…Show, Don’t Tell…
Every writer knows this little bit of crucial advice. It’s how we manage to convey the innermost thoughts and feelings of our characters without using pages and pages of arbitrary scene description. In this context, we take the reader along with the protagonist, on the journey and into the action as it is happening, not as an afterthought. It helps the reader to suspend their disbelief if they feel like they are a part of the story, experiencing situations while in their midst.
In a way, this could also be applied to religious activities. This is why video and audio contributions from Polytheist authors and bloggers become so popular. People want and need to see how things are accomplished, even if they later decide not to practice in the ways observed. You see, without dedicated land and buildings set aside for the worship of the Gods, we are not readily exposed to the many rich traditions of our pasts.
It is true, we have many academic works that we may infer conclusions from, and even scholarly religious works written by Polytheists, for Polytheists, and however grateful we may be for this tradition of scrutiny applied to the roots of our faiths, following the dictates of any written work is limiting. At some point, hopefully, we begin to apply our own intuition to what we’ve learned from the many tomes.
This is the point when we being to show ourselves the true commitment we have, or do not have, for our faiths. If nothing more, practice, offering and simple focus upon the Gods serve to keep us within the fold of our religious traditions, while simultaneously challenging us to make them work, for us.
As opposed to a strict orthopraxy, some may find that building new structure upon the foundation of accepted rites and ritual forms will better suit them in these modern times. I am one of those individuals. My Land is alive and my religion is alive, so why should I be fated to, ever-so-slowly, reconstruct the body of past practices for a location that was completely unknown to the ancient Hellenes?
The answer is I shouldn’t, and I won’t. Instead, I choose to immerse myself in what is now, in the present time.
Some weeks ago, a few of my spiritual Sisters and I were having a chat about names and labels within the various Polytheistic communities, when one of us was finally able to pin down a couple of terms that seem to work for a few of us. One is Revivalism, which speaks to the natural growth within Polytheistic faiths.
Revivalism (seen here in the Roman variety), in my view, is a growth of the spirit which inspired past practices and lore. As opposed to keeping the old ways and stories like we might keep a crutch, the old ways inform how we respond to the very real demands of the Land and its spirits, as well as the Gods, and helps us to devise new but accepted protocols with which to deal with these demands.
I know that many of the things my local spirits ask for may not have been conceivable in the ancient past. Personally, this is why Immersion (the second term to be discussed) plays such an important role in my spiritual practice. In order to become immersed within one’s own local framework, one must be willing to listen, and to be shown what is acceptable to the spirits one works with.
Immersion is the beginning of the path toward a true Revival, thus Camilla has coined the term Immersion (or, Immersive) Polytheism to refer to this first step, as practiced by those of us who claim the term.
I have talked about this before, though I had no proper name for it then, in my post here. Immersion is seeing from a different perspective. It is seeing, acknowledging, and aligning oneself to this world, as it is, while still maintaining deep ties to the subtle worlds surrounding us. It is allowing those subtle worlds to influence our everyday lives, and the ways we interact with our own world. If witchcraft were the topic instead of Polytheism, I might say that Immersion were equal to living the craft, in each moment of every day.
In this context, living the craft, or practice rather, could mean any number of things to any number of practitioners. Our individuality will shine here as our souls become entwined with those of the Land, and the Gods supporting us. It is important that we accept what is happening. To deny the subtle changes in our awareness will lead to stifled spiritual practices, and a lot of unhappiness on our parts, and the parts of those we claim to serve.
After we have become immersed in the life of our local community of spirits and Gods, the natural step forward would be to record what works, discard what doesn’t, listen, and to watch for what the spirits show us. We are all in this together, and we are all participating in varying amounts of show and tell. This is normal, however, I think that generally we’ve probably done enough telling for the next few hundred years. The future will be built by those who are able to show others their life’s work, and not only tell about it in writing. [Yes, I am one of those people who needs to write less and do more.]
There are so many ways to do this. One could organize rituals for the locals (spirit and/or human), or simply record one’s own rituals for a viewing audience later. One could participate in radio/internet broadcasts discussing important elements of their tradition and practices.
Showing is of course very easily done via the written word, and there are some wonderful anthologies available that give us glimpses into the world and work of others. I am not discounting the power of the written word, but why remain shackled by it when there exist alternatives that some, as individuals, might find more appealing and inspirational to their own practice? Immersion is also embracing modern technology and modern techniques for the advancement of Polytheism.
Once we are in tune with the life all around us, which is participating in this existence along side us, we may begin to find the elusive structure many of us are seeking. We have to build it, though, and that starts within (with help from our a/Allies), as we commit to showing ourselves, and each other, what we’re able to accomplish in this world, as well as the Others.