Column: Pagan Mistakes

Angus McMahan is a gregarious solitary who can usually be found playing strange drums strangely at various rituals. He is a tarot reader, lego sculptor, cross-country marcher, crop circle inspiration, breathtakingly slow tri-athlete and, time permitting, a writer. Find more info about him here.  If you like guest writers like McMahan, consider donating to TWH. Every month, we feature new writers with various backgrounds and traditions, who share their perspectives and add their insights to the larger conversation in the community. If you like this feature, consider making a small monthly donation or make a one-time donation toward this vital global community venture. It is your help and your support that keeps daily and dependable news coming to your doorstep each day from wherever its origin.]

And no, we’re not talking about the bundles of joy that arrive every year at Imbolc because of throwing caution to the wind during the previous Beltane. (What? You thought all those Aquarian people were planned?)

Sorry folks, but the real reason for the June Bride is because she was very naughty before/during/after the Beltane rite, found out that she was bearing a future water-bearer in June, and then had to get married asap.

“Marry when June roses grow” goes the medieval poem, but they ain’t referring to flowers. Ahem.

Today I’m going to illustrate two of the common mistakes that Pagans, Witches, polytheists, Heathens, and don’t-label-mes make, and discuss the ramifications.

Ruining the public ritual

This first category includes brain-farting your lines, knocking over and breaking altar items, leading a spiral dance into the vortex of doom, and gesticulating a lit candle across the room and into the drapes that eventually burns down the hall that you rented.

Maybe not the last, but you get the point. Eris rules. Mistakes were made. Shit happens. And, what is the universal response to someone saying: “Way if you Still – Blow if you Must”?

That’s right, it’s laughter.

And, here’s what I really want you to think about. You’ve just blown it in your ritual. You’ve “D’oh-ed” your lines. You burned a hole in that altar cloth you borrowed. Did that ruin the ritual?

No. Did it make the ritual better? Even deeper and juicier? Yes.

Why is that? It relieved the stress, grounded everybody, put everyone on the same level, and brought us all back to Earth.  Voila!

This is where folk magicians operate, and it is true of every kind of ritual. Take your average wedding, if you can stay awake through it.

Weddings always start out dull because they are put on by people who seldom, if ever, do anything in a ritualistic way. A wedding ceremony is absolutely nerve-wracking; the cast has little-to-no experience at ceremony and only one chance to get it perfect or else these two people’s marriage is forever doomed before it even gets started.

Well, guess what? Someone in the wedding party is going to screw something up. The groom will stand on the wrong side of the minister. The father of the bride will knock over one of the flower arrangements. The bride will tell the groom “I donut” instead of “I do.”

Something is going to go wrong guaranteed. Wait for it; watch for it. And, then watch an amazing phenomenon.

The whole wedding party has been behaving like they have sniper rifles trained on them, until someone does screw up. Then, the entire cast suddenly relaxes. A few giggles are heard; shoulders drop; genuine smiles suddenly appear, and blood pressures drop back to normal levels. After that, the wedding is beautiful and moving, and sometimes even fun.

Any public event can play host to this transmogrification. Once you’ve given up a base hit and are no longer pitching a perfect game you can shrug, laugh at yourself, and get on with the business at hand.

Angus McMahan and friends. [Angus McMahan]

Here is the problem: these rituals are always perfect – on paper. We write rituals. Writing is the newest form of communication that we thumb-monkeys have invented. Think about that for a moment.

Picture the human evolutionary time scale, and then place it over one year. If you chart the duration of forms of communication that we humans have used, singing is several months. Dance is several months. Sign language is several months. Speaking is the length of this guest column. And writing is a moment, a blip, an emoji at the very end of the scale.

Personally, I think that writing is still hanging out in deity’s inbox.

What the Goddess and God are listening to is not your petition, but your intention. And that is all important. That is why you can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.*

Laughing at ourselves in public is cathartic to everyone involved – crew members as well as celebrants. Laughter is the most human of characteristics, and it is what makes us human that the Gods are interested in, because we are their experiment in linear time and in a three dimensional existence.

So go ahead and giggle when you make a mistake. Just make sure that you are laughing with the Goddess, and not at her. And don’t ever ever mock the fey. Remember the Gods know who you are, but the faeries know where you live.

Dealing with the mundanes

Let’s look at the worst mistake a Pagan can make is outside of sacred space and ritual.

The reality is that we do not exist in a little polytheist bubble, and there are others … out there, who may figure out what we’re up to. So, we have to put on a good face for the “muggles.”

The owner of a local witchy store told me this story as an example of interfaith gone horribly wrong. She was out cauldron shopping one day at a hardware store, wearing a clingy black dress and a pentacle. The guy behind the counter wearing a crucifix asked her how large she wanted the pot.

Without thinking she said “baby-sized,” and the guy took her literally and was horrified. Ooops.

Ironically, this reaction came from a guy who carries an effigy of a mutilated corpse around his neck. But you can’t tell them how funny that is, because it would be construed as mockery, and they would tie us to a chair and dunk us in the river for awhile.

We have to put on a good face for the muggles. Being on your best behavior can mean no fun, even during Beltane. And there’s not much you can do about that.

However, when we are in ritual space, we can take a good lesson from our uptight brethren having their white-knuckle weddings. When the public ceremony gets screwed up, and it will sure as shootin,‘ relax, laugh, and get on with it.

You just provided grounding to the entire circle and brought all of us closer together.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.


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