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Rediscovering My Pagan Faith
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Why I'd Want Darkness In Me (Or, At Least, Not Mind It)
Article ID: 13743
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Fire Lyte
Posted: February 7th. 2010
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While listening to an old clip from The Way of the Master Radio Ė a Christian Fundamentalist show, the radio host asked why anyone would want darkness in them. He asked this because Kirk Cameron, the co-host, had infiltrated a Mabon ritual and recorded the whole thing. This question came about, because pagans supposedly celebrate the balance of light and dark within them and in the world on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes Ė contemporarily known as Ostara and Mabon, and the two hosts could not fathom why anyone would want to accept darkness within. This is a really good question, and one that should inspire a lot of internal questioning.
Why in the world would anybody want to celebrate the balance of light and dark within him or her?
This is one of those trick questions kids ask one another on the playground that takes some fact or circumstance, twists it, and asks it in such a way that there is no good answer. For example: Does your mother know you lie? If you say yes, then you admit to lying and you assume the guilt of having let down your mother. Alternatively, if you say no, then you admit to lying to your mother about lying, and you assume the guilt of keeping a secret from your mother. There is no secret option C in which you neither lie, nor have to admit your deceit to your mother.
Well, this question is the same thing. We celebrate the balance of light and dark within us, firmly acknowledging that both exist. It is not that we want one over the other, and it is not that we want only one. This is one of the beautiful facets of paganism that I see as a benefit to our collective ideals. We may not agree on a lot of things, but we agree that we worship something solid, something real. At the heart of many of our religious tenets lies a central Earth worship, or the notion that we tie our sabbats and magical practices to the physical universe. Prosperity spells when the moon is waxing and so on. As such, we have a tendency to honor the natural laws of existence. We celebrate birth and death equally, and know that they are not points of singularity, but rather spokes on an ever-turning wheel.
Letís try an experiment.
Think hard. Raise your hand if youíve ever wanted to take an item off the shelf and just leave the store with it without paying. I mean, this economy is pretty tough, and I see lots of things I wouldnít mind having without burdening my wallet with an inconvenient charge.
Raise your hand if you laughed when someone tripped or saw someone go through hard times and thought, ďThey had it coming.Ē Raise your hand if youíve ever wanted to be the one who collects on karmic debts or if youíve ever wanted to take a break from monogamy for just one day. Raise your hand if swift revenge seemed like the only option. Raise your hand if youíve ever really wished someone would die. Raise your hand if youíve ever thought about what a razor blade would feel like going inside your wrist. Raise your hand if youíve ever had a dark momentÖ
Now, keep your hand raised if you didnít go through with it. And arenít you glad you didnít?
Arenít you glad you had enough inner balance to view the dark thought, shed some light on it, and put it neatly back in the box of dark thoughts where it belongs? It doesnít matter if you briefly weighed the option of stealing the bottle of soda or if you dwelled upon a guilty conscience for years. The point is that at some point or another, you balanced out. You were not swallowed up by that singular point of darkness.
It would be a wonderful thing if we only ever had good thoughts. It would be great if the world were a fluffy pillow and the sun shone everyday and the radio station only played your favorite songs. But it isnít. Iíve said before that reality isnít fun, but itís what weíve got, and thatís really very true. As pagans, we acknowledge that we have our dark moments, and we can view them from a balanced perspective, because we also acknowledge our light. We differentiate them, because of one another. How would we know what moments are truly triumphant, truly joyous, if we did not have the hard times to compare them to?
It would be a foolish act on our part if we turned a blind eye on darkness. It exists, and it is as real and corporeal as if it were caressing you in the night. We are only prepared to face it, because of the balance of light and dark, because of the knowledge of past dark times, and the light we brought in to turn the dark away. If you knew an army was going to invade your country, rape your women, kill your men, and burn your cities, would you acknowledge the threat or talk about what a beautiful day it is? There is something to be said for reveling in the good times, but we must not let the good get in the way of reality.
On a different tangent, dark and light can quite literally also mean the times of year. The darker parts of the year are times when we donít want to be as active, when the earth is bare, and when times are a bit hard. Without the sun, it is easy to become melancholic and shut off. Again, in these instances, we celebrate the light and the dark, because we know that light will come again. We remind ourselves to not get complacent in the dark, and to actively seek to bring light into every corner of our lives during times when it doesnít come naturally. (Both literally and figuratively.)
Celebrating the balance of light and dark is celebrating the very nature of the universe, celebrating the most natural parts of nature. We acknowledge both, because both exist, and we do not wish to be foolish when the time comes to face one or the other. The good can be just as overwhelming as the bad, and can cause as much harm. Have you ever been so ecstatic that you forgot about your other daily duties? Have you ever let time get away from you when having fun that it turned into neglect of yourself or others?
If we are not conscious of consequences, the choices we make are one-sided and potentially harmful, dark. I see this with a lot of college-aged kids who stay out all night partying, enjoying the goods of youth, but forget to study or donít get enough sleep or forget to come to work.
