Posts Tagged ‘Druidry’

I haven’t written in some time. I hope this post is one of many to follow…

During a recent conversation, I was asked what do I see as my role in our local community. I had to take a moment to really consider this. I see my role as two-fold, each one supporting the other.

The first role is that of building culture. I feel like we don’t have a real culture, one of a shared story, one that crafts an identity and a sense of place in the world. We just have consumerism, chasing careers, and supporting our favorite sports team (not much to hang one’s hat on :>). Even within the Pagan community, there is no real shared culture. So I see myself working to build something for our community to share – connection to the land, a spiritual/philosophical/religious common ground, traditions and stories. I think animism is the key here.

The second part of my role is connected to the first, it is to seed the next generation with traditions, rituals, and spiritual practices that support them having their own direct experience of the divine in Nature. It isn’t my role to tell them how they should experience the gods, only that it is important to do so. Part of accomplishing this is passing on a language of the sacred. Part of it is working to find what works and what doesn’t serve us. And finally it is the work of navigating a relationship with the spirits of place, with the land here, so that we walk supported, in accordance, and in peace with the beings that dwell here, so we are supporting them in turn – in other words, that of crafting sacred relationship with our natural home.

I have been reading Stephen Jenkinson’s excellent book on elderhood, called, Come of Age – The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble. He speaks of us as being elders-in-training. This hums with truth for me. We are in training because we don’t actually know what an elder is. Elders are not part of our broken culture. We’ve never had role models that demonstrate a community mindset. I’ve encountered a few people in life that are elders, but they were not part of my community. I didn’t grow up under their influence. They haven’t helped guide my community. They do this in their own community, but not the one I dwell in. So I see my role as being willing to be an elder-in-training – to work out what that means and to do the work.

One aspect of this journey as we work toward being an elder is to realize, we will not see the fruits of our labor. And we have to be okay with that. That is what loving the next generation is all about. We plant trees that may not bear fruit in our lifetime. We work to cultivate a humble selflessness and really listen to the next generation. We need to meet their needs. I think of my life work as being in service to eternity.

We are part of a flow. We are moving in time. Too often we think and view the world in only two or three dimensions. We forget about time. And recognizing the function of time is essential for the integration into place, into community, into being an ancestor. So I see my role as a gardener, planting and tending a garden that will feed those yet to come. The journey has joy in it. And I hope to share in the abundance should the garden hum with fecundity while I am here. If I am not here in the flesh, I hope I am one of the ancestors that come to circle when the fires are lit, the prayers voiced, and the songs sung as part of the traditions we are crafting now.

So I invite you consider the generations to come. What you are building for them? How are you lifting them up? And consider this question that was posed to me by an elder, “What songs to you want your bones to sing from the Earth when you have passed on?”

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In the past two years there have been two significant deaths in my family. Being the only Pagan in the family, much was revealed regarding the world view of Pagans to those of Christians. I will outline what I think those views are, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and suggestions for bridging the gap. Keep in mind, everyone involved are passionate Christians with the exception of myself.

Scene One:
My stepmother is in her final moments. After a long exhale, a family members shouts, “Hurray, she’s in heaven with Papa!”. Then my stepmother takes another breath.

Scene Two:
My stepbrother is on life-support due to a terrible motorcycle crash (head on with a truck, no helmet, died at the scene and was revived). Everyone is praying for a miracle. I see his spirit floating about his body, only attached due to the body being kept alive. I see his body is broken beyond healing. The family takes comfort in knowing he was “saved” and would be going to heaven. I wondered about all the unresolved emotional conflicts and issues within his family. These will not simply disappear when he passes.

Scene Three:
My stepmother takes her final breath and everyone hugs and leaves the room after a few minutes. I sit by her body for another hour or more while she is dying.

Scene Four:
We disconnect my stepbrother from life-support. He is violently gasping for breath. Everyone is horrified. This goes on for twenty minutes. His wife comments, “This is horrible”. Everyone concurs. An injection is finally giving and he gasps less violently and stops breathing in another ten minutes. The family is traumatized from the harshness of the experience.

Each one of these scenes is an accurate retelling of what happened. And each of these scenes reveal diametrically opposed world views. Let’s look at each one.

Scene One:
In the view of the Christians in the room, as soon as the body stops breathing, the saved soul goes to Heaven. The human being is distinctly individual, autonomous. The body is just a vessel for the soul and of no value except as a container. Death is a single moment, a black and white distinction, on or off, like a light switch. She is here and then she is gone.

The Pagan view is totally other. The soul is entwined with all the souls it has touched. The body is spirit as well as flesh. There is no line drawn between the physical and the spiritual. The body is a living ecosystem of billions of microorganisms. It is built with living elements that are shared, not owned by us. What is us is indefinable outside of being part of the living Earth and the sum of our relationships. We are the creativity of our ancestors. Death is process, not an either/or dynamic. Death is a spectrum.

Scene Two:
The Christian point of view is the soul is distinctly embedded in the body. It is a ghostly version of the body and the personality of the person. It is not something one can engage with directly. As soon as the body stops breathing, the soul instantly leaves the Earth for judgment and just reward of heaven or hell.

