September Is How Do You Really Raise Power (Have You Ever? How Often? How?) Month
I posted this a while back, and I still think that it goes to one of the great unaddressed issues in Paganism:
The purpose of ritual is to change the mind of the human being. It's a sacred drama in which you are the audience as well as the participant, and the purpose of it is to activate parts of the mind that are not activated by everyday activity. We are talking about the parts of the mind that produce psychokinetic, telekinetic power, whatever you want to call it -- the connection between the eternal power and yourself. As for why ritual, I think that human beings have a need for art and [that] art is ritual [and ritual is art]. . . . It has seemed to me that much of the modern Craft and the Neo-Pagan movement lacks real music and real dance, in comparison to indigeneous Pagan religious movements. . . . I attribute this [lack of authentic experience] to our loss of skill in the use of music, rhythm, dance, and psychogenetic drugs. In the Irish tradition, music was essential to the success of the rites. . . . Another thing that was essential to the rites in ancient times was ritual drunkenness and sex. And I find this also lacking. We have to create those ecstatic states again. We have to offer people an energy source and a theological alternative, and we can only do this by offering real experience. We have to introduce real sacraments. . . . Much of Neo-Paganism lacks the same content [that] I've described before. The raising of power is an accidental occurrence among most of us at the present time. I find that difficult for my own self-esteem. It makes it difficult to work with people. I don't like going through empty ritual with anybody, especially my closest friends. [A]nyone who calls themselves a Witch should have the capability to deal with different ecstatic states.
Sharon Devlin, as quoted in~Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
I had to go pull Adler's book off the shelf and re-read this interview because so much of what I've been reading in Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Dancing in the Streets, reminds me of points that Devlin makes in this interview. It also hinges on an issue that we work on in my own circle: doing magic, rather than just doing ritual. As Devlin says, the purpose of doing ritual (by which I think she means doing magic) is to change the mind of the human being. That's more commonly expressed in the definition of magic as the ability to change consciousness at will.
It seems to me that one of the largest barriers to the sort of sacrament that Devlin describes is the lack of time set aside for holiday and ecstacy in our modern lives. Ehrenreich makes the point that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, people worked hard, but they also had many more days out of the year set aside for holidays. It would be easier to have truly ecstatic rituals if you had three days, for example, around Samhein. A day to prepare, looking forward and beginning to focus on your ritual intent. A day for the holiday, including the ritual itself, but also time to put aside the concerns of day-to-day life, to relax into a magical state, to spend real time listening to music, dancing, etc. in order to be able to induce ecstatic states. And, a day to recover, clean up, gently pick back up the other threads of your life, although hopefully somewhat transformed.
Recovery from magic is important and I think it's one of the main reasons that we sometimes don't drink as deeply as we'd like from magic's well. Many of the most effective methods for raising ecstasy take a toll on the physical body, at the same time that they can be quite useful for overall health. Staying up all night dancing and drumming to raise real energy means that you need to sleep in the next day. (At least, it does at my age!) But far too often -- far, far, far too often -- the Sabbat or Moon falls on a week night; preparation for it is squeezed into already overbooked lives; the ritual and accompanying meal have to be over in time for people to get up in the morning and head for work, where they need to be able to function at the top of their game. Even weekends don't really provide adequate time; for most of us, they also serve as the only real time that we have to spend time with family, go to the grocery store, do other chores, pursue other interests.
I don't have an answer to this problem. Capitalism, and its demon-child, Corporate Globalization, are the cause of this problem and neither of them is likely going to go away very soon. Being conscious of the issue can help to some degree, as can a spiritual practice that is difficult for many Pagans: learning to say no. By this I mean that making room in your life for serious participation in a Pagan community, for working magic, means that you are probably going to have to say no to other things. You may not be able to do everything else that interests you. You may have to use a chunk of your vacation time for Sabbats and Moons rather than a trip to Aruba. You may have to not go out with friends the night before ritual in order to cabin your energy for the ritual. Somehow, we wouldn't find it odd for someone who was, for example, training for a marathon or working on a second degree to make those kind of sacrifices, but we imagine that we shouldn't have to do so in order to be practice witchcraft. But the lack of time for holiday and ritual in our culture remains the real problem.
How do you address this problem?
From time to time, various Pagan bloggers have declared certain months to be devoted to various topics: Pagan Values was a recent one. I'd like to suggest that the Paganii of Blogistan devote September to discussions of : How do we offer real sacraments? Real experience? Raise real cones of real power?
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."