Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Little

This weekend was a hard one, I had to face a death. This death was so little in the cosmic scale, so seemingly unimportant and so simple and average that it shall not be thought of by more than a tiny handful of people. And yet is so immensely heart wrenching that I am haunted a little by it. The death is that of a tiny ball of fluff, a little mutt of a dog who at 16 years slipped out of this life. The little dog isn't my dog, but was the dog of a friend of mine and my husband.

 She called us Saturday night, having come home from being away to find her little dog, curled up in it's bed, cold and not breathing. It was not unexpected, the dog was ill and frail. Totally blind and partially deaf this little dog had begun to have some health concerns and there had been some heart wrenching talk of taking it for the last ride to the vet. Now that decision would not have to be agonized over. We came right away, driving the 40 some KM into town with the car on cruise control to keep me from speeding. My husband and I said little on this drive, I think we both got lost in our thoughts and concern for our friend.

I won't describe the scene I walked into as we came into her home, it's heartbreaking enough just thinking about it. I wrote it out in my blue journal (the one I save for my saddest and darkest thoughts) and out of respect for my friend it will stay in that journal till I fill it and burn it. I can only tell you it tore into me in a way that no other scene I have ever experienced could. The grief that pour out of my friend caused me to cry a little while I was there, and a lot when I was alone.

We sat with her a long while, offering what little inadequate words of comfort we could. This little inconsequential dog had been her light, had been there in her ups and downs. Had comforted her in the night, and brought joy to her days. As the dog failed in health she continued to pour love onto my friend. And now the dog has passed, and the emptiness was palpable. We talked about the little dog, held our friend as she cried and reassured her that love never dies.

We then took the frail little body with us to the local pet crematorium. I know the owners and know the respect that they will give to this little body who contained a soul larger than life. We will go with my friend to collect the ashes when they are ready, and give my friend a small gift of a cast of the miniscule paw. It won't be much, it is all we can give her. I wish I could do more, I wish I could give them another 16 years, I wish I could pull out the pain and sorrow of the loss. I wish I could mend the broken heart this little life left behind.

I still hate death. The actual death itself does not bother me, all life is transitory and must someday end. Death is a doorway to the next life, releasing the soul for a chance at rebirth and renewal. I do not hate death for those things. I hate death for everything it leaves those of us left behind with. I hate the heartbreak, the shattering of the lives, the pieces that must be picked up and put back together (and they can never be put together the same as before). I hate the sorrow and the loneliness, the guilt and the anger. I hate the feeling of loss, the feeling of being helpless at either the death itself, or the pain of those left behind. And I hate the wandering of the heart and soul that we all go through as we work through the death of a loved one, big or little.

I also hate sometimes how we as a society views death. For my friend the loss of her little dog is an immeasurable tragedy, felt just as deep as any other member of the family. And yet there are those who are poised to tell her "It's just a dog", like it's life was somehow worth less than another. Like somehow her personal grief is not important or worthy of them to take a moment and express sympathy. Like an animal who has faithfully been at her side for over 16 years is something that she should just be able to toss aside and forget. I wish I could change that mindset in people, for them to see how sacred and meaningful these bonds are, or to at least respect those who have those bonds.

For my own part I would like to take a moment and pause, to acknowledge this little death, that will go unremarked by many. To give thanks for the life this little dog had, for the joy it brought to my friend. For the nights it sat with her faithfully, giving kisses and cuddles. For the love it shared with her, for being her baby for the past 16 years and giving of everything it had until it passed. And I would like to give thanks for the millions of other little lives, just like this little dog, who will be remembered by only a few, but whose love and devotion made their worlds a much brighter place.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Confessions of a Bad Pagan: Sabbats



I have a hard time with all the Sabbats  (well ok, not Samhain). My first years of Paganism I was all gun ho and ready to go; I planned detailed rituals, spent weeks preparing for each Sabbat, shopping and stocking up on supplies. The day of the actual Sabbat my entire day revolved around the ritual. I sweated while I was away from home, worrying about everything that could go wrong, wondering if I had everything I needed. When I got home I would re-read my notes at least a dozen time and went over my supplies twice as much. By the time I actually performed the ritual I was so keyed up that it was hard for me to focus and get my words straight. After everything was done and cleaned up I would crash and sleep very deeply.

This went on for about two years or so until one Sabbat I got such a terrible flu that it was all I could do to light a candle and make it back to bed without collapsing. The Sabbat after that I was in the process of moving and couldn’t even find the box with my ritual supplies (my brother was thinking he was being funny and labeled that box as “Garden Supplies”) so I didn’t even so much as light incense for that one. The Sabbat after that, well I made a half hearted attempt at a ritual but just really didn’t want to. The anxiety I put myself through to be perfect at it was getting old.

Over the next few years I would try to “get back on the band wagon” and get into regular practice of Sabbats. Sometimes I would make it a few Sabbats in a row, trying rituals and ritual formats ad getting nothing out of it, before lapsing into non practice again. While I was in the group I was in I started practicing regularly again but each ritual felt… hollow. Between the rituals feeling hollow, not getting anything out of them and the desire to avoid the stress and drama (created by myself) I ended up not celebrating the Sabbats at all.

