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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.”

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