Balance, true balance, is what happens when we weigh our decisions carefully before making them. It is acknowledging hard times, dark times, and finding the light in each situation so that we can move forward. It is the quintessential idea of living in the present moment, of accepting the realness of reality.
So, to that radio man, I say that I donít want darkness anymore than I want light. I simply acknowledge that both exist, because I have a brain and the ability to think and reason and accept the nature of the natural world.
Now, on the topic of sin. I ask you what, exactly, sin is, whether we should be forgiven for it, and, if so, who does the forgiving. However, I want you to think about the definition of sin without using the words Christian, or Abrahamic, or Jesus, or Bible. Remember doing those exercises in English class where you were supposed to come up with the definition of a word without using the word in a sentence? I want you to do that here. Strip away the conventions of Christianity, because sin is most definitely not simply a Christian concept. The notion of sin exists in all faiths.
SoÖthink about it. What is sin? The majority of definitions ascribed to the word sin are that it is a transgression against some sort of moral code of conduct. In some cases this code is set forth by divine law, but in other cases it is simply that which goes against oneís personal ethics or values. But, this is just a theological idea of sin.
Chocolate can be sinful. It can be a sin to throw out a perfectly good jug of orange juice when itís half-full. Recent statistics show that more and more people are leaving their religion of origin Ė yes, specifically the Christian and Catholic faiths. Half of all adults have changed religions at least once. Half of all adults! On top of that, most people that change religion do it more than once. 44% of Americans, according to a study done by the Pew Forum, do not belong to their childhood faith. 9% more say that they do belong to their childhood faith, but they changed at some point to another one.
And, in all of this mixing of doctrines, beliefs, and practices, weíve muddled down the definition of sin. Or, perhaps we havenít muddled anything. Perhaps, since we are in a constant state of reinvention and evolution, we have created a new and modern definition of sin. As pagans, this is what we are all about. We call ourselves neo-pagan in a nod to the fact that we take the traditions of the past and meld them with modern thinking.
Enough with the set up. What is sin? Well, I am going to say it is an action that goes against our values, morals, ethics, or other personal or social code of conduct. I include social, because some might claim that it is well within their personal system of morality that murdering someone for personal gain, revenge, or other innocuous vendetta. Some claim they should be able to take as much as they can steal, because thatís their own morality. Thatís not acceptable; I donít care if you claim youíre on the most left of left-hand paths or what. It is not ok. Your rights do not expand and envelope anotherís right to be left alone.
So, if we commit one of these moral transgressions, should we be forgiven for it? Simple answer: yes. Now, notice I have yet to say I believe sin is some sort of divine act against a deityís will. I think we should be forgiven for our wrongdoings, because we are supposed to be the best people we can be.
We need to release ourselves from the guilt of carrying around our sins, and we need to allow the person we wronged the opportunity to experience the positive karma of forgiveness. (More on karma in a future article.) In order to move on and be balanced individuals, we cannot be weighed down by too much dark or too much light, and thus we cannot carry around all the darkness of sin. To be balanced is the goal, the epitome of religious study and introspection.
However, balance is not something that occurs by purely singular means. You do not balance yourself by yourself. You shed off what doesnít work, take on what does, and meld them together in a cohesive lifestyle. Many of us do this by focusing on the positive during the waxing and full moons, as these are times of growth and prosperity. On the flip side, we are taught that the waning and dark moons are times to banish the bad aspects of our personality, to get rid of guilt and worry and the wrongs that are done to ourselves and to others. These are times when we both forgive others and forgive ourselves. OhÖand we ask the Goddess and God for guidance.
Who does this forgiving? Iíd say it is a combination of people. I might ask the Goddess to help me shed myself of some sin or other, or I might ask for the opportunity to have a positive encounter with someone I wronged so that I can seek forgiveness from them. However, when that person doesnít give forgiveness, I simply work harder to be a better person and not wrong someone else in the way I wronged him or her.
I would venture, then, to say that sin is we dipping our toes too far into the pool of dark. It is when we tip the scales too far to one side, and we seek forgiveness from that sin in order attain the true balance that is our end goal.
What we want is not to have the darkness, but to work towards temperance. WowÖisnít that one of the major Arcana in the tarot? Isnít that one of the lessons of the fool? We seek true, alchemical balance by transforming ourselves, and understanding that there is no true dark and light but merely lessons we must learn. Sometimes we must learn that something needs to be learned, to be taken on. Sometimes we learn that we must rid ourselves of something. Either way, once balance is achieved, we evolve, we transform into our highest selves.
So, I donít want darkness anymore than I want pure light. I want to be my highest self, and the only way I can think of to do that is acknowledge my sin, seek forgiveness from myself, my Gods, or those who I have transgressed against. I learn the lessons of life that come from experiencing both light and dark, and I work towards balance and becoming my best self.
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