I have the fortune and the burden of working in the town where I grew up and lived most of my life (even though I don’t currently “live” there, though I spend almost as much time there as I do at my home during the work week; and, if they do hire me on full-time here, I’ll be moving here more permanently). Nearly every street and neighborhood here has a memory for me: “Oh, I used to know so-and-so who lived there,” “Oh, I went to a party here once,” and so forth. I’ve seen this town grow and change (not always in positive ways) over many decades.
Thus, this is the town where I lived when I first got involved in modern paganism.
And, though in those early years when I was living at home and not really “out” to my custodial parents about anything (religious or otherwise!), and thus not really able to be practicing much in terms of rituals, and my home shrine was hidden away and protected with spells (that I suspect might still work on the cabinet where it was located in my room!), I have had few if any rituals in this town. When I was home from college and would do things during the summer or other breaks with some of my friends, they were done out of town, on the outskirts of it, at Mt. Erie, out in the country. I’ve never had a proper ritual, as-such, in the town itself. I’ve danced and sang in some of the city parks over the years with friends as part of some observance or other, certainly; I’ve made offerings (recently) into the harbor, I’ve done daily prayers and small things in my office here…
But, a full-on ritual, with offerings and singing and prayers and so forth, within the city limits of Oak Harbor? Nope, never, not once.
Later today, I’ll be doing that for the first time, thus. The place where I am planning on this taking place–a local park within a mile of where I am now–I have not set foot in for more than a decade, I think. The last time I was there, I was dancing with a friend to some Krishna Das music briefly before we went to a wedding reception. (I’m listening to Krishna Das right this moment, actually…on which more in a separate post later or in the next few days.)
It’s strange…This place is an inextricable part of my psychic landscape, and yet this is something entirely outside of my experience at this point.
Do you know that thing which happens to some performers, who are great in a performance in front of thousands of people, but then they falter when they know that their mother is in the audience? This kind of feels like that: I’ve done rituals halfway across the world, and in many other parts of the U.S. (including not far from here, in Anacortes and Seattle and Bellingham), in front of large groups of people, but this is different. Two people who will be there have only done/been at one other ritual, ever (this one!), and while I’d like it to be good for them, at the same time, I know that pretty much anything will be good as far as they’re concerned…And, I know the main Diva who will be receiving our praises appreciates anything and everything that people are able to do for her, and should be pleased with this (which may be the largest group I’ve ever had for a ritual to her–the next-largest being myself and two others, including Erynn Rowan Laurie, in 2009 at her house, and likewise one in 2005 in Ireland with two others, including Sharynne MacLeod Nic Mhacha at my house there), nonetheless, there’s another audience that we don’t often take as much into account as we ought to, even as scrupulous, self-conscious, and (most importantly!) other-aware polytheists and animists, which is the place of place itself and those places that are particular to us and know us and in which we have lived, but which may not be “used to” certain sorts of activities by us in those locations.
So, I’m kind of nervous about that, I think. Just as a lot of people I knew growing up in this town can’t separate me as the individual I am now from the person I was that time in the 8th grade and so forth, it feels like the town itself might have some “record” of that…and while I have faith that the town will just go, “Oh, okay, that’s different–but cool!” at the same time, the fear is there. Is it the people that have made this town so difficult, unfriendly, and dismissive of the diversity of some of its inhabitants, or is it the town itself that has become so imprinted with that kind of attitude that it has absorbed and assimilated some of those tendencies, and it then in turn makes newer arrivals end up that way as well? It’s hard to say…
This town has always felt different to me than the region and the island upon which it is located, so we’ll see what the verdict later happens to be. I am not anticipating trouble, but I’m also at least mentally preparing for there to be if it does occur…
What are your thoughts on such matters? Are there places (apart from the obvious sorts!) that you would fear or be averse to doing your regular practices or rituals for reasons apart from the people who live there and might interfere? Do you have experiences in this regard?