Me by my main altar, with a fun headscarf. Basically I just tie lots of fabric around my head 🙂
Spirit is pure wave, potential, the dream of a child: all of which, I argue, is imagination.
Few who wish to connect with spirit would be comfortable equating it with imagination. I want to make it clear that I am not downplaying the reality of spirit in any way. For it is also true, as Schrodinger might tell us, that all unobserved things exist solely as waves, solely within potential, solely within the imagination. Yet unobserved things are generally maintained to be as real as observed things. Your partner remains real when she is not in view, as does the rest of the world.
All fiction is merely a reality removed from our sight, but alive some world away.
All that is possible in imagination becomes material, somewhere, somehow. My metaphysics of creation speaks of a great love affair between potential and actualization. Nothingness abounds with absolute potential. Nothingness is a cauldron of roiling imagination. Meanwhile Everything roils with being. Everything and nothing are lovers whose passion bears both being and imagination, the world of Something.
We are children of Everything and Nothing. Our five physical senses tell us of the world of Being, and our imagination is our sensory apparatus of Potential. We live with a foot in both worlds, though many choose not to recognize it.
And when your own being passes from this world, rest assured that the imagination of you – your spirit – returns to the womb of potential until it passes into being again, somewhere, somehow.
Of course this is all my own fancy, and my aim is not to convince but to suggest, to spark someone else’s own ideas. Naturally, I believe that spirit lives in all forms we imagine it.
Spirit is pure wave, the dream
of a child, dancing
where breeze-blown grass rings
like a trillion bells and skies gleam
colours you’ve never seen. Spirit works
in you when you are gone, perfecting
how to imagine
your soul, until you wake
from potential into being
and back again, passing
away from spirit and into life.
the heart of butterfly,
move in me.
flow in my veins.
so vibrant, so new,
refresh my soul.
whisper your truth.
I am a pagan who covers her hair for spiritual reasons. I did it every day for some months, then decided to cover only when I wished to feel closer to spirit, and only when that intention was firm in my mind and heart, rather than letting covering be a sometimes-heartless routine. I worship no deities, so this seemed very reasonable to me. I wanted it to be special and sacred. And that is precisely why I cover my hair: to achieve a feeling of special connection with spirit. Covering puts me in a state of mindfulness and purpose. It is a very big reminder to me that I am a spiritual being, and that spirit must be attended to even whilst going through daily work and mundane activity.
Headcovering works well for many reasons. It is a striking symbol not easily forgotten about. I am a self-conscious person by nature, so it would be hard for me to ignore the fact I have fabric wound about my head. So it is unlike a special necklace — I have those too, and love them, but they do not activate spiritual mindfulness the way covering does. Also the mere act of veiling, tying and pinning my scarf, feels symbolic. I adore the very act of it, it is like a devotion. It feels humbling to me, even though as I said I worship no deities. I feel like I am entering into service to spirit when I veil.
My practices are my own. There are only so many ways to tie a scarf or sew a headcovering, but I do try to personalize to this extent too, though purely for self-expression. So I resent the accusation of cultural appropriation generally — perhaps I got ideas and inspiration from other cultures, but we live in a world where we can’t not be inspired by other cultures. What I value and believe in cannot be barred from me merely because someone else had the idea first. I have always been fiercely independent in my own belief system, as much as one can be. So I am secure in the fact that I am embodying the culture of ME, listening to what my gut really believes and acting on that alone.
To me, ritual is a story enacted with the intention to activate it. Ritual brings story a step closer to ordinary reality and a step away from extraordinary (fantasy) reality. When we talk about thinning veils this is, I believe, what we mean: accessing elements of the extraordinary by transporting them into the ordinary. Or, when a shamanic practitioner journeys, she may look for elements of the ordinary world amid the extraordinary realm of spirit or imagination, so she can bring back answers about daily life. But nothing we can experience is wholly ordinary or wholly extraordinary. It is always some ratio of the two.
