I tried to write this article last week, I really did. I sat, and I tried, but just couldn't do it... so I wrote something else entirely. I wrote a paragraph or two and just sat there sitting... staring... banging my head against the wall. But I think it's for the best, as the events of the last week or so have helped my perspective. Before I was trying to write this while I was actually feeling quite serious, which would be antithetical to the point of this piece.
This last weekend I was down in Madison for Geek.kon 2008, and while there I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine on Saturday afternoon. He'd been over at the Madison Area Pagan Pride Day event earlier and I was asking him about it (as I had wanted to go, but had to miss it). One thing he mentioned was how he thought it was silly they had a Dungeons and Dragons campaign at the event.
At first, I agreed with him. I thought it was silly as well, especially since Geek.kon, the very event I was at instead of the Pagan Pride day event, had several ongoing campaigns (not to mention all of the non-Pagan roleplayers who probably are still trying to explain to some people that the game has nothing to do with actual occult practices). But since then, I got to think about it. I've gotten to think about it quite a bit. While it was certainly something I wouldn't have looked for at a Pagan gathering, it strikes a chord with many pagans. Why? Because it emphasizes both creativity and the ever important sense of play.
What is a sense of play? A sense of play is a sense of humor. It's not taking life so seriously that you let your own ego or self overshadow what's important. It's the ability to laugh at something you've just said because you realize how ridiculous it sounds... without still thinking it strange that you believe it in the first place. I think the reason that the things that I write and say can sometimes put people off is that I rarely try to do anything without a sense of humor about the whole thing. While it's true that I do take certain things quite seriously, I am well aware of the ludicrous nature of life in the first place.
A sense of fun and joy is what breathes life into everything a person does when you think about it. It's what takes an otherwise stodgy ritual and turns it into a connected liberating experience. It's what takes something you've done dozens of times before and makes it new all the new times. It's how you know you're still alive when everything else is in doubt.
I believe that most Neo-Pagan faiths, Wicca very much included, do their best when they evoke that sense of play... that sense of joy. That sense that makes you giggle like an eight year old.
Now, I'm not saying that it's necessarily always appropriate to break out laughing in the middle of most rituals. But Neo-Paganism is a movement based around celebrating life, and life is best celebrated through the experience of joy. Experiencing and appreciating life are are positive experiences, and moments of understanding these should be accompanied by happiness. Feeling a connection with the divine should make you smile.
Where people go wrong is when they think that to truly believe in something they must treat it as though it is the most serious and humorless subject on Earth. When a person does that, criticism of one's faith changes from being something that one rolls their eyes at to something almost criminal instead. Theological differences change from things that merely are a source of good debate into reasons to hate someone. Think of faith without play like a forest without moisture, one spark and the entire the entire thing goes up in flames.
This is not to say that one's faith should not be taken seriously. Far from it. That seriousness cannot overshadow though the absolute joy that can be felt, and the sense of play that comes with it. To return to the metaphor, if we have only moisture, only water... we drown. If we accept that Wicca is about dualism in nature (which most traditions will argue it is), then the duality between seriousness and play must be taken in proper account as well. If we take nothing seriously, then it's just a game. Magick would be no different from the fictional magic in Wisconsin's own Dungeons and Dragons. On the other hand, if we take it too seriously, we become not only reactionary, but miss the joy and connection which fulfills Magick's promise in the first place.
So yeah, having a Dungeons and Dragons campaign at a Pagan Pride event may be a little out of place for some, and while I wouldn't partake in it, I understand it. It's about having fun. It's all about playing while understanding the divine.
And that's the point.