Katrina Rasbold of the Witch at the Crossroads blog has a brilliant post titled The Pagan Bucket list. A more descriptive title would be the last line to her second paragraph: “Six goals all Pagans want to accomplish before they die” – so I’m going to use an adaptation of that for the title to this post.
I’m not going to summarize it for you because I want to you to go read it for yourself. There are probably a few Pagans who don’t have all of these goals, but my best guess is that most of us have most of them. I’ve thought about all six of them. I’ve accomplished two, and it’s possible I’ll do some variation on the others before I die.
On one hand, it’s important to talk about our dreams. The more we think about them, articulate them, and mentally try them on for size, the more we begin to visualize them – and visualization is strong magic.
On the other hand, at some point dreams have to become goals and goals have to become plans. I know too many people who talk too much about what they’re going to do “someday” – and they never do. Perhaps they like the idea of a thing more than they like the thing itself. Or doing the thing requires skills and resources they don’t have and can’t get. Or their hands are simply too full with mundane life. There are many reasons, otherwise the country would be scattered with a couple hundred thousand metaphysical shops.
This is my Pagan Bucket List… or at least, part of it. There are a couple of things I’m not ready to talk about publicly. But these are the Pagan things I’d like to do before I take up long-term residence in the Otherworld.
You can check back in 30 or 40 years and see how I did.
1. I want to maintain my spiritual practice for the rest of this life
Not every big goal is for something more. Some big goals are to maintain what we’ve already achieved that’s really important.
My spiritual practice is my foundation. It’s what keeps me connected to my Gods, ancestors, and other spiritual allies. It’s what reminds me of what’s most important on a daily basis and helps me avoid chasing proverbial rabbits in the mainstream world. I want to keep it up. I need to keep it up.
I’m talking about my four daily prayers. Weekly offerings. Monthly magical workings. Seasonal celebrations. I want to keep doing those for the rest of this life, and at the risk of sounding more Pagan than thou, it’s important for me to put that at the top of this list.
Why I might not do it: Unexpected health issues – that’s about it. While a crisis of faith might cause a refocus, I can’t imagine anything that would cause me to abandon this path – not after all these years, and after all these powerful experiences.
Odds on accomplishing it: 99%
2. I want to be a full-time Druid
This is not the same as Katrina’s “I want to support myself through magic.” As much as I like to dream about being a professional temple priest or some similar Pagan position that doesn’t exist, at the end of the day I’m afraid that if my religion became my job, my religion would become a job. I like being able to write what I want to write knowing that if people don’t like it, I’ll miss out on tens of dollars – I won’t lose my house.
I’m on the Gerald Gardner plan. Gardner retired on a British civil servant pension and spent the rest of his life promoting Wicca. Gardner lived in a different era – he retired at 52. I’m hoping to retire at 65, and that’s not certain. But I look forward to the day when I can write, speak, teach, consult, and practice full-time without spending time working a “regular” job.
Why I might not do it: Massive economic collapse and/or cuts to Social Security and Medicare. I’ve played the corporate game since I was 22 and I’m on track to have enough to retire safely, though not exactly in the kind of luxury you see in TV commercials. But a repeat of 2008 would force me to keep working longer – maybe by a year or two, but maybe even more.
Odds on accomplishing it: 85%
3. I want to write a third book (and maybe a fourth)
I still want to write Paganism Off The Map. That was the working title for Paganism in Depth, but Llewellyn thought that sounded like a Pagan travel guide. And then my editor Elysia Gallo showed me that I was trying to write Book 3 before I wrote Book 2 – I had to do some major editing to rework the initial manuscript into the book you see now.
But I still want to write a book on the kind of ancestral, devotional, ecstatic, oracular, magical, public, Pagan polytheism I practice – with emphasis on the ecstatic and oracular elements.
And I want to write a book on metaphysics for Modern Pagans – an in-depth exploration of the foundational assumptions behind Paganism as I practice it. I’ve been happy with the way my most recent on-line class went, but there’s not a book in it… at least not yet.
