I love the night sky. I grew up in Los Angeles in the ’70s where the night sky was pretty much a hidden mystery Smog and the light pollution reduced the scope to only the brightest stars and planets in the sky. But I also grew up going camping every summer. Often to the wide open dessert where the vast night sky came alive with stars, planets and the galaxy itself.
I remember looking up for the first time and thinking “That’s why it’s called the Milky Way.” All those stars creating a milky stain of light across the great blackness. There would be other moments as well, a small telescope that brought the craters of the moon and the rings of Saturn into my view, the first solar eclipse where we followed the progress on the ground in shadows created by pierced cardboard.
These experiences may have been the first steps on my road to loving science and nature. The wonder, the amazement I felt didn’t require deity or magic, it was real and awe inspiring all its own.
Tonight is the full moon, and it reminds me that I’ve done little with the night sky in regards to my practice. Considering how prevalent the full moon is in pagan practice and how I started this blog with a post about a lunar eclipse, it’s a terrible oversight on my part.
Last year, when I first started thinking of turning to paganism, but before the idea of the blogging it, I spent a fair amount of time looking at all things lunar. As a lifelong star-gazer, and night-sky lover, one of the first tasks I set for myself was figuring out what role the moon would play in my observances.
I named the moons according to my circumstances and surroundings just like I named the eight seasons of the Wheel. On the first full moon I set out a pretty bottle of water to make “moon water” and offered a prayer to the full moon.
On the second, the full moon fell on the day after Yule. I almost forgot about it. Between figuring out and celebrating the Solstice, Yuletide and still doing all the Christmas stuff I was overwhelmed. I struggled to keep up with barest of observances. My daily planner became crowded with workaday tasks and appointments, and I forgot to include “Do a Full Moon Ritual”. I remembered at the last minute and ran out with my moon-water bottle to the backyard with no place prepared to even put it in the moon light. I put it on the patio table instead.
But the biggest culprit in my failure to keep up with my Lunar Observances— I felt silly.
I want to be a wild child of the forest and dance naked by the light of the moon, chant prayers while the smoke of incense curls about me, drape myself in robes made of cobwebs and fantasy.
The reality of me in the backyard in my PJs yelling at my dog to stop barking so I could concentrate on remembering the prayer I wrote that morning stripped away the dream. It left me naked in the light of my self-consciousness, rather than the moon (which I couldn’t find anyhow since it was a cloudy, rainy winter– and it was too cold to actually be naked.)
Then I forgot about the bottle for several days. My moon water was more sun than moon water at that point. The disappointment in my failure to both open myself to the power of ritual or follow through with bringing in the moon water the next morning, ruined the whole thing for me.
This feeling of silliness has led me to abandoned much of my plans regarding ritual since starting all this. My hope in finding peace and deeper meaning in life through pagan practices has struggled unsuccessfully against my inability to block out the little voice in my head that says, “This is ridiculous. It’s not real. You’re wasting your time.”
I know that voice, my inner-critic is a frequent and unwanted visitor, and it is wrong. It isn’t ridiculous and it’s not a waste of time. As far as reality, it’s both real and not real. The act of ritual is real. There may even be a very real placebo effect afterward. Yet, I am fully aware that magic isn’t real, that the benefit doesn’t come from anything supernatural, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just playing pretend.
No matter how intellectually I try to approach it, I can’t get past it.
They call it a path for a reason.
So, no, I’m not going to put out the bottle tonight, or dance naked by the light of the moon. I’ll get to those things in time, I think there’s a fair bit of traveling I need to do before I find the place for the more “magical” rituals.