Doing Paganism

I just didn’t feel like doing ritual. Book deadlines, stupid people saying even stupider things, broken web pages, our nonsensical political landscape, and a whole bunch of other irritants had worn me out by the end of the week. Even preparing the house for ritual wasn’t as joyous as it usually is . . . . . after a day spent writing about Paganism, I didn’t want to do any Paganism.

My life revolves around Paganism in a way very different from most people. I get up in the morning, knock the fog out of my head, and proceed to spend two or three hours working on stuff for Patheos Pagan. When that’s finished I might read a little bit for book research purposes, before then spending the next several hours trying to cough up between to 1000 and 3000 words for the current book project. By 5:00 PM it’s time to start cooking dinner for the wife, or perhaps jet off to teach Wicca 101 or do my occasional podcast. I spend most of everyday engrossed in Pagan related things, but that’s not doing Paganism.

Devotional Altar to Dionysus.
Devotional Altar to Dionysus.

Once I can get to do the doing though, I remember just how much I like the doing. This past Friday night as I begrudgingly began our coven’s ritual, I just couldn’t find the magick, and then the incense hit. Smell is a surprisingly strong trigger for remembering specific memories and conjuring emotions, and it’s often the smack in the face (or nose) needed to bring me into ritual and out of my head. By the time we had the circle up I was totally in the moment and doing Paganism and I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I went so begrudgingly into our ritual space.

I’m always amazed by the number of people who complain about Paganism (and by extension the people within Paganism), and think that somehow constitutes the doing. There’s very little that’s holy about my computer keyboard, and I think that’s true for most of us. I’m not immune here, I get sucked into stupid arguments as easily as the next person, but what I would never mistake them for Paganism.

What brought most of us to Paganism was the doing. We embraced this path because it connects us with something greater than ourselves. For me it was about building a relationship with the natural world and deity. My early days of Paganism were spent gathering rain water, listening to the breeze (no, really!), and praying to the Goddess. Those days were free of distractions about Paganism, and entirely focused on the doing of Paganism. (It probably helped that I was a solitary and just couldn’t be distracted by anyone else.)

It’s easy for me to romanticize my early days as a solitary. Every day was so full of possibility and promise . . . . all I had to do was just get out the front door and see what was waiting for me. Perhaps it was a fairy in the bushes outside the house, or a full moon radiating the power of the Goddess in a way that I could literally feel and almost touch. Those days weren’t all good, my life was quite troubled to be honest, but Paganism was the solace and the escape from that world.

The magick altar is always a mess, but that's because we do stuff on it.
The magick altar is always a mess, but that’s because we do stuff on it.

There are days now when what people erroneously perceive to be Paganism is the trouble. If you had asked me at age 22 if anything connected to Paganism would cause me grief I would have responded with “nothing connected to the Lady could cause me grief or sorrow.” Sadly, that’s just not the truth anymore. There are grey hairs on my head directly related to experiences in this community, and I now find myself carrying genuine ill will towards some people. (I’m not much of a grudge carrier, so this reality is absolutely devastating on some levels.)

And of course all the venom comes back to people (including myself) not doing Paganism. If we spent more time doing the Paganism there wouldn’t be time for the petty stupidness that often ruins our discourse. And if I was spending more time doing Paganism maybe I wouldn’t see any of it to begin with. There are Nazis protesting in our nation’s cities and glaciers becoming puddles, there’s plenty of Paganism to do.

In the Charge of the Goddess the Lady says “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.” That should make the doing of Paganism so easy! Changing the world is an act of love. Kissing my wife is an act of pleasure. Embracing the natural world is an act of love. There is so much Paganism to be doing out in the world!

Let’s never forget the importance of doing the Paganism. Paganism is not something experienced from an office chair or a smart phone. Paganism happens when we open ourselves up to powers and energies greater than our own.

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