Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is it OK to insult the Gods?

To me the Gods have personalities and sometimes I may not like what They (don't!) say or do. Sometimes I can even get really angry with Them, just like with human beings.

I remember one day when I was particularly upset with The Goddess and I covered Her whole altar, because I did not want to see Her for a while. It didn't last for long, the house felt so empty and cold, I removed the cloth within a few hours. She was there for me, as always and we 'talked' things over. This kind of incidents always happen when there’s a lesson for me, that I don’t want to see . . .

So at certain times I don't like my Gods at all and I let them know.
I feel being honest about your feelings is basic for a healthy relationship.  Anyway They know how I feel, so hiding would be silly.

But you don't have to insult someone when you're angry.
I know I have insulted people in the past, after all I'm only human, but I never scolded a Deity. I did draw the line once in a while, like "I don't want You to do that every again!". Maybe even threatened to remove an altar, or to stop offering. But that was it.

I think it's perfectly OK to be angry with your Gods sometimes and express it. Privately!
Even if you want to insult Them, go ahead, it's your own responsibility.
But in a ritual where people are present whom you are not very close with, it's a different ball game in my opinion. Also if you are not leading a ceremony, your priority should be to consider the feelings of other participants in the group. Because during a ritual everything said or done has extra impact and everyone present has the same right to a pleasant and meaningfull experience.

It happened to me, one day during an asatru weekend, that I hailed Thor, thanking Him for His true friendship over the years and then the person next to me took the horn with mead and started scolding Him. Apparently she had had some trouble with the Gods and She took this opportunity to 'settle her score' with Thor. Calling him untrustworthy and demanding the asnwer she wanted that instant.

I was so shocked I didn't know what to do. I did not want to be part of this, but I also did not want to make an even bigger scene by leaving the circle. Later I heard this had not been a spontaneous outburst, this woman had planned to use the energy raised by others, to try to force an answer she had been waiting for, for quite a while. Had I known what she planned to do, I would have chosen not to participate in this ritual. But now it was forced upon me and I didn't know what to do about it.

Some years later I tried to talk about it with her, because we keep meeting each other in the small Dutch pagan community and I hoped it would be possible to clear the air. Maybe she would apologise, or at least acknowledge my uncomfortable feelings about what happened. But she claimed it had been an absolutely normal thing to do in asatru circles and that I was just overreacting. She was shouting at me within a few minutes and I just walked away.

But it left me puzzled.
Is it OK to insult the Gods in a (semi) public circle for some pagans?

Monday, September 9, 2013

About money and why I like to offer spiritual services for donations only

Nothing gets people more defensive than a discussion about spirituality and money. Last week I followed yet another one of these on Facebook and read some amazingly askew arguments (from my point of view that is )
This made me realize that it might be a good idea to explain why  I prefer to work for donations. Because I learned that it can cause a lot of confusion for people who have a quite different outlook on life.

Let me start with saying that I understand perfectly well that people who give workshops etc, have to pay the rent for a venue and make other costs. And I also understand that money is a very handy medium of exchange and is needed in this society, to buy all the stuff you need to live.  So I have absolutely nothing against people who give spiritual workshops and ask money for it. As long as prices are reasonable and there are no initiations involved.

But I make different choices in life and I have a strong objection against the idea that value can only be expressed in money. To me there are things that are way more important. I feel this focus on money has made the western society sickening, unnecessarely harsh and unnatural . And I think it's a shame that the spiritual community is also contaminated with the virus of marketing and profits. Are these not the people who should know better and who could show a different, better way of living with each other? If they don’t, who will?

