Change is Inevitable

Its always been done this way. It worked for Joe Schmo back in 1872, it should be just as relevant for us today, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Do we cast our circles with this certain element in that particular cardinal direction, or can we change things up? Is it set in stone that this is the way that ritual has to be done, or can we alter things without angering the Gods and Goddesses? Essentially, it comes down to tradition versus experimentation. Or if you prefer, structure versus free-form. And I sit somewhere in the middle of this entire conversation. Because, in the end, its not a debate. Its a matter of personal preference.

There are elements and appointments that are ascribed into the very stone of our ritual souls. Water goes here, Fire goes here, Air goes here, Earth goes here, Spirit goes here. Rarely is there an element of argument as to “why”, and even more rare is the question of “what if we change it up by putting Air over there instead?” And nearly every traditionalist I know is gasping for breathe. Well, possibly. But it does begin to beg the question of whether change can be a good thing or not.

Major League Baseball is going through some of this right now. Changes to the rules concerning how intentional walks are conducted, where a pitcher must throw four pitches outside of the strike zone. Now, the change decrees that a pitcher merely has to point at first base and the batter automatically goes there. No pitches thrown. All done to “speed up” the game. Instant replay has made it to baseball. Certain types of plays can be challenged by the manager. Previously, the manager could challenge the play all the way to the next pitch that was thrown. Now, managers have thirty seconds to make the same challenge. And there is an unlimited number of challenges that can be over the course of the game. Ironically, this one aspect has lengthened the time of the games, nullifying the no-pitch walk. Now, there is talk of removing the Wins/Losses statistic from a pitcher’s accumulated statistics. Its considered to be a poor metric of pitcher performance, given that a Win or Loss is determined more by team play than it is via pitcher performance.

Every single one of these changes, along with the proposed statistical change, have been met with skepticism and outrage from old-school baseball types, such as myself. It changes the game, and evolves it into something that is slightly different than it was before. But the essential rules of the game are still the same. There are nine-innings that have to be played. Each team’s chance in the inning happens until three outs are made. The bases are still 90-feet apart. It still takes three strikes to get a hitter out without a batted ball into the field of play. Four balls outside of the strike zone give the batter a free pass to first base. The scoring rules have not changed whatsoever. In essence its the same game it was.

The same holds true for ritual – to some degree. Change any of the elements, and it changes the formula for the ritual. But the intent of the ritual is still the same. And for me, the formula based aspect means far less than the intent behind the entire ritual.

Now, let me add a few notations of where I am coming from. I am a firm believer in free-form ritual. Outside of the framework that OBOD provides for ritual, I have never done the same ritual, intentional or not, in the same manner. I merely utilize whatever comes to mind at the moment. One short ritual I did down near the banks of the Red River went along these lines:  face each cardinal direction, say the word “Please” out loud, and then step right into main aspect of working – which at this time was merely making a quick space where I could meditate for a few moments. Rather than reaching through a long, somewhat wordy intonation, my single word request was enough to quickly build what was necessary for me. For me, its not the framework that really places the emphasis, but rather the mindset that I had at that moment that mattered most. In fact, I could call to the cardinal directions with a simple “Yo!”, so long as my mindset is in the right place.

There is; however, a matter of decorum and respect where the Gods and Goddesses that comes into play as well. Given that the Gods that I work directly with are Tricksters, irreverent perspectives are sometimes quite welcome. So, I would note that free-form aspects are not useful where Gods and Goddesses that require strict, proper form within rites, requests, and prayer.

Free-form ritual works for me. The simplicity of my rituals lends to the easiness of how being fluid with style, and framework is useful for me. Were I to do a more structured ritual, where certain things must be done at certain times, in certain manners, and stated in certain ways; I would follow the syntax as stated. Coloring outside the lines would likely not be useful or obtain the desired results. For certain aspects of celebratory rituals, I can see where bending the rules is a bit more appropriate. Or as Morpheus tells Neo in the movie The Matrix:  “Some rules can be bent, others can be broken.”

Because adaptation is the key to evolution. And yes, I do believe that Paganism is evolving. I do not believe that the rituals we present to our Gods are the same as the ones presented to Them back in the mid 1800s. Nor do I believe these rituals are the same as the ones that go back into the mists of Time. I also do not believe that our rituals of today will be the same rituals presented to our Gods in the 2100s or even beyond. Our rituals today are the rituals we have today. Some will change. Some will be altered to one degree or another. Some will never be utilized again. But these are our rituals today, in whatever form we give to them. Much like baseball has changed over the years, and will continue to change going into the future – so will Paganism. Because change is inevitable.

