A funny thing happened at my high school reunion.
With great Pagan panache, I appeared in a purple gown cut along the lines of a classical Greek robe. I wore what I call my Pagan bling bling, a pentagram about the diameter of a Big Gulp cup sprinkled with amethyst chips. After all, I had no reason to disguise what I was under a cloak of the mundane. These were people who had known me back when I was a caterpillar. Now I was a caterpillar with wings.
Anyway, I got a drink of Generic Punch X and went to join a cluster of people. It took twenty seconds for the question to hit. “When did you convert?”
Once I figured out he was talking to me, I tried making the most vacuous face I possibly could. “Convert?”
“Yeah. To Judaism.” Politely he motioned to my above-mentioned bling bling. “That’s a pretty Star of David you’ve got.”
This wasn’t the first time. I mean I understand how a star is a star unless you know that there’s a vital difference. Maybe other Pagans would take this opportunity to expound upon the ancient history of the pentagram, continuing long after any interest has waned. I didn’t. “It’s a symbol of natural religion,” I said by way of clarification. That seemed to be enough. The evening went on and I discovered that all of the ritual work in the world would never make me a dancer.
A few mornings later I was relating this story to a Wiccan friend on the subway. To my surprise, she covered her mouth with a silver-decked hand and gasped. “You must have been so offended!”
Offended? Well actually, I wasn’t. How could I be? My reunion chums were familiar with the Star of David but not with the pentagram. As none of them are Pagan, I wouldn’t have expected them to recognize the pentagram. Regardless, I’d gotten a good laugh out of the event. I couldn’t quite understand why my aforementioned friend found more offense than humor.
“He who laughs last didn’t get the joke.”
In recent months I’ve encountered a growing number of Pagans who seem to have misplaced their senses of humor. It’s my hope that I’m just running into killjoys and not a representative population. We’re not really in a humor crisis, are we? One of the things I like about Pagan paths is the sense of humor and the idea that spirituality should be fun. I like being able to laugh at myself. There’s nothing so serious that an injection of good humor won’t improve it. That being said, is it any wonder that I just have to shrug at Pagans full of their own importance, Pagans who won’t deign to have a good laugh?
Laughter is a gift from the divine. It is the divine expressing joy and elation through us. Every laugh is a thank-you to the Powers That Be for life and the ability to enjoy life. Through laughter, not only is the divine served, but we serve ourselves as well. We’ve all heard the adage about laughter being the best medicine. Humor is good for us. A good chuckle reduces stress and raises the level of endorphins in the body, leaving us to feel especially good. Perhaps best of all, humor helps to keep the episodes of life in good perspective.
When I was learning the Wiccan path I had the benefit of a close-knit group and circle elders who understood the sanctity of humor. The woman who was both priestess and mentor always reminded us to laugh at ourselves. If I forgot the words to my Full Moon oration, I learned to have a good “D’oh!” and then go back to dip into the endless cauldron of inspiration. Ritual may be sacred, but it is also a circus begging for messes to occur. People are going to spill the libation and knock over candles. Rain can soak the most devoted of celebrants, turning a grand outdoor observance into an ad libbed indoor rite. Maybe the person baking the esbat cakes used the driest recipe possible.
This is all part of what makes the celebration dynamic and personal. There are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong, in that the Powers That Be have given us built-in openings for humor and laughter. To err may be human, but to be able to get up and laugh at one’s self is a gift.
All right then, so somebody explain to me why someone – anyone – would abandon the gift of humor. You can be serious about your path without taking yourself too seriously. Are people choosing to give up humor in exchange for dry observation and almost mechanical experience? I cannot tell if people are not getting subtle humor or if they are refusing to roll in the mud of laughter and silliness. Recently, I’ve come to wonder if this isn’t the price all of us as a community must pay after decades of endless challenges from more orthodox religious traditions. Has all the fighting knocked the laughter out of us? I don’t believe it.
Everybody, listen up! We’re not like the traditions that focus more on the negative aspects of being human. The spiritual world touches us all, and engaging with the spiritual world is fun! Celebrate with laughter the hours of the day and the seasons of the year. Giggle at what strikes you funny. Take a good look at yourself and ask if you might be taking yourself too seriously. Does a question from a newcomer inspire you to a relaxed explanation or to indignant frustration?
Somewhere you have your own Pagan bling bling. You have your own story to tell of a path-related incident that made you laugh. This is the Powers That Be touching you and letting you know of their love. Embrace that sense of humor and laugh out loud to the stars. Laugh until you don’t have the power to laugh anymore. This is message sent and received. This is the appreciation of the cosmic gift.
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