If you were born a medieval peasant, odds were good you were going to die a medieval peasant. For most of history (and before) things like social mobility and career choice were in very short supply.
It’s different today. While it’s not exactly true that every little kid can grow up to be anything they want to be, we have more and better options and opportunities now than at any time in the history of humanity. And those options and opportunities don’t end when we declare a major, begin a career, and choose a spouse. Some close and some shrink as we get older, but others are still there – often far more than we think.
Sometimes more options is a good thing. Other times it just makes things complicated. Regardless, we have to choose or someone will choose for us.
I’m still working my day job as an engineer, and I’ll be doing that for at least a few more years. How many more depends on the economy, on my health, and on how things go with my employer. I like my odds to get out on my own terms, but I’ve seen too many bad things happen to people my age to assume it can’t happen to me. Still, at some point in the not-too-distant future, I will no longer be spending 40+ hours a week in a corporate environment.
I’ve always said “then I become a full time Druid.” And that’s still my plan, but what exactly does that mean for where I live, how I live, and how I spend my days? Honestly, I’m not sure.
One of the advantages of getting older is that you have a much better idea of what you do and don’t want. There are paths I investigated in my 20s and 30s that I don’t have to investigate now – I know I don’t want them. There are mistakes I made in my 20s and 30s that I learned from and won’t make again. There are choices and commitments I’ve made over the years that limit my options in the future.
Any time we say “yes” to one thing we say “no” to all the other things we could have done with those resources – especially the resource of time. I’ve said “yes” to a lot of things – and to a lot of persons – over the years. You could say that those choices are limiting my future options.
I prefer to say that those choices have built a foundation for what I’m going to do with the rest of this life.
A foundation of many Gods
Even at the worst of my childhood in a fundamentalist church, even when I was old enough to actively reject what I had been taught, I never seriously considered being an atheist. There was always something that whispered “there’s more.” It took years of searching (some years more actively than others) to find the path that speaks to me, that calls to me, that’s right for me. But when I found it, things took off in a hurry. I’m now convinced I have a natural orientation toward Paganism and polytheism.
My experiences of the Gods and with the Gods have persuaded me that They are real and that They are individuals. They’re not “many faces of one God” or psychological archetypes or anything of the sort. They’re persons – spiritual persons who exist on the same spectrum as all other living beings, only the Gods are the most.
The Gods don’t seem to be terribly concerned with who we love, what we eat, and how we dress (unlike the God of some people, whose preferences look to be perfectly aligned with their own). They do seem to be concerned about how we live, and especially about our relations with other persons, in this world and beyond.
What does it mean to live in a world with many Gods? I’m still working through that, and likely will be for the rest of this life – and maybe beyond. But what has been seen cannot be unseen. Whatever I choose to do with my life, it will include Them. Their existence, Their virtues, and Their values are the first foundation of how I live my life.
A foundation of oaths
I swore an oath of priesthood to Cernunnos. I swore an oath of priesthood to Danu. I swore an oath to serve the Morrigan as Her Druid. That’s not priesthood, but I’m not sure the difference is important to anyone but me.
Why would anyone take an oath to a deity? For the same reason I married my wife: because the relationship was a good thing and I wanted to make it permanent. In each case, time and experience have shown that was a good decision.
I promised daily prayers and meditations, weekly offerings, and seasonal celebrations. Mainly, I promised to be available and responsive when They send work my way. That work has been some of the most meaningful things in my life.
I couldn’t back out of that now if I wanted to – and I don’t want to.
Things have been relatively quiet over the past few years. I can speculate as to why, but ultimately speculating is all I can do. But things are starting to pick up, and I suspect They’ll be back to keeping me quite busy before too much longer.
Whatever I do in my post-corporate years, I will still be saying prayers, listening in meditation, and making offerings. And, I suspect, doing other work to further the virtues and values of Cernunnos, Danu, and the Morrigan.
A foundation of practice and precedents
Not every human-divine relationship requires an oath.
For all that I argue against approaching the Gods in a transactional manner, the fact is that people have done that since ancient times. I’ve done it myself, sometimes successfully and other times not (“who are you and why should I do anything to help you get what you want?”). Mainly, if you work for and with some Gods, you will inevitably come in contact with other Gods – Gods who occasionally want something from you. Gods who may occasionally be willing to help you out. Gods whose virtues would be helpful in your life.
That’s how relationships get started.
I have statues of Brighid, Lugh, Cerridwen, Isis, and Thoth. I have no formal commitments with Them, but I speak to Them every night. I make offerings to Them on occasion. On other occasions They ask me to do something for Them. And I do.
My years of practice with Them have created a precedent, and the assumption that such practices will continue. Would there be Serious Consequences if I walked away from any or all of Them? Perhaps, but probably not. Would there be some consequences? Absolutely. I can’t just walk away. I don’t want to walk away.
Whatever I do going forward, these and other deities will be part of my life.
So what does all this mean?
The experiences I’ve had and the choices I’ve made create a boundary between what is possible for me and what isn’t possible. In doing so, they provide a solid foundation for whatever options and opportunities I choose to pursue, now and in the future.
I don’t know what it means to be a full time Druid. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean “the same, just more.” I’m positive it doesn’t mean “what I was doing in the Before Time.” In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “the road goes ever on and on.”
But this much I do know: the many Gods, my oaths, and my practices have built a foundation for what I will do in the future, and what I am doing in these present years of winding down and starting up.