Let me start by telling you a story from my mother’s mother’s mother youth, back when she lived in northern Italy. She lived in a farming community, and there hadn’t been rain for a long time, and everyone’s crops were suffering. Everyone at the local church prayed and prayed to that church’s saint (wish I could remember which one it was, sorry Nuna!) and still no rain. So they removed the saint’s statue from the sanctuary and buried it in the church’s cemetery, and started looking around for a different saint to whom they could rededicate the church. Then the rain finally came, and they dug up the statue and put it back in the sanctuary, and that was that.
I first heard that story back when I was a child and was still (nominally) Catholic, and it has always amused me, throughout the various religious views I’ve held in all of the years between. To think that my great-grandmother, one of the most religiously conservative relatives I’ve had, would have that kind of attitude toward her church’s patron saint, perfectly willing to “fire” him for failure to perform. Even within the confines of a monotheist religion, there were certain expectations that their divine figures had to live up to. Yes, I know you can argue that saint worship isn’t monotheistic, but it’s certainly more monotheistic than our modern Pagan religions, never mind the ancient ones!
So maybe that’s why I’ve been less surprised over the years than some of my fellow Pagan practitioners and scholars when I’ve read about the ways of the Ancients and seen their less formal and, yes, more demanding ways of communicating with their gods. Sure, there was a lot of flattery and a lot of polite asking, but it wasn’t all that way. Several of the magical scrolls of ancient Greece included demands and threats toward the gods being addressed. Most amusing to me were the ones where the magician writing the scroll noted how impressive his own magic powers were, and that’s why the god being addressed should obey his will. Can you imagine any modern monotheist putting something like that into a prayer? No, it’s clear that the attitudes that the ancient had toward their gods were far different than what we’re familiar with in our modern culture. Having grown up in a modern culture myself (yes, it’s true, I’m not really an ancient Hellene), I have to keep in mind during my own religious studies and practices that my own worldview is very different from that of the Ancients, and that I need to make a conscious decision whether to emulate them or not, and that sometimes it’s worth trying to do things in the ancient manner to get a better understanding of their ways, even if it’s not something I’m used to. Hek, *especially* if it’s not something I’m used to.
So why am I rambling on about “firing” one’s gods in this week’s blog entry? No, I’m not planning a performance review of any of our Grove’s deities, and even if I were, I’d be doing a lot of meditative work and a lot of consulting with my Grovemates first. Just because I’m the “spiritual leader” of my Grove doesn’t mean I can ignore the wants and needs of others. But damned if I’m not a little disappointed with one of our seven gods right now. For the second year in a row, we’ve had to cancel our Brídeog because of a lack of interest from our members. While we did have two people ask to have their homes visited this year (which is one more than last year), we had absolutely no one who wanted to do the traveling from house to house. Sure, I could have done it by myself if my car were in working order, but even if it had been, should I really be doing what is allegedly a “community ritual” by myself? No. And last year at Imbolc, I told Bríd that I wasn’t going to finish the offering song I’d started writing for her unless we had a successful Brídeog the next year, and if she wanted it written that she’d better convince some folks to get off their asses and do it. And nobody did, so no song. (Nope, I’m not even gonna give you a hint about it. The work I’ve done on it stays hidden on the hard drive.)
So what do we do now? Well, I think we can safely remove the Brídeog from the list of Grove activities for nest year, and but it on the shelf next to the Fool’s Competition and the Lughnasadh Games and the Druidic Worship Circles and everything else that we used to do but the interest died off. That’s a damn shame, but I’m not going to put my personal energy into trying to sustain something that nobody else cares about.
The real question becomes, what do we do with Bríd? We used to have a lot of die-hard Bright Lady devotees in the Grove way back when, but most of them have left us now. And I’ve had some folks tell me that they really feel no personal connection to her at all, and that the Imbolc ritual means little to them. And the clergyperson in me keeps thinking that if any of our Grove deities should be able to work their own inspirational powers to get people interested in her, Bríd is the one who should be able to do it. No, I’m not ready to bury the corn dolly in the back yard just yet, but I’ll say it here as well as at our ritual events next weekend: Bright Bríd, Queen of Inspiration, I can’t do this one by myself. If you want our tribe to keep you in our rituals, you need to get some light a’shining into their heads and hearts. We’ve kept our local community going for sixteen years now, and overcome the loss of dozens of members and thousands of dollars, and I really think that was in part through your blessings of community and the hearth fire. But I’m a polytheist, and I serve the people as well as the gods, and if we get a better offer from some other deity out there, I have to listen.
And I promise all five of my readers that we’re still going to have a great ritual to honor Bright Bríd next Saturday, and I hope that you can all be there and give her a chance to impress you!
Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
PS – I’m no seer, but I’ll pick the Saints to win next week. And if they don’t, I’m burying them in the back yard! >8)