My Perspective on Transactional and Transformative Paganism

(cross-posted fromĀ http://moon-books.net/blogs/moonbooks/my-perspective-on-transactional-and-transformative-paganism/)

IMG_7076Another round of being on the road finds me blogging from a hotel room. And essentially setting this one on a time delay release. That all sounds so foreign to my brain. While I like traveling, doing it all the time just does not sit well with my usual frame of mind. It is really alright though…because I will be home or not far from it for most of the Summer. Anyways, enough of my suitcase woes. šŸ™‚

A while back – during another journey of suitcase-time – at Pantheacon, I attended Pantheacon this year. Probably the last time for a couple of years. Three years in a row put enough of a dent in my finances. While there, I attended Kristoffer Hughes’ presentation entitled “When the Last Leaf Falls”. It was a wonderful presentation circling the topic of gracefully helping those who pass away in the last bits of their time here, as well as helping those who stay behind when the individual passes on. It was quite a lovely talk – and will likely spur a few more blog posts as I continue to come back to my notes and think deeper about what was said. However, one thing really stuck out enough for me to write a side-note on it:Ā  transactional Paganism.

For a short while, I had a huge question mark next to this, as I continued to really think quizzical about this concept. Eventually, I decided to look up the concept of “transactional belief” and wound up at a Christian-oriented blog, which I will not link here. The post was titled as “Five Signs You Have a Transactional Relationship with God” and followed along these five points:

  1. You’re busy all the time. Essentially, the point was that life in this manner is broken into the stuff that is Spiritual in nature, and stuff that is not. And that it is far more important to do the stuff that is Spiritual.
  2. You think God demands excellence in all things. Fairly straight-forward.
  3. You overuse self-conscious spiritual language. In this instance, the notation was that everyday conversation included statements like “Spirit-filled, and “Christ-oriented.”
  4. You wonder if God is punishing you when something bad happens. Again, fairly-straight-forward.
  5. You hide feelings about yourself that you’re afraid to admit to God or close friends. Essentially, this is about being able to view one’s self in the light of being a “normal” person regardless of past “transgressions”.

A lot of that wound up being some interesting points I can see in my own personal approach to my everyday Spirituality and Life. I am not really busy all the time, at least not within my Spirituality. In my everyday life at work, I am extremely busy. But I am one person tasked with the work of four. Every day is a struggle to keep my head above water. In my daily Spiritual life, I am provided with tasks to accomplish on behalf of Crow from time to time. I am tasked with the perspective of being a Protector, but while I keep a daily vigilance over all that is required of me – It is not enough to take up every moment of my daily life. Furthermore, I do not really see a need to separate my mundane and Spiritual lives. I see both bleeding over into the other – as well as informing the other to one degree or another.

Excellence. Crow expects me to try my best, but I am not rejected outright if I wind up flat on my face from the effort. Rather, I am encouraged to try again, and again, and again. I have my own faults within life, and I don’t believe the Gods are expecting us to be anything beyond the best that we can do. And self-conscious Spiritually language?? Well, if me constantly muttering “Gods-be-damned” when I screw something up, then maybe so. As for the last two…Gods help me…

Now, when I think of “transactional Paganism” I think more along the lines of expecting something from the Gods for our efforts. Sort of like the way that most shallow-minded Christians seek the answer to their prayers from God.

Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket…Ā  Ā  –Captain Malcolm Reynolds

You know these types of prayers. Where God is treated as an Automated Teller Machine for individual wants, needs, and desires. For me, this is where I tend to see the concept of transactional Paganism. A trade of this action for that reward. I am not sure about any of you, but I decided to serve Crow because I wanted to. The knowledge that gets shared with me is really nice, and I appreciate it, but it is not what I expected going into this relationship. And devotion to a God or Goddess is exactly that – a relationship. And in that manner, the love, kindness, and caring I received from Crow can be considered to be a form of transactional relationship.

Kristoffer also mentioned that we can benefit more from transformational Paganism within our community. Where our actions, words, and even gestures towards others can provide a momentary relief for those who are experiencing the last days of a loved one or their own last moments before their leaf falls. Those gestures, words, and actions can help provide the appropriate dignity for others – a dignity that is sorely missing in today’s medicalized version of death.

Perhaps, we can also look at our own roles in transformational Paganism in our own daily practices, and routines. Instead of being offended by the openly spiritual motions, words, and gestures of others that pray openly to a monotheistic God within a triune setting – perhaps if we noted that we didn’t follow their beliefs, but we’re happy to say a few words with them or sit silently as they pray out loud before a meal. We might make a difference in their own day, provide them with a little dignity concerning their own piety, and an example of what being open to other faiths might look like.

Sure, maybe I am an over-idealized hippy that believes that the world can find some common ground if we all just tried. But you know what? I am ok with being labeled that way. Because it is not far from the truth. And honestly, I would rather acknowledge the dignity of another individual’s beliefs – even when they are diametrical opposed to my own – than to show my rear-end and dig the animosity trench a little deeper and wider.

