Posts Tagged sacrifice

Blood Sacrifice

I’ve been a little lax in my posting of late. This isn’t for lack of ideas. I think it’s purely that winter is now beginning to bite: the blink-and-you’ve-missed-it short days, the extra layers of clothing, the need to stockpile kindling and food in case of snow… and the urge to hibernate.

Life, of course, goes on. I’ve been out and about, less than usual perhaps, but still doing. A little Druidry here today, and a little slice of life, if I may.

Last week, a talk at Sheffield University Pagan Society; yesterday, a guest speaker to a Sociology lecture at the University of Derby. One informal, one formal, but both requiring me to get out there, put my professional hat on (metaphorically, before you ask) and tell my tale again…

Each time, it’s different. A different audience, a different flavour to my words. New challenges, new questions, new faces. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and will ever do – and yet, I love it. Connection, sharing, inspiration. And bearing all.

Because one of the questions that always seems to come up in some form or another is that of Sacrifice. I’ve spoken of it before on here, but while winter is the time of fire festivals, burning the old to make way for the new, it’s not really the time to get out in public and get naked (again metaphorically, but physically too!). You don’t want to bear your soul to total strangers. Stand up and say ‘listen to me, I’m interesting?’ Nope.

So… perhaps that is my sacrifice to this season? While crawling out from a cosy bed/home/sofa to work is something that we all have to do just to pay the bills, my work is so intrinsically tied up with my own personal story, my soul-truth, that to walk this path at all during this season is the most challenging thing. It’d be much easier to take the easy route, that of the toddler whining ‘but I don’t want to!’ Tough. Wrap up warm on the way out, it’s nippy.

Sacrifice is giving up something that is valuable to you. At this point, that’s very much my Self. My time, my energy (not in abundant supply), even my smile some days. The black dog bites and holds on, and I’ve had panic attacks in the middle of crowded places. So standing up in front of crowds… you can probably imagine how nervous I get. Even answering emails is tricky right now. Writing this has involved a LOT of deletion and rewriting to get the tone precisely correct (and I’m still not sure I’ve quite managed it).

But it’s not all about my fear – that’s a constant, burning away in the background, to be overcome daily. My sacrifice is also giving up that sense of self, the very act of bearing all… but in a manner that can be understood. The balance of listening to what is asked of me, as a Priest, a teacher, a representative of my spirituality, and truly hearing. Going beyond the words of the question to see the eyes of the querent, what they want to know, what they can’t quite put into simple language but strain, hope, need me to understand.

I’ve promised, over and over again, to do my best, to walk my truth, to tell my story as honestly as I can, and to help for as long as I’m needed. I presume that if nobody were listening, then this blog wouldn’t get any hits, my inbox would just contact requests for money from overseas diplomats, and I could say what I liked because nobody would be listening… but currently, this isn’t the case. More and more people are asking. I’m amazed and awed that so many fellow Pagans, of any path, are rising to meet this growing group of seekers. I have no doubt that come Spring, my every weekend will be busy again. This is why I keep talking, writing, doing.

But in the meantime, sometimes it’s a battle day-to-day. I sacrifice and I survive.

A while ago, I told a good friend that I tried to do something creative every day. Even a tiny thing, but something, so that the day hadn’t been wasted. This is still true. Writing is best (when I haven’t written anything for a while, I think I’m unbearable to be around), but knitting, baking, some form of random creativity… all good.

This week, as well as the talks, I had more colour added to my right arm sleeve tattoo. Now this isn’t a very active creativity on my part – essentially, I lie there and let an artist draw on me with needles, paying him for the privilege of several hours of pain – but that ink will stay with me for the rest of my life.

 

Tattoo Equipment

(The preparation table. All of these colours went into one small area of skin, with those needles…)

 

I’ve had a lot of positive comments on my tattoos over the years. When I was younger, I never dreamt I’d ever have so much of myself covered – but every single one has meaning. And much of it is to do with my Druidry.

My first tattoo was a triskele, in the safe, quiet, hidden base of my back. My second: surrounding it with silver birch leaves, hand-drawn by one of my oldest friends. The statement of my learning, my stepping into the woods, joining with the trees, indelibly feeling my own connection to the wild world.

Since then, I’ve an Awen hand-tapped into the top of my back (after dreaming that Bobcat was doing it – I think her hand was more drilling it into my head), and both arms covered with leaves, flowers, seeds… the old joke being that sooner or later, if you push me over in a field, you’ll lose me.

Although the tattooist chats happily as he works, with conversation a good distraction, the flow of endorphins, adrenaline and sheer physical reaction to the needle creates an interesting effect. I’ve not undergone ceremonial or ritual tattooing as such, but every single sitting could be considered to be that. Your inner self reacts to the battering that your skin is taking, and there is an inevitable effect.

The tattoo is a statement, certainly. But it could also be considered a sacrifice. The blood, the pain, the wearing of an image with a deep meaning behind it, honouring your own body through the act of pain for the goal of adornment. To me, it’s far more than vanity.