So ritual is one means of changing our relationship with the ordinary and extraordinary realms. Yet my previous understanding and experience of ritual leaves me uninspired. I dislike the heavy use of rules and symbology that doesn’t resonate with me. In fact, I dislike practicing anything that doesn’t come forth from my own spirit and imagination. So I need to work on my own concept of ritual.
For me, ritual ought to be used to enact prayer, petition, and spells (things that I wish to happen). If I wish to have a particular relationship with spirit, for instance, I ought to enact that story as a ritual. I believe that ritual can be as symbolic or literal as one likes. Imagination takes centre stage here. Let’s not continue to beat down the imagination for being useless fantasy, and instead value it as our sacred sense of possibility. I want to use my imagination in ritual to enact an extraordinary story, and thus bring it closer to ordinary reality.
In one sense, this might seem to “demystify” ritual, or even reduce it to child’s play. Yet I believe that child’s play is the most powerful magic of all. If ever someone could will themselves to fly, I believe it would be the child who runs off benches, always thinking maybe this time.
For me, ritual is at its best when the practitioner can remain emotionally involved with the story of what the ritual aims to accomplish. So excess obscurity is not helpful. If I cannot find the emotional connection in ritual actions like tying cords or lighting candles, then I ought not to incorporate them. This is not to say that ritual need be emotionally overwhelming or intense, but I cannot go through it like a robot either, distanced from what it is supposed to mean!
So now comes the hard part of deciding what is most important to me spiritually that I would like to create rituals for. What stories do I wish to activate into reality? For now, I think simple things are where to start. I want to activate the reality of being mindful, focused and alert. That would be an excellent morning ritual. I want to enact the story of my deepening relationship with spirit. I want to activate the reality of being grounded and connected to all things.
All these, of course, are merely my own conclusions. I am always interested and respectful of other peoples’ beliefs and practices. I would love to hear what ritual means to you.
All creation owes itself to potential. Possibility, ultimately, brought you into being. I think this is one meaning of the shamanistic belief that we dream the world into being, even as the world likewise dreams us.
Indeed, at the heart of Everything and Nothing lies the real war — a dance of complementary duality between what is possible and impossible. This war-dance is what creates all things. This war-dance is yanantin, the concept of complementary opposites creating each other.
Thus possibility owes itself to the concept of impossibility. The important thing is that the two opposites, or two absolutes, always exist together simultaneously. You cannot really isolate one part of a complementary duality. You cannot show me, for example, “pure white” that is devoid of any defect, shadow, or even edge of darkness. Pure white depends on its edges of darkness, at the very least, to define it.
So I do not mean that some things are possible and some things are not. Everything is simultaneously possible and impossible. Everything is simultaneously light and dark, true and false, good and bad, real and unreal. Thus reality becomes a construct of story, and story a fabrication of reality.
Another key complementary duality is that of consciousness and unconsciousness (or non-consciousness). All the same aspects of yanantin apply here. Everything is simultaneously conscious and unconscious! You cannot isolate “pure consciousness” from “pure unconsciousness”. This explains the shamanistic belief in animism, that all things bear some consciousness or spirit. Consciousness, as a concept, is an absolute — but our instances of human consciousness are not absolutes, but one shade on the spectrum between consciousness and unconsciousness. So are the consciousnesses of trees, animals, rocks and rivers. Absolute unconsciousness does not exist in isolation.
How, then, are we to live, how are we to navigate a reality that is simultaneously a dream? I think the key is not to seek “reality” so hard as some seem to do. The shaman who journeys embraces more than one reality simultaneously — the “outside world,” or ordinary reality, and the “spirit world” or extraordinary reality. I believe that having a foot in both worlds means embracing imagination as an important, even sacred tool.
Ultimately, I believe that imagination is no less sacred or important than reality. So I feel that it is our duty to dream, create, and imagine as intensely as we engage with the everyday world. Nothing is wholly imagination in the sense that it is purely impossible or purely unreal. Nothing is wholly real either. So embrace both with open eyes.