 

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Three Drops of Awen – From Kristoffer Hughes

 

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Morning at the ADF Imbolc Retreat fire…

I am currently trying to get myself prepped for three events happening in my life over the next eleven days. I am packing for the ADF Imbolc Retreat in the Texas hill country, a professional conference in Corpus Christi that starts immediately on the heels of the retreat, and Pantheacon just a single day after I return from Corpus Christi. So, essentially, I am packing three different bags for three very different events. Yeah, I have lost my mind.

 

 

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My book of quotes

A while back, I had lost my “quotes” book, which is a small leather wrapped notebook that I carry with me nearly everywhere. In my determined unpacking from an event last year, I had placed this on a shelf in my office, and then set my two bottles of Bushmills’ whiskey in front of it. Given that I am carrying whiskey with me to Imbolc, I pulled the bottles out to pack and re-discovered the notebook. Naturally, I started thumbing through it and came across several quotes I had written down from last year’s Gulf Coast Gathering, which Kristoffer Hughes had attended. I thought it might prove interesting to explore some of what was said…

 

The Druids of the future will look to the Druids of today for reference when it comes to ritual.

Given all the navel-gazing I have been doing over the last few months concerning legacy, and how the Druids of the future will stand on the shoulders of the Druids of today who are standing on the shoulders of the Druids of the past – this quote was quite interesting to find as the first in my little book. My notes next to this state that documentation is key for the future understanding of the past. And that rituals can help restore order to that which is in chaos.

I admit, there are times when I look at the state of what I perceiveĀ to be our current Pagan community, and I have moments of despair over the constant arguing and fighting. And it is difficult for me to see a way forward where there may be cohesion and agreement. I want to have the grand vision of a larger, vibrant world-view, where Paganism is readily accepted on equal terms to Christianity, and other world faiths. With the constant turmoil, arguing over definitions, terminology, and trying to develop standards of who is “Pagan enough” just do not seem like strong forward reaching efforts to me.

And then I get the feathered wing to the back of the head, as I am reminded again and again that a myopic view of the world is the narrow focus that needs to be avoided when looking long-term. There is plenty of documentation taking place through books, blogs, conferences, podcasts, videos, and retreats such as the one I am about to attend. When I start focusing on all the squabbles, I miss all the wonderful things that do move things forward. The multi-faith efforts that happen throughout the world, the growth of the wider community in areas of ritual and daily devotion, as more and more Pagans reach out to find a deeper connection in their spiritual lives, as well as a stronger commitment to their Gods.

Druids are not defined by who they are. They are defined by what they do.

Part of what I am learning about myself is that service to others is paramount to who I am. Whether that be through this blog or stepping back into my local Pagan community or being a mentor to others seeking to find deeper connections in their own lives – living my life is about reaching out to help others. And through that point of individual service, no matter how great or small, I learn a bit more about who I am and what I am capable of. As well as a good dose of humility, which I have been sorely in deep need of.

We all strive for meaning in our daily lives, as well as meaning to our overall existence. For many, that is a concept that is difficult to deal with – the struggle is definitely real. And I can definitely add – it is a lifelong battle. Sometimes, you can feel that you have a complete handle on things, and then a single event can collapse all that confidence like a house of cards in a hurricane. In the end, it is the actions that provide the glimpse at the depth of meaning behind who we are. The individual intention, beyond anything else, gives motion to our actions. When we live an intentional life, we give focus to what we do, how we do, and why we do it. Which oddly enough, dovetails with the last quote I have from Kristoffer…

Your job is not just to know ritual but to understand the “why” of ritual.

Honestly, I can read book after book, article after article, and listen to talk after talk about ritual; practice performing the entire script of what needs to be accomplished; work on the flourish of my hands; perfect the intonation of the words that are spoken – none of that means anything if I do not have a clear understanding of the ritual’s overall meaning. All the book knowledge in the world will not breathe heart and soul into what I am attempting to accomplish with the ritual. All the acting skills in this world, the Nine Hells, and beyond the veil will not mask a lack of heart and passion geared behind the “why” of the ritual. A poorly followed set of words, motions, and movements will pale when that individual is doing so with the passion and fire synced to their desire to do all of this for the appropriate reasoning and intent. And this is one of the reasons that I have always felt so in tune with my impromptu, unscripted, off-the-cuff rituals that just whisk me away into the moment. It might seem “wrong” to someone else, but it is a moment of pure perfection for me.

In a little over a week, I will make my way to Pantheacon, where I will have the pleasure of seeing Kristoffer’s smiling face, and hopefully, experience a massive bear hug. I am looking forward to attending a handful of presentations as well, where I will hopefully get to add to my quote book. And I am thoroughly over the moon at finding my little friend once again…