Ritual as Improvisational Jazz

Jazz is one of the stranger musical forms out there. Particularly improvisational Jazz, where one merely plays the notes that come to mind. The discordant manner in which the music ebbs and flows can make it difficult for those listeners that prefer music to have a rhythmic backbeat over which keyboards, guitar, and vocals are overlaid. I remember that it took a lot for me to grasp the stylings of Thelonius Monk, and Allan Holdsworth. But over time, I started to discern some of the subtle undertones that make up this style of music. Now, some thirty years after Holdsworth’s Metal Fatigue album (1985), I have started to grasp some of the complicated aspects of what he was trying to attain.

In a manner of speaking, much of my life has followed this same goat-path. While I have studied theological concepts and belief systems for most of my life, I never had a strong grasp of any of these, including the one that I follow – Paganism, until the last fifteen years. And I have literally been stumbling down that particular goat-track since 1987. To achieve all of that required me to study often, question a lot, and take a few steps of faith when I did not quite comprehend something. Much like listening to the works of Holdsworth and Monk provided me with a deeper understanding of syncopated rhythm and complex layering of instruments to a recording track, taking deeper steps into the pool of my beliefs soon allowed me a better ability to swim within those steeper depths. Early in my steps upon my own Pagan Path, I was merely at the edge of  stream, just barely dipping my toe into the waters – turning to laugh out loud at the astonishing cool feel of the water. Blissfully unaware of the depths that a few steps further out could provide me.

I went to ritual after ritual and listened to the astonishment of others as they felt the ecstatic touch of the Gods in their lives. I marveled at the richness of the Priests and Priestesses as they seamlessly moved through a ritual, calling quarters and Gods to their rites. And I felt nothing. No touch of a God or Goddess. No presence of another watching from the edges of the circle. Nothing except the temperature of the environment on my skin, coupled with a desire to be like THEM. I wanted to feel the rhythm of the rite, the feeling of the Gods touching me. I wanted that.

What I did not have, at that time, was the desire to study and learn. And the lack of depth in that area, I am certain, was the firing pin that I was missing. Plus, I am a major introvert; my lack of social skills set me near the outside of any group I joined. I knew about solo Pagans – those who follow their beliefs as individuals and not a part of any group. However, after talking to a few, I realized that I probably did not possess the rote memorization skills that they seemed to have. They could spout information off the top of their head to any question I posed. I knew I was bad a t studying and learning, so I felt doomed. I would never learn to be a Pagan on my own.

Then the United States Air Force did me a favor. I was sent overseas to Germany. All the Pagans I knew, I was leaving behind. I would be on my own. I met other Pagans there, but none that I meshed with well enough to want to be in their rituals. So I would spend time walking in the forests near Vogelweh Military Housing, and found small, secluded areas where I might be able to hold my own solo rituals. And to be honest, I never knew what really possessed me to do so. I could not remember any of the aspects of the rituals that I had read about in Buckland’s big blue book. I could barely comprehend what I was reading in Gerald Gardner’s two books. So I did the rituals as best as I could remember. And I made up the rest. After the third ritual I held out in the woods, I remember walking back feeling deeply at peace. And I realized that improvisational ritual was working for me.

When I tried to utilize this in a Wiccan group I joined after leaving the military – I was excoriated for deviating from the format that the group had designed and used for nearly two decades. Sadly, I shrugged off the criticism, and left the group for good. I felt that if there was no room for experimentation – there was no room for me to grow. Looking back, my leaving was probably one of the best things I ever did. That moment helped me to realize that being a solo Pagan was where I best fit in.

Certainly, my time working through the Bardic Grade within OBOD has shown me where concise ritual patterns can be good. It has also given me a framework where I can add my own little riffs on things. Because whether one understands it or not, there is a pattern to the music within improvisational jazz. Its an undertone that takes some experience to hear, understand, and relate to. In much the same way, what I have learned so far within OBOD has provided a wonderful undertone to some of the stuff that I do. And it is that undertone that becomes the driving force upon which creativity can be built.

