A Foolish Consistency: Adapting My Religious Practice To Changing Conditions

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds..." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I am not a static person. In the course of my life, I am very unlikely to want to do the same things in the same way day after day. I am constantly adapting to my environment. Adapting my behavior to changing conditions is one of the core parts of what constitutes "me." In a sense, I am less my behaviors and more my response to the conditions around me at any given moment. I am a function, not a variable.

Because of this, I'm very glad that I've adopted the "year and a day" initiation timeline shared among several Pagan traditions. Because I am so changeable, I need to be discovering and practicing my personal religion over the course of time. What works for me now might have little relevance to me several months down the line. As my practice changes throughout the year, it helps me more clearly see the parts that aren't changing...or at least the parts that are less mutable.

My recent surgery required me to be away from my home for several weeks, and even after that, I knew that recovery would take several months. My environment changed radically and very suddenly, and my existing religious practices would have to adapt to the changing conditions. My practice is very influenced by the place where I practice. My witch's garden has become one of the most central parts of my religion. My altar at the hearth of the home I share with my wife is where I actually do my religion in an everyday fashion. As I mentioned in a previous entry, I packed up a little travel altar with bits and pieces of home to take with me to the hospital, but much like the phases of the moon or the changing seasons, there was simply no way for things to remain the same.

Out of necessity, my lunar rituals have simplified greatly. I am less likely to bother with formality. I haven't been casting a protective circle or invoking the elements. I'm not physically able to place candles (or anything else) on the ground. I'm not allowed to pick up anything heavier than a purse. I'm not able to bend over, and anything I try to hold in my left hand has a decent chance of being dropped. I have had to strip away all parts of my rituals that aren't absolutely necessary for me to feel connected to something larger than myself.

This process has made me more of what Deborah Blake refers to as an "everyday witch." The only real difference currently between my lunar rituals and my everyday practice is my intention. When my periodic observances so closely mirror my everyday practices, it makes my religion less something that happens from time-to-time and more something that is a daily force for interconnection in my life.

In software development, we have a framework/methodology called agile development. The basic idea is that you iterate quickly. You try something and release it to your users. Based on their feedback, you make small changes and release those. The rapid turnover means that you're constantly moving in a very incremental way toward the ideal. The development cycle happens so rapidly that course corrections are a natural part of the process. That is what my practice feels like right now.

Lunar rituals are, for me, a time to reflect on my desire to be a light in the darkness. I'm not just seeking to connect with Nature/Wisdom/The Divine on ritual days; I'm actively seeking to open myself to the Universe as a whole. To borrow a phrase from my Christian upbringing, the new and full moons are my time to tell the Universe itself, "Here am I. Send me." And I almost always get inspiration and direction when I do.

My everyday practice is focused on centering and grounding myself to actually do the things that I felt inspired to do without getting overwhelmed by how damned big some of the inspirations/project requests actually are. My natural tendency is to look at problems systematically, but I can also become overwhelmed by the complexity of a problem. Taking a moment to move back down to a more manageable perspective, the ground level where I can actually accomplish things and make a difference, keeps me moving forward incrementally.

It's funny to consider the elements of my lunar rituals that felt important and stuck. My besom broom is my most treasured tool. It's a symbol of my religion in a way that I think I had underestimated before. My initiate's pentacle necklace has accompanied me for every new and full moon since I bought it, and I look forward to the day when I feel comfortable putting it on and publicly taking up an appropriate religious identity word. The absence of other tools has really made me focus on the intention that came to me when I started these lunar rituals: "I am a light in the darkness. I leave moonlight in my footsteps."

I don't know what the practice of my personal religion will look like a year from now or even a month from now. I'm ultimately an agent of chaos, following my mercurial whims wherever they may take me. Nonetheless, I feel confident that my practice will successfully adapt with the changing conditions of daily life. For me, life is more about continuity than consistency.