Over the past few months I have been taking a long hard look at myself, my life and my spirituality. I’ve been looking at the parts I want to change, the areas I want to improve and the things I want to throw out the window. My spirituality was on the list of things I wanted to improve and so I started to think I would start with the Sabbats again… or not. As soon as I started to try and think about Sabbat rituals and observances I felt blah, and did not want to do it. So instead of forcing myself to celebrate the Sabbats I decided to examine my feelings.

You see the truth of the matter is I really just don’t feel the Sabbats (again except for Samhain). I would go to all this trouble to plan and create these great rituals (which by the way I’ve discovered I’m not a fan of rituals as I have learned them, but a topic for another day), and get nothing out of it. Not exactly productive is it? Especially when you consider that the whole point of a Sabbat ritual is to honor the divine and connect with the energy of that Sabbat. Ok so epic fail on my part here.

Now I love the idea of the wheel of the year, and some of the ideas of the Sabbats, but the way they have been explained to me/read about is not making much sense to me. I was trying to get my celebrations to match these descriptions and it just wasn’t… working… for… me… DUMBASS! And then it hit me, I once again am trying to fit into this cookie cutter mold when my life and the seasons as I experience them totally do not fit the damn mold! For crying out loud I chose Paganism for the flexibility and not to follow any "Holy Book" and here I am still doing the same damn thing!?! I need some tea.... and to rethink how I approach each Sabbat. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Confessions of a Bad Pagan: Am I Even Pagan?



Over the past few months I have been thinking about my path and about my "Paganisyness" and I am really begin to wonder if I am even really a Pagan anymore! And if I am still a pagan, well I'm not a very good one!  I suppose some of this comes up because I have this terrible tendency to compare myself to everyone around me, which is really something I should stop doing. This goes to every aspect including my work, my social life, my writing and even my Paganism. I think it is part of human nature to look at others and see the flaws within ourselves (or in our arrogance to see how we are better than others).

In reading other people's blogs I began to see the flaw in the way I was blogging, and came to some pretty cool ideas about how and what I wanted to blog (which still remains remarkably random). In seeing the lady in line in front of me be friendly to the cranky cashier I am inspired to treat that cashier in a kind manner myself. Conversely when I read a bad blog I gloat at how much better my own blog is, and when I see somebody being a jerk to the cashier I have been known to step in and tell the jerk to be nicer (although probably not in a very kind manner) and then take pleasure in the fact that I am much more polite to the cashier.

With paganism it's a hell of a lot more complicated than my simple comparisons. First of all I read a lot of blogs by really good Pagans, the activists and teachers, the ones who have been cutting their teeth in the Pagan world for at least 15 to 20 years. These people have a set path and set deities that they work with. Whereas I seem to have no real set path and while I work with a select group of deities I sometimes have to wonder if they are even listening. In addition to all the wonderful blogs I read I have a nice sized library of books by multiple pagan writers, each offering their own advice and flavor of paganism.

Then of course there is the challenge of the diverse number of Pagan paths there are out there. You have Wicca, Druidism, Dianics, Shamanistic paths, Kitchen Witches, Hedgewitches, Astaru's, Helenistic Pagans, Egyptian Pagans. Not to mention the activist pagans, the political pagans, the eclectics, the Monotheists, the duotheists (is that a word?) the soft Polytheists, the hard Polytheists, those who work in circles, those who work in covens, or groves or any other group configuration. And just when you think you have found all the nooks and crannies there are a thousand more to fin, and a thousand more that I will probably never hear of even if I were to live to be three hundred!

With all of this it’s no wonder I sometimes want to throw up my hands and scream until I turn blue in the face. When I first came to Paganism I didn’t realize just how many trails this forest contained! What’s more I didn’t even realize that there would be so many different flavors and definitions of Paganism! I often wonder what it means to be Pagan, what it means to be a good Pagan or a bad Pagan. I mean we can’t always even agree on a definition! Add to that problem I’m not even sure I have a set path myself.

I have wandered in and out of a handful of Pagan trails, trying on different ways, reading and thinking on what they believe, what they follow and how they practice. Each of them have been beautiful and have taught me something. I however perhaps have too much of  a wanderlust spirit and never stay, eventually I either get restless and uninspired, or I find parts of their tradition do not jive in any way with my own thoughts and ideas. And so I wander to another trail. This worries me sometimes, I wonder if I lack in motivation and self discipline (probably, I still can’t say no to cheese cake). Once I even tried to force myself to stay on one path despite what my inner barometer was telling me, and that one blew up in my face so badly it took a year for my spirit to recover. So I wander still.

So here I am today, wandering around, making shit up as I go and trying to make sense of it all as I go. Which is a huge difference from what most of the people whose books and blogs I follow are doing. While they grow and learn new things they seem to at least be rooted somewhere, and after as many years as they have spent on their paths they have gained the wisdom to speak well about their paths.  I often wonder if there are others like me who are utterly lost (but are playing it cool trying not to look so fucking lost) but not really wanting to get a shit ton of advice because let’s face it, you already get advice from the world whether you want it or not. And to be honest, I’m kind of liking being lost!

I love that Paganism has the diversity it does, the multitude of paths and trails it has! The opportunity to grow and nourish my spirit from so many different points of view thrills me! I like that we can’t even come up with a common definition of Paganism. And I like that by many people’s definition I am a very bad Pagan, in fact I want to explore this more! And since this is my blog I will! So look for many more chapters of why I am a bad Pagan (and to quote Maxwell Smart… “And loving it!”).