Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tweaking Tradition

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where we're either tried and true or fried and stew! We'll let the faeries decide.

When I left the One God Religion, I had a good dozen or more reasons for doing so. Ranked way down on the list was one that I've given some thought to over the past four years.

Let's say I was 45 when I decided not to go to the Methodist church anymore. By that age, I knew every word to every Christmas carol. I knew by heart the alto for the "Hallelujah Choir" by Handel and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." I knew every verse of about ten favorite Methodist hymns, and all five verses of "Christ the Lord Has Risen Today."

One of the final times I went to the Methodist church, after I'd already walked on them, was on Christmas Eve. (I forget why I went.) