D is for Dabbling – Pagan Blog Project 2012

In the interest of giving you a break from 24/7 canning recipes, I thought I’d do another Pagan Blog Project entry.

D is for Dabbling

I went with this one because, as evidenced by this blog, I am Not Hard Core.

A lot of the pagan blogs I read are written by professional witches – folks whose art and livelihood are directly related to their Craft and their Spirt Work in one way or another – and I’m surrounded by Pagans who go to annual fests, who help to prepare the festival land, who attend, even run, regular cremonies and services…

I don’t do any of that stuff.

At least not much.

I make candles with an eye to environmentalism (no parafin, no plastic) and, if I’m scenting them, I use combinations that work towards a particular end goal (like my Happy Home candles that use vanilla, sweet orange, and cloves to pull in joy, romance, good sex, and the odd bit of extra cash).

I make soap with similar intentions.

I do divination.

I make a point of getting to know the plants (domestic, feral[1], and wild) in my neighbourhood and, in-so-far as I can, how to use them for different things.

But I don’t do Ritual. I don’t do Spirit Work beyond chatting up my deities and ancestors every now and then and recognizing who’s in and around my house. And I feel like this makes me a dabbler – someone who isn’t really Serious about their religion/Craft/practice.

And, to be honest, it irritates the hell out of me that I feel this way.
Maybe it’s the We’re All Priestesses thing – you know the one. The one where, because Pagans don’t need no clergy to act as a go-between and tell us what the gods are saying… it means we’re ALL supposed to priests, priestesses, and general officiants in the religious ceremonies and rituals we hold.
So if you’re not HPing it on some hill somewhere every full moon, or life-hacking the Universe on your morning comute, then you’re clearly Doin’ It Rong.

Or something.

The essay I linked to, above, talks about how a lot of Neo-Pagan folks are dabblers – a little of this, a little of that – and I’m not totally sure what that means: Is it that a lot of Pagans are somewhere between ‘Eclectic Wiccan’ and ‘Seeker with a bit more focus than usual’ … or does it mean that a lot of Pagans grew up in fairly secular-humanist homes, learning the periodic table of the elements at school, and don’t have umpteen generations of enchanted world view[2] standing, uninterrupted, directly behind us[3] telling us that, yes, sure, things are made from carbon and iron and such-like… But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to go raiding the rowan up the street to make jelly, or that it’s not a good idea to bless the house under your breath at your comings and goings.

The reality is that I think most religious people are “dabblers”.
Most of us aren’t called to religious service – even if “religious service” includes things like being a spirit-worker or an edge-walker[4], rather than a religious ceremonialist (priest/ess) or a minister (religious-based counselor; community leader and help-meet) – in any significant/serious way. Rather we celebrate the feast days, take in the occasional religious service (some of us more frequently than others), and generally have our day-to-day understanding of the world informed by the Cosmology and Axiology of our (however-nominal) faiths.

And that isn’t a bad thing… most of the time.

I know, I know. The whole point of this immanent thealogy stuff is that the gods aren’t distant and unknowable, holiness is everywhere, Goddess is Alive (Magic is Afoot), and all that jazz.
And yet, if all that’s the case – and, yeah, my own experience says that it is – then why Ritual? Why the hierarchy?

Of course I know the answer to that. We all know the answer to that.
In a faith-umbrella made up significantly of socially-awkward people who Never Fit In, whose weapon of choice has, for generations, been vocabulary, “titles are like tits” and having one is a way of saying “I take this seriously (so you need to take me seriously, too)”.

…And part of me is drawn to it for that reason.
For the “take me seriously” reason.
Part of me wants to know what herbs to use, and how to use them safely and accurately and well, in order to cure a sore throat, regulate someone’s period, calm an upset GI track, and similar… not just because it’s damn good stuff to know, but because I want people to turn to me for that kind of information (and, hand-in-hand with that, because I want to actually be able to give them reliable, safe information if they ask).

And that’s fame. That’s pride. That’s prestige.
And part of me wants that.

But, as the witchvox article said, is that really what I want? Not “Do you wanna be well-known and respected” (because, duh), but “Do you wanna have to deal with people doing the same stupid crap over and over and over again because they don’t like what you’re telling them”.

Chez nous, I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series, aloud, to my girlfriend. We’ve just finished Wee Free Men, and are about to start in on A Hat Full of Sky.
I love these books for how well they articulate my own worldview. I wind up sobbing about it every time I read them (which can be a bit of a problem when you’re reading them out loud, I don’t mind telling you). However – as far as relevance to this post goes – one thing that comes up pretty significantly in Hat Full of Sky is the fact that the vast majority of Witching is, basically, doing the clean-up; being Mommy for a population of squabbling, needy people who only listen to you because they find you slightly scary.
And that’s a thankless job if ever there was one, no matter how full your draw-string bag gets on baking day.

