I recently attended a midsummer ritual in Glasgow run by the Druids of Caledon. It was a very interesting and most enjoyable ritual. Now, I am not one generally for public ritual. I find some of the theatrics involved in some rituals to be, at best, distracting. However this ritual seemed on the face of it, to be well written and, more importantly, well intentioned. A day or two later, I had time to actually sit down and read the whole ritual.
It was then that it occurred to me one reason for my discomfort with a lot of pagan public rituals (apart from the aforementioned theatrics). The context is not necessarily modern. I’ve mentoned before elsewhere that my spirituality has to have its feet planted in reality. For me it is absolutely essential. I cannot divorce myself from reality as some people appear to be able (this is not a judgemental statement upon others, but a statement about my own circumstances).
A lot of public pagan rituals that I have witnessed or have taken some small part of, relate back in their style to earlier times. It was one statement in the midsummer ritual that pointed this out to me. Basically, the statement made reference to how “at this time of the year, the sun is at its highest and most powerful”. I realise that such classical viewpoints are not necessarily meant to represent modern reality and maybe intentioned to create a common dialogue referring back to earlier times, incouraging interactions with classical pagan deities or spirits through common terminology. And if that is the intention behind them, then all well and good.
However, I found myself thinking “actually, that’s not the case”. We now know that the only thing that changes about the sun is the regular cyclical solar activity. Our perception of the intensity of the suns influence is based upon the positioning of the Earth. So in a modern context, it would probably be more accurate to state that “our place on the Earth at this moment in time is now at its peak for receiving the direct influence of the sun”. Hardly a classically derived statement. However, in a modern context, and for the way in which I experience my spirituality, probably far more accurate and relevent.
The classically derived phrases conjure up to me, a very early humancentric viewpoint that puts humanity at the centre of the natural and spiritual world. With all the evidence and knowledge we now possess and continue to learn about the natural world and its workings, I now find myself coming to the realization that because my own practice is far from being humancentric (this being established by interactions over the years which place the emphasis on multiple and equal status within those relationships), for me, there has to be some sort of modern context when constructing or participating in a ritual.
I have to incorporate the “modern reality” into my spiritual work. As I stated, this is not meant to be judgemental on how others relate to their practices and I can understand how the language of earlier times can communicate with them in ways that are probably beyond my comprehension at this time. However, I wonder if I am the only one who has had this sort realization?