Do gods exist?
The monotheism of Christianity and Islam has so pervaded our western culture that this question makes no sense to many people. They usually reword the question to “Does God exist?” before answering, even if they don’t realise it. But I’ve been exploring what it means to believe that there are not only many gods in our world, but to also meet and associate with other people who do.
I went to a Full Moon Circle the other day. I kind of knew someone who helps run it because she runs classes and workshops on various practices on spirituality and paganism. So this helped. Other than that, it was rather like walking into a new church shortly before a regular service. There were people setting up. There were people who obviously knew each other. And there were people happy to talk to the newbies.
There was also a level of comfort about what they were doing there. There was a degree of familiarity they had about the spiritual. I found this refreshing. It was casual, but still matter-of-fact as we waited in a side-room as the main hall was getting prepared. It is worth noting that this was a community hall; I understand that Wiccans don’t usually have their own building as that brings with it management issues – much the same that many Christian churches face, in fact.
Before we filed into the room where the circle was, we all underwent a brief ritual for spiritual cleansing involving incense smoke. I know this procedure as “smudging” although I know that term has been appropriated. Perhaps “cleansing” is a better name for it.
In the main hall, there were 21 chairs in a circle and a small table in the middle setup as an altar. There was some suitable music playing, a few coloured lights and as the last person came in, he walked the circle three times. Then the incense used was placed in a holder on the altar.
Then we called the corners, the goddess and the god. This involved turning to each compass point in turn, right hand raised, palm out, and imagining a pentagram whilst a designated person called the relevant guardian. The descriptions had north/south flipped compared with the northern hemisphere, which was appropriate. I think we also went in the other direction, too. Then we called the goddess to witness and then the god.
We were working with the Egyptian god Hathor that night. That meant that others might be involved, of course. We were led through a simple energising ritual and then through a guided meditation. In some ways, this was like auto-hypnosis but it was different, too. The person running this told a narrative of description and we imagined ourselves following along the journey. This was a trip into an Egyptian temple where we met Hathor who unveiled a black mirror before us and invited us to see what of ourselves is valued.
I had a problem following the narrative because it kept warring with what I was seeing. However, it turned out that this was not a problem in practice. Because after we were called back, the convener asked if anyone wanted to share their thoughts. And then each person was asked in sequence around the room! And, of course, no experience was discounted. My path was flanked by trees even as our guide was describing sand-dunes. But it was really illuminating to hear people sum up their meditation experience. It showed there was an openness to the variety of experience.
The next item on the program was a dance designed to raise the energy. Did I mention there were 21 people? I think that’s the most they’ve ever had and I wasn’t the only first-timer, either. Both of those facts made the ‘dance’ a bit difficult. 21 people trying to move rhythmically around the alter was slightly difficult. It didn’t help that we had a drum being beaten completely out of time with the music. Eventually, those with less stamina than average sat down and the remaining six or eight of us had more room and werewithal to get awfully fast in a circle of hands… Yes, I was part of that! There was so much energy that that would have been a good point to finish a spell-casting – but that’s not what we were doing.
Once we had stopped and resumed seats, we were asked to retrieve a card each from the altar. Each was different and had a simple line of self-affirmation. We took it in turns to stand up and say our card out loud – all were different – followed by a common line. (I should have brought with me the sheet of incantations we were handed before the night started. It had the calls to the quarters on it, too.) Mine was “I am a intelligent, creative person”. We kept the cards, too.
Then we thanked the guardians in the same way as we called them, then we all un-walked the circle.
And that was that.
As people resumed socialising, chairs were then moved and tables setup for supper. Supplied food ranged from chips (crisps) to a spinach quiche to much cheese and even a few cakes.
I should mention that there was a fairly wide range of age in the participants. I’m sure some of them were in their mid-20s, just as there was one gent who was probably the other side of 60. I described this a bit like walking into a new church service. Except that here, not only were the practices quite different (well, obviously), but belief in other gods was fully taken as fact.