This has become something of a bee in my bonnet over the last few articles, but this is going to touch upon a similar subject to my previous couple of articles. Previously I wrote about what could be called the ‘Paradox of Pagans and Heathens’ and then I wrote in a more focused way on what sets Pagans and Heathens apart (in some ways) from other religious ways. This time I’m tightening the focus even more and really trying to hone in on the ballast that keeps the proverbial ship afloat. In essence what lets the whole thing work without falling apart. The simplest answer to this is that Pagans and Heathens know when to cut loose and know when not to cut loose. It is a phenomenon that stems from that word I have a great many issues with, balance. The oscillation between party and practice is what engenders a sense of equilibrium to Pagan and Heathen practice, returning to the idea that pure anything can become befouled quite rapidly.
In perhaps an unfortunate stereotype that the thing Pagans and Heathens are best known for in the public eye is how well we throw a party, so to speak. Overly orgiastic and rooted in medieval preconceptions of other religious practices, there is no denying that the stereotype itself is problematic and irritatingly pervasive. However like all stereotypes this one has a root or basis in fact. One way or another, Pagans and Heathens know how to have a good time (more broadly in a religious sense but that ought to be obvious). Whether it is a Beltane celebration or a Troth or a Symbel, there is an overarching theme of unrestrained celebration. Not debauched, but also not constrained by the regulation of anyone other than those that you are celebrating with. Another way of saying this is that because we treat each other as equals in the situation and do so because we have mutual respect for one another, rather than because we are being told that we have to. Which does help when the time comes to switch off.
I’ve said it many, many times before but this is where it really comes to the fore – too much of anything becomes a bad thing and Pagans and Heathens know this well. Switching off the party and switching on the practice and being able to do so without a higher authority than yourself and your self-awareness is part of why Pagans and Heathens manage to have a time to practice and a time to party.