Pagans and Death: Holding Space for Other Faiths

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Pagans believe a wide variety of things when it comes to death.  Some believe in the Summerland, a place to go to rest after this life.  Some believe we die and our soul energy becomes part of the Universe from which we came.  Some believe we just die, plain and simple.  But what do we do when we are faced with the death of a loved one who believes in something different?

Every faith has a slightly different theology on death.  Working within the context of that faith can be hard for someone who doesn’t believe, but ultimately, it is the choice of the dying as to what faith they want to be surrounded by.  It’s our responsibility to make sure that happens for them, despite our own faith or sometimes lack thereof.

Recently, I reconnected with my uncle.  We had been apart for many years.  He was my Godfather, my Confirmation Sponsor, my mentor, and my friend.  He helped raise me in the Roman Catholic faith and he never said anything negative to me when I slid easily into the Pagan faith.  “You do what you gotta do.  Believe what you believe and don’t let anyone tell you something different.”  We picked on each other mercilessly, but he was like a dad to me.  But at Thanksgiving, I realized that he no longer embraced the faith that he was once so strong in.  I don’t know what brought him to that point, but it was clear when he was asked to participate in the Thanksgiving blessing and he refused, that something had changed.  All the while, he was dying of cancer.

In situations like that, how do Pagan ministers fit in?  How do we minister to the dying?  Do we minister at all?

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Being Pagan in a Christian Family

I was there as family.  But I was holding space for him.  I was holding space for everyone that visited.  But what does that mean?  “Holding space”?  It means providing support for the dying.  Being nonjudgmental.  Being present and not thinking about the bill you need to pay or the grocery list.  It’s being able to take care of the needs of the dying.  Or maybe you hold space for the people taking care of the dying and give them the support they need.  Make sure they nourish themselves, stay with the dying and let the support people take a day off.

Holding space has no religion.  It has no faith other than the faith in humankind, that we live and we die.  By holding space, with no faith attached, only love, we ease the passing of our loved ones and allow them to die in the way they choose.  It’s not easy.  Watching someone you care about die is probably one of the hardest things to do.  Holding space for them is a gift for everyone involved.

What Does it Take to Hold Space?

Anyone can hold space.  You don’t need specific training or a fancy title to hold space for someone.  You don’t even have to hold space for someone that’s dying.  You can hold space for a woman giving birth.  Or a couple getting married.  Or even for someone who’s had a really bad day that needs some support.

  1. Patience: being patient in a situation that can be frustrating or scary is a necessity. You can be the quiet voice that provides a grounding point.
  2. Calm: keeping calm when someone’s world seems to be falling apart isn’t easy. But helping them take a breath and meet everything head on, with a calm head and an open heart can be a very rewarding experience.  Let them make the decisions that need to be made, sometimes with a gentle nudge if it’s an imperative subject.  All the while, maintain your calm.
  3. Knowledge: knowing the process the person is going through, whether it is death, birth, or anything in between, is helpful to know what is coming and how to help the person if they need assistance.  The internet is full of great, reliable resources for research.
  4. Be ready for anything: When you are holding space, be ready for anything that can happen. Have healthy snacks available, tissues, basic medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and music of all sorts.

Holding Space in Any Faith

When holding space, sometimes that means reading to the dying or playing and singing music for them, especially when they transition.  You don’t have to be Christian to read the Bible aloud, or be Muslim to read the Quran.  The purpose of reading is known to the dying, and you can provide them the comfort they need, without judgment.  Playing or singing music can help calm the nerves of the dying and the people attending to them.

Listening to what the dying needs is paramount, as is having a plan, should they become unable to speak, which often happens near the end.

Don’t forget to take time for yourself as well.  Treat yourself well, do something nice for yourself every once in a while, and remember it is ok to cry out your emotions.  You need the release so you can take care of others.

Holding space for people is a gift given from a place of love.  Spread the love and help where you can.  Hold space when needed, and know that someone will hold space for you one day.

 

9 Reasons to Go to Pagan Spirit Gathering

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It’s that time of year again!  Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), hosted by Circle Sanctuary, will be ending registration on June 4, 2016, so if you are thinking of going, get registered!  If you have no idea what PSG is, keep reading for more information and reasons to attend!

 
For more information and to register, click here!

Nine Reasons to Attend PSG

1.  Coming Home!  For many PSGers, attending PSG is like going home.  If you’ve never been, it’s like finding family you never knew you had.  People are friendly, helpful, and ready to make new friends.  From the Gate Crew that checks you in to your new neighbors for the festival, you will be met with smiles and friendship.
ComeHomeLabyrinth2.  Merchants! PSG brings out the best merchants in Pagan wares, including (but certainly not limited to,) Taldish Castle which features all kinds of Pagan things from around the world as well as hand made items, Wizard’s Emporium that features clothing, Pagan things, and more, and Rainbow Dragon Dreamz which features stones, horns, and more.  At last count, there are 33 different vendors this year!

3.  Workshops! If you are looking for workshops, PSG has them in every flavor you could imagine.  PSG pulls in the best teachers out there from our communities to create a list of workshops that will satisfy your every curiosity.  Over 100 workshops are available for your perusal!  Check out the workshops here!

4.  Rituals! There are over 30 rituals at PSG, starting with the opening ritual on Sunday and ending with the closing ritual the following Sunday.  In between, there are rituals for Rites of Passage, opening different areas around town, Handfasting, and Baby Wiccaning.  There are small rituals and huge rituals, rituals for men, and rituals for women.  There’s even a ritual to Bast!  Check out the rituals here!

PSG Main Rite Bonfire 20125.  Pagan Leadership Institute (PLI)! The PLI is for any Pagan that is in clergy, ministry, or any leadership position, or is training to be in one.  These specialized classes help deepen our understanding of what it means to be a leader, as well as give us more tools to use when we go back home.  PLI classes are taught by leaders within our community.  Look in the workshop link above for PLIs!