The Pagan view is, the soul is expansive, more complex and not limited to being a shade of personality. Some of us are able to see the spirit essence of a person. We know the actuality of the universe isn’t limited by what we see as reality. It is much bigger than our limited view. Time has little, if any, meaning to the soul. When a Pagan relates soul to soul, much can be divined, such as, this person is ready to pass on and life-support is an unnatural interruption with a sacred process.

Scene Three:
The Christian view is the soul is gone. The body doesn’t matter anymore. It isn’t sacred.

The Pagan view is the soul has a process to go through when death comes. The bones of our loved ones and ancestors are sacred. They tell a story of which we are part of, the story of Life, evolution, humanity, and our engagement with the Earth. The bones continue to tell a story so remain part of life. We need to attend to the death process until it is complete – which has nothing to do with clocks and mechanization.

Scene Four:
The Christian view – Life is good. Death is bad. We must do all that we can to prolong and extend life. “The wages of sin is death”. Death is punishment. If you aren’t “saved” you will suffer eternal torture. And since we are going to be judged at the end of life, prolonging the inevitable is right thing to do. The prevalent culture is one of a cult of life. Interfering with the dying process is sin and goes against the will of God.

The Pagan view – Death is not the opposite of Life. The opposite of Death is Birth. Life has no opposite. Life is the creative impulse of the universe. It is built on destruction, disintegration and reintegration. “Death is the crucible of Life”  as Stephen Jenkinson put it. There is no judgment awaiting in Death. What matters is how we live. Are with living with honor? Are we crafting relationships filled with sanctity and empathy? Death is essential (in the true meaning of the word) for life to exist. It is understood that life is “unlikely” and is a precious gift that is only possible through death. Each day is a miracle and we should live each moment fully awake and with gratitude. We do not wait for “life after death” for our reward. Seeing the world as sacred and walking a path based on honor and gratitude is at the core of Paganism. The experience of Life itself is the reward.

Honoring the sanctity of community members (human and non-human) means treating the dying with compassion. The last moments of my stepbrother’s life were cruel and unnecessary. It traumatized him and our entire family. We treat our pets with more compassion and love than was given to my stepbrother. It was the Christian world view that stopped the hospital staff from euthanizing my brother. There was zero chance of recovery. It was his last dying moments. Having these be ones of violent gasping was inhumane and utterly cruel.

Finally, a word on “life-support”. My brother’s brain was torn apart by the accident. He was never going to recover. He was “brought back” at the scene of the accident. He was flown in a helicopter to the hospital and spent eight days on life-support (where was the Death-support!). Eight days of people praying for a miracle when the miracle was that we got to have him as a member of our loving family for 60 years.

The energy and resources put into extending his life for eight days, only to end with suffering and cruelty needs to be assessed. The cost was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not to reduce to this to money, but what if we had dedicated that time, money, passion, knowledge, and emotional energy to helping the suffering, the poor, the hurting, the children who need help but there aren’t resources to meet the need? This is a difficult topic, but one that needs to be explored. With the Anthropocene, climate change, geopolitical destabilization, opioid crisis, environmental devastation, etc., where do we focus our energies and resources to maximize peace, to minimize harm?

Please note, I am aware that many Christians embrace a differing philosophy and ethos than the one’s I mentioned above. It is just my experience the prevalent cultural ethics and ethos are as I have encountered. Christianity has become a cult of life where euthanasia is sin; abortion is sin; fertility clinics are a gift of God. Death is to be driven away at all cost.

So I share this not to be critical, but rather invite dialogue as to how to bridge the gap between differing world views. One where the world is enchanted and sacred, a living ecosystem that is a continuity of ever-shifting tides of living and dying. The other view is the world is debased, fallen, and all that matters is life after death and the heavenly reward. One places us squarely in sacred relationship to the world, one we have direct experience of spirit and are an integral part of the whole. The second places us in a dynamic where we are born into sin and death is our reward. Escaping eternal torture is only possible through a belief in Christ. And we won’t know our reward until we die. At the heart of it all, I think most people agree with the Pagan perspective. It is the fear of death that binds them to belief in heaven. Which I would say is fine, but it is this belief system that is allowing the utter destruction of our sacred mother, our beloved home we call Earth. How do we begin to shift this culture? How do we bridge this gap?

Blessings of peace,
Snowhawke /|\

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Part of my grove (Grove of 4) went to see Gaelic Storm last night in Portland, ME. They were absolutely brilliant. We danced until our feet got sore and our hands got tired and red from clapping. The new songs from What’s the Rumpus? were awesome. My favorite tune of the night was “The Night I Punched Russell Crowe”.

My wife is a third generation Irish American. It was so beautiful to watch here reveling in the music of her ancestors. The continuity of musical inspiration flowing from generation to generation, tied deeply into her DNA was so clear, so powerful. It was infectious and made me realize I need to seek out the music of my ancestors (English and French).

If peak oil and economic collapse doesn’t prevent it, I can’t wait to go to Ireland. The Irish druids I have communicated with all seem to have a clue and understand in their very core that sacredness of the land and the culture. My spiritual thought of the day is:

What is your core tribe? How do you honor it? What do you offer it and what doesn’t it offer in return? How can you deepen that relationship so Awen flows?

Blessings of swollen rivers,
Snowhawke /|\

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