Tag Archives: alternative lifestyle

Full time pagan

Whilst I was planning a blog on the subject of BDSM Tom and I got talking about the degree to which people do things full time, or as a weekend hobby. The popular image of BDSM is very much one of full time slavery but the reality is that many people only do it sometimes and have relatively ‘normal’ lives the rest of the time.

Talking around this issue, it occurred to me that the same can be said of a lot of other groups. There’s the steampunk folk who love their dressing up and going out at the weekend in their Victorian style gear, but who probably don’t do it the rest of the time. There’s re-enactors – another costume group who spend their spare time dressing up and exploring ‘living history’ eating and living authentically for short periods. At the end of which they go home. There’s the nightclubbers – I used to hang out with lots of goths and punks who would get out wild attire for the weekends, but many of them didn’t get to do it the rest of the time. I think about how people at music festivals change themselves for the duration. In many ways BDSM has similar things going on – the exciting clothing that takes you out of ‘normal’ life, the getting together with likeminded folk to share your passion, the brief periods of total immersion and the return to ‘normal’ in between.

It wasn’t a big leap to go from thinking about this, to considering paganism. The dressing up in gear that marks you out as part of a group, getting together at weekends to really immerse in the culture, and the eventual return to ‘normal’. Thinking about rituals, conferences, camps and even moots, there’s an argument for saying that paganism has all the same appeals as other passionately supported sub-culture activities.

What’s the difference between spending your weekend being a steampunk, a goth, a folky, a kinkster, or a Druid? It’s all counter-culture, fancy dress and escapism, right? It can be. It depends a lot on how you relate to it.

There is a fun and social aspect to paganism that is very much akin to all sorts of other social activities humans go in for. If we make that the total of our paganism, with the emphasis on having the right frock, jewellery and magical wand then it’s not very different from gothing up. Whether or not we carry our sexual preferences, music tastes or other points of identification into a wider life is a matter of personal choice. I tend to dress like a sort of folk-goth hybrid most of the time because I can, but I can pass for tidy, and normal, and it does not cause me much trouble to do so. I spent a while dressing up as a Viking at the weekends, but that didn’t really filter into the rest of my life. There was no place for it and no particular need.

Being a pagan is not a hobby. It’s a defining aspect of who I am, and a choice I have made that, by its very nature must influence every other choice I make. Being pagan full time doesn’t mean wearing the gear, or even spending hours sat under trees in deep meditation. But it does mean carrying my Druidry, my philosophy and my ethics with me into all parts of my life. Being a Druid full time doesn’t mean doing Druidry to the exclusion of all else. It’s not a life of ritual and contemplation. My Druidry is my life. It’s there in everything I do. I can’t take it on and off like a hat.

For most people, overt and visible paganism, robes and all, is something to do at the weekend. That’s inevitable. We have families, jobs, other roles, other duties. But even when we aren’t out there being obvious, we can still be pagans.

Doing Nothing

My friend Adam says that in the society we live in, the most radical thing to do, is to do nothing. So many of our normal everyday activities are about commerce and consumption. Doing nothing, by definition, does not involve spending money or consuming resources.

Nothing is not the same as apathy. The latter is a careless reluctance to act or engage. Nothing, is a consciously chosen action, and it is not the same as idleness, time wasting, or boredom – if you get it right!

Doing nothing, is entering a stillness of body and mind – perhaps a little like meditation, but without discipline or intent. As such, it is a state of openness and acceptance, working with what life gives, being wholly in the moment and experiencing it. Good ways to do this include watching wild birds or animals, gazing at the clouds, watching the patterns of light changing through leaves, looking at rain falling, or snow. It is quiet time, without haste or hassle. If life ‘in the fast lane’ seems both dangerous and pointless to you, then step out, stop. Sit or lie, recline, lounge and otherwise let go for a while. You don’t have to be doing, making, earning, spending and consuming all the while. You do not have to be a cog in the great machine of the economy, churning relentlessly but going nowhere.

This is not time wasted. It is time for the soul, for breathing deeply and releasing tension. Stepping out of the chaos, it becomes possible to think, and from there, possible to make good decisions rather than rushed, ill-conceived ones.

My current ‘nothing’ time is first thing in the morning. I’ve taken to going to bed early enough that I get the sleep I need, and currently have the wonderful luxury of being able to wake naturally. Often I’m the first one awake in the household. I stay in bed for a while. I stretch and let my body get up to speed, rather than leaping out and forcing it into action. I contemplate anything and everything in a loose and unfocused way. Sometimes this results in plans and ideas, sometimes not. Either way is fine. When I feel ready to emerge from the duvet, I do so in a state of calm readiness for the day. As it happens, I work more effectively as a consequence, but that’s not the main motivation for doing it.

Doing nothing does not drive the economy or make a profit for anyone else. It does not feed money into government coffers, or push up the GDP that governments are so turned on by. It is conscious disengaging from the system. I will go back to work later, but for now, I will learn from my cat, stretch, enjoy the warmth and not move too much. Each morning, I have my moment of saying ‘No, I am not just a slave of the economic machine.’

Experts like my friend Adam, can spend long, happy hours doing nothing. For those under more financial pressure, it is going to be harder. If all you can find is a few minutes, grab them, and use them to full, glorious effect on consciously not doing anything of any economic value to anyone else. Relish the escape. Live.

Turning off the TV

The vast majority of people I know will spend an hour or two at least relaxing by watching television each day. I’ve been in households where television watching is the normal leisure activity, and homes where it never seemed to be switched off. Aside from the noise pollution issues, this is not good for the soul.

Mainstream media (and the adverts imbedded in it) conveys a lot of assumptions about how the world is, and should be. It encourages conformity, offering very narrow bandwidths for normal taste and inclination. This, I think, restricts imagination and creativity, stifling inspiration. Adverts sell dissatisfaction. They imply that something is missing in your life and that the new wonderproduct will make it all better.

Turn off the television, the music player, the radio, the games boxes, even the internet. Listen to the silence. It’s impossible to think when you are being bombarded with noise. In Druid ritual we often say ‘May there be peace in all the world, for without peace, no work may be done’ or ‘without peace, the voice of spirit cannot be heard.’ Both are true. Without quiet, we do not hear the soft voice that is our own, speaking within. Overwhelmed by sound and images, we don’t really experience anything properly.

Quietness opens the way to inspiration. Time to contemplate what we have seen, to digest and assimilate thoughts. Watching a program and then taking time to process it does far more than passively receiving a whole heap of material and letting it drip out of your ear unremarked.

Stepping away from the little boxes makes it easier to step away from the attitudes and beliefs they convey. Just because something is mainstream, popular, and on the TV, doesn’t make it right. Our culture is not a happy one. Most of the mainstream culture as experienced by most people is pumped in through the little boxes we rely on to help us kill time.

Watching television is not an inherently rewarding activity most of the time. It is a substitute for life, an escape from reality. It doesn’t feed us, inspire us, or help us in any way, it just uses up the hours that might otherwise be terrifyingly empty and unstructured.

Image no work, no instructions, no television, no other little boxes to soak up time and energy. What would you do? How would you live? Would you talk more to the people around you? Read a book, go for a walk, make something? How would you fill those hours if you weren’t letting the little boxes steal them from you?

Television is the enemy of creativity in most people’s lives. Wii and x-box, online games and other ways of not living are just as bad. In moderation, these forms of entertainment are ok, but when they take over people’s lives they give little in return.

I do not own a television. I read, and write. I go for walks, cook proper meals, talk to my child and my lover. I play music with friends, and learn tunes. Sometimes I stare out of the window at the wild birds in my garden, or the sky. I volunteer, make ritual, create things, knit, sew, play with the cat. Occasionally, I watch a film or play a board game. I spend a fair amount of time online – but that’s part of the ‘day job’. I won’t claim my life is perfect, or entirely joyful – it’s a real life, with ups and downs, but it’s a rich one, full of things I value and enjoy. My life is my own.

If you want more inspiration, creativity and happiness in your life, unplug. The little boxes are substitutes, not life.

GLBT Paganism

One of the (many) things I love about paganism and the pagan community, is its acceptance of people who aren’t straight and conentional in their relationships. I’ve met some fabulous gay, bi, transgender and polyamorous folk along the way, and they’ve really inspired me to explore my own identity. But then, Druidry is non-dogmatic, and that includes not having ‘one true way’ for how relationships are supposed to be.

Druidry is very much about connection, for me. Not having any assumptions about what shape a connection ‘should’ have opens up the ways in which we relate to each other, to the land, the ancestors, the gods and the non-human denizens of this world.

Here’s a little something from Enchanted Waters, which follows on from this line of thought.

Precarious though it was, Bracken squatted down, so that she could reach into the pool. She wetted her hand, then rose, sprinkling the water over Catherine.
“Blessings of water, healing and cleansing, washing away the past. Blessings of this place be upon you, and peace be in your heart,” she said.
“Thank you.”
For the first time, they looked at each other properly, standing almost nose to nose on the stone. Bracken saw dark eyes full of melancholy, and a tender, compassionate, wounded spirit. She wanted to reach out and console, but not knowing why this woman suffered, she held back. Some people were victims of their own mistakes, and she didn’t want to support anyone in not dealing with their problems.
“You’re a witch or a priestess of something then?” Catherine asked.
“Priestess and Druid,” Bracken replied.
“Does this sort of thing happen to you a lot?”
“A fair bit, yes. I seem to attract it.” She had a feeling there were things she needed to do here, and tried to find their shape. Words to say. Moves to make. Sometimes all it took was a small gesture or observation to set people on the right path.
Trusting her instincts, she took Catherine’s hands in hers.
“You’ll find a way through this,” she said. “Accept your own feelings, embrace them, work with them. If you understand yourself and your own needs, everything else will be a lot clearer.”
“I know. I just wish I knew where to start.”
“You’ve already started.” Bracken leaned closer, placing a chaste kiss on Catherine’s brow. The woman sighed deeply, tension seeping from her. “You’ll be fine. You’re strong, good and brave. You will find a way through.” With that, she relinquished Catherine’s hands, smiled, and turned away. The time had come to leave, as she still had a few miles to walk.