So… yeah. I’m a dabbler.
I don’t automatically reach for my sigil pen (or an empty jar and the hairbrush, as is more likely to happen in my case) when something weird is going on or I need a little extra help with something… but I don’t ignore those options, either.
I bless my house and make offerings to my gods and ancestors and everyone… but in a fairly haphazzard way.
I talk to my garden and give it encouragement… but don’t pray over it for an hour when I do the planting.
I don’t walk the edges of the world. I walk the neighbourhood and get to know what’s there.

So be it. That’s what I am.

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Garden escapees, plants like dandelions, plantain, yarrow, and daylilies (among zillions of others) that were brought over and planted by settleres and aren’t native to the area.

[2] Enchanted “hearth spirits” or Enchanted “saints and guardian angels” or Enchanted “little people roaming at large” or whatever. Pick your favourite.

[3] And those of us who do – I’m thinking Quebec – aren’t necessarily looking at it too closely because it’s still “what [your] backwards, hyper-Catholic great aunt did”… It’s too close for a self-conscious NeoPagan to be comfortable with (or so I hear from the few folks I know who are looking into this stuff).

[4] When I say “edge-walker” I mean people who help the passage between “human-alive” and “human-not-alive”, more than anything else. People who are pulled to the sides of the dying and/or who get chatted at by ghosts with something they need to say, but also those who are called to be midwives and doulas, who know how to do herbal birth control, abortion, and so on, who help folks bring (or not bring) other people into the world.

6 responses to “D is for Dabbling – Pagan Blog Project 2012

  1. Pingback: Full Moon – Thunder Moon Crests | Urban Meliad

  2. I think by dabbling I mean there’s this weird thing in the Pagan comm that everyone has to have all this family trad or an uninterrupted tradition to give some kind of credibility. I know I did that when I was younger. It took me a while to accept that I’m a dilettante and in my definition, that’s okay. It’s okay to not have spent seven years in Cornwall studying under someone. It’s okay to be what the Buddhists call a Householder. It doesn’t mean you can’t be powerful or that you can’t do magic professionally (it hasn’t stopped me ;p), it means you have other things on your plate, much like the neighborhood witch had going on anyway in real life.

  3. This makes me feel better about my own wandering. I always knew I wasn’t alone, but it’s good to hear it, too. We have different approaches to religion and practice, but a lot of the stuff about dabbling and the idea of Pagan laity needed to be said, I think.

  4. Great article! I feel like I’m a dabbler as well. I am entirely serious with my spirituality, but I skip over so many esbats and schedule my sabbat celebrations around my own life. I don’t even work magick often. I do divining often enough and communicate with my deities, but spell casting takes too much time that I do not necessarily have. You really got me thinking, though. 🙂 Blessings!

    • Hey, 🙂

      Re: Great article: Thanks! 😀

      Re: Scheduling sabbat celebrations around your own life: I think that comes from practicing a religion that isn’t state-sanctioned, honestly. I’m not sure where you’re writing from, but around here it’s the Christian high holy days that everyone gets (typically paid) time off for, and everyone else needs to use vacation days or just take a financial hit if they want to schedule stuff for the actual Day Of.
      I used to try to put my Winter Solstice Shindig on the actual Solstice, but the date moves around and there’s a 5/7 chance that everyone I invite to the party will have to get up for work the next morning, so I now I just schedule it for a weekend night some time between the 20th and the 23rd of December. It works well enough.

      What kind of spell-casting do you do, when you do it? (I do bottle spells and other stuff like that – the kind of thing that’s designed to be done on the fly, with what’s in the cupboard, and not even much of a nod to where the sun and moon are at). If it’s something you want to do more of, there are ways of casting that take 20 minutes instead of a couple of hours and a day-planner. 😉 Of course,if it’s not something you want to do more of, then don’t worry about it, but I figured I’d throw it out there. 🙂

      • It is true that most of our sabbats are not paid time off around here. :’/ I wish they were, but not usually. I’m a reporter, though, so if I schedule my days right, I often can have a mostly free sabbat. As for spell casting, it really depends. My favorite to do is only a few minutes long, and you write out your desires on a piece of paper (I write them in Theban Script. :P) and burn them in a cauldron, recite a little spell about sending your desires via smoke into the cosmos, and then meditate on it. Still, I’m a college student plus a full-time reporter, so even taking the fifteen-twenty minutes out of my schedule can sometimes be a squeeze! What kind of spell casting were you thinking of? 😉

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