Day 14. Advent Descent. On disorganised un-religion
Today I went to see my little boy in his first ever nativity play. It was adorable chaos, and the first time I've been inside a church for a while.
It was certainly a very long time since I'd been inside that particular church - I used visit when I was at primary school, 30+ years ago, and I remember it being much bigger...
There was something lovely about being back under the rafters, and taking in the sparkling gold touches, the painted wood and bright glass.
And I could feel some of the magic of ceremony, ritual, and rites of passage, as well as my mind swimming with questions.
This time I got a bit hung up on the words to We Three Kings, and had to Google what 'incense owns a deity nigh' means (just that a god nearby now has some incense. I don't know why that confused me so much).
It was said a couple of times that 'this is a story that we have been telling for 2,000 years, and it's just as relevant today.'
I thought, 'yes, a story about a refugee family being refused shelter IS still very relevant.' But I don't think that's quite what they meant.
It was the most comfortable I have ever felt in a church - I think because I finally have a sense of what I believe in, and I don't feel guilty about being a heathen any more... I'm not religions, but I also know that I'm not exactly an atheist either. I felt for a while like that was the only option: organised religion, or atheism.
There was beauty here, like in many churches, and I felt moved and inspired at moments, but the feeling of peace that begins to settle on me pretty much evaporates once people start speaking.
My soul simply craves both more mysticism and the more grounded earthiness I find in my relationship with the trees when I walk beneath them. Something in me squirms away from being pinned down by being too organised, too structured.
But it was beautiful, and so sweet and moving, and I cried numerous times at the overwhelming cuteness, and the feeling of pride as our little one said his line and joined with the whole class to sing Silent Night.
The biggest thing I took home with me was an extra appreciation of the specialness of children (whether they have their own incense or not).
After we'd come home, and a very over excited little human finally went to sleep, my partner Josh and I watched a bit of The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance, for the third or so time.
I'm not going to give any spoilers in case you haven't seen it, but there was a scene where a character has died, and Brea, one of the Gelfling heroes, is in mourning. Deet, who is becoming her friend, says something so sweet and profound that it moves me every time.
Brea had to get away quickly, without time to really say goodbye or mourn her loss, and there hasn't been time for the proper rites and ceremonies.
Deet offers to have a ceremony here and now, sitting under the sky and around a fire.
And they speak of the Gelfling they have lost, and then join together in the sweetest song of mourning.
It's the third or so time I watched it, and still I was crying. At puppets. That's just the magic of Jim Henson's work and legacy, isn't it?
And I don't know if this has ever happened to you, where a friend is able to make the offer to step up and bring you into a moment of ritual.
It doesn't work if it's not an offer - if someone were to just step in and decide for you what's needed, the magic doesn't happen.
It's almost like weaving a very particular spell - it's special combination of seeing that something ceremonial might help, making the offer, and it being accepted. Or you choose in some of other way to step into a circle or ceremony that feels spontaneous.
And the person leading it begins to hold a space that's out of the normal bounds of time and behaviour. It calls whoever is there into its magic, and creates a moment that feels sacred and energetically different to the everyday, whilst being fully still a part of it.
It's happened for me a couple of times - both Josh and my brother are really good at weaving that particular type of spell.
And it's a space that I'm learning to become more comfortable and confident in holding - I regularly do for the people I work with, or for those who come to join something like Holly, Spruce and Heathenry, the Yule immersion I am helping to host next week. It's going to be witchy, but each of us holding different offerings over the few days has our own unique way of holding space. We're not following a set way of doing things. It's a little chaotic and all the extra magical for it.
Taking the step to be the one holding a sacred moment of ritual takes a kind of calm boldness, a suspending of disbelief. I'm excited to be more like Deet as I move through the world in 2022.
I love it so much, these moments of disorganised un-religion, spontaneous spirituality, chaotic every-day ritual.
Watching these Gelfling puppets (and of course, the puppeteers, artists, musicians and singers creating this moment) do that with song in the clip below is so profound.
And yeah, for me, THIS is more spiritually inspiring than being in a church...it captures more of the raw, earthiness that my soul craves, and the moments that I hope to create more of in the world.