Every tattoo on my body (except the triskele, my initial ‘baby-step’) has been paid for with money earned from my Druidry. I used to be able to pay the bills with my day-job, thus allowing me and my partner to permanently mark the relationship between our public rites and ourselves with ink. Now, that money is needed for those bills – so this work was even more of a luxury… and a statement.

Reading this post back, my black dog friend is telling me that this post is full of whining, self-righteous, indulgent justification for my work, my decisions, my irresponsible frivolity of ink. Perhaps.

To me, my life is currently filled with sacrifice. The sheer standing up each day to live my life, my spirituality, my job, with integrity and responsibility. Overcoming the ‘oh Gods, you can’t do this, why are you even trying’ voices. The sense that I’m not as strong as I think I am. Yet the beauty of my path is there, indelibly marked into my body. Present in the messages of thanks from those who hear my words.

I stood before my Gods in a crowded classroom and called to them, sincerely – and they listened. I honour them in my actions, my decisions, even my cock-ups (provided I learn from them). I honour them in my moving forward, not giving up, even when the black dog urges me to take that ultimate step and just give up, stop. My life is my sacrifice at this time, my giving up of self when I really do not feel able.

Things will calm down, of course. The season will turn, the light will start to join us more frequently, and I’m certain that I’ll be reminded regularly that I’m actually doing ok. I walk this path because I’m called to, and that’s by real people as well as spiritual entities – both of whom keep me moving in the right direction, kicking me if I stray or stay still too long.

So. My challenge again. What am I doing?

Moving forward. Slowly, in the dark, sometimes painfully, but moving.

Tattoo Nov 2012

All art here was inscribed by the founder and creative genius that is Andy Bowler of Monkido Tattoo Studio, in Belper, Derbyshire.

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Sacrifice

Note: I did originally take this down, for reasons previously discussed – but I’m re-posting it on request. Make of it what you will.

This post has been gestating for some time, on request from interested readers; it seems this topic has struck a chord with many (perhaps unsurprisingly). But before we start, it will NOT feature talk of goats, chickens, reading the future in intestines or other such bunkum.

You wouldn’t believe how often I’m asked about that.

Druidry is a nature-based spirituality, with a focus on relationship and connection. Sacrifice is a natural part of this, as we ask ourselves what we can do to enhance our own life, knowledge, experience and worship/practice. This does not mean bowing down before anything in abasement, or making offerings as some sort of trade – I give this up, so please give me luck/money/love.

Sacrifice doesn’t work like that (except in stories – and look at how such requests often turn out). I respect myself, my gods and my ancestors more than to presume our relationship is nothing more than basic bartering.

I also get confused by the general assumptions about sacrifice as a faith-based action. Take Lent, for example. To remember Jesus’ wanderings in the desert, Christians give up something of value for 40 days (if folk even remember that this is the reason behind it). Very good… but to me, giving up chocolate or sweets as a gesture, which isn’t even very well kept or intentioned, is lip-service at best, insulting at worst.

In that scenario, Jesus gave up everything, to take himself away into the wilderness to be challenged. Such stories are not uncommon. Buddha went from Prince to ascetic in his quest for Enlightenment and meaning. In the Arthurian mythos, Merlin went totally mad and took himself away into the forest to face his darkness (both actual and internal).

This is a life-lesson. Despite what some New-Agers want us to believe and aim for, life is not intended to be all sweetness and light. But nor is it a time of bleakness, pain and darkness. Life is what we make it, and to fully live with awareness, we must walk that line of balance between light and dark, pain and pleasure, knowledge and ignorance.

At various points in our lives, we will be forced (whether voluntarily or not) to face our own darkness. We will be challenged. We cannot avoid our fears forever, nor should we try.

Sacrifice is an act of intention, removing ourselves in some way from our ‘comfort zone’ in order to learn and experience. It’s not just a daily or monthly detox, whether for mind or body. It is a serious matter, not to be taken lightly – because if you do it right, you will indeed be challenged as a result.

As with many things in Druidry (and life), you get back what you give out. If you give up chocolate, you may lose a little weight – but if your intention isn’t really present, the act of sacrifice may be ‘naughtily’ broken, or simply forgotten after a set period. As I said, this is both disrespectful and fairly pointless. Why bother, if you aren’t putting your all into it?

If you are truly, honestly and honourably facing your own darkness in order to sacrifice your fear… expect a life change. If you are making the decision to become a vegetarian for the rest of your life – another life change. Giving up sweets as part of a true decision to control your own impulses, experiencing that difference and questioning your own actions – a simple action, but with great effect because of the motivation behind it.

If you resolve to explore your relationship with your gods or ancestors, regularly and actively, you’re sacrificing your time, your own life. That’s immense. So do it right. This is a true sacrifice: difficult, yes, but absolutely worth it.

