This post has been provoked by trying to complete a survey on ritual under Covid-19, and by failing to complete it because of its unwavering bias toward ritual being a community process. I guess often and most likely in mainstream religion they’d be right, but for many in the pagan and Druid traditions (maybe it works to say ‘in the non-dogmatic traditions’) there are as likely to be individual, private and or solitary components to ritual and worship.
If you believe religion and worship is about placating deity and following the orders of their appointed leaders than you may be about to close this tab and move on to something less confrontational. For me though, there are human-centric reasons for both religious community gatherings and for solitary worship, have always been so, and the addition of rule and dogma adds nothing to the process.
Community is vitally important. It is possible, of course, to live hermit-like in complete isolation from any other person. It’s probably an unsane way to live; open to the short-term-ism of early demise and zero opportunity to pass on learning or bloodline. If existence has any deeper meaning then it has to be in the evolution of ideas, and this requires community both for mutual survival and for the exchange of information. We like community.
On the other hand, if someone tells me what to think I’m liable to argue, and if someone tells me what to believe they need to stand it up with tested hypotheses and established truth. You can’t do that with stuff beyond the singularity – gods, creators, ultimate answers to ‘life the universe and everything’… All you can do is work up a decent story that helps you find a reason to get out of bed. And that reasoning is intimately personal to you.
So, while I may have adopted the descriptor of Druid and acknowledge my perceptions are pagan, the way I make contact with the mystery behind the curtain of the apparent world is uniquely mine. My rituals are mine. The ceremonies I enact are for me. Returning to the first paragraph, this seemed lacking in the thought that constructed the survey. Answering yes to ‘have I attended regular rituals during Covid-19’ took me straight to community, and thereafter – for me – the survey asked the wrong questions.
Covid-19 has hit me as much as anyone else. I miss people, I miss looking after my grand daughter, I missed the few weeks we enjoy house-sitting our cousin’s gites in the south of France and I missed the motorcycle tour of Scottish distilleries with my brother in law! (I don’t miss shopping!) But I’m not in paid employ and the unpaid work I do has transferred without much turbulence to the online world. In terms the survey is concerned with I very much missed the annual Druid Camp I help pull together each summer, but in terms of ritual – nope, no change.
Out in the green countryside, in dappled woodland, beside the unquiet sea, on windy hilltops and beside damp valley streams. Also in the home, in the garden and astride the (socially distance positive!) motorcycle. Moments and hours of communion with the apparent world, and though it to the undiscovered country beyond, rituals pervade my day. Small solitary ceremony, and ingrained daily rituals; meditations and contemplations, chin-stroking ponderings and occasional unexpected awakenings.
None of these involve humans. Ritual and ceremony within community involves discipline and compromise that I find breaks down the link to the unproven. As soon as someone says ‘we do this‘, my spirit sinks deeper into ‘I wanna do that‘. Rubbing blue mud into the navel forms a cohesive community, but life has not convinced of any truth in the saying ‘folk who pray together, stay together’. Your mileage may of course vary. but if you’ve got to the end of this waffle, it probably doesn’t.