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.
Isaac was devoted to Brigid until the end of his days. Your kind words make me want to cry. I am so happy he is still serving as an inspiration.
Thank you for your comment, Phaedra, and for all the work you’re doing in honor of Isaac’s life and legacy. He continues to be an inspiration, and when I give thanks to my ancestors I count him among them.
Bright blessings to you.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your kind comment, Tavey. I’m glad the post spoke to you.
I needed this today, thank you.
Then, I’m glad you read it, LadyLvsNyt. Bright blessings to you!
Luck and Strength to you on your journey, Teo. As a fellow wanderer currently lost on his own spiritual path, I offer my sympathy, support, and well wishes to you. You shall find what you seek.
Thank you so much for your comment. Your last sentence really speaks to me; now is the time to reinvest in the seeking, no?
As the person you outbid, I must say it went to a good home.
-Chris Henderson, Grove of the Seven Hills
Chris!! My friend and fellow bidder!! Thanks for the comment and for reaching out. I appreciate that you harbor no ill will towards me. 🙂
Bright blessings to you as well.
That was a lovely tribute and testament that we all go through these rough patches spiritually. Thanks for posting this and I’m glad you were able to reconnect!
Thank you, RavennaBlue, for your comment. I’m glad the post spoke to you. Blessings!
I have a medallion that was Isaac’s – I am so thankful that Phaedra is allowing the many people who Isaac touched to have a physical connection to him.
And I’m very glad you’ve returned to the altar. This is the third blog I’ve come across in as many days that’s talked about how practice supports belief… which I’ll take as a sign I need to work through this for myself.
Thanks for your comment, John. I’m always glad to hear from you.
I agree — Phaedra is doing a great service to the Druidic and Pagan community by allowing us to connect in this way with Isaac. To a people who are often in close, intentional work with those who have passed, this offers a special gift for ritual and worship.
I’ll be interested to see what you discover as you work though these ideas of practice supporting of begetting belief. It’s the *opposite* of how I’ve been approaching things lately, but I think it may serve me well. Do you think you’ll write about it on your blog?
I see it as slightly more indirect: practice leads to experience and experience leads to belief. But the bottom line is that it works.
I finished the response today. It’s on my blog at http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/2012/01/practice-and-belief.html
I love your post, and I think adding the experience element makes perfect sense. Thank you for sharing that here, John.
What a brave and beautiful post! Thank you!
Thank you, Áine. You’re very kind.
As a priest of Pan I have to say you are honoring him as well his underling message is a primal lust for life !
Lust for life!! Hail Pan!!
Indeed — this sentiment is very much a part of me. It is, in a way, what fuels my inquiries, and my creative work.
Perhaps Pan is more present in my life than I was aware…
Thank You for a very moving and inspiring post. I have dipped in and out of a Pagan path for many years and decided recently to start over and arrange my thoughts in a blog. Your words on hitting a spiritual block and overcoming it give me heart to continue, even if the going gets tough.
Its funny what a belt buckle and the memory of a dearly loved person can do, or is Issac working on? He has inspired you and you have inspired me in turn. You were meant to have that buckle (sorry Mr. Henderson)!!!!
Love and Blessings
I’m glad to heart this, Scribbledabble (and a very impressive name, by the way). I hope you do start a blog — please let us know once you start publishing!
Perhaps it is Isaac working in the world. I like that idea. I’d be honored to carry on his work in some small way. In this instance, it seems, it began with a buckle!
Blessings to you.
Publishing now http://Otherworldlythoughts.blogspot.com
Early days though and lots to learn………..
Wonderful! The blog appears to be invite-only, which I completely understand. Should you ever choose to make it completely public, do let us know. In the meantime, I hope that the writing helps you along your path!
Teo, this brought me to tears. For someone I’ve not met, I’ve been a bit worried about you! <3
That’s very kind, WhiteBirch. Thank you for being with me on this journey, and for your concern. I’m glad to have such a loving community of people with which to share my experiences.
Teo, I too have been touched by Isaac’s work .In part of my path , while i was still finding my way i stumbled upon his books , mostly on druidry and being a male pagan .I did get to say hello to him at one of his last public appearances at a pagan festival in New Jersey. I had wished to get to know him betttter , have a chance to talk to him , but this was when he was getting sick , not long b/f he passed . I was so influenced by his work , i looked into , then joined ADF and a local grove and the ADF warrior guild .He was active even in the forming time of my ADF grove , was a frequent visitor , in it’s early days . Our grove is what Isaac would like all groves to be , we have a perminant ritual space , that the grove owns . I too am a devotee of Bridhid . I wear Isaac’s Druid sigial , from his website all the time , feel nekkid w/o it . From my research , i found Sinnsreachd , a Celtic tribal path , that is completly compatible with ADF Celtic Druidry and the Tuath De Dannon.Belonging to an ADF grove and participating in group ritual has helped me settle into a very comfortable ritual and personal practice . Altho my daily ritual/devotionals are less formal , more a silent meditation , tis no less meaningful.I now consider myself a Sinnsreachd/ADF Druid , but i owe alot of where i am now to Issacs work . His teachings nudged me along my path , where i needed to go . I would strongly recommend his books , if you don’t already have them. I would also recommend looking into the ADF dedicant studies program i personly learned alot , and found my way . Kilm
Thanks for sharing this, Kilm. He has touched many, indeed. Bright blessings to you!
I can definitely hear Isaac saying that – I only ever met him once, but what an inspiring person.
Do the work, indeed.
[…] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove/archives/isaac-bonewits-holds-me-up-pants-and-all/ On “Bishop in the Grove”, Isaac Bonewits’s belt buckle. […]
Love this post. thanks for your honesty!
It’s all that’s worth giving. 🙂 I’m glad that the post spoke to you, Wes.
Very inspirational Teo!
Thank you, Eoghan! I’m glad it spoke to you.
[…] I will remember Isaac. I will pin on his “Druid” name-tag, hold up my pants with his belt buckle, and I’ll be a Druid.So I leave you with this video of Isaac. Enjoy it. Share it, or share […]