Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Rites Of Community
Rites of passage are one of the most durable building blocks in the creation of community.They are also among the most underutilized. I was encouraged in my last post to continue exploring the ways in which we build strong organizations and community. Lasting growth comes from both momentum and inertia. I love ideas, perhaps as much as I love people, but this is not necessarily the case for others. For me, a cause is often enough motivation to persist in my efforts. Even if there is agreement about the goals and the visions of a group, the implementation of those in the real world often generates conflicts born out of a variety of sources. The stresses of conflict can bring about a loss of commitment, a loss of coherence, and perhaps a loss of membership. The uncertainties of the way forward can also sap energy that is needed to pursue collective goals.
It is the weight and the mass of accumulated emotional memory that acts as the flywheel, the gyroscope, and the driver that allows us to push past temporary distress. It is a fairly popular idea to think of loving relationships as consisting not only of the individuals, but also of that meta-being that is the summation of the partners. The same idea can be applied to groups and organizations. In the case of organizations and groups we have to plan for the creation of a common pool of emotional memory. Communal history helps to hold us together and rites of passage help to write the history into our hearts and minds.
To return to my statement that rites of passage are an important part of the maintenance of lasting organizations and communities, well conducted rites of passage create weighty collective emotional memory. By definition, rites of passage are held to celebrate and to anchor pivotal times in the lives of individuals. And though Pagans are prone to emphasizing the individual at all costs, rites of passage are as much about the community as they are about the individual. The participants in a rite of passage often have experiences as profound as those of the individuals being honored by the rite. There is also a magickal component to being present at a rite of passage. The energy of all those in attendance to some degree will touch and intertwine. It is a well-known magickal principle that those things that have touched remain in connection with each other. It is also normal to engage Divine forces and beings in these rituals and ceremonies. It is my belief that we are not the only witnesses at these rites, the Great Ones are there are as well. Also whatever words, deeds, and pledges are given during rites of passage are afforded special emphasis in our destinies. It is my belief that our fate, karma, wyrd, or whatever words you use for these concepts, are modified at these special junctures in the flow of time.
A few days ago, I participated in the scattering of the ashes on our land of an amazing woman that was a member of one of our covens. In life she did great service for my community and in this rite of passage she did so again. The ties between all those that had gathered for her were renewed. Concerns both petty and significant were set aside in her name and we remembered her at the same time we remembered each other. I am as guilty as anyone of allowing their heart to harden. I was reminded by seeing tears in the eyes of someone whom I had relegated to the category of callous that I must hope more for them and myself. A few weeks ago, we hosted a long visit from a teenager whose parents had been members of one of our covens in the past. This teen’s visit was a part of a walkabout to explore future life choices. And though we had not seen the parents nor the teen in many years, there was still a bond. In fact I was one of the officiants for his baby blessing and also his father’s initiation into Wicca. Rites of passage help us to become aware of the passage of the days and months and years. They are guidelines, crossroads, and benchmarks that help us in the development of perspective on where we've been and where we're going.
Here a few examples of rites of passage:
Baby showers and baby blessings
Becoming an adult
Handfasting and weddings
Becoming an elder
Spiritual elevations and initiations
Even certain birthdays
There are many more and I encourage you to add to this list and to make them more prominent in your community. Please remember and please honor the sacredness of rites of passage. In addition to the tremendous value that they have in honoring a special moment in time, they have the power to hold together a treasure that spans many years.
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