Friday, January 4, 2008

Tradition versus Reality

Last Sunday we gave a presentation at the local fellowship of the Unitarian-Universalist Association. The congregation there, small but select, is accustomed to honoring the directions at the beginning of each Sunday service. They do it in the traditional way, with Air in the east, Earth in the north, and the rest of it; so we decided to try on them a new way of honoring. We had attendees do the calling, taking turns around the circle (deosil, of course). Instead of the whole congregation singly doing it, we had three in turn, around the circle, honor each direction. Just to give them some ideas to push against, we passed out copies of a crib sheet like the one at the bottom of this posting.
We started with Mother Earth, below; after all, we do stand on the earth. Then we put Water in the east because the largest body of water near Beckley (where we met) is the New River, flowing east of the meeting site. We put Fire in the south because we were in the northern hemisphere. Air went in the west because here in the States that's where our air mostly flows from. (At least that's what the weather channel leads us to believe.) In the north we put Old Age and Ancestors. Overhead we put Father Sky and the Universe. In the center we put Spirit, for seven directions in all.
Two interesting things came out of this.
1. The various directions elicited a stunning range of responses and personal associations. After a hesitant beginning with earth, attendees came up with fascinating and moving thoughts about each direction.
2. The people really liked the approach. Every adult present, without exception, had something personal to say about various directions. Indeed, they asked afterward that we do it again, and even perhaps write it up for the UU national bulletin. We came to realize how involved they had become in this one little part of the presentation.
The question, then, is this :
In general, in our own pagan/Wiccan circles, are we right to follow the old traditional way that was developed in Europe, much of it in times long gone? Or should we seriously think about letting attendees at circle put their own flavor into the ritual?
Give us feedback, please; many aspects of life could do with some updating and/or improvement.

Earth - our mother -- the solid ground from which we all come
east - water, adaptability; takes on the shape of its container
south - fire, passion, not indifference
west - air, mental -- here new ideas come in on the wind
north - remembrance -- good times and old people who have gone before
Sky - our father -- the sky over us all
spirit - spiritual aspect of relationships; without a spiritual match, all is lost.


Hayley said...

I'd say let attendees put their own flavor into the circles, but you certainly don't have to do either one all the time.

I do not know how often you hold a circle, but my thinking would be perhaps stay traditional for sabbats and be flexible and innovative with esbats or circles that don't coincide with particular dates (if you have them).

That way the things that perhaps are more steeped in tradition stay that way, but the things that don't have quite as much tradition behind them can be innovative, perhaps for new traditions. It was all new at some point.

The Pagan Temple said...

It makes sense to look at your immediate surroundings. Of course, if you live on the West Coast, then you're back to the traditional arrangement, with the Pacific Ocean for Water in the West, and the East for Air, from where the sun rises in the morning and dispels the dark of night with it's illumination.

Me being in Kentucky, I don't know now what is the best use to put the directions in. You've given me something to think about though, so thanks.

fenix said...

I think it's a great idea. Some years back, I started thinking about how the ancient Celts most like used their rituals to honor the places they were, and if we are using old rituals from Europe, aren't we giving honor to places in Europe, and not our own homes?

I think we can be traditional, maintain the power and energy behind who and what we are and be able to honor our homes and the energies within all at the same time.

fenix said...

By the way, considering our conversation about transition rituals, I've discovered that writing a passing-over is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I'll be happy to share it when I'm done.

GavinandYvonne said...

I like that idea Hayley. yes we have eshbats and sabbats.
Fenix we would like to see your ritual, remember in the 0old days it was an excuse for a party. Blessed Be All Y'all Gavin