Sacrifice, balance, effort and change: Misconceptions abound around these themes. They are not shiny or sexy. They are not easy to grasp, easy to teach or easy to live. They will not help to sell your next book or workshop. The term sacrifice especially, carries with it a dysfunctional ideal of martyrdom, or worse, it conjures images of innocents lying slain on a bloody altar, the lives of others (not our own, no, never our own) callously wasted in order to appease a vengeful, angry and jealous god. Pagans have no such deity, so is it any wonder that most Pagan teachers and writers don't address these issues, loaded and ill used as they are? Yet sacrifice and the need for change are something that adult Pagans deal with every day. So, as the harvest draws near and we consider balance and the turning of the wheel, the issue of sacrifice (what we give to others, what others have given for us and what we feel is required by a positive, life affirming and loving relationship to the sacred, however we define that) comes up often in our circles. So more and more thoughtful Pagans are addressing these issues. It's good to see.
Lighting A Candle Is Not Enough
Diane Sylvan, in particular, has written a wonderful essay which contains her thoughts on the true nature of sacrifice. I've quoted it below. See what you think. And if you choose to write on these themes for Mabon will you let me know? I'll post a link here.
Excerpt from Giving It Up for the Goddess by Diane Sylvan:
When I say "sacrifice," I don't mean to imply that there's a giant tote board in the sky keeping track of your deeds and wishes granted, or that the universe is a giant zero-sum game. I mean simply that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If you want something new and wonderful in your life, room must be made for it. You have to work to clear the ground and prepare the soil; if it's full of roots and rocks, you're less likely to reap a good crop. If you want to be healthier, you can't just sit around filling yourself with white light and humping your crystals--you have to make real, practical changes in your real, practical life, the life you want transformed. Life doesn't just happen on the astral plane; neither does magic. Show the gods you're willing to make the sacrifice necessary, and willing to accept the consequences of the changes you have asked for. Life is like wearing a white shirt to an Italian restaurant. There will be deliciousness and satisfaction and succulence, but there will also be marinara on your shirt.
Of course, what that means is, be careful what you wish for. When it comes down to it, is your goal worth what you'll have to give up? Is it worth the time, the extra work? Is a new relationship worth breaking off an old one? Is a more fulfilling life worth moving, changing jobs, losing friends? Are you truly willing to let go of the old way and embrace the new? If you're not, you will not succeed. If your closet is full of baggage, don't expect the gods to hand you a new wardrobe.
This is a minor sticking point I have with the Charge of the Goddess--that line about "nor do I demand aught of sacrifice." I'm sure that it was written with the intention of stating clearly that Witches don't off bunnies and kitties and babies in their rituals, but it is a bit misleading in a broader sense. No spiritual evolution has ever come freely. However, I suppose the point is that the Goddess doesn't force us into anything--in the end, we have to decide for ourselves if we are willing to give what must be given. We always have the option to walk away, to let life continue until it becomes utterly unbearable. Unfortunately what tends to happen is, if we don't walk into the sacrifice willingly when we have the opportunity, eventually things will get so horrible that we are forced out of our inertia into much more difficult choices. Life will change; that is its nature. Our freedom and responsibility is to create that change ourselves instead of allowing circumstances to dictate our stories. To quote Natasha Bedingfield, "Today is where your book begins; the rest is still unwritten."
The important thing is not to confuse "sacrifice" with "suffering." It doesn't always have to be painful, although we tend to cling so hard to our possessions and past that we bring a lot of undue pain upon ourselves. Sacrifice isn't about agony, it's about significance. As we come into the waning time of year, when Death and the Dark Queen step onto the stage, They will surely ask you: What is your heart's desire? And what do you offer Us in return?
Only you can know the answer.
Go well, stay well
What Are You Willing To Give Up For It? at the Breathless Noon Blog
The Bard and the Poser by Sia Vogel
The Principal of Sacrifice Though Balance
Off the Shelf:
Circle Within: Creating a Wiccan Spiritual Tradition
- both by Diane Sylvan