Meanwhile, we could use more nonfiction writing too! Currently, much Pagan nonfiction comes in two flavors. First is the how-to-be-a-better-Pagan genre, which has kept Llewellyn in business all these years. I have done my part to contribute to it.
And there is the blogger-ish “Oh, look what a devoted devotional polytheist I am — I spent half a day assembling a playlist for my evening devotions. Here it is!”
Afterwards, while talking about my friend’s difficulty coming down from the possession of the mask, the ritual’s high priest held mixture of concern and scientific questioning. The masks had been enchanted to deactivate upon removal, a sharp and seamless conclusion to the ritual, but Eris had still been laughing in my friend’s ears at the time she went to bed. The kill-switch had gone awry somehow; something must have been wrong with their masks.
As it happens, I’ve attended pagan rituals myself, in rural Austria, and I’ve met men who work on their intricate, large, wooden Krampus masks all year long in preparation for the fantastical Krampus “performance” in early December. I mention this as a prelude to explaining that (in my opinion) telling the difference between some authentic pagan belief and just people partaking in a fun pastime isn’t a straightforward proposition. It isn’t that such people are necessarily undertaking such rituals in order appease the earth goddess Erda and improve next year’s crop yield or anything like that, but at the same time I think that participants and spectators alike would agree that everyone is getting something necessary out of it, something communal, something emotional.
Well no, we would not want to think that it was actually religious, would we? On the other hand, indigenous religions don’t require creeds. Some people go to the ceremony for the “something emotional” only, and that’s all right.
That’s a pity because both invoke an odd, almost indescribable atavistic feeling. It seems to me extremely important that we all should know that feeling first hand, that we should experience it at key moments in our lives and in the yearly round of winter, spring, summer, fall. For whatever else the feeling is, it’s the sense of being brought up sharply against something Other, and you never know, that might just save us from ourselves.
She comments, “How many Pagan Samhein [sic] events have you been to that even come close to this? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how often we Pagans ‘skip’ the elements of ritual that appeal to Younger Child. Maybe we, in the words of the LOLcat posters, R doing it wrong.”
When I worked with Evan John Jones on the book Sacred Mask, Sacred Dance, I found a passage in the book Ritual Animal Disguise by the British folklorist E.C. Cawte about how school children introduced to masked mumming immediately absorbed the parts of Stag and Dog and so on. It’s all there, just waiting.