I’m wearing Isaac Bonewits’s belt buckle. Have been for days.
The pewter Pan, which once held up the pants of a great Druid, is now playing his flute just above my zipper. This seems both an appropriate and terribly dangerous location for the randy God.
I’ve never been a devotee of Pan — at least, not in the traditional sense. I was a bit rowdy in my younger days. As a gay man born at the tail-end of the gayest, most sexually liberated, pre-AIDS decade in the century (1979, to be exact), I spent the better part of my early 20’s trying to make up for all the good times I’d missed.
Let’s just say… I would have made Pan proud.
But it wasn’t devotion to the Greek God, or a nostalgia for my free loving days that led me to bid higher and higher on the belt buckle, or on the “DRUID” name tag that I also won from Phaedra Bonewits’s eBay store. No — it was Isaac. I wanted something that had belonged to him, and I wanted it for a very specific reason.
I’ve been drifting for weeks. I’ve had no personal practice, no clear sense of religious identity. One reader of mine, the writer, Gavin Andrew, asked in response to my post, Questioning Paganism…Again,
“So Teo, what do you do? What is it that resonates, in your very bones?”
It was a simple enough question. For Pagans, by and large, it is what we do that defines us. But I couldn’t answer him. Something about the simplicity of his question made me uncomfortable, perhaps because I hadn’t been doing much of anything for quite some time. My only regular act of doing was the picking apart of other people’s ideas, the dissecting of the various rituals I attended, and the mining of my own thoughts, feelings and experiences in search of good blog content.
That’s hardly a holistic, rich, and inspired spiritual practice.
If I’d been truly honest, I might have responded to Gavin in the past tense by saying:
I used to do a morning devotional, ADF style, before my home altar, during which I made offerings to the Gods (a.k.a. the Shining Ones), the Ancestors of blood, spirit, religion, tradition and place (a mouthful, yes, but I don’t like leaving people out), and the Spirits of the Land.
I used to meditate, and seek out the presence of divine beings in my mind, my heart, my home and throughout the world I walked in. I used to feel confident in identifying as a Neopagan Druid; one who was seeking to forge something new and authentic in his life. I used to think a lot about Pagan ministry, too, as a possible vocation for me down the road.
These past tense practices are not completely lost to me, though they’ve often felt that way. I like to think that they’ve just been on hiatus; frozen in a stillness indicative of winter. They’ve been trapped under the snow; hidden from the sun.
But, the fire of spring is soon to return.
Imbolc, the holiday which honors the Goddess, Brighid, to whom Isaac was devoted in his life and whose symbol I had tattooed to my wrist on a pilgrimage to Ireland, is just a little over a week away. The winter cannot last forever, and neither can this spiritual stasis. The sun will return, and with it – I hope – will come a renewed, pious fire within me.
I bought Isaac’s belt buckle because I wanted to have something tangible to remind me of these things that I used to be passionate about. I wear it to aid me in connecting to the person who stood still before an altar, heart open, raising offerings to the Great Mystery, in all of its various parts and persons. I wear it to instill confidence, to inspire curiosity, and because it makes me smile. I wear it because Isaac was a person who believed in excellence, and who assumed that all of us were capable of such — if we were to commit ourselves to doing the hard work.
This is what I am doing now. This is how I’m beginning to re-engage with my spiritual practice.
Do the work, I imagine Isaac saying as I fasten Pan to the tattered old belt once worn by my grandfather.
Do the work.
So, this morning I returned to my altar for the first time in months. I tightened up my belt, and did the work.