I’ve been a stay-at-home Pagan, a bookish Pagan, a CUUPS ritual-attending Pagan, and a blogging Pagan. But as of yet, I have not been a festival-going Pagan.
That all changes this week.
On Wednesday I shall make my way to the Prosser Ranch group campground, located just outside the town of Truckee, California, and celebrate Druidism, ADF style, at the annual Eight Winds festival.
The timing of this religious retreat is rather interesting. Over the last month, swamped as I’ve been with work-related travel and the upkeep and promotion of my Indiegogo Campaign (which, by the way, wraps up in a little over a week…nudge, nudge), I’ve neglected my daily practice. Some days I approach my shrine with an open heart and a still mind, but most mornings I dive straight into work without much attention at all to the gods or to my spirit. There’s been no consistency, only a cursory amount of reverence or piety, and a whole heaping load of worry and stress.
On top of all that, I just finished reading a book about Jesus, and it’s thrown my mind into a bit of a tailspin.
[STAY CALM — This is not a conversion post.]
The book, Jesus through Pagan Eyes: Bridging Neopagan Perspectives with a Progressive Vision of Christ, has done quite a number on me. I’ve written a review for HuffPost called, “Every Conceivable Jesus: A Review of ‘Jesus Through Pagan Eyes,’” and it should be published sometime this week (UPDATE: Post published on 6/26). The long and the short of it is this:
Reading Rev. Mark Townsend describe his complicated, rich, and heartfelt understanding of the many persons of Jesus reminded me of what I loved about being a Christian, and reading the book’s essays and interviews from Pagans about their perspectives on Jesus left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Perhaps reading a book about a central figure from a Pagan tradition — say, Pan or Lugh — in which two dozen Christians reflect on that particular god’s relevance (or irrelevance) in their religious lives would affect me similarly. In any case, it was the lone Christian in the bunch whose voice resonated with me most, and I’m not exactly sure what that means.
I remember writing about a similar quandary last Winter, and one of my readers responded with something like, “If you want to be a Christian, be a Christian. If you want to be a Pagan, be a Pagan. But pick one already!” I found the comment to be rather rude, and terribly reductive. We are never just one thing. We are always the sum of our parts, a work in progress, a collage. Many of our parts remain hidden from us until we are ready to understand them, but they’re all there. We are mysteries, even unto ourselves, and part of the wonder of living is unpacking the mystery.
Know thyself is a process, not a single action.
To be reminded in such a visceral way of my former expression of religiosity on the eve of a celebration of my newer expression of religiosity is confusing, to say the least. It makes me wonder whether or not I will be able to surrender completely to the experience of fellowship and ritual at Eight Winds, or if I will be consumed by my own questioning. My hope is that there will be opportunities for dialogue with other ADF members, and through that dialogue we might come to know one another (and ourselves) a little better. Perhaps Jesus will hitch a ride to the Druid camp, and I’ll be forced again to examine who he is in relationship to this new, thoroughly Pagan environment. Or, maybe when we’re all naked and dancing around a fire (which, in my imagination, is key to any successful Pagan gathering), Jesus will calmly retreat into the background, and await rediscovery at some future point.
I wonder – do you find that religious retreats or Pagan festivals provided you with opportunities to explore and express the more complicated sides of your religious path? Do they serve the purpose of simply affirming what we know about ourselves and our traditions, or do they challenge our assumptions? Have you ever gone to a festival expecting one thing, but you ended up experiencing something altogether different?
Feel free to share your festival experiences, or reflections on anything in this post. Then, click here for a clip of some wicked, unreleased Pagan music.