[The following story was sent to us by the Patrick McCollum Foundation. It brings us highlights of Patrick McCollum’s current sojourn through India, part of his larger ongoing interfaith and World Peace work. Patrick McCollum has been working as a Pagan chaplain and activist for well over twenty years. He was one of the founding members of the Lady Liberty League, and has been involved in numerous legal struggles involving modern Pagans. You can read more about Patrick’s accomplishment’s, here.]
Rev. Patrick McCollum traveled to India this month as a part of his international interfaith and World Peace work. Patrick, who works openly as a Pagan elder in these areas, works diligently to forge international alliances in the hope of building a better world. In the last five years, he has created significant alliances between Hindus, Buddhists, and Native Americans, in addition to creating friendships with numerous influential people.
This month, At the invitation of His Highness, Jyotendrasinhji Vikramsinhji Sahib, Maharaja of Gondal, Patrick had the esteemed honor of being invited to participate in the facilitation of the ancient ritual of Maha Shivarati, inside the renouned sacred Bhavnath Temple at Junagadh in the Ghia Forrest. It is estimated by the Gujarat Police that over a Million pilgrims flocked to the site to be blessed by the ritual, creating an undulating mass of worshipers far beyond what the eye could see.
“Everywhere you looked there were people as far as you could see as our car and its advance security team pushed its way like an icebreaker through the pulsing crowd. We were the only two vehicles allowed to travel within the last ten mile radius of the temple and there was a surreal quality as the sheer weight of the people became overwhelming.”
Upon reaching the temple grounds, Patrick, His Highness the Maharaja, Her Highness the Maharani, and the Viscountess Windsor of the British Royal Family, exited the car, and made their way to a small patio while the temple space was prepared. Women are not allowed in the ceremony, so the Countess and Maharani were seated comfortably and Patrick and His Highness were escorted forward into the temple.
The inner temple which is dedicated to the god Shiva, the Lord of the Dance, was only large enough for Patrick and the King and the other seven Sacred Priests, making nine Priests total. In the center, polished by millennia of pouring Ghee and other sacred sacraments over it, stands a time-worn dark stone Lignin under the protective gaze of a multiple-headed silver cobra.
Chanting filled the air, as vessels filled with milk and herbs were emptied over the ultimate male symbol. Sadhu’s, India’s recluse jungle priests, decended from their secret mountain abodes, naked and covered in ash for the sacred event.
“It is not possible to the explain the intensity and sacredness of the ritual,” Patrick shared. “it is beyond description. It is so ancient and holy that all I can say is that as a Pagan Priest, I am incredibly humbled and cannot imagine that anything I could possibly do in the future will even come close. Just imagine performing a ritual with over a million people surrounding you, each focusing all of their energy and attention on the tiny cubical you’re standing in. The sheer power of their prayers creating a wave of power so concentrated that you could cut it with a knife. This is the stuff of legend.”
“We arrived at the gates of the Palace and it was like a fairy tale.” Patrick said. “The Palace was huge with towers and parapets silhouetting the night sky, and it was entirely lit up with colored lights. A canopied red carpet adorned with thousands of flowers guided us a quarter of a mile through courtyards to the reception. We were then greeted by a troop of performing turbaned sword dancers in white as the colorfully turbaned Prince & veiled Princess sat on a wonderfully decorated Dias. We sat right up front with full view of all of the festivities, and there were colorfully and exotically dressed Maharajas, political figures, and nobility everywhere. It was like a scene from the Arabian Nights!
Following ceremony, we were whisked away through carved stone hallways and secluded gardens. We continued past the rear of the Palace to a huge circular tent made of colorful strips of cloth for a small private dinner. I had the opportunity to meet a number of important people including the Chief Minister.
After it was all over, our car picked us up and transported us back to our Palace in Gondal, to a long and fully appreciated sleep.”
After leaving Gondal, Patrick traveled on to Varanasi, considered the oldest surviving city in the world, and perhaps the most sacred in India. In Varanasi, Patrick entered the River Ganges in ceremony. Following that, he had the privilege of being invited by the Presiding Priest of Lord Shiva (to whom the city is dedicated) to have his work blessed during the revered Aarti ritual on the banks of Ganges.
“As the water enveloped me, I came to understand the sacredness of this place. I could feel the bones of those who were recently put to rest under my feet and between my toes, and the silt that had washed down from the mountains slid past like thick syrup carrying the memory of all it had seen. I’d heard Crocodiles patrolled the waters speeding up the decay process as I watched the cremation fires only yards away, like a conveyor belt of celebration and sadness, and I realized that this is the very vortex between life and death, an Axis Mundi if you will. Everything eventually ends up in the river, and everything emerges from it. On my third time down under, the river spoke to me, and I will never be the same.”
On February 26th, Patrick spoke at the International Conference on Spiritual Paradigm for Surmounting Global Management Crisis at the School of Management Sciences, Varanasi, sharing a Pagan perspective toward resolving the Global crisis.
Patrick also met with several world renowned Swamis at their Ashrams, and had detailed discussions with them on spirituality and on creating alliances between Pagans and Hindus.
Patrick will finish his tour of India, visiting several more Ashrams and speaking at the World Council of Elders of Ancient Traditions & Cultures in Haridwar.
“My journey has not only been one of making important alliances and gaining respect for our Pagan traditions, it has also been a deep spiritual journey for me personally. I hope I can share what I’ve learned with my community when I return, and that I have opened doorways that will make it easier for others to follow.”
[I’d like to thank Patrick McCollum, and the Patrick McCollum Foundation for sending us this update. Patrick’s increasing role as an international interfaith diplomat for modern Pagans is both exciting and heartening. I hope that the bridges being built in India between Hindus and modern Pagans continue to strengthen and grow. You can read all of my coverage regarding Patrick McCollum’s work, here.]