You don’t have to cast a circle

My best friend Frosty and I normally attend a large pagan festival at this time of year. But this year we just didn’t have enough money. At first we wanted to go camping elsewhere, but we eventually settled for hanging out at his girlfriend’s house, where we can play our guitars as loud as we want. Of course this meant missing a lot of the friends and fun people who we see only at Fest, or maybe two or three other times a year. (Although we did receive a guest who came to hang out with us one evening- a pagan friend I’ve known since high school, and I was very happy to see her.) By day, we built a new fire pit in the back yard, made repairs to a shed, trimmed some hedges and trees, and then went swimming. We dug a new garden too, and the next day I planted some tomatoes and beans in it. By night, we played guitar music together, watched movies, discussed ideas, and watch back episodes of Doctor Who.

My friend and I are not elders, but we are not young pagans either. So we don’t have the same habits or needs as we did when we were in our early days. Correspondingly, we don’t practice our craft the same way anymore. We don’t do much ritual anymore; the values we learned when we were doing a lot of ritual 20 years ago are now more integrated into our lives in a normal kind of way. And we don’t consult oracles like tarot cards or runes; we don’t “raise energy”; we don’t cover our houses and cars in pagan bling. (well, a pagan visiting his house or mine would see the signs right away, but another guest might not.) At the camping festivals we almost never go to the workshops or rituals anymore: we are there to spend time with friends and interesting people. What makes us “pagan”, I suppose, is the way we find the sacred when we give to each other our friendship and generosity. That means playing music together, eating together, helping each other out around the house, cracking jokes and having fun, sharing and debating ideas in politics and religion and culture, offering understanding and counsel for each other’s problems, and all the many things friends do when they gather. A weekend spent doing such things is magical and spiritual enough for me. You don’t have to cast a circle before you “dance, sing, feast, make music and love”, if you don’t want to. You can just go ahead and dance and sing! (or whatever…)

I tend to be a solitary and contemplative fellow, with a spirituality that involves a lot of quiet and introspection. (I’m a writer, after all.) So it is a special treat to come out of my library and my forest in Gatineau, where I live alone, and give my time to people I care about, and who I get to see only three or four times a year. That, too, is spiritual enough for me. In fact the whole experience for me begins when I board the train to get there, because 20 years ago, when Frosty and I were members of a regular ritual group, it was often by train that I went down to London to join everyone. To this day, the sound of a Via Rail engine whistle makes me feel nostalgic.

In ancient European pagan heroic societies, friendship and generosity were among the highest of social and spiritual values. As I see it, when I gather with the people I care about, we enact those values again. And that is spiritual enough for me.

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2 Responses to You don’t have to cast a circle

  1. Lisa from Iroquois says:

    Wow. Someone said to me not to long ago that I live the most Pagan life she knows, and the comment baffled me. Your essay suddenly clarifies for me what she meant. There is so much of my life in the country that I value, but I forget that I built this life and the building blocks are those pagan values you wrote about. Thank you for helping me understand.

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