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+!
Your post spoke to me clearly.
My ministry as a solitary Priestess of the woods (and also of the fire), is creativity, and empowerment. Both come from the lower 'chakras', the grounding parts of our bodies. For me the fire and the drum help reconnect humans back to the earth, the Source, and their inner spirals of creativity.
The reconnection is key to all else in this world. Society as a whole has turned to the Air for so much, we float away on technology and forget where our atoms came from.
peace & blessings.
Thank you for this comment, Holly. I agree – reconnection is key. Getting grounded in the earth is a message worth spreading.
I'm interested to know what "the woods" are, to you. Do those words represent something literal, like a grove of trees, or are they a symbol for something — like the creativity and empowerment you speak of?
I think too that ministry speaks to minstering *something*. Shouldn't that caretaking of *something* be part of all of our paths, whether it be tendering to the fire of our own souls and others, to the gods, to the world around us or to a greater humanity?
It would be nice if this conversation were more present in our communities–on line and off, and that the "language of Christianity" wasn't so taboo among so many…it seems a bit like cutting off our noses to spite our faces if nothing else.
I couldn't agree with you more. No one tradition owns any of these things – ministry, prayer, worship. These are human experiences, performed differently by different people, and essentially valid. I think we'd be good to examine how these taboo words, ideas, and techniques can belong to us — DO belong to us — and how we might grow into them through out own traditions.
Thank you for sharing this perspective. I truly appreciate it.
Thank you for this post 🙂 It speaks to me greatly. I feel that fire, that energy inside me as I work towards my goal of building our local pagan community. Its that fire inside me that keeps me going, pushes me onward, drives me to persevere through my obstacles because in the end I know the result is greater than the sacrifices I make.
I like what you said regarding "nurturing that fire in yourself and others"…..this is a big part of my Druidry path…..as a Druid in my pagan community I help others find their paths and connect w/ others, while giving them opportunities to celebrate the seasons among those who do not judge. On the flip side, it is my responsibility as a Druid to connect to that fire within myself……to tend it and maintain that connection with my Kindreds as well as my own personal virtues.
You're quite welcome, Carol. I'm glad that it spoke to you. And thank you for sharing with me what Druidry means to you. I love the way you describe your path. It's inspiring.
May the fire always burn brightly inside you of, and may that fire catch in the hearts of all those you touch.
beautifully worded, fire and passion can burn and ignite, which can be either bad or good, depending on how they are used. maybe most beliefs are like that, taking what is positive while respecting the strength of unbridled passion is a good thing; flames run amok, not so good.
We can always choose the higher angels of our nature rather than the destructive force, because fire can be either. . . .
thoughtful blog; I will be back.
Thank you, Emilly. I appreciate that comment.
I'm not sure I equate fire — or, at least, the fire I'm speaking of here — to a belief. It's more of a state of being; a condition of full engagement. Belief can fuel a fire, but I'm imagining this fire to be, itself, a kind of fuel.
I'm glad the post spoke to you, though, however the words resonated. I do hope you come back.
[…] is undeniably magical. Writing can be, as I feel it is for me at times, a form of ministry (and you read here about what that word means to me).To write about a spiritual life is especially valuable, and this […]