Sovreignty and Marriage- Part I

I had an awesomely vivid dream last night. Nothing supernatural about it, pregnancy just does this to me. But the entirety of the dream involved my husband and I beginning to hike the Appalachian Trail up in Maine. Just us getting stinky, hiking through the woods, along a dried river bed that was muddy in some places and turning to hardpack, then having to swim across a lake to reach the other side of the trail. I remember jumping in the lake and tasting the water, not clear and springlike, but slightly muddy, algae-ish, lakewater. And my husband climbed back out and looked at me and asked “Wouldn’t you rather rent a canoe?”. Then I woke up. It was so awesomely normal, and us, it was a great reprieve from the completely whacked out weather we’ve been experiencing in Ohio lately (it’s 40 degrees today, but was -10 on Monday). But I feel like this dream not only came from my need for some idyllic nature time with my life partner, but from some of the ideas that have been bothering me lately.

One of those ideas has been marriage counseling. Especially, spiritually based marriage counseling. Like, why do we not have this available in the Pagan community? Other than the fact that we have such a diverse collection of religions and beliefs, but why do we not have this within the individual groups? We were married by some awesomely out of the box Christians, and spent a few months right before our wedding with them doing some pre-marital counseling. Then spent a couple months this past summer in marriage counseling with them again. Yeah, the first year of marriage is hard, and it definitely was taking its toll on me. And I was taking it out on E. This was good for us, and especially good that we were able to go to a couple that knew us, and our somewhat unique situation, for advice. They obviously drew their advice and inspiration from their Christian beliefs, but never pulled out a Bible (they’re somewhat anti-Bible people) to back it up. They’re believers of “Do-er” faith, not book faith. This is why we connect. But where are the Pagan equivalents? These are normal people, without degrees, who have training in counseling. Something anyone who was dedicated to offering this service could do.

While most of us don’t have a sacred book, we do have our myths. And a recurring theme in Irish mythology is the importance of the marriage of the king with the land. Definitely not advocating a submission of one partner to the other, I don’t believe at its core that’s what this marriage is about. But the importance of partnership and accountability to the health and fruitfulness of the family/community/land/etc. While the land is often referred to as female, and the king as male, there is an interesting attribute to these myths that one doesn’t usually see in effect in certain other religions. If the king fails in his duty to protect and nurture, the land sickens, and the people depose (or kill) the king. Not advocating killing your husband. But I think it shows the seriousness of of accountability in marriage to your partner, and your family. One person isn’t just declared head, and can do whatever they want, with little to no repercussions. Its a duty to always be encouraging and nurturing everyone else toward fruitfulness, before the self. That is the sacred duty of the king. Who, I feel, need not be the male, or more “masculine”, partner.

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New Year Musings

  • Accountability… I’m such a failure in this. We had our monthly meet-up, which I’ve kind of become the organizer for since the other gal that I was originally working with just had a brand new baby. And I was 40 minutes late. And no one was there. I did hang around for about an hour, just in case someone wandered in late. But I didn’t have my cell on me, and no internet until I got to the coffee shop, so no way to send out last minute reminders. While I acknowledge I dropped the ball on this, what about the people that had RSVP’d they were coming? Just because it’s an informal event, doesn’t give a person leave to just not show without some contact with the organizer. This mentality has been a big deterrent in my desire to offer workshops, or work with Pagans on their personal learning tracks. As you can gather from my last post, my husband believes I already stretch myself to thin between projects. Why would I take on the further responsibility of teaching, whether just a short workshop or a long-term commitment, when those who so adamantly shout for more, better, accessible teaching aren’t willing to prove they can hold up their end of things? Three years ago, I was that person. I hate that I was ever that way, but we can always grow out of our shortcomings. I hope I am well and truly on the other side of that one.

 

  • Beginner books… This just popped up on me today. I see so many people recommending “beginner books” or “101 books”, but they all seem to have the same flavor. It’s eclectic witchcraft, pretty bland, trying to encompass the entirety of the Pagan movement, or at least not delve too far into any particular branch. But is this really how we should always approach “Paganism 101”? I have yet to read “Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions”, but shouldn’t we start new Pagans off with books talking more about what Paganism is/can be, instead of “here, cast this good luck spell”? Then offer introductory books that are more path/tradition/culture specific? I just find it frustrating to be faced with circumstances where Pagans are ignorant of the other branches out there because their introduction to Paganism was focused on spellcraft and deity worship, and not about Paganism.

 

  • Thoughts on the priesthood in modern paganism… I reading an article the other day (probably on one of the blogs I follow, but I’m not sure) discussing the evolution of the priesthood in Christianity. How at the time of inception as a religious force, the priesthood was trained class, separate from the masses it served. Then with the Great Schism and Martin Luther’s break with Roman Catholicism, we see the introduction of the laity into the priest class. Then it branched off into the Anabaptist movement (which would be the groundwork for the Amish and Mennonite cultures), and the idea that everybody is equally equipped to join the priesthood, So we’ve gone from the specially-called elite group to the ordinary everybody group. And I wonder what parallels can be drawn in the Pagan community.

I find myself looking mostly at American/eclectic Wicca, and the prevalence of the term “Priest/ess”. It seems that everyone is/claims to be a priest, or is at least a priest of such-and-such deity. And of course your coven cannot be legit unless headed by the High Priest/ess. Now, I realize that it just may be the Wiccans I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with, none of whom are in traditions that are even similar to BTW or any other secret/initiatory traditions, but what it begs the question “What is a priest?”

For me, a priest is a person that has taken vows in the name of a specific deity, tradition, or spiritual/religious belief. And with those vows comes a caveat of service, to deity/tradition/belief AND the community based around deity/tradition/belief. If one were simply to focus solely on the deity/tradition/belief, I would argue that one is more of a monk than a priest. I also feel that there should be a formal ceremony/acknowledgement of those vows, even as simple as members of the community bearing witness to the priest’s vows.

I feel like there are others in the community working towards a more formal structure for Pagan priesthood (I’m talking Cherry Hill Seminary), but, just as not all Christians can afford to attend seminary, not all Pagans can either. I do find it especially troublesome that they still aren’t fully accredited (I believe they are as a distance learning school). It is one of the major turn-offs for me, as someone sitting on 20k in undergrad debt, with more to come before I have my BA in hand. If I am going to pay even more for graduate level work, I need  it to mean something to people outside the Pagan community. (After writing this, I think it was a post by Sam Webster that started this off)