Posted: September 3rd. 2001
Times Viewed: 5,319
Greetings Witches, Wiccans and Pagans,
The quiet weekday mornings and early afternoons have returned. The kids are (finally!) back in school. While it is still a little too hot and humid in this part of Florida as yet to really enjoy a regular morning 'porch conference' out on the deck, Wren and Fritz know that now that September has arrived, the cooler weather can't be too far behind. There are even sweaters showing up in the department stores. Hanging next to the racks of swimsuits and cargo shorts, they seem to be about the only visible marker around here that a change of seasons is immanent.
On one trip to the local discount retailer for some craft paint however, a clamor of raised voices drew Wren's attention to the reenactment of another autumnal ritual. As cyclical and predictable as the changing of the leaves in New England, this same ceremony is repeated year after year. Beyond the traditional gestures themselves, the language of the ceremony often can become quite as colorful as the fall leaves on those Vermont maples. The rising whine that assaulted Wren's ears told her that this year's ritual was evolving no differently than many of its predecessors had. 'The Selection of the School Clothes Ceremony' was fully in progress.
Greeted with both anticipation and dread by all of the participants, the annual pilgrimage to the fitting rooms can rival any blindfolded mystery school initiation experience. Emerging from the private cubicle, the young 'initiate' comes under critical scrutiny and must ultimately concede his/her personal will, choice and future development over to the established norms and processes of the group tradition. School dress codes and parental preferences collide here with youngsters' innate desire to fit in with the group while still maintaining a certain degree of individuality. How tolerant either the school system is of deviations from the established order or how much the parental wallet is willing to sacrifice to appease the need for the initiate's desire for personal freedom and self-expression varies greatly from 'tradition' to 'tradition'. That there is almost always a battle of wills over 'what is acceptable, prudent or required' is to be expected.
As the youngsters emerge from the fitting rooms, it is not hard to recognize which outfits that they themselves prefer. One young boy dragging his feet and sulking petulantly obviously feels out of step with his peers dressed as he is in a crisp white shirt and navy cotton slacks while the girl in the next booth fairly floats out from behind the drape in her cropped top and beaded bottom, low-on-the hip jeans. The scene repeats over and over again as youthful exuberance and exacerbation encounter the boundaries of the acceptable, the norm, and the required traditional trappings. Sometimes there are small concessions, but by-and-large, the establishment is going to prevail. All of this might sound quite discouraging if it were not for the fact that there is another step in this annual Falltide rite which does offer the initiate a space in which to more fully express him or herself as an individual. Let's step over to the stationary aisle for a moment.
Crayons and markers and pencils, oh my! Bookbags and knapsacks and binders in every color of the rainbow flood the eager initiate's eyes and tantalize with the sparkling possibilities. There are gel pens in metallic hues and lunch boxes with the teen celebrity of the month and stacks and stacks of notebooks in various thicknesses and cover designs as far as the eye can see. And the watchful guardians of our initiates seem to relax a bit here as their charges browse the selections and then toss their choices into the cart. It seems that after the tedious, but necessary adherence to the rules has been upheld, everyone welcomes a bit of creative wildness.
Pagan 'initiates' often have similar experiences as they begin to learn the 'norms' of the many traditions and belief systems that make up the Neo-pagan, Earth-religionist and other Pagan/Heathen/occult 'schools'. There are certain requirements to be met in many of them, fixed and regulated steps to follow in others and almost all have their own terminology, preferences and accepted 'ways'. Even solitary practitioners or eclectics have taken their guidance from one or more of the established systems as a baseline for their personal belief systems. As an initiate 'tries on' a particular tradition/belief system/practice for 'fit', they often run into that tradition's parental units whose job it is to guide, steer and sometimes say 'no' to a particular individual desire. Pagan 'dress codes' (the 'norms' of that Tradition/Path) vary widely. Some Pagan Paths or Traditions are quite strict and things are done in a certain way. Others are more laissez-faire and are flexible about 'rules'. Most are somewhere in the middle, but even Solitaries can encounter some 'judgement calls' out there if they self-identify as following any certain known Path/Tradition. What the initiate is permitted to 'wear' and how much input he or she will have in that choice may be the final determining factors in whether a student decides to go further into any particular line of training. This is also the point at which many an established Tradition/tradition will decide whether to take on that student or not. A 'good fit' IS important and so is the struggle between conventions and self-expression that often arise in this process.
Ah, but then there is the spiritual stationary department! Here are the tools that inspire and encourage creativity and the freedom to think and dream beyond the boundaries of traditions and governance. Pick up a brush, a pen, and a crayon and only imagination, dexterity and desire rule what comes from these. When one creates, doodles or scribbles for the sheer pleasure of it, it can free the spirit to delve into here-to-fore uncharted waters. A wise teacher, like a wise parent, will balance discipline with creative freedom. The wise initiate, like the wise child, will buckle down to the work and then use the new knowledge in creative ways.
For all of the new traditions and paths have come from older established ones. All of the great teachers and initiators of these new paths began by coloring outside of the lines and boundaries and 'norms' as set down by the parent group. Over time however, the dedicates of the 'new' tradition or path extend the lines and boundaries to enclose the teacher's original creative burst. This now becomes the 'new' accepted 'norm' or established form. And so it goes.
Because every once in a while, just when the newest 'old' tradition begins to get just a little too comfortable, just a little too rigid or just a little too hostile towards individual creativity and free expression, someone else will pick up a spiritual crayon and begin to color outside of those lines.
So sure, go ahead and try on that sensible spiritual wardrobe to see if it fits. Then truly and enthusiastically dedicate yourself to your chosen Path or Tradition and do the work required. Respect your Elders and Teachers. Honor the 'norms' and traditions and rules and guidelines of the Path or Tradition that you have chosen.
But every once in a while stop by the spiritual stationary aisle and toss some of those creativity inspiring crayons or metallic pens into your life-cart. And every once in a while dare to color a little outside of those lines...
Walk in Love and Light,
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