I admit it; Q is a terrible letter for me. Even the list of prompts on the Pagan Blog Project website was quite short. One of the other bloggers wrote their piece on Q from the Star Trek Universe (and it’s not bad) because it’s such a difficult letter.
For my part, in keeping with the generally grumpy mood of the blog and the moaning I do, I want to talk about Quality and Quantity in Pagan ritual.
On the whole, I must admit that my memory of Christian worship is hazy. It was a long time ago, a childhood faith, something I followed without really paying much attention because it was more something that happened around me; people said it was time to pray, so I prayed, people said to thank God, so I thanked God, but I never thought much about it or paid attention between school assemblies and visits to the local church. If I had been raised Pagan, I would likely have been just as apathetic to the underlying faith and gone along with rituals just out of habit too.
In any case, my contact with Christian worship these days tends to mean christenings, weddings (or post-marriage blessings, which seem to have gained in popularity recently) and funerals. They’re all attended with my best attempt at (so not much) respectful enthusiasm, but I feel like an outsider and my mind tends to wander.
Back to Paganism though…
I was at a ritual recently with a grove of druids. My daughter was tired (maybe a little ill too) and not really getting on too well with the whole thing. I’d taken a risk and gone without my wife, so it was just me and a five-year old. I was expecting it to be a struggle and was not proved wrong.
The trouble was that she asked to leave a little after half-way and I realised that she’d been sitting quietly and patiently for over ninety minutes through a ritual with no end in sight. We have always tended to make an afternoon of it, turning up right after lunch for the rituals and heading home after a period of socialising or drumming / guided meditation in time for a late dinner, so I never really thought about how long they were.
Maybe it’s just me, but Pagan ritual does seem a little … padded at times. It’s as though we are trying to make up for a lack of quality (which I am not sure exists) with quantity. In the past, I have tended to write short, pithy rituals, but I seem to be in the minority when I look at the long, meandering rituals which seem to get even longer when a high-priestess or arch-druid starts veering off-script to add bizarre spiral-dancing to the middle or extra verses (more often, repeating earlier verses) into every song.
How many times can you do cascading awens in one ritual? Is there really a benefit to singing John Barleycorn three times in a row? I can understand taking the time to let everyone have a say when you’ve got a section for personal affirmations or talking about experiences, but I can’t help feeling that Druidry should be a little more terse, a little more succinct.
I mean, the wisdom is held in triads and the druid’s prayer is eight-and-a-half lines long. The oath is four lines. How can a faith based on such concise wisdom take fifteen minutes to consecrate a circle?
As I say, I tend to create shorter rituals, so maybe I am in the minority, but I do sometimes get bored with all the hooting and hollering, the singing every song three times, etc. Can’t we just connect with the gods and / or nature without all the extra pantomime? I’ll still feel like I got my money’s worth and then we get onto the feasting and non-ritual magic…