Honestly, the best advice I can give you, if you are stuck in your rituals and finding no joy in what you are doing – mix it up. Change something. Make it feel new again, but don’t kill the undertone to everything – unless you need to. I kept trying to find something within ritual – a way of touching the Gods, an experience that would jolt me into another reality. That can be found in ritual, but first – have fun. Learn the pieces you need to learn, and have fun with the people you are with. And if you are alone…experience it all. See beyond the edges of the circle. Enjoy the stares of the Hawk or Crow on the tree branches, or the bewildered look of the horses, cows or sheep. But in the end, enjoy the way that your ritual pulls you to the experiences that you receive. Revel in the idea of being you…..

Re-Centering, Re-Dedication, Re-Focusing

I have slacked off on my morning rituals for a few months. Its been rough to get back into the swing of things, especially with moving up here near the Oklahoma/Texas border. It didn’t help that my cast-iron crows were missing after the move. But they have been found, and placed back into their locations in the stone circle with Kokopelli.

IMG_9670About two weeks back, I decided to spend some time out at the stone circle one night, and do a re-dedication of my Spiritual Path. The idea was to bring the stone circle back into focus within my Daily Path, as well as re-sharpen my focus on some of the things that matter to me in my Spiritual Life. I also had the “dreamy” idea of doing a video of the entire ritual and placing it online as a start to doing short, infrequent video clips on YouTube. Well, I found out that I am horrible at making video work…so that’s still a work in progress. But I did manage to make it through my entire ritual.

Interestingly enough, I had this semi-scripted out. Most of my rituals are very informal, very impromptu. When you are the sole member of your ritual gathering, impromptu works very well. But for this little ritual, I needed a bit more structure.

The idea was to stick to basic concepts, and allow my method to be impromptu. The initial start was to greet the Directions, and then in the center I greeted Fliodhas, the Irish Goddess of the forests. To the North, I greeted my ever-present companion Crow, and to the West I greeted Coyote. In the East, I greeted my Spirits of Ancestor, and to the south I greeted the Spirits of Place. Once I made my way through this initial set, I finished the start of my ceremony by utilizing the call for Peace to each Direction.

Then started my moment for dedication – placing myself into the hands and guidance of Fliodhas. I brought several small cups of bird seed, and two glass bottles of tap-water into the circle. For the dedication to Fliodhas, I stated that I was Hers to guide, and that I would be Her instrument whenever she felt it necessary. I further promised to bring another offering and repeat my dedication to her when I travel to Ireland this coming winter. I then re-dedicated myself in a similar manner to Crow, and I left two offerings of the bird seed in the center of the circle, as well as pouring a healthy dose of water for both of Them.

Then I sat, and meditated on the stones that I have in this circle. None of these stones come from here in Texas. A few come from the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, some from the Rocky mountains near Colorado Springs, one from the area near Mesa Verda, one from near Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, and a few from Glacier National Park. Each of those areas resonate deeply within me, and thus the reason I have some stones from there. For me, these stones are sacred. For me, the area between them resonates as sacred space. I remembered how each of these stones came to me, and why each of them are special to me.

When I finished with the meditation, I thanked the Gods and Goddess who had joined me. I thanked the Spirits of Ancestor, Place, and Direction for their attention and time, and once again pronounced my desire for peace to each of the directions, along with a final desire for peace throughout the whole world. Then I gathered a few of the cups of birdseed and began leaving small piles of seed just to the outside of each stone, until I had no more birdseed available. Then I opened the second bottle of water, and wet each of the stones in the circle, remembering again how each came to me. When I was finished, I gathered up the cups and the bottles and went into the house to clean up.

Each morning since, I have walked outside before I have had my breakfast and poured a small offering of water, along with a handful of birdseed which I scatter just to the east of the circle in the grass. Each evening since, I have visited the circle again, and performed a grounding/centering exercise. Whenever possible, I have tried to be barefoot when I have done this. All of this has been meant to re-focus myself back on to being who I am, and allowing some of the stress of my workday to be left behind.

I am not sure “appropriate” this may seem to another polytheist, or another Pagan, or another Druid. It works for me. And honestly, that’s what matters most.

