But every so often, there is a weight of responsibility that settles upon you, a realization that you have to be a rock in a change-filled world. And sometimes the weight of the stole is greater than you wish you had to bear.
But you do it, and in doing it, you find deeper, numinous feeling in that work. It's an ineffable feeling, one that doesn't make any sense to anyone but you, right then, right there. The "sense" of it is fading from my ability to express it in a meaningful way even as I type this now.
Today, with the explosions at the Boston Marathon and all the questions that surround it, was one of those days. I read the same articles everyone else did. I watched the same video everyone else saw. I saw the blood-spattered sidewalk and I listened to horrific stories and sensational media coverage, too. And, at one point or another, I realized that at this evening's rite, I was going to have to do something for my Grove in light of this thing that made no sense.
We already had a rite scheduled. This is Cutios, the Rain-Month, and it's dedicated to Artio in our Grove, the bear goddess honored by Gaulish tribes. We're Druids, so that whole "do a rite on the 6th night of the moon, even when it inconveniently falls on a Monday night" thing is just something we do.
We were doing joyful things tonight: blessing things, making stuff for people, and inducting two new Grove members with all the pomp, circumstance, and laughter that entails. These are things that really can't be put off, even in really terrible situations; life must go on, and it does, even in the face of horrors.
Still, I knew I had to do something around this. . . well, whatever "this" was. I didn't know, and still really don't. It just happened a few hours ago, the media coverage is still muddled about how many people are dead, how many are wounded, and even how many bombs were found. Whatever it was, it needed answers. And it needed answers I didn't have and couldn't really provide.
What I have learned as an ADF Priest over the years, and what I have been taught by our training program, is that it isn't always about "having the answers," so much as it is about "being able to provide orientation."
A lot of "orientation" is about helping people get back to that place where they can makes sense of the world again, where they can start from something familiar. Once we are familiar again, we can begin to get our bearings and speak for ourselves with authority, but not until that point.
Our rites create an ordered, structured universe from the chaos of everyday life. They provide words when there are no words. They provide us with meaningful practices when we feel empty and structure when the world falls apart. And when we don't really know what to do, our rites and the prayers of others are there for us, prepared to step in and help us make sense, to help us re-orient ourselves so we can deal with the world. It is, I think, the strongest argument out there for Pagan priests of any sort. . . we're people who can't just let these events leave us speechless; instead, we are obligated to offer words to those who cannot find a voice of their own because they have lost their orientation.
And so tonight, after blessing things, inducting new members, and a bit of crafting, we moved on to the unexpected. I had struggled a bit over what to do and who to call on: I have stood in the temples of Themis and Nemesis at Rhamnous and made offerings, but that did not seem at all appropriate given the lack of information we had; I thought about the goddesses Liberty or Columbia, but this was an international event and didn't strike me as appropriate at this point, either. I cast about a bit more, and then I thought about Artio, bear goddess and a lady of healing in my eyes, and I realized that what was needed most, the one thing we could all orient ourselves around, was a need for healing. At the proper part of the rite, I asked the folk to find their centers, and we called on Artio for all those who needed healing in Boston, no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, or other characteristic.
Artio, Gaulish Goddess
And so I offer this prayer to anyone who needs it. It's just a voice, my voice, that doesn't have a more firm grasp on what has happened in Boston than anyone else, but I give it to you to use as you will. It can be re-written, the reference to Artio can be changed to any other deity you want to fit another culture, or whatever you like. But it's a small thing that I'm trained to do, and that the folk who lent me their voice years ago have asked me to do in times like this.
Rev. Michael J Dangler
Artio, a Child of the Earth calls out to you.
Today, there has been pain and suffering,
And it weighs on my heart and soul.
I call out to you, Healing One,
Protector of your folk.
Be there for those who are in need,
And comfort those who seek it.
Wrap those in pain in your healing arms.
Bring them warmth if they are cold,
And soothe their fears.
Let those hurting never be alone.
Artio, Bear-Lady, I call to you:
Be there for those in need.
It does not make things make any more sense, not really. But I hope it provides at least one person the chance to find their center, reorient themselves, and find their voice again.
(On top of this, we also did some healing work for a member's grandmother at our rite: it was another surprise event, one full of the same trepidation and questions, but it dovetailed with all the other work we did that night as well, once we had a plan for the Marathon.)