A year ago I wrote about feeling ashamed at Pagan Pride.
On Saturday, to my surprise, I found myself standing in a circle at another Pagan Pride, but this time I was helping to facilitate ritual. I was “West,” to be specific.
I stood in a circle, one that, when uncast, would close out the Salem Pagan Pride Day festivities, and — thankfully — I did not feel ashamed. (In fact, I can scarcely remember feeling so affected by the experience last year.) Instead I felt like I was participating in a community gathering that meant a great deal to this group of people.
I felt humbled, I think.
Standing across the circle from me was a young girl, perhaps in her mid-teens, and I swear to you she was so present in that circle. When everyone turned from direction to direction, thanking the elements (which is a part of OBOD ritual but very much not a part of ADF ritual), this young girl put her whole body into giving thanks. She was participating in the theater of the event in a way that reminded me of the most pious Christians in church, genuflecting before moving through the pew and bowing their heads as the cross made its way to the altar.
This girl was doing her religion hard.
And I found that heartwarming.
It wasn’t my experience, though. I stood amidst a few OBOD members, all students of the Bardic grade, and a smattering of eclectic Pagans and I had no clear idea of what all this meant to me in a religious or spiritual sense. But looking at that girl reminded me of myself at some other point in my life. It reminded me that there was a time when I participated fully in my religion; eyes closed, hands clenched or opened wide to the sky, heart full of wonder, or mystery, or gratitude.
That was me once.
And it could be me again.
This girl gave me hope, which was something I hadn’t expected to feel when I went to the Salem Pagan Pride day event. I went with as few expectations as I could, and I was resolute not to pick aspect the event as I had last year.
Showing how something is flawed is not necessarily a constructive act, nor is it always the kindest thing to do. I’m working on being more kind.
Last year I was genuinely affected by the circle but this year it seemed benign. I wonder how much my experience in Denver was characterized by my belonging to ADF and my adoption of ADF’s ritual practice.
The Druid Fellowship is not anti-Wiccan in any way, but it does a great deal to make clear how the two trads are different. There’s a pamphlet passed out at most ADF festival booths which explains the distinctions (how ADF does not cast circle, how it sees the gods as distinct beings rather then emanations of the God or Goddess, etc.). The organization isn’t hateful toward Wicca in any way, but there was always the sense that it was important to identity how ADF Druidry, unlike OBOD, works hard to remain distinct from that tradition.
OBOD’s approach to Druidry is much more similar to Wicca, and as I consider starting up with my Bardic studies again — perhaps even working my way through the Ovate and Druid grades — I have to reconcile that this “simple shape” which “introduces our early minds to geometry, to symmetry, to physical and social design,” and that was held to blame for my feelings of shame last year might end up becoming a bigger part of life.
I have a lot to learn. I feel like a beginner again, like I haven’t spent the past two and a half years being some kind of Druid. As I make introductions into the Pagan community here in the Willamette Valley, I have to soften my edges a bit. The ways in which I’ve been hard and jagged no longer serve me, and I don’t think they’re all that helpful in the process of community building (however gingerly I approach that process).
So I’m considering the circle again. I’m asking it to forgive me for being so harsh before. I may have used it to make a point about othering in a way that was unfair to the event organizers. When I said the casting of circle turned us Pagans into The Church I was taking too big a leap. Clearly others thought so, too.
This is my 200th post on Bishop in the Grove, and yet it could just as easily be my first. I am still a beginner, and about that I am not in any way ashamed.