Skip to main content

A Pagan Gathering, Part I: Finding the Path (Peter)

October 2006

OK, it really is kind of freaky to be sitting out in the woods by our tent typing on a laptop. Cat keeps teasing me: “Some people write with paper and pencil.” Yes, I answer, and some people use clay tablets.

It was a bit stressful getting here this year, but that was mostly just because we kept expecting some catastrophe, or expecting each other to get really stressed out. I kept trying to outrun the predictions of disaster I expected from Cat until I’d gained almost a whole lap and was coming up on disaster from behind.

It’s not raining. No really, get this: IT’S NOT RAINING. Chef Michael told us at lunch today that last year’s rainfall was confirmed at 15 inches in 36 hours. This year they’ve built a footbridge over part of the ford, and a “berm” (think of the concrete barriers that keep suicide bombers from driving up onto the White House lawn) to protect the buildings from the runoff from the reservoir just up the road.

We were talking in the car on the way here about what our spiritual and magickal lives were like fifteen years ago versus today. How alive and fiery it all was, back in the days when I felt like a piece of iron thrust into a blast furnace. Is it inevitable that that stage would pass? And is it a good thing or a bad thing? At least some parts of it are good. In that time of great upheaval, I became an adult and a husband and a father, and I still function as all three of those. We’re not growing as fast as we were because we’re more grown now. Cat says if we had really “arrived” where we’re meant to be, her spiritual life would be a lot more ecstatic. It’s great to be householders, to have a home and a family, but that should not mean the loss of ecstasy—of mind blowing, knock-your-socks-off magick. Quaker meeting is wonderful, but we’ll never dance naked around a bonfire with the elders of Mt. Toby.

And some of that I feel too. I envy the way Maureen has an ongoing, daily relationship with her spirit guides that I’ve very rarely been able to maintain with mine. But I also know that I can’t force that kind of fiery relationship to keep raging, and if I were to try, I’d either go stale and insincere or I’d go all rigid and fanatical. Finding the spiritual path that is mine at the moment (finding my leadings, to use the Quakerese term) can be a lot like standing with my eyes closed trying to feel the air currents on my face. And at other times it’s like getting smacked in the head by what should have been obvious. And there are some spiritual experiences that just aren’t mine. My spiritual practice is largely about simply being ready for the ones that are. The Gods come, the magick comes, when They’re needed, but not always when They’re called. And it would be wonderful to be so masterful a practitioner that I could walk with my spirit animal at my side every day, but it won’t happen. Some people, in trying, become smarmy and self-deceiving. But no, I wouldn’t go that route and now that I’m out of my adolescence I wouldn’t turn into one of those Evangelical ecstatics either. I’d be like Charles and Regina, former caretakers at Temenos (a Quaker/Buddhist retreat center near Mount Toby). A few years ago, when I told them about a visionary experience I’d just had in the fairy circle behind Pine Cabin, Regina turned to Charles and said, “You know, that’s the trouble with living in a temple. Stuff like that never happens to you because you’re always too busy sweeping the floor.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Confronting Racism, Yankee Pagan Style

I am a Yankee.  Right down to my Pagan soul.

My understanding of what it means to be a Pagan is to try to live in right relationship with the gods, the land, and the people, including the ancestors.  My gods are those that are comfortable in New England’s woods and hills.  My land is this rocky landscape of New England.  And my people and my ancestors–on Mom’s side, at least–are New Englanders: sea captains and dairy farmers, teachers and laborers.  Whatever granite is in this place or in my ancestors lives on in me and in my Pagan practice.


And that granite is why I am so driven to speak out against racism.
To help me explain what I mean, I’m going to go ahead and borrow an ancestor: my friend Kirk White‘s father.
A Yankee like a Rock Kirk’s ancestors, like mine, were among the first Englishmen to arrive in North America.  Like mine, this landscape was where they found their home.  And like me, my friend Kirk and his family before him has loved New England–Vermont in his c…

Bears Eat My Lettuce

I love where I live;  since moving to our new home four years ago, I've been able to build a relationship with a piece of land for the first time since I was a child.  It's everything a dirt-worshipping Pagan could ask for.  I have a garden, and I grow much of my own food, and that is as much a spiritual delight as a taste treat.  And I have woods again as neighbors: glacial boulders, white pines and black birches, owls and white-tailed deer.

And bears.

And the bears eat my lettuce.



I'm not kidding about that.  Oh, it's winter now, and the bears are huddled up in their dens.  But this past spring, I grew lettuce.  Award winning, gorgeous lettuce: three different kinds!  They were nourished to extraordinary size and succulence by the cool, wet weather we had, and each night, I would gather just a few outer leaves, knowing that careful tending would mean tasty salads for months.

And then, over the course of three days, the bears ate every single one of my lettuce plants…

The Saturday Farm

I love Saturdays.

I have come to think of the work that I do on Saturdays as "farming."  Now, I know it isn't farming--not really.  We have a medium-sized vegetable garden and two dogs, and that's not a farm, by any stretch of the imagination. 

But I keep thinking of a comment Joel Salatin made in Yes Magazine once, about how Americans have become used to thinking of our homes as centers of consumption, but how once, thinking of your home as a center of production (typically, a farm, for most of us for most of our history) was the norm.

And between trying to live with less plastic junk and trying to eat more sustainably and locally, Saturdays at home have become very productive days.  And that productivity--the willingness to substitute patience, skill, and thrift for consumption--I've come to think of as a species of farming.  (My apologies to actual farmers, whose work I increasingly appreciate.  But thinking in this way works for me, somehow.)

First thing this…