January 12th, 2004


Am I serious about my religion?

Some preliminary notes: This essay is in response to concerns raised to me privately. I have not identified the persons making the statements. Please don't ask. The reason it is posted here is that I have received similar (though less vehement) statements in the past, and I want to clear up a lot of misconception.


Three statements have been raised by posting of that little processional last week on ADF-Liturgists: 1) I am obviously not serious about this (and it is implied that I am also not serious about my religion); 2) I do not have the training to write chants (or poetry or stories or anything else for ritual); 3) I'm young, perhaps too young, to be trying to write these things, and my youthful playfulness does me discredit.

I feel that these should be addressed here, in case anyone else has the same concerns.

Let me start out like this, because the most important point I can make should come first:

I'm serious about my religion. Both of them. I freely say I'm both Druid and Discordian, though Druidism is the primary path. Each one plays off the other in a beautiful symbiosis that not only is spiritually fulfilling to me, but it makes me think and question my own personal beliefs. I feel that questioning what is sacred exalts it, not diminishes it; that religion requires a sense of humour; that if you can't take something lightly, you need to re-evaluate your priorities; and that laughter doesn't necessarily make something less serious.

Of course it occurred to me that the processionals on the ADF site and that are commonly used in ritual were crafted by master bards with training, experience, and with seriousness. And not only do I love the chants and processionals that are there, but I've never heard their equal. That said, I'm going to struggle to explain exactly what my thought process was here.

Not everything I say is going to make everyone comfortable, or be useful to everyone. That's part of the point of it. But don't make the mistake of thinking that I'm doing this for kicks, or that I'm trying to insult someone. I'm not, and I never would.

But the chant I posted was entirely serious, as was the Buffett Liturgy I posted back in August 2003 (and plan to do again at this Summerland, with real singing and cheeseburgers).

With the Buffett Liturgy, I wanted to show that the ADF Standard Liturgy can be used to fit *all* our lives and work, no matter how serious or how stupid it may be. I made a ritual that was a hell of a lot of fun, and the deities *definitely* responded well. The omens unquestionably asked for a repeat at Summerland '04.

Let's focus on the chant I wrote.

Leader: "Are we there yet?"
Followers: (sharply) "NO!"


The purpose of a procession (feel free to correct me if I am mistaken) is to bring the group into a single mind-set: to focus their thoughts toward ritual.

The idea for a call and response format came from Cei's book of Pagan Prayer. The idea was to find a sort of middle ground between the litany and the mantra, something that could run through the minds of the tribe, and draw them into the idea of traveling to someplace "other." My friend (not an ADF member, so I'm not just calling him that to protect his identity) recalled the dirges that usually accompany ADF rites, and solemnly intoned: "Are we there yet?"

Now, look at it this way: every man, woman, and child in the United States can connect the statement "Are we there yet" with going someplace "other." It's a place that isn't home, that usually isn't familiar, and that we certainly aren't used to being. What the chant works toward is a serious attempt to take years (if not decades) of media exposure to this particular phrase and to create a simple, yet strikingly efficient phrase that can be chanted like a mantra and that every person identifies with.

The leader, in this version, is also turning over some authority to the group, as well. The group suddenly determines when they have arrived, not the leader, not a Grove Bard, not a single authoritarian figure. From this perspective it helps to equalize the group. On top of this, we have the sudden release of joy when the sacred space is arrived at, which builds the enthusiasm and the energy in the Grove. Is it possible for a person to shout the word, "Yes!" and not be enthusiastic?

I discussed this particular chant with my girlfriend last night, and she said that she could see how someone might be offended by it. Some people don't want humour and fun in their religious practice. In her words, "They want serious, stodgy and Mass-like church services, and you're giving them the Muppet Show!" My primary response to this is that even the Muppet Show could deal with serious issues ("It's Not Easy Being Green" is an excellent example), and that comedy is consistantly used by humans to deal with all manner of issues.

Of course, where it comes to being stodgy and Mass-like, I can see how comedy doesn't really fit.

Honestly, the selection of chants on the ADF page is somewhat thin. We can sing dirges like "Come We Now as a People" (which I love, personally) or slightly upbeat dirges like "We Approach the Sacred Grove" (which I like almost as much), or we can look for something that gets people into a happy, non-monotone state of mind. The more chants we have to choose from, the better off we are, in my humble opinion, especially for those of us with limited bardic skills.

Now, I'd never use the "Are we there yet" chant in a real, public High Day rite, probably, unless it were something like a fool's rite or something similar. But it's at least worth a look, and (if I do say so) I'm quite proud of it. I really think that it does *exactly* what the other chants do, minus the dirge-like feeling, and have fun while doing it. I think it improves on the formulas that are availiable out there, and it could just be a difference of opinoin that we can't get around if someone thinks it's artless.

I'm not assuming that there's rudness in these questions, but I am taking it lightly, as I do all things that I find sacred, beautiful, or wonderful. I can't envision my Gods as crotchety old men and women who only like slow, dull songs that get the job done, just as I can't find a child's laughter less sacred than the Morrigan herself.

But I'm not the only person thinking outside the grove, as it were. I'm fully and happily open to new ideas from my Grove members, too.

Someone mentioned at a Grove business meeting that we should do some sort of call-response processional, and among the ideas offered was this:

Leader: "Hup-Two-Three-Four
I don't know what I've been through!"
Grove: "I don't know what I've been through!"
Leader: "The Senior Druid is watching you!"
Grove: "The Senior Druid is watching you!"
Leader: "Keep your chin up, stand up straight!"
Grove: "Keep your chin up, stand up straight!"
Leader: "Keep your nose clean, in bed by eight!"
Grove: "Keep your nose clean, in bed by eight!"

Well, after that, we fell over laughing, but it illustrates that I'm not the only person thinking in these terms. Which, of course, seems to be part of the problem.

As for training:

I do have a minor in English that includes several poetry classes, I've studied the skaldic poetry (though not in as much depth as, say, an ADF Bard is required to) and I've been writing poetry for years. That doesn't make me any good, but I do have a *bit* of training under my belt.

But the point is, we are asked to do these things. The SDs and GOs sometimes have to come up with stuff on the spot, if there's no chant available for a High Day 2 weeks away. Is there time for them to train at that point? I think that, when push comes to shove, we need to do what we can to get by.

I counted 18 chants on the ADF page. We need more if people like me, with minimal to no training, are not allowed to actually create and use chants. Believe me, I'd differ to a master bard (or whatever the rank is) any day if there was always a chant that did exactly what I wanted.

As for my youth being a source of discredit, I have but one thing to say:

I pray my youth never fails to find its voice, and that my good sense is always echoed by the laughter of children.

My age should not even be brought up. It is unimportant and terribly shaky ground on which to form an argument. What is important, and what should be addressed, is its the tone, and the fact that I turned something out with little to no apparent serious thought or work.
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