Pulling the Stick Out of My Rear

Another question that comes up quite often in conversation is why Coyote, Crow and now Fliodhas?? My only response for this is….well, I don’t have the first damn clue to the “why” of it all. I tried to explain some of it about a month ago in a post. Perhaps a more interesting question might be why do I have two First Nations’ Trickster Gods interested in me? Which then begs the next question as to why I have an Irish Goddess of the Forest now interested in me? The answer winds up being a big shrug from me. Though, I would point to the Saturday night around the fire with a handful of my fellow Bards at the recent Gulf Coast Gathering as a potential explanation. We spent most of the night cutting up and laughing amongst each other. Our jokes and side commentary certainly brought us much closer together as a group then we were prior to the start of camp. In all honesty, in the dark by the light of the campfire, it was almost as if we each grabbed a hold of a common thread of mirth, frivolity, and inspiration. And we not only shared that moment, but it forged a bond between all of us that is almost indescribable. Given the nature of Coyote and Crow (among other Trickster Gods) and the manner in which laughter at the moment provides a strong feeling of ecstatic experience – I can only come to a single conclusion. That – for me, at least – my two Tricksters were showing me (us) a side of one another that could only be understood through our shared experience of the moment.

Before I started down the road of my Pagan Path, I was raised a Catholic, and even spent a little more than a year in the Southern Baptist world. Both experiences make religious rites and spiritual experiences into a very solemn, serious experience. There is typically no room for joking around, or even irreverence towards the moment. And when such experiences do happen, an authority figure will eventually come along to frown upon those moments. Piety is a very serious business, and one must not crack a smile when experiencing spiritual ecstasy of the moment. In a manner of speaking, its almost as if one must have a stern, stoic face when approaching matters where spirituality, religion, and the heart intersect. Of course, I am stretching this to an extreme to make a point…I am sure that there are moments of frivolity within both the Catholic and Southern Baptists faiths, though I am quite sure that irreverence is most assuredly frowned upon to an even greater extreme than I am projecting here.

When I did my first Wiccan initiation, waaaaaaaay back in the day, the initiation called for me to be completely disrobed – skyclad, if you prefer. I was a serious stick in the mud back then…quite the prude, if you will. After all, my background prior to being at this point (less than two years on my Pagan Path) was strictly from a background where nudity was frowned upon. So, the running joke amongst my coven mates (I found out about this many years after the fact) was how they were going to get me to disrobe, much less approach a circle of others who were also nude. Trust me, it wasn’t all that simple, but I eventually did so. I locked eyes with EVERY individual I approached. I never looked down, I never looked around. Looking back, I can laugh about how nervous I was about being that vulnerable in front of everyone else. And yes, I was very body conscious at that point in my life. I’m still a bit hesitant about disrobing in front of others, but I no longer have the body conscious issues that I had previously. Shit, I’m fat and I know it. LOL

Back in those days, I was always worried about how others may or may not perceive me for who I was. And I seriously laugh about that too. I had to have the RIGHT clothing for ritual. I had to have the RIGHT tools with me for ritual. The moment had to be RIGHT. Everything had to be in the PERFECT place. Otherwise, I felt that the ritual was spoiled and not “pure” enough for the Gods. it took a lot for me to overcome that. Now, ritual is more about honoring the Gods than it is about the exact perfection of this motion or the wording of these phrases. When I stumble on words or state something in the wrong order – I am quite sure that the Gods are laughing along with me. A little levity goes a long way to relaxing other people involved in the ritual. After all, they are probably just as anxious about the way they are handling themselves within the ritual as well. And that levity, the ability to laugh at myself, not taking myself that seriously — I have learned that from Trickster Gods.

IMG_0209Ritual is a moment where we honor the Gods, honor our ancestors, honor the Spirits of Place, and celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year. Its also a time where – if you are doing this in group practice – that we get together to celebrate our bond with one another. If we do that in an uptight manner, where we are not relaxed…it comes off as stilted and stiff. As if we are uncomfortable around those we are with. A little mirth goes a long way towards relaxing yourself, and everyone around you. Stop worrying about if – or when – you screw up in a ritual. Relax. be yourself. You screw up, acknowledge it, and step back up to the plate. if the candle won’t light, improvise. Just don’t light yourself on fire (or anyone else for that matter).

Getting upset because something didn’t work right or you stumbled over your lines…that just changes the energy within the ritual, and removes some of the relaxed aspect of what is happening. Honoring the Gods, Ancestors, Spirits of Place – that all starts with honoring yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself. And trust me…you’ll make the “O” face when you pull that stick from your rear-end. I know I did. But after removing that unbending aspect of myself…I can certainly walk a lot easier now.

