A SHAKESPEARIAN SAMHAIN
“But, I would love to come,” said my sweet, young Catholic friend. Sigh. Samhain ritual and its coordinating Roast Beast Feast was nigh, my Pagan family had prepared and the only thing left to do was drink a bit and create a proper Burning Man in the backyard. (We were all a bit anxious about an eight foot construction to be lit on fire here in the country burbs, but hey. You only live once.) She blinked her eyes at me and waited. The young man beside her, also my dear friend, chimed in with a resounding absolutely. What fools these mortals be. What delightful, loving, innocent, loyal fools. But aren’t we all?
I figure, none of us are perfectly aligned in our faith–which probably has something to do with our individual relationship with the divine–and, if pressed, would admit that there are non-Pagans in our lives that have living and loving down. My own journey has been marked by an intense, even belligerent, resistance to the kind of elitism that would keep anyone from taking part in my life. Within it, I celebrate relationships with gay and lesbian friends, African-American and Egyptian, Muslim and Buddhist, redneck and city-fied, and even a healthy handful of Republicans. The capacity for ignorance or malice has little to do with religion, sexual orientation or politics; it has found plenty of fertile soil in the hearts of all. What worries me, to the point of distraction, is the potential in many Pagan communities for spiritual elitism . . . an impulse, or even dogma, that I refuse to condone within my circle of friends and family. One of my dearest friends is a down-home, pearl-wearing, ex-sorority, Presbyterian Georgia gal who has my back like butter on biscuits. Thinks I hung the moon, or at least the stars around it, and has never doubted my soul. Why, it would be downright un-Christian of her to not accept my path to the Divine, she contends, and I’m all about feeling the love on that. My question would be: why would we, as persecuted as we have been in the last several thousand years, replicate those hurts or attitudes toward others not in the craft? (Worse, why would we injure each other in such a manner?)
Call me a “Good Witch” if you must. I have a friend who calls herself a “Bad Witch,” but have seen her do far more good for her community than her accusers. Let’s just take a moment here.
What is Pagan to me?
Be a good steward of the Earth. Now I fail at this one daily: I drive my car, smoke cigarettes (argh), watch cable t.v. and wear bright red lipstick. However, I grow vegetables, tend flowers, recycle and “make my own” whatever.
Be kind to animals. Failure here. Last year, I bought a full-blooded Yorkshire Terrier. All of my other animals (five) were pound babies, saved from certain death. This five-pound poo machine would have never gone to the shelter. I felt so guilty that I finally brought the issue up with my students one day. A privileged, white, educated young man raised his hand and said “Dr. PD. Rich kids need love too.” Done. (Rasputin is now the light of my Aussie’s life. Love abounds.)
Give it back, pay it forward, or any other stitch-it-on-a-pillow saying that means don’t be a selfish arse. Teaching English Literature is one thing. Giving them life lessons, wiping their eyes in the hall when they are broken and reminding them that they are valid and that their voices matter in the great echo of life is another. Push it. Push it real good.
Now, we could go on, but this last one has been both my great success and my great weakness. My dad was known to ask my mom (when she gave way too much to those she loved): What do you think you are? The tit of the world? My answer would be: yes. Yes, I do. And it costs me. But, stick around . . . there’s gonna’ be a whole passel of folk at my funeral.
Which brings us back around to my wide-eyed, young friends. They joined us that evening and sat, all respectful-like, as we celebrated our holy Samhain. They ate and laughed, asked questions and gave reverence and were, in effect, a part of our community. My spirituality is not a club, folks. It is a life. Certainly, there are private moments in which my own soul needs nourishment. Yes, there are private moments in which I rejuvenate my friendships and my marriage, my motherhood and my home. Simply put, I also carve a space in this time on Earth for others, deep and wide, primarily because I have found something to be true: nothing, I mean nothing, grows in a vacuum. And if none of this made its sweet way through, allow me to take your hand and let you feel it through my flesh:
Table set with orange and gold, flames flickering over roasted pork, beer bread, homemade cheese, potatoes with bacon. Wine bottles being passed from Christian hands to Pagan, Agnostic back to Christian. Laughter. The sort that happens when you throw your head back, deep, guttural, genuine. Soul-satisfying food. A gathering in the back forty, the lighting of a Harvest entwined by both Pagan and non-Pagan hands, embers gathering in the fingers of pine trees, contentment deep and beating like protein rich blood, and love. Love. Try that out for an evening. Better than morphine. Sweeter than babies. Stronger than iron. More righteous than sanctimonious. Samhain.
With a community of spirit.
Nothing more Pagan than that.
I began this post by calling them “fools,” mortal and unlearned of our craft. Let’s recheck this. If a non-Pagan is drawn to spiritual, ethical, fallible, pentagram-wearing craftspeople like ourselves, are they so foolish? Or is it us who are the fools who hold them away, fearful that we will lose our secrecy or potency? Is it not in the passing of the goblet, mouth to mouth, that a fellowship is born? I contend that this is true magic. Shakespeare’s “fool” was often the only one in the room who had a clue what was real and what was hyperbole. Perhaps we could all use a bit of that kind of wisdom to keep us on our toes.
Final thoughts: the young lady who came and took part in our sacred ritual is not under recruitment. (We don’t do that kind of work around here.) She did, however, look into the fire at one point and note that it just all made sense. This was a moment I wouldn’t have stolen from her for the world–because it was meant for her, too. Guess I’m mucking up the neighborhood. Never did like exclusive clubs, never did wear the t-shirt.
But I sure liked that look on her face.