This is something that doesn’t exist yet: we have classical metaphysics, but nothing from a contemporary viewpoint. Someone needs to write it. This isn’t my area of expertise, but it may end up being me.
Why I might not do it: Other priorities, particularly before I become a full-time Druid. Writing books is a lot of work and it doesn’t pay very well.
Odds on accomplishing it: 70% for a third book, 50% for a fourth.
4. I want to go to Egypt
My Paganism is rooted in North America in general and Texas in particular. I have spiritual ancestors in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England, and I’ve been fortunate enough to make four trips to that region. I had some amazing experiences there (especially in Anglesey and in Orkney) and I was reminded that my home and my work is here in Texas, not there.
But I have wanted to go to Egypt ever since I saw The Mummy and The Ten Commandments as a small child. Becoming a Pagan and forming relationships with some of the Gods of Egypt has only strengthened that desire. I want to see the Pyramids and the Pyramid Texts for myself. I want to see the Nile. Mainly I want to pray and make offerings to the Neteru in the places They were worshipped thousands of years ago.
Egypt has always been “too far” – too expensive, too unfamiliar, too risky. I was supposed to go this May, but most of the people I was going to travel with dropped out and the trip was no longer viable. Given the current situation with the coronavirus, I’m a bit relieved we aren’t going now.
But I want to make this trip before I get too old. I’m currently aiming for 2022, costs be damned. We will see.
Why I might not do it: War and/or political unrest in the region. Pandemics. Financial setbacks. Waiting too long – this isn’t a trip I want to try if I’m not in very good health.
Odds on accomplishing it: 65%
5. I want to host a polytheist clergy retreat
Unlike Katrina Rasbold, I have no desire to host a large Pagan gathering. I’ve been to enough of them to know that’s a headache I don’t need. But I would really like to host a retreat for polytheist clergy and mystics.
Somewhere between 20 and 50 people, all of whom worship one or more of the Many Gods, all of whom do the work of a priest – people who serve their Gods, mediate for their Gods, and serve their communities. People who share metaphysics and theology (mostly) even though they follow different traditions.
Meet for a three or four day weekend. Have a few workshops and seminars covering topics of common interest. Have people take turns leading devotions so we can see how other people and other traditions do it. Mainly, have plenty of unstructured time to sit around and talk about best practices and current challenges with the people who are doing this work at a level most Pagans aren’t interested in.
Why I might not do it: Finding a suitable location (indoor meeting space, outdoor ritual space, on-site lodging and meals, within an hour or so of a major airport) will be difficult. I can find the money to start it, but the risk of losing a significant amount is high and I can’t afford to eat it. Many of the people I would want to attend would be challenged to make it. And more than a few would say “if Person X is going to be there, I’m not coming” – whoever Person X happens to be for them.
Odds on accomplishing it: 30%
6. I want to found a Druid college
I’m not talking about a seminary or some other type of traditional school. I’m talking about a dream I wrote about back in 2013:
Part ancient monastery and part modern university, it would be a place where Druids, witches, and other Pagans would come to learn from and with the best and brightest. Most would come for a short time, studying advanced topics, deepening their practices and then returning to their communities to teach and serve.
Some would stay longer, researching and experimenting and documenting their findings to share with the college and the wider community. Others would be permanent residents, maintaining continuity across generations and insuring proper rites were performed to keep the institution committed to its mission.
This would basically be a permanent version of the polytheist clergy retreat.
I see no way to make this a reality. Perhaps I could raise the up-front capital, but without a PowerBall level endowment, there’s no way to cover the regular operating expenses.
But it might be possible to create a virtual college and use the polytheist clergy retreats as annual or biannual in-person meetings.
Why I might not do it: I flat-out don’t have the bandwidth now. Will I have enough after I retire? Maybe, maybe not – this is really big. What else will the Gods I serve put on my plate between now and then? How many years – and how many good years – do I have left?
Odds on accomplishing it: < 1% for a permanent physical institution. 5% for a virtual college.