My religion is experienced in the doing.
This became clear to me as I entered the sacred space of our ADF ritual at Pantheacon, lifted my voice to invoke the spirit of Inspiration, and, for a moment, left my mind behind.
When I stepped in front of the altar and began to sing, I was performing a religious and magickal act. It was spontaneous and improvisational, and it originated from within my heart. It was the purest offering I could make.
In that moment, I was not thinking about what it meant to be a Druid. I was not weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the various Druid traditions, or squabbling over the definition of a word or title. No – I was invoking. I was calling down, stirring up, igniting the fire of inspiration in my own heart and in the hearts of all those present.
There was nothing intellectual about it.
“Worship requires action – it is not an intellectual task.”
These words came from Jean “Drum” Pagano, a man I met during my weekend in San Jose. Drum has been involved with ADF since the earliest days, and he serves in various leadership positions within the organization. Drum’s voice, in the few conversations we had in person and through his written word, resonates deeply with me.
Have you ever met someone and felt instantly as though you understood something about them, as though something inside them was very similar to something inside you?
That’s how it felt when I met Drum.
Drum says that worship requires action, and I heard that very message echoed by other Pagan leaders during the conference. So much of what we do in our day-to-day lives is mind work. We blog about our ideas, we argue about our differences, we share memes on Facebook ad nauseam (which, in my opinion, is very low mind work), and we allow this to consume great portions of our day.
What happens, then, when we spend our lives in our mind, on our screens, and even in the pages of our books, but we do not practice the action of worship?
It is no surprise that during November and December of last year, a time when I felt most conflicted about my religious path, that my altar was a wasteland; vacant, and unused. I did not approach it because I was uncertain if I believed in the words that I was saying each morning. I thought about it, and thought about it, and when I couldn’t decide how to think about it, I did nothing.
(If you were reading my blog during that time, you might remember a change in my tone. If you weren’t, you’ll find evidence of the change in the Archives.)
The result of my lack of doing was a period of spiritual stasis. In the absence of regular worship I became a bit more cynical, a little jaded even, and there was no sign of the fire in my heart which I speak of so often. I sing from this fire. I write from this fire. I make love from this fire. Worship keeps the fire burning, even as worship is an extension of this fire.
But then, after I became tired of the cold, dim reality of a life without reverence, I began my daily practice again. When I did, something changed.
I lit a candle, prepared a chalice of water, and laid out a wand made of wood. I gave thanks to the Mother. I called upon the God who had aided me before in the creation of sacred space, and was happy to discover that I could feel His presence again. I made offerings to the Gods and Goddesses, known and unknown, to the Ancestors, and to the Spirits of the Land. I lit a fire for Brighid, and gave thanks to Her. I did all of these things, stumbling from time to time, but reverent as I could muster, and my consciousness began to shift back toward the fire.
Worship requires action. You cannot think yourself into a state of transpersonal awareness. You must do something.
I wonder (more of an imaginative act than an intellection one) if you’ve experienced something similar. Have you been through periods when you thought more than you felt? And, if so, did that throw you off? Perhaps you have a different relationship to the intellect altogether. Perhaps it is a starting point for your experience of worship.
I always love to know what my readers think, but this time I’m going ask:
What do you do?