We are all solitary. Even those of us who practice with a group, or who gather at festivals to dance around fires, or stand in circles under full moons. We are all solitary, still.
There are politics in Groves and Covens, just as in Churches and Temples. There are people who seek to shape things in their image, and to bend the will of the universe to their liking. And, there are people who just long to be loved, and respected, and made to feel important, regardless of the size of their theological vocabulary or their experience as a ritualist.
They are solitary, too.
There’s been an ongoing conversation in my solitary world with other solitaries, with Pagan politicians and with my husband about the idea of ministry, and what it means to me, personally, and to me as a member of the greater, if somewhat formless, Pagan community.
Words like ministry, or worship, or even prayer have been met with a certain degree of hesitation from my fellow paganus; an unwillingness to even consider how these words, rooted as they seem to be in Christian culture, might be aplicable to our spiritual tradition and experience.
That’s fine. I’m not here to evangelize, especially not for the sake of vocabulary.
But, I’m still feeling drawn to the resonance of certain words; ministry, most of all.
Ablaze In The Water
When I think of ministry, I think of fire. Fire, for me, is a symbol for transformation, for the exercising of one’s True Will, for both the stream of thoughts on the page and also the explosion those thoughts make as they are born into experience. Fire, in my imagination, resides primarily in the heart.
Ministry, as I understand it, is the act of nurturing that fire, both in yourself and in others. One who ministers is one who keeps the fire burning, or who teaches others the skills needed for this internal fire tending.
Viewing ministry in this way allows me, and people of many varying traditions – monotheistic, polytheistic, agnostic, atheist – to develop a craft of caring for the hearts of other people. Ministry, in this light, is more an art form than an extension of any sort of dogmatic imperative.
I brought up ministry to my ADF mentor, and told him about this fire in the heart. He suggested that it may also be good to imagine a fire in the head. The “Imbas“, or quite literally, “fire in the head” in Gaelic, is the inspiration from the Gods which drives us to create. It is also the substance, metaphysically speaking, which connects the Heavens, the Underworld, and this place we live in, often called the Mid Earth.
I like the idea that something inside me, something which connects my heart, my mind, and all of my creative parts is also the thing which connects me to my Ancestors, to my Gods, to this Earth and all of its inhabitants. There’s got to be a word for it in English… in every language. If not, there should be.
A Question Of Vocation
I grew up in a tradition of priests, not ministers. Now I’m in a world of priest and priestesses, and all I can think about is ministry. For a time, I thought I should be a priest. Recently, I considered that maybe I’m cut out for ministry.
Perhaps I could be both.
Priesthood, as I understood it then and as I’ve seen it played out now in ADF Druidry, is mainly a function of serving the community through leading ritual and through keeping the sacred days sacred.
I could do that as a solitary practitioner.
Ministry, as I’ve defined it above, is really about keeping the fire burning. I can make a practice of keeping watch of my fire, making sure it is lit, well fueled, tended to. Then I can reach out to those closest to me – as an act of compassion as well as one of piety – to care for them; to keep their fire burning.
This, perhaps, makes being solitary less solitary.
But I will always be a solitary. So will you. Even if we develop community around ourselves, there is an aspect of our journey that will always be done alone. I say this not to sound morose, or to suggest that we be pitied. This is just the truth.
There is cause for gladness, though.
The fire connects us. The fire, which led me to these words, leads you to creation, to re-creation, to transformation and new growth. In the fire, we are never truly alone. Through the fire, we are connected to all that has been before us and all that will ever be; we are one with the Ancestors, and we become the Ancestors of those to come; we glean insight into the nature of Divine Reality, and we discover the magic in the ordinary world we live and work in.
The fire brings light, and the fire destroys, and the fire prepares the ground for new beginnings; be they in your heart, in your head, or on the furthest edge of your imagination. The fire reaches that place, and the fire is that place.
A Blessing On You
May your heart and head be lit ablaze with the fire of Imbas, of transformative creativity, and may the awareness of this fire be with you, always.
May you be a Priest, a Priestess, and one who ministers to the fire.
If these words have spoken to you, and if you’d like to speak to my understanding of the fire, or more importantly, to your understanding of the fire, please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you. And, let the blaze illuminate the computer screens of all your friends by sharing the post on Facebook, Twitter and Google+!