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January 12th, 2004


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11:04 am - 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.


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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!"

(repeat)

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
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.
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Current Music: "Death of an Unpopluar Poet", -JB
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Comments:


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From:smithing_chick
Date:January 12th, 2004 04:31 pm (UTC)
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I absolutely agree with you. Sense of fun is important as is the ability to laught at one's self- no matter what the situation. Not just in religion but in life. And after all, sacred cows make the best hamburger. :)
I hope you don't lose that youthful playfulness, either- it's certainly something I've tried to keep going in myself (and why I'm so pleased when people think I'm so much younger than I am). I'll be staid when I'm dead, thank you very much.
I'm glad you won't say who it is- I kinda want to smack them upside the head. With a big fish. Because life's like that.
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 12th, 2004 11:03 pm (UTC)
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If it ever comes public, expect to find a marlin on your doorstep with directions *grins*
From:moonversion
Date:January 12th, 2004 04:34 pm (UTC)
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Well said.

I love the "age" card & "education" card some people will try and play. You do not need an education in the arts to create beautiful art work. The only training I have in "art" is all the AP classes I had in it in high school. And it is always a 50/50 coin drop on whether or not someone "acts their age" regardless of what that age may be. I grew up in all this polytheism and magic, and I was known to teach on the subject-- but the moment that I told them my age (usually months into it and with great feedback) they ran away. Bah.

Come to our conference. Give a workshop on modernizing rituals. You come and I'll go to Wellspring. ;)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:January 12th, 2004 04:55 pm (UTC)
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Ooh. With an offer like that, can I refuse?

I'm actually working on a workshop about that. I'm not totally sure how to go about it, though.

But is that an "official" invitation? *grins* I've certainly been considering it. . .

I'm tempted to turn the age card around, though: "If we're going to make age an issue, you'd better tell me yours!" Funny how people older than me refuse to give that up.

If age continues to be an issue, I will do just that.
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 12th, 2004 06:14 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I should have. Sometimes I forget that people don't have the same thought process I do. I generally jump from thing to thing in my mind, and don't realize that others may not get all the dead space.

For instance, if you and I are talking about chants, I might start talking the old milk commercial, where a radio station calls the guy with all the Aaron Burr memorabilia and he can't talk because he has peanut butter in his mouth, so he loses the $10,000.

I would naturally assume that you'd followed my train of thought, from chants, to this one episode where someone forgot the chant and sounded like they were singing with peanut butter in their mouth, to the Aaron Burr commercial.

It really infuriates people. *grins*

As far as who can make chants, it's only master bards (if that's their title), from what I understand.

I'm trying to find out if that is indeed the case. I certainly hope it isn't.

All rituals should be crafted for the audience, yes; however, to fault another person for their practice, or to consider it non-serious is rather insulting. :)
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From:anivair
Date:January 12th, 2004 06:36 pm (UTC)
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Very, very nice. I like.
From:perlgirlju
Date:January 12th, 2004 06:42 pm (UTC)
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Does us proud as a SD, huh?
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From:tosk
Date:January 12th, 2004 06:57 pm (UTC)

Il-liturgy

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WARNING: I am not a happy fluffy bunny pagan. I may say things that will hurt the feelings of others. Tough. If you don't want your feelings hurt, or your bubble busted, then don't read this post. Hail Eris!
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One must learn how to write liturgies? One must be taught how to create a ritual? Ha! Who taught the ADF Bards? Did they find a super secret book of Druidic Skalds? Last time I checked there were no surviving writings of the Druids from B.C. You see, at some point (in the not terribly distant past (hrmmm 1963ish?)) someone made this stuff up. Just like Christianity, Wiccan, Discordianism, Buddhism, Thelemic magic, Zen, Tao, Hindu etc etc etc... until the end of the multiverse.

Perhaps some feel the need to corner the market, as the clergy class of Christendom does. After all, if everyone wrote their own spiritual rituals, they might do something heartfelt, instead of by rote, they might not believe exactly the same thing as everyone else! Dear Goddess! What ever would happen then?! Could you imagine a world where people would commune with their deity of choice and not stick their nose into their neighbors choice of communing? Perish the thought!

And here is why I do not associate with the PSA or any 'organized' group of pagans. Invariably, the ugly face of Dogma rears its head and lays to waste any logical thinking that might go on. We suddenly hear the word 'is' instead of 'maybe', there are things that are definitely "right or wrong", instead of simply 'possible'.

Those arguments, to me, appear as nothing more than a waste of thought processes. None of us can truly know 'the answers'. We may have some good ideas, we may have things that work for us personally... but who can truly and honestly say more?

The dogmatic individual has plenty of arguments to support their belief, "You aren't as well educated as you must be to understand the truth like I do", "You are too young to understand the truth like I do", "You are not serious enough to understand the truth like I do". I heard all of those growing up in the Christian faith and I hear them from the waterless clouds that proclaim knowledge of the esoteric.

