Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pandemic

During times of crisis, when life is hard and leaves us sad or afraid, we often find ourselves turning to our authors, our singers, our artists, and our musicians. We turn to those who produce works of inspiration to lift our spirits and bring us the gift of perspective that is the very seed of hope. During this time, when the whole world seems to be shutting down, we need these people more than ever to remind us of our humanity.

As an author and a singer, a writer and a composer, I feel a great sense of expectation. As a priest, it feels more like an imperative: I should be writing *something* to help others find their center and be at peace as best they can in this uncertain and unsettling time. I've been noting my own silence on social media and email and whatnot. I'm not writing! Where are my words of encouragement for my loved ones? Where is my drive to create during this time when creation is the balance to all this seeming destruction? Why am I not writing???

But I am.

I am a healthcare worker, specifically laboratory medicine. I am in the place where your nasal swab goes when they want to test you for COVID-19. I am on the front line of ensuring we keep the tools available and follow all the rules to get you diagnosed, cared for, and restored to health. This is my work right now. This is my mission. This is where my words are.

I am writing. I write responses to doctors and nurses, providing information they need to answer questions from their patients. I participate in group chats almost continually to coordinate with other departments and make sure they have the supplies and receive test results in a way they understand. I reply to other healthcare workers with facts and kindness to ensure those doing this work are in the best headspace possible to make decisions that may save your life.

I also make phone calls and have tea with those precious few who have a moment and are allowed the face-to-face contact, holding space for their fears, their stories from their experiences, and their big emotions surrounding the future.

I may not be posting prayers or hosting online services, and that's okay. There are others carrying that torch. I am holding a different torch in my hand, and I am where my skillset is needed most. I am in the laboratory.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Practice and Initiation

Adherence to a religious practice provides benefits to the practitioners regardless of the church or group. The belief systems of orthodoxic religions such as Christianity provide a change in mindset that becomes the filter through which the practitioner view the world and their place within it. For example, converting to Christianity culminates in a baptism in which the convert is anointed and blessed with oil and Holy Water, sometimes even submerged and pulled from the depths in a reenactment of birth to give the convert the full-body memory of being reborn into their “new life.”

While orthopraxic faiths do not boast a set of new “facts” the adherent must now accept as truth, there are certain actions that will produce similar alignments in the minds and perspective of the new practitioner. The decision to worship the Earth and her inhabitants, for example, will transform the way a person moves through the world. Recycling and focus on one’s carbon footprint are the easiest and most common immediate results of the transformation to the ADF polytheistic worldview.

Hellenic Cult Practices such as the Cult of Dionysos and the Eleusinian Mystery Cult are well-documented ancient examples of the transformative function of religion. In the Cult of Dionysos, the devotees practice a form of ritual ecstasy through entheogens and ecstatic trance promising to lead them into audience with the God himself (Burkett, 1985, p. 223). These group experiences are not unlike the modern charismatic Christian worship sessions in which the participants may speak in tongues (glossolalia) or even be “slain in the spirit” (typically, fainting due to overexposure to uncontrolled ecstatic trance). Similarly in the Eleusinian Mysteries, the audience at the Greater Mysteries ritual observance were given a cocktail of herbs laced with ergot, a naturally occurring lysergic acid (LSD) to induce a similar state of shared otherworldly experience and revelation, after which the participants are treated as Initiates into the sacred, privileged knowledge (Wasson, Hoffmann & Ruck, 2008, p.35). Those few who hold these secrets are charged with responsibility, and the way they live their lives moving forward reflects their new purpose.

ADF was never intended to be an initiatory organization but a public-facing pagan church (Bonewits, Vision). ADF does not condone the use of entheogens, most of which are illegal in the United States, for trance or ritual purposes. When comparing to the reality and the lore of the Indo-European peoples, as a non-reconstructionist group, ADF practices are more themed on the ancient ways than influenced by their purpose and modalities. As mentioned above, while the ADF structures are not reconstructionist, they do provide capabilities for transformation for the practitioners.