 

Comfort Over Form- Revisiting Ritual Clothing

Ritual clothing. I have talked about this before on the blog. Now I’m not completely sure why anyone might think I have a problem with ritual clothing, but apparently some do. That notion is a little far past my honest reality.

Walking on Wild Horse Island in MontanaWhen it comes to clothing, I prefer something that I am comfortable in. Typically, that’s jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirt, and a ball cap. Now, even on casual Fridays, this configuration is frowned upon where I work. And I completely understand why. Our work environment is set to a standard of “business casual” which I find to be open to some degree of interpretation, depending on who you might ask. But there’s an image to uphold in all of that. A long time back, I worked for a dot-com company (jobs.com to be precise) where the attire was casual to all degrees that may imply. We were asked to not be too revealing in our dress style, but flip-flops certainly seemed to be the summer-time norm for footwear. The business model was built on the idea that we interfaced with our customer and consumer bases through electronic means, therefore a dress code was a nebulous thing. Again, since we were hardly seen, our image wasn’t a necessary thing to place emphasis upon.

But that brings me back around to the concept of ritual clothing. For some, like myself, its nothing to even be semi-concerned about. For others, its such an important aspect of Paganism, that they may even snigger at folks such as myself (and yes, this has happened before). Are the Gods and Goddesses really going to be that concerned with how I dress for a ritual? Perhaps. After all, Crow may not have a problem with my Grateful Dead t-shirt, but could potentially balk at a Motorhead t-shirt, right? Could this not be where some of this may go? What attire is or is not pleasing to the Gods and Goddesses?

Potentially. Then again, there may be something said for someone who wears a shirt that proclaims “a woman is no substitute for a game boy” t-shirt into a ritual where the Morrigan is going to be called. The t-shirt may not offend the Morrigan, but there certainly is some aspect of feather-ruffling that will take place – even on a subconscious level – with the other individuals attending the ritual. I’d mark that to something akin to wearing a Klansman robe to a Black Panther meeting – the robes may be comfortable, but certainly there is something there that might make things difficult, right?

Coming back to the idea of ritual clothing. I have seen some really nice robes, dresses, and outfits. And I wonder how comfortable it is to wear that? Some look very comfortable, others look downright constricting. But then the ideal of “comfort” is more in the skin of the wearer, than it is in the eye of the observer.

At Pantheacon, I was very well aware of the fact that I would likely wind up in a ritual or two during my time there. I took four t-shirts, and four pairs of jeans with me. I chose my cheap Wal-mart black running shoes over my new, white Nike Air-II sneakers – if only for the reason that my Nikes are not broken in yet. In other words, I went for comfort. Now, I do have a particular white, thin, cotton, hooded, long-sleeved shirt that I have designated as my own version of a “robe”. But long-sleeved shirts are not comfortable in warm weather. So I opted to leave that behind. In the end, minus a bandana for my head, I looked like the quintessential, in my early 50s, hippy. I’m not ashamed of that…because I am exactly that. Where I have had a few sniggers aimed my way just prior to a large outdoor Pagan ritual, at Pantheacon I never seemed to get a second look from anyone. ::sigh::

But there’s a certain degree of respect that I aimed for in dressing that way. That’s right. Respect. If I was wearing something uncomfortable, eventually I was going to start fidgeting in the presentations I attended, or in the rituals that I participated in. That would mean that I am not concentrating on what should have my attention – the presentation or the ritual (depending on which I was at). In my mind, when I am not focused on what is being presented or is being done in a ritual, I am disrespecting the individual(s) who are pouring their talent into what is in front of me. Thus, I dress for things like this so that I am comfortable, which allows me to keep my focus and attention on where it should be – rather than on how uncomfortable I feel at that moment.

Now, I am a firm believer that there is a time and a place for decorum, particularly in areas such as ritual. Were I asked to dress in something more appropriate, I would certainly acquiesce to such. But, when someone expects me to dress a certain way without asking or noting that it should be – they should understand that some people will dress for comfort over style. Particular an old fart such as myself….

 

Free-Form Ritual – Knowing It

I’m a huge fan of the movie “The Matrix“.  Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before.

 

Damnit.  Ok, just humor me for a few minutes.

As I mentioned, I am a huge fan of the movie “The Matrix“. There is one scene in particular that resonates very deeply with me. That’s the sparring program, where Morpheus spars with Neo.