There are two very apt statements taken from the Principia Discordia that I would like to close with:

Everything Is True. Everything Is False. Everything Is Meaningless.

and

The Words Of The Foolish And The Words Of The Wise, Are Not Far Apart In Discordian Eyes.

Feel Free To Disagree,

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord
Chatterer of The Words of Eris
Muncher of the ChaoAcorn
POEE of The Great Googlie Mooglie Cabal
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[User Picture]
From:saffronhare
Date:January 12th, 2004 08:22 pm (UTC)

harumph.

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Cocksucking squirrels. I've always known life is a bell curve, but your detractors make me look wildly eclectic. And that's something -- I make triadruid look positively chaotic.
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Feh.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:January 12th, 2004 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Squirrels. . . Probably a good analogy, since they're chattering rather harmlessly.
From:rubydolphin
Date:January 12th, 2004 10:02 pm (UTC)

Sheep follow the man with nails in his hand; I'll go with the big man with the hammer, thanks.

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I feel that questioning what is sacred exalts it, not diminishes it

I've felt that way for years; most people look at me blankly when I say it. I've been often accused of having no sense of humor, but I'd much prefer one of your chants to some of the stuffiness I've seen.

I will also point out that the Bardic Guild recognizes humor, and has a specialty specifically for satirists. Study and practice are still necessary to a Bard, of course, but so is the ability to uplift, that being a function of music. I'd wager the same applies to a liturgist. I cannot recall one ritual by my Grove where someone has not laughed at least once. But then, it is my understanding that CLG has been found to be less than serious about its religion too.

Happiness, humor and laughter are among the most precious gifts we have. This is coming from someone who is most decidedly NOT fluffy, too.

I stand by my earlier statement. This person needs to remove their head from their ass, and, in the words of the immortal JB, probably needs to "get drunk and screw".

*cussing about Puritans under breath*
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 12th, 2004 11:00 pm (UTC)

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Heh. You might be right. :)

Now, satire, though, isn't usually comedy in ancient societies, is it? I'm under the impression that it's rather hateful speech, and that it becomes comedy much later, but I could be wrong.
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From:qorinda
Date:January 12th, 2004 10:50 pm (UTC)
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To be honest, I got all that when I read it on the liturgists list, which is where I saw it first. I understood exactly what you describe here.

Guess some of us CAN follow your thought processes,(and I am 48!! and pushing 49!) and some of us still have a sense of humor.

Of course, I had also just finished struggling with writing the Imbolc rite for my grove, and had been wondering how to best raise the energy for opening the gates to the otherworlds (I used a modified version of Kirk's method from SSG), so it was quite timely.

Personally, I appreciate your sense of humor, and I am in awe of how much you know. And I didn't know how old you were until Kirk told me about a month or two ago, so.... for what it's worth, just continue on as you have been.... :)

[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:January 12th, 2004 10:57 pm (UTC)
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Hehe. I get that "I didn't know how old you were until. . . " bit a lot. I got it from Cei, too. I'm just glad that Cei found out before I tried to meet him at Harvard, or he might not have believed me when we met :)

I can just hear him shouting, "Imposter!" in a room full of academics :)

And thank you. I appreciate it. It never ceases to amaze me that I get that reaction.

And don't worry, in September you'll no longer be twice my age, as I'll be 25 and you 49. *grins*
From:healing_coyote
Date:January 13th, 2004 03:26 am (UTC)
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I think what you just typed was effing brilliant. Just another reason why you are such a good friend- we think alike and you obviously have a good amount of intelligence. I wonder if you sent this to your anti-fan? I think it was very well written and you were easily able to back up your point, without resorting to cheesy political name-bashing and the like.

Good Luck in your stressed-out endeavor with this jealous person and I will see you soon!
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:January 13th, 2004 01:18 pm (UTC)
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I did write something similar. This is distilled to remove any indication of who the person(s) is/are.
From:vampyrecandy
Date:January 13th, 2004 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Coming from a Catholic background I can easily understand why some people are more comfortable in that type of ritual.

That being said, it's a good thing this is a "free country", or life would be a lot more boring.

That's not to say I'd personally use that chant, just that I appreciate your right to free speech (as a human being, not an American citizen; Ah, I'm getting wrapped up in politics, that's enough)...

Cheeseburgers. Singing. That reminds me, I'm hungry.
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From:chronarchy
Date:January 13th, 2004 09:35 pm (UTC)
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*grins* I don't think it has much to do with free speech, myself. I think it has a lot more to do with inidividual religion.

But support is always good :)
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From:singingwren
Date:March 12th, 2005 03:38 am (UTC)
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That reponse was well-said, well-thought-out, and just mischievous enough to earn double thumbs up.
From:fred_smith
Date:March 12th, 2005 08:49 pm (UTC)
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Well, there's something to be said for experience and education. They're to be respected, but as you said, they aren't always available. Age isn't the same as experience, to me, though.

He sounds like any sombre serious protestant/catholic/muslim/etc. I'm pretty much sure that people are the same anywhere.

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