What is your relationship with the thing that you are sacrificing? If it’s of no real value to you, why should it be of value to the one you’re sacrificing to (including yourself)? Think of something that you can’t do without. Soap operas, coffee, cigarettes, medication… all different drugs, with different (side)effects. Giving up alcohol, after a certain point is reached, can be fatal. Explore your true needs. What can you really do without? What’s just cosmetic, what’s an indulgence? I wouldn’t recommend sacrificing an insulin dependency, but perhaps investigating the possibility of reducing prescription medication, exploring alternatives.

Sacrifice is a responsible act. We take responsibility for our choices as we make them – that’s a learning process in itself, in these days of throwaway decisions and unforeseen consequences. How do we honour ourselves and those who are connected to us (both human and non-human) by our daily lives? What do we take in, that others suffer due to lack of?

Sacrifice is difficult, often due to the unforeseen obstacles of modern life. A few years ago, I read about a charity that was seeking books for children in developing countries. These youngsters had never read the ‘Classics’, and likely never would get the chance to – but they were grateful for every real book that they could get hold of, just for the chance to experience those stories for themselves. Books were treasure – a fact that I’ve always believed, but now here, in an entirely new way.

I was deeply moved. Imagine the tales that I loved, the books around my house that are absolutely part of my life, and have been since before I could read. I had taken them for granted. Would I give them up for those children? Absolutely.

I started to make calls and write emails. Before long, the obstacles started. The charities that deal with getting books to those schools and homes didn’t actually want physical books – they wanted the money to buy them. Alarm bells started ringing in my head, as the countries in question are notorious for corruption. I wanted to send boxes of Wordsworth Classics (£1 editions of out-of-copyright works), thinking that I could afford to send more of those than a box of £5.99 paperbacks. I’m not rich, but want to do something.

Ultimately, it wasn’t possible to do this. I’ve since done charity work, actively giving up my time (and a lot of my own books!) in order to help from this side, but short of going to those countries to actually tell stories, there’s little way to go from intention to action.

But that was part of the step to exploring what my sacrifice was. My books; my stories; my ability to tell tales. I can work in my own community, and give up my own time. I can do my best to pass on the magic, to inspire and simply connect others to their own stories through my own words. I dove deeper. What was I doing?

And here I am. 🙂

What would your sacrifice be? It’s not a simple question, but I just ask you to consider it. What don’t you want to give up, that you need to? How ready are you to face change?

Sacrifice isn’t about death after all – it’s about life.

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The Raven’s Eye

Yesterday, I wrote a post on the topic of ‘Sacrifice’. It’s been taken down now, for various reasons, but mainly that it was perhaps too ambiguous – a large topic either needs a broad area for discussion, or something simpler, more personal.

But I’ve been thinking, deeply, on both that subject and the wider aspects of communicating such amorphous concepts. Which is, essentially, what this blog does. I’ve made it my duty to do it as well as I can.

So this is just one tiny page of one person’s thoughts. Challenged to write from my heart, to sing my own song, I call on the Awen to flow once again…

As a Druid, I’m often asked about ‘making the sacrifice’. It’s something people ‘know’ about our ancestors, that image of the robed figure with knife held high above a stone table. That may be the story, but what’s the reality?

To me a Sacrifice is a sacred gift, given to reflect and maintain balance. Offered with love and some regret, it should be missed – and therein lies the value. The relationship between given and giver, the connection, the story told in the history of that act and its future consequences: a sacrifice is neither simple, nor isolated. Responsibility and intention are presented and received in turn. And we move forward.

The first, or last, taste of food or drink – the gift of Life.
Time and energy – the gift of Knowledge.
Tears – Strength.
Life – Love.
Blood – Life.
Pain – Healing.

I give my words to you all, here. My efforts, time, thoughts and integrity, sacrificed on the altar of free information – not ultimate truth, in any way, but my own truth. I can do no more.

I learn from what comes as a result of these words, as others read and respond. It’s not about ego, not at all, but about inspiration, sharing, adding one voice to an overarching melody. I work hard to make that sound true, with so much discordant squawking out there. The topic becomes less important, as I struggle to make the words reflect my thoughts, to create understanding, not confusion. I have no idea who will read these words – the sheer audacity of believing that it will be of interest at all is huge, but I can’t think about that. It’s a challenge, but I can’t be overwhelmed by the unknown. It’s just me, here, typing my intention.

I make my own sacrifices daily, feeling it become more difficult as I get older. To my loved ones, my Gods, my ancestors, family of blood and spirit – and to complete strangers, those who approach me to simply ask. These words are just one example.

We’re all human, reluctant to give up what we’ve worked for, to expose ourselves to ridicule. But we have to make that connection, to do what matters – or we’re simply isolated, alone and confused, and fooling ourselves, refusing to feel, blocking our own senses. We receive as we give (as a wiser person said).

What sacrifices do you make in life? Not necessarily through obligation, but voluntarily – not always easily, but willingly?

The cost and reward of Sacrifice? Love, bravery and honesty. A Druid Triad, perhaps – or it could be just my mutterings…

Dedicated, with love, to that Son of Odin whose wisdom I hold dear. The Raven’s song may be harsh, but it always carries meaning x

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