Morpheus makes the statement to Neo – “Don’t think you are, know you are.” Its this statement that I am building this post around.

I have mentioned a few times that ritual is not one of the major aspects of either being a Pagan or being on a path of Druidry. However, its not really ritual that is the problem for me. Its the structured aspect of ritual. The rote statements for calling the directions. The memorized lines. For me, too much structure kills the moment. Its probably better explained from a previous post:

Well, perhaps the best way to describe it is with the phrase: “its just Jazz, man.”  The musical form of Jazz is so vibrant and alive, in my opinion. The musician doesn’t just play the music, they play the music that’s inside of them. No true set form, Jazz is improvisational – coming from within, to be played as a tribute to the world around the musician in that moment. There are many people that find this style of playing harmonious, beautiful, and very in the moment. I am one of those people. But there are others who find it discordant, out of sync, and sometimes just purely random. I can understand that. Not everyone has the same connection to the world around them. Some folks prefer a bit more structure to what they do.

Just as I may find structure kills the inspiration, the vibrancy of the moment – others like the structure. They find harmony with the rote movements and statements. Its provides them with comfort, and gives them depth of understanding. It works for them, but not me.

There are only two rituals that have any level of consistency in form with me. One is my morning ritual of greeting the sunrise. The other is spending a few moments to say goodnight to the sun as it slips over the horizon. Begging for a promise that it will return again in the East. But even that is full of changes from time to time.

Sometimes, I will stand silently and watch the sun rise or set. Other times, I may silently intone the Awen chant. And other times I may say it out loud…as a whisper, or a conversational voice, or even shouting it. Whatever the moment holds for me. Don’t think I am, know I am.

IMG_5745
My backyard circle at the old house in Corinth

My belief system is full of experience. Not XP, like you get in a Dungeons and Dragons table-top game. Experiential. Feeling the moment. Experiencing all aspects of it. One particular morning that I can easily recall is a quite Summer morning sometime around two-plus years back. The morning weather forecast called for rain showers to start shortly after sunrise. When I stepped outside, I could feel the muggy atmosphere all around me. I could smell the aroma of the rain in the air, mingling with the smell of the flowers on the vines of the bush that was growing outwards to cover my backyard window. I could hear the quiet little chatter of the birds, as they gathered nearby, anxiously awaiting the birdseed I had in the two plastic drinking cups I was carrying with my left hand and arm. In my right hand was my cup of coffee, steaming silently, even in the humid, hot air of the morning. I approached the bird-bath, set the bird seed cups down, and stared off into the darkened horizon of the East. The sun would come up behind the clouds, so I would not catch a glimpse of the rays as the Sun rose over the rooftops that made up my suburban horizon. But I knew I would experience the moment of its arrival, as the sky would dim slightly before being a dimly light sky. I drink my coffee in short little sips, tasting the mix of Splenda sweetener with the sugar-free Hazelnut creamer. The slight bitter taste of Community Coffee with the nuances of these tastes is the perfect punctuation to my waiting time. And as the sun started to lighten the cloudy skies, I lifted my coffee cup to the East, and silently bid the Sun a good morning. And as I set my coffee cup down in the two inches of water that comprised the bird-bath’s depth, I heard the song “Days Between” from the Grateful Dead playing in my mind. As I poured handfuls of birdseed into my hand, and scattered it across the ground – I remembered the visuals that are prompted from the lyrics.

When all we ever wanted
Was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
We told them where to go
Walked halfway around the world
On promise of the glow
Stood upon a mountain top
Walked barefoot in the snow
Gave the best we had to give
How much we’ll never know
We’ll never know

For me, moments such as that do not come a second time. And while someone may claim that not to be a ritual. I am reminded that many people do not consider Jazz to be music, but rather dissonant noise. Free-form ritual may not look like ritual to others, but for me – its that jazz-style poetry that rises up in the branches of the trees.

I don’t think it, I know it.

Thanks for humoring me…..

Movement as Meditation and Ritual

Here in the United States, we have this odd time-shift that happens twice a year. In the Spring, we move our clocks forward one hour, and in the Fall, we move them backward one hour. Its a concept called “Daylight Savings Time” – and to be honest not everyone observes it. I believe that Arizona is the only state that does not move its clocks in such weird ways.

