Fasting: Need vs. Necessity
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Article ID: 14179
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: January 2nd. 2011
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One of the things that originally drew me to Wicca was the notion that this form of spirituality, at least in theory, evolved with the needs of the society that it served--yet remaining true to it's core values. Many religions claim to do so, but fall short—at least in my opinion. But are there some traditions that we're clinging to that don't necessarily serve the greater or individual good?
One of the more outdated traditions, that I believe needs a rethink, is fasting (before ritual) . Now, before all the traditionalists burn me in effigy, I'm not saying do away with it, simply reconsider its necessity. Most of the covens I've had contact with are flexible on this issue, inasmuch as it becomes a medical necessity to eat (i.e. diabetics and those needing to take medicine with food) . I've never met one that pushed it to the point of endangering a member's health, although I guess the possibility that such inflexibility IS out there, somewhere—let's hope not.
But the idea of self-deprivation of such a basic need, really...how realistic is it? I know several people, both solitary and coven-members, that either laugh or shake their head @ this tradition. Most of the time the “fast for at least 8 hours prior to ritual” rule is largely ignored or just downright “disobeyed.”
If I go for longer than 3-4 hours without food, I start feeling it. My blood sugar dips (no, I'm not diabetic) , my stomach starts growling/hurting, and my ability to focus is considerably diminished. I know there are those who say this is a great way to learn to focus. In my case, it's a terrific way to give myself a splitting headache. Yeah boy, I'm really going to focus then, right?
Of course I'm not encouraging anyone to run to Burger King and pig out on a Super-sized extra-value meal an hour before ritual. Overeating can lead to indigestion—another concentration-killer. Besides, what about all those yummy homemade goodies that people bring for the Great Feast? Definitely want to save room for that. So, obviously—from where I'm sitting—neither extreme is a viable option. Allowing yourself, or others, to snack on some celery or baby carrots shouldn't be out of the question either.
I also realize that fasting has a useful spiritual function. In pursuit of a vision quest, it can be essential in crossing the boundaries of dimensional reality. That said, I think it is ONE.... ONE of many useful tools that can help one achieve that purpose.
I remember when I began my Wiccan studies, one of the most important points drilled into my head—was: DO NOT accept everything a High Priest or High Priestess tells you as divine law. I took this to mean only you know what's right for you. A HP or HPS can't tell you that. Of course, they should be afforded the respect and experience of their position. But in the end, any decisions you make on self-governance are exclusively yours.
If you do something foolish, don't blame someone else; no one is holding a gun to your head to walk a particular path. I think it's also INCUMBENT upon the student/seeker/coven-member to let a HP/HPS know when something doesn't feel right. If something is hurting you or your health and the person on high isn't sensitive to that—whatever it may be, it's not rocket science. Find another coven, its just not worth it.
Now. I'm about to tell you something you ALL already know, so bear with me, there is a point. In the last few centuries, we've moved from an agrarian---to an industrial—to a technological society. Our bodies have changed with the demands of society, with workdays getting longer, sleep amounts getting shorter; the old, gray temporal mare just ain't what she used to be! Even the term “day” has become subjective. I work third shift. When most of you are up and productive... the Sun God—in all his glory—is smiling brightly upon you.
On the other hand, the Great Mother with all her magnificent wisdom and peace greets me, lovingly, as I drive in to work. The human body is changing and adapting to the evolving stresses we put on it. It might not always be for the better, but it's inevitable. Our needs are changing, so must our practices.
Most of us have not spent a lifetime in Tibet, striving for nothing but self-deprivation in the quest for enlightenment. I admire and humbly bow to those who do, but I wasn't meant to do that in this lifetime. I'm human, not a Saint. Sure I want to be enlightened, but call me crazy-- giving myself a deprivation headache isn't the most direct path to Nirvana—not at least in my narrow field of vision. I'm a practical pagan, and given the recent deaths at a sweat lodge, I'd rather let my common sense guide me on this one.
Maybe I'm not as evolved as some, but I've got to do what's right for me. Last I checked, spiritual evolution was a journey, not an eight-hour sprint to the finish. I'm in no rush to get where I'm going. I'm looking to accumulate a lifetime of experiences that will carry me to and influence me in the next lifetime. Hopefully, for the betterment of all those I come in contact with, if that is truly my next destiny.
While I'm sure I've annoyed some of you—that certainly wasn't my intention. I hope I've at least given you something to think about today. I'm not—by any means—saying let's do away with any traditional practice, I'm merely saying let's reconsider its application. Those of you, who are infinitely more experienced, please have patience with a first degree who questions everything she's told and expected to believe, just because someone with more experience told her to do so.
Thank you for allowing me to stir the cauldron of controversy and deeper consideration. May you each find fulfillment and contentment on your chosen path.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
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