Thursday, November 29, 2007

Why I Love This Religion

It's probably just me, and it's likely a sign of incipient old age, but I spend a fair amount of time thinking about why Paganism, which, IMHO is supposed to be an ecstatic religion, so often -- isn't. There are lots of easy answers. We don't train people from their earliest ages to expect, experience, handle, and prepare for ecstasy. Instead, we're very busy training young children to eschew ecstasy, to follow instructions, to get in line, to accept boredom and constraint as natural states. Makes them good workers. Women, especially, are taught that ecstasy is dangerous, to be avoided, an enemy. Makes them good slaves.

But also, and I think about this a lot, we don't, as Pagans, structure our lives in such a way as to allow time for ecstasy. And, although occasionally, as a wild gift of the Mama, ecstasy comes upon us suddenly, uncalled-for and unawares, in general, ecstasy takes time. It takes time to prepare for, it takes time to build up to, it takes time to experience, it takes time to come down from, and it takes time to recover from (this last, especially as we grow old. My body takes longer to recover at 52 than it did, Goddess bless it, at 25).

Yule is one of the times when the women in my circle give ourselves the gift of time for ecstasy. Yule, for us, is always an overnight affair, a night spent sitting through the long dark with other women, eating, drinking, singing, telling stories, (briefly) sleeping together, and ending in a cacophony of whistles, tambourines, drums, spoons on pots, yelling, clapping, and broken shot glasses made of ice in the morning when the Sun hauls its sleepy self out of bed and begins staying up longer and longer each day. Yule ends, when we do things right, in ecstasy.

And then we go out for breakfast. Which is, I've learned, a v. good way to begin to ground again after being ecstatic. Especially, in my case, if grits are involved.

This year, we're planning a bit of interesting political action, mixed in with our pursuit of ecstatic states. But it seems to me that going into the dark, as we've all been doing since last June, and which culminates on Yule, ought, if it has any point at all, to lead to ecstasy. The very act of having returned from the underworld ought to inspire ecstasy, the knowledge -- hard-won in the underworld -- ought to inspire ecstasy, the realization that the sun is still getting up, the bonfires are still burning, the holly is still green: that has to inspire ecstasy or you might as well be dead.

How do you arrange for ecstasy?


Pandora said...

Well, there's love ecstacy, and there's dancing ecstacy, and there's adoring the puppy ecstacy, and there's look-there's-the-morning-isn't-the-light-wonderful ecstacy....

Though certainly a ritual can be ecstatic -- especially when there's a cone of power fed by a few hundred people -- for me, the solid trustworthy path to ecstacy is located in the smaller moments. I never know when they're going to hit, and I can certainly mess them up by over working or over eating or whatnot, but they're fairly reliable.

(I'm grateful for this.)

Your Yule custom sounds LOVELY.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how applicable it would be to Yuletide, but (as many people thru history and worldwide have discovered)fasting - even modified fasting - and physical work are good lead-ins to rites. The celebration then is a wonderful release, and its likely that the bodymind will let GO.

A big white-light experience I had 30 years ago happened after I'd eaten almost nothing (not on purpose, but because I was nervous)for a day and a half.

Li'l Innocent