Resolutions, Oaths and Promises

Everyone is busy making their New Year’s resolutions and I’ve already made mine. At Yule, in a cast circle, I made my resolutions before the Gods, the elements and my church. Pretty heavy stuff.

For me this sort of oath is especially important. It’s more than a promise. It’s more than saying “I’ll try” or simply good intentions. It’s placing your relationships in a sacred context. It is strengthening your love via obligations. It’s creating bonds of respect, love and affection.

Bonds and obligations grate at our very modern sensibilities. We think of freedom as being free from obligations and we often think of Paganism as embodying freedom. Yet Paganism is also about relationships, about give and take, about the time it takes to nurture and encourage love to grow. Being free from obligation is also being free from deep grounded love.

Possibly my easiest oath was to make greener purchasing choices. My love for the earth means I can no longer grab a sweet tea at Chik-Fil-La, where they use styrofoam cups. This obligation means I need to purchase less plastic which will probably result in my eating healthier since that means buying less soda.

My next oath was to be of greater service to my church. I do not enjoy leading ritual, and like most people I have a limited amount of time and resources. Yet I have the utmost respect for my Priestess and Priest. They work hard and give a lot of their time and resources to the church out of their love for the Craft and for those they teach. Demonstrating my love and respect for them means I need to make my monthly church donations an uncompromisable part of my budget, and need to be available to take on any tasks they need me to perform. Even those tasks that make me uncomfortable. Regardless of my financial situation, my time constraints or any of the other nonsense in my life, they were there for me as sure as sunrise when it came to be time for class or ritual.  By placing myself under this obligation I show my respect and appreciation for the obligations they have undertaken and my love for them for being such a reliable, wise and solid presence in my life. Seriously, my Priestess is incredible. She puts up with me and not many elders would!

Not to forget all the other wonderful members of my church. They make new people feel welcome, they teach, they lead ritual, they cook up fattening treats and they’re always good for a hug when you need one the most! Being in service to the church means being in service to them as well. Taking care of each other is what a tribe does. It’s what a family does. It’s most certainly what a coven does. I intend to be more mindful of that.

My last oath is probably the hardest. I swore to get my house in order, which is a broad and more meaningful way of getting my life in order. But while my life seems a more vague and somewhat shallow thing to put in order, my house is a far more serious thing. A house can also refer to a legacy, to putting down roots, to having stability, to being open and hospitable, to being well-grounded in place, to being family-oriented. It’s meaning is more mythic and far-reaching. My “house” is not simply a building or my own individual life, but encompasses my ancestors, my descendants (biological, adopted or spiritual) and my community. It means making long-term commitments and plans, reorganizing my finances to reflect that and making changes in my behavior to reflect those commitments. It’s a heavy task I have sworn to undertake before the Gods. It is now part of my relationship with them and for me to not uphold my oath is to disrespect my relationship with them.

(A quick example of how oaths to my Gods play out in my life is that when seeking a sacred service from someone recently I was offered a discount, which I politely declined. Though I am not an initiate, I consider myself Wiccan and I feel bound by many of the traditional laws, which includes not haggling over the price of sacred things. I insisted on paying the “sticker price.” )

I was trying to explain to a Christian not very long ago that the idea of unconditional love is a very foreign concept to me religiously (and romantically but that’s another blog post altogether). I don’t feel unconditional love from my Gods. The love I feel from them and the love I bear for them is dependent on our relationship.  When I’m not fulfilling my half of the relationship there is a distance between us. There have been Gods I have reached out to and practiced devotions to without feeling them reach back. While it would be wrong to characterize our relationship as a “What have you done for me lately?” situation, it’s very true that our relationship, and in turn our love and respect for each other, is based on our mutual commitment to each other.

I don’t find this “conditional love” to be less. It’s a proven and tested love. It is a love that has weathered storms. I can depend on my Gods and therefore I strive with all my might to be certain they can depend on me. The oaths that I have made to my planet, my coven and myself are all bound up in my relationship with my Gods. Made in love, they are of love. They are not restricting in the negative sense, because who has more opportunities than someone with a strong network of relationships?

My planet, this beautiful Earth, has allowed me to flourish in her bounty. My church has made a commitment to teach me and give me access to sacred space. I am happy to give back to them. I am happy to be bound to them by unshakable oaths. My years of devotion to my Gods has been answered by their love and support, and on very rare occasions by their own oaths to aid me. It’s not hard to bind myself to them in turn.

And to lighten things up and ring in the New Year I give you some classic 80’s New Wave:

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About Star Foster

Southern polytheist in the Midwest.

  • Cara

    That was very, very lovely. And you have hit upon something that gets at the heart of the ‘divide’ between some in the Neo-Pagan community and some in the Recon Pagan community – the understanding that obligations and bonds are not hampers to our freedoms, they are the very support structures that grant us greater freedom.

  • Laura Patsouris

    Great post! The web of obligation is also a web of support and love…which more people need to embrace. Our culture has swung far too much towards rugged individualism and “me, me, me”…is it any wonder we also have such a sense of alienation and isolation in our country? When we become our brother’s keeper (so to speak) we invest and imbue our relationships with more meaning and reap accordingly. Human relationships may be messy and sometimes difficult…but as mammals we are social creatures and cannot manage happily in our own little bubbles (barring some Limbic brain damage).