and people start behaving like angels (and forgetting that Lucifer was an angel…). Things get all better overnight and we don’t have to do anything but enjoy it.

In the other version, bad stuff overwhelms us and wipes us all out. We destroy the Earth in a nuclear war. Aliens attack and Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum are nowhere to be found. The world ends overnight and we don’t have to do anything but die.

The common thread is “and we don’t have to do anything.”

We don’t get off that easy. The climate will get hotter and dryer and more unpredictable. War may come to our homeland, as we’ve taken war to other people’s homes. Various spiritual being will set up shop in our neighborhoods, seeking to reclaim what was once theirs. The high strangeness will intensify – the intrigue will soon wear off and we’ll be left to deal with monsters ourselves.

There was no sudden and dramatic end during the Black Plague or the witch trials, nor for the First Nations upon the arrival of Europeans in large numbers. There will be no sudden and dramatic end for us.

Choose your strategy

The spiritual world and the mundane world are ever and always intertwined. My experiences over the past few years tell me that the spiritual is becoming more and more present in the mundane. Not enough to make materialists change their assumptions about the way the world works, but enough to make those of us with a magical perspective sit up and pay attention.

Are you going to try to get through this on your own? I don’t recommend it, but some of you will try. You will only have your own resources to draw on, and you will have little in the way of emergency assistance if (when) things go badly. I suggest you firm up your relationships with your Gods, ancestors, and other spiritual allies – you will need them.

Are you going to try to build a strong local community? This is perhaps the best single option. We need friends and family who can help out when we’re sick (physically or spiritually), who can encourage us to do our best and hold us accountable when we start to slide, and who can stand with us in the face of opposition. Do you have such a community? If not, can you build one?

Newgrange Kerbstone

The best way to have friends who will be there when you need them most is to be there for them when they need you.

Are you going to build alliances? What happens when your local group is overwhelmed? What happens when you run into a situation – spiritually or mundanely – that you’ve never seen before?

We need not agree with everything our allies do. They may have different Gods, different practices, and different philosophies. But where we have common cause, we are better off if we work together for the common good.

Choose your strategy. I prefer a combination of all three.

What shall we die for?

Regular readers of this blog – or those of you who are Pirates of the Caribbean  fans – will recognize the source of this post’s title. In the third movie At World’s End, Elizabeth Swann makes a rousing speech to the pirate crew of the Black Pearl. She exhorts them to stop fighting amongst themselves and do something. If we’re going to die anyway, let’s go out fighting the enemy, not our fellow pirates.

And who knows, if the wind is on our side, we might not die.

I do not suggest that physical death is imminent – it is not. But I strongly suggest that if our collection of spirit workers, God-bothereds, and other mystics are more or less in agreement that bad things will continue to happen at an increasing rate, we might want to rethink our priorities. We might want to spend less time arguing with our fellow Pagans and more time building the practices and institutions – yes, I said institutions – we need to successfully navigate this strange new world.

If we don’t have to fight, let’s not fight. If we must fight, let’s make sure we’re fighting our enemies and not those who should be our allies.

A call to convocation

Blog posts and Facebook threads facilitate the spread of ideas at a rate our ancestors would find magical. But there is still no substitute for face to face conversation.

On July 13 – 15, I’ll be one of the headliners at the second Mystic South conference in Atlanta. Last year’s gathering was excellent – I expect this one will be even better. I’ll be leading two workshops: “The Shredded Veil” and “Daily Spiritual Practice for Pagans.” I’ll also be leading a ritual titled “A Gathering of Ravens: A Devotional Ritual to the Morrigan” – and it’s looking like we’ll have a good turnout from Denton to help facilitate the ritual.

When I’m not presenting I’ll be going to other presenters’ workshops, and I’ll be hanging out in the lobby and in various rooms talking about veils and storms and other such matters. I’d love for you to be part of that conversation.

If you can possibly make it, I encourage you to attend. This is an opportunity for you to learn some good and necessary stuff, but an even better opportunity to make some face to face connections that will – if we are diligent and wise – lead to formal and informal alliances across the Pagan and polytheist movements.

I understand that travel of this nature is impossible for some of you. Make the connections you can from where you are, even if that’s only going to your local Pagan Pride Day. But if you have the ability to travel, this gathering will be well worth your time and money.

Just remember that the pirates are not your enemy.

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