The next thing I want to make clear is that I do not ask just for donations, because I feel that what I have to offer isn't worth much. On the contrary! I think there is no price tag that fits my work :-)
A set price means nothing in terms of value. For some  €50,- means very little, they can spend it in half an hour, on lunch. For others it’s the budget they are struggling with for a whole week. So at times €5,- can be much more valuable than €20,- or even €100,-

My spirituality is not about money, I want to keep the two separate for several reasons.
The moment people make themselves dependant on the income coming from their spiritual activities, they will have to face some difficult choices, one day or the other.
For example: Who will you, and will you not, accept as student?
Tough choice when you have to pay the rent and this person with psychological problems will bring two more students...
Or there are not enough subscriptions for your advanced class ....

Money shows its real dark side when it comes to initiation. If your students have already paid for the package, how can you refuse to give what is paid for? No matter if someone is ready for it or not, you will have to deliver this initiation. Which makes it drop in value rapidly.
Now money has become a medium of power and the power is with the one who paid.

The power of money can also be on the side of the teacher of course. When students have paid in advance,  you can be (more or less) sure they won't cancel for just any reason. That way you can force people not to change their mind.
Oh yes, I hate it too when people cancel last minute, or worse: stay away without notice. But at least I know that the people who are there, really want to be there at that moment and did not come just because they didn't want to lose their money.

So I choose not to have to make tough choices. I choose to keep my spirituality as pure as possible.
And I can afford to work this way, because I don't have to rent a venue. My temple is at home.

But I admit, I too do need some money to keep things going. Candles, incense, sage, tea, cookies, cushions, folding chairs, etc don't grow on my balcony.
The donations provide for this, there is always just enough money to buy what is needed. That's the way the universe works.

And yes of course it also happens that people take advantage sometimes. Some people simply can't resist a bargain, while they don't need one. They don't realize they are just lowering their own value as a person, when they force a real bargain on someone, who wasn't offering it in the first place. This is just a symptom of this sick society.
Luckily this is balanced with people who give a little more than necessary.
All in all I'm really blessed with the people around me! :-)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Light and Darkness

Yesterday I attended an evening in memory of a special lady, who decided to leave this world recently. It was a lovely event, organized with so much love and care. A community of beautiful people commemorating a beloved member who passed away so unexpectedly.

It brought back memories of another large mourning ritual, the funeral of a pagan leader. And I couldn't help noticing some distinct differences.

Yesterday was a new age gathering and usually I never really feel at home in this kind of setting. But this time it felt good, I admired the dedication, the love and care this community showed. Beautiful speeches full of appreciation, gratitude, humility and hope. Lovely music played by inspired and sometimes emotional artists.

What a contrast with some of the speeches at that other funeral, with a lot of self-importance and worst of all: covert vinger pointing to the person who was seen by some as the root cause of the deceased's illness. Ego boosting and back stabbing, this was my community of witches and pagans, but I did not at all feel comfortable there that night.

So yesterday I was struck by this difference between Paganism and New Age. And I thought it obvious that in New Age a lot more attention is given to personal development. In contrast with paganism where more emphasis lies on ritual skills and magic.

But on my way home I realized something had been missing on this memorial evening. Yes, this girl was enthusiastic, energetic, radiant and her smile was amazing, but. . . . . . she did take her own life.
And, though a beautiful poem about inner darkness was read and her boyfriend did talk about taking more notice of the troubles of your neighbors across the street . . . . .,  no-one spoke about how not anyone in this loving community had been able to prevent this tragedy. No-one spoke about how there could be others, dancing right beside you or even hugging you, who are also hiding an almost unbearable pain behind a lovely smile.

Light and love covering the darkness behind the masks, in one community. And ugly darkness covering the light of what had also been good, in the other.
Of course this is a black and white picture that does no justice to both groups of people. It is just my observation, frozen in this moment of time.
It leaves me with the question I've been asking myself so often lately: where are the people I can feel really at home with?

Light and dark, both present inside me. I've been fascinated by darkness for many years and loved to surround myself with people who are not afraid of dark and death, secrets and the occult. But I grew into appreciating light, love and compassion more and more.

So now where do I belong ? Somewhere in the middle I guess.
Would anyone care to join me? Please?