Well, this morning is the result of the Fall time change. And I am ok with it. I’ve not really been observing my daily ritual and routine by the time of a clock, but rather by the rising and setting of the sun. For me, its a manner of connecting with the world around me – and I thoroughly enjoy it. While I dread some days where I go into work, every morning holds a moment that might be similar to the morning before, but is truly unique regardless.

Last night was Samhain, and while I had planned to attend one particular ritual, my back had other plans. One of the joys of getting older. My body begins to betray me in ways I had never dreamed before. But then, I’m not that old. I just turned fifty a month ago. So, instead, I have to amend the statement somewhat. Its not my body that’s betraying me, its me that is betraying my body. I do need to eat a little healthier – man cannot live on Taco Bell and Dairy Queen alone, though I am certainly testing that theory these days. I also need to exercise a bit more.

Over the past year, I have gotten away from the routines I had previously. A huge part of that had to do with my hour-plus commute from home to work, and then from work to home. By the time I made it home, I was exhausted, and in no mood to exercise. Just prior to my birthday this year, I purchased a home that was a ten-minute drive from work. And I have continued the routine I had fallen into — coming home, and not exercising.

Well, Samhain is the start of a new cycle of the Wheel of the Year. And its certainly the time to start new routines. For the next month, I an adding a daily walk back to my routine (for as long as the weather holds out) and some Tai Chi movements to help stretch and limber my muscles. I figured I would start with something simple, and add a new stretching routine every third month. The first movement that I am adding is “Part Wild Horse’s Mane”. While I know there is a spiritual element to this, its important for me to learn the physical movement first – this is why I am only adding a new form every third month. I have a month to concentrate on the physical form, and a second month to add the spiritual element to it as well.

While there is an aspect of physical health needs involved in all of this, my secondary goal is to add the elements of achieving balance through the movements as meditation. As many people know, meditation is a primary aspect of what I believe and practice. Plus there’s other elements that add on to this as well. I learn to move more graceful, become more conscious of my poor posture and change my daily habits to better that posture, and in some manner — learn to dance. Anyone who has seen me dance….had better stop laughing now.  ::grins::

When people ask how my beliefs fold into my daily life, its things such as these that make the difference for me. Not everyone is drawn to Far Eastern practices. I certainly am. Not everyone sees movement as a form of meditation, I certainly do. There are even those who would scream about cultural misappropriation.

That’s perfectly fine for me. I don’t need or desire a debate with people over such things. I know what works for me. I reject no method or technique. I understand and feel the intentional draw and pull that works for me, and then utilize that to understand the connections around me, and how I can be a more complete “me” from that. And when it comes to aspects of spirituality, that’s what matters most, in my opinion. The Gods and Goddesses that call me, call me regardless of what Pantheon or system they are part of. Each is a unique, individual relationship that is cultivated through ritual, meditation, and honor. Its not for me to worry about the “why” — rather my focus is on the “what” and “how”.  But that’s a conversation for another time…very soon….

The last part of this blog post is on why I see Movement as Ritual. Or, rather HOW I see Movement as Ritual. The largest majority of my rituals are impromptu and somewhat different in form. I utilize the framework that I have been learning in the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. But there’s always other elements that I add. For instance, my walks back at the old house where built on a round-about track. There was always an element of North, South, East and West as I walked. So there were certain points of my walks where I would greet the directions as I would in a ritual. And in a manner of speaking, I treated it as a ritual. Between each direction, there were central foci that were aimed towards a particular aspect of that cardinal direction. I will be setting up the same here, at my new home. I have already mapped out a two circuit walk through the neighborhood for a distance close to four miles. That’s a mile longer than I walked before – so I will be stretching myself a bit more.

The first few times I walk this circuit, I will not be focused on the ritual aspect, but rather on reaching out and trying to locate where the Spirits of Place are. This area is far more rural than the sub-urban environment I previously lived in, so there’s a need to “explore” a bit more to see where my “neighbors” are. But I will also be scouting out appropriate locations for my cardinal points in the circuit as well. In essence, I am making sure of where I am and what is out there before consciously setting up my little ritual state. For me, that’s just a matter of courtesy….but that may just be me.

In what I practice and believe, every movement is a sacred, conscious action. A deliberate motion, which is attached to everything around it. Every swing of my arms, every step I take upon the grass or concrete, emanates a ripple into the environment around me. And while I may not see their “eyes” – I am watched, observed, noticed… and each movement, along with its associated intent, is noted.