It’s the blue screen of death. It’s that moment when things are crashing down around your ears and life has become one long moment of watching that rainbow wheel rotating endlessly on your screen. The pressure in your ears, the dryness in your mouth, the feeling that your knees might actually give way is like a dame in some old detective flick. We’ve all had those moments. I’m kinda in the middle of one.
It’s not a lot of fun.
What do you do when the proverbial brown excrement hits the proverbial spinning device? For me, it’s when I turn to my People. I say that with a capital letter for a reason. Because you see, my People are a network rather similar to a computer network. It consists of the people in my religious community, my friends and family. It also consists of the non-human People. The pine squirrel that teaches me lessons on communication and the song-birds that lift my heart are also part of my People. The spirits of the ancestors that I give daily offerings to are also part of my People. The Gods and Goddesses that I honor at high days at my home shrine are also part of my People.
All these People are a web of community and safety that holds me while I hold them at the same time. For those of us in pagan religions who are lucky enough to have a circle, coven, grove, or temple to practice with, we are incredibly lucky. It’s hard work, for sure. I’ve seen good people get burned out and turn angry and cruel. I’ve seen grand plans fail, and good ideas get ignored. But I am telling you there is something powerful to all of this and I have felt it myself in the last few weeks.
This isn’t the power of a great magician, though we certainly have those. Nor is it the power of a leader to shape events, or the power of the activist to change the world, though those are all part of my People as well. This is the power of small acts of kindness where each person gives when and what they can. Where they give, safe in the belief that they are in a community of like-minded People who will give back to them.
That’s reciprocity and that’s *ghosti. That’s my religion at work.
I’ve written about the tribe of the outsiders before, and I have found that chosen family is more powerful than given family, though sometimes, given family is the choice I have made. I would like to say that we live in difficult times, but I think that is not so. I think that these times are no more or less difficult than the ones that have come before, and may well be less difficult than what will come.
I see it working in my own life. I have spent almost 20 years immersed in pagan community. I have organized, cook, led, laughed, cried, and worked damn hard. This week I felt that gifted water of my life flowing back to me. I have to move out of my home quite suddenly, and I have offers of support, love, kindness, storage, car fixing, boxes, and more. So much love.
Truly, water shared is life shared.
So when we struggle and fail, for we surely will do both things, I hope that we can also remember the laughter and love that comes from all the People, both human and non-human. This is what I work for.
I know I’ve gotten a little personal here on what is really a rather new column and I only talk to you but twice a month, dear reader. But sometimes I see how we struggle as a community. We struggle with definitions of the word pagan, with inclusiveness, with racism, with sexism, with ecological degradation. With so much pain and suffering sometimes I have felt like it was all a joke. Like my religion had no point other than to make pretty ritual theater in backyards and living rooms. But It’s more than that, in a way that may not change the world, but might just help us survive it to pass on our knowledge to the next generation that they might do better than us.
We do this stuff when we don’t hurt so that we know what to do when we do. Ritual done in times of calm is preparation for ritual done in times of need. We do this stuff to make the lives of those around us better. We do this stuff so that we can survive.
I am a Druid and I am damn lucky that I have my People.