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.