Default Settings

I’ve written about this before and will, no doubt, write about it again. There are often default settings in the interfaith world that require patience and open-mindedness to reset. Years ago I was part of a group talking about “sabbath” and there was a sense that everyone has one and that it was a “day of rest” in which one communed with the Divine.  Many of us, though, have sabbaths/holy days and they are not in the least restful. They are loud and raucous and celebratory and we are exhausted when they are over.  And if we’re lucky, we’ve even had some yummy things to fill our bellies, too. Perhaps our communing with our Divines is less restful than some others.

I’m part of an interfaith panel in a couple of weeks, sponsored by a group for whom I have much respect.  I was contacted to be the “Earth religions” representative and will be joined on the panel by a Christian, a Muslim and a rabbi.  I am often the lone non-Abrahamic on this sort of panel–possibly because I play well with others.  And on this particular panel, I am also the only woman.  That’s not particularly unusual either.

I put the date on my calendar and began to look forward to a panel that is all about environmental issues and the relationship of religion to nature.  Hey, I’m a Pagan–I can do that talk with one hand tied behind my back.

The email came earlier this week, giving us a few more details and confirming time and date.  There was also a list of questions that we’ll be covering and a general overview of our time together and what happens when.  The title of the program? “Faith and Creation.”  That may not seem like an issue for you but it is an example of this peculiar default.  The spiritual systems I represent rarely refer to their practice as “faith” and when you honor and worship the great blue ball of the Earth as live-giver and creatrix, you really don’t refer to Nature as “creation.”

See what I mean?  But I am hardly going to quibble about language in the title. I’ll use the dichotomy as part of my talk, to help the listeners understand a little about this family of spiritual traditions about which they may be curious or even ambivalent.  I’ll work with this gift of a teaching moment and it will all be fine.  I’m sure it will.

Then I get an email from the moderator–a wise rabbi with whom I’ve done this schtick before.  And the questions and examples are all from the Old Testament.  Yes, I confess I sighed a bit.  And then I girded my loins and began to relish the thought of dealing with that dominion passage from Genesis.  Again.

I’ll let you know how it all goes.

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About Byron Ballard

H. Byron Ballard, BA, MFA, is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has served as a featured speaker and teacher at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference and other gatherings. Earlier this year, she presented “Gnarly Roots: Exploring the British Sources of Appalachian Folk Magic” at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference and will facilitate a workshop on Deep Grounding at the Glastonbury Goddess Conference in August. Her writings have appeared in print and electronic media. Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press). She blogs as “Asheville’s Village Witch” ( and as The Village Witch for Witches and Pagans Magazine ( Her pamphlet “Back to the Garden: a Handbook for New Pagans“ has been widely distributed and her first book “Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo” (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on “Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet”. She facilitates the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum in Asheville, NC and was active for many years in the United Religions Initiative.