6.  Community! PSG creates a village or town that is entirely Pagan.  It’s a great opportunity to be immersed in the Pagan community, which is unique to PSG.  Once you are there, you can let your Pagan flag fly and be yourself!

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7.  Sweat Lodge! Have you ever wanted to participate in a sweat lodge?  PSG is the place to enjoy a good sweat!  The people that set up and facilitate the sweat lodge are amazing and they walk you through every step.

8.  Concerts! PSG brings in some amazing Pagan musicians that will teach workshops, hold meet and greets, and have concerts!  This year, Tuatha Dea, Celia, Spiral Rhythm, Sentinel Grove, Arthur Hinds, Brian Henke and Beltana Spellsinger will delight everyone with their own brands of music.

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9.  Nationally known presenters! Selena Fox, Byron Ballard, Kathryn Hinds, Lupa, Judith Olson-Linde and Nels Linde will share knowledge through workshops and meet and greets.  It’s a great way to get to know these great leaders in our community.

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10.  BONUS! Bardapalooza!  In this one night, all of the musicians will come together for a wonderful night of sharing music between the groups, to the awe of everyone in attendance!

 

If you’ve never attended a festival, you should seriously look into PSG.  It’s an amazing experience no matter how long you’ve been on your path.

Many Blessings!  Come see us at PSG under the Three Rivers Pagans banner!

 

Getting Festival-Ready

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It’s been a long winter.  The cold and snow seemed to really bring people down this year, and it seem to extend long into our traditional spring.  The energy and wonderful feelings of the last outdoor festivals of last year are fading a bit, but that wonderful season is about to start again.  It’s time to get out your camping gear, clean things up, and check you list twice before heading out to some great events with fabulous people.  But what do you really need when you go camping at a Pagan event?

First and foremost, you need shelter.  Whether you use a tent that’s been in your family for years or a new one out of the box, or even have a camper, you need to make sure it’s in good working order and you know how to set it up.  Consider if you are going to be by yourself or if you’ll have others staying with you and make sure everyone knows how to set up and take down the equipment.  Before you head out to your first festival of the season, make sure all the seams are waterproofed and that it’s all nice and clean.  There’s nothing worse than setting up your home for the week and realizing there’s a hole in the fabric or that it’s moldy.  Ok, maybe there’s one thing that’s worse.  Realizing you left poles or tent stakes at home.

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Along with shelter, you need bedding.  Make sure it’s bedding that you are going to be comfortable with for the duration of your festival, and take at least one more blanket than you think you need.  You never know if you’ll get a night that is a bit colder than normal, or if you’ll get a sunburn (like I usually do) and want a little extra warmth for a night or two.  Take care to make sure you have batteries for an air mattress pump, and that you have an alternative plan if your bed springs a leak.  My favorite that I’ve used for a few festivals is a thinner queen size air mattress with a memory foam mattress pad over the top.  The pad is washable, which is perfect after a hot and sweaty festival.  I actually hate going home to my big king size comfy bed after I’ve been on the air mattress.

Will you be cooking at the festival or are you going to eat from vendors?  If you’re cooking, precook everything you can.  Make sure you have a list of meals and all the ingredients, including spices.  You don’t necessarily need a list of what meals on what day, but don’t take your whole kitchen “just in case” either.  If you are planning on eating at the vendors, do some research as to what types will be there and how people like their food.  Take plenty of money and put it in a safe place.  And don’t forget to inquire about ingredients if you have allergies.

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Water or other hydration is exceptionally important at summer festivals.  There are two festivals that are a must for me in the summer, and I have to treat the water issue differently at each one.  The first one is held at a location that has very iron-filled water, to the point that it comes out of the spigot orange.  I can’t stand the taste.  The first year we tried to filter it with a Brita filter.  Even running it through twice didn’t make it better, although keeping it cold and adding lemonade mix made it tolerable.  This year, I’m bringing bottled water, in gallons to produce less waste.  At another festival I attend, the water is perfect with a Brita filter, if I remember to change the filter from the first festival.  So know the quality of the water at the location you are going to and make adjustments as needed.  Staying hydrated is very important!

Now that the basics are covered, it’s time for the fun stuff!  Clothing, depending on the festival, can be any variety.  Think of comfort, especially with the weather.  I love flowing dresses, capris, tanks, sandals, and just easy things to wear.  Don’t forget a light jacket or sweatshirt, and if you like, jingling skirts for dancing around bonfires.  Festivals are a time where you can shed your mundane clothing and get creative.  I see a lot of people, men and women, in sarongs and they look pretty darn comfortable.

Other things to bring to a festival are musical instruments!  Drums, rattles, guitars, anything that can make beautiful music and you are comfortable in playing is perfect for festivals.  I have a djembe that I adore and take with me, as well as a rattle egg.

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Lastly, take a moment and make yourself up a portable altar, if you are so inclined.  It doesn’t have to be fancy and probably shouldn’t be expensive, but pack up a few things that make you feel at home.  I usually add a few crystals, a Goddess statue I made, a battery operated candle, and an altar tile.  I have a little handmade table that packs flat and a pretty cloth I toss over it, and it’s a great focal point when I need to take some time and meditate or just get away for a few minutes.

There are a lot of other things you can and might need to take with you.  Before heading out to any festival you haven’t been to before, ask other people that go what you need to bring.  Most often, the festival has a list they can provide for you.  Camping at Pagan festivals is one of the most rewarding things I do during the summer.  The friendships I’ve made and connections I forged are wonderful things that keep me going through the long winter months.  I heartily recommend hitting up some Pagan or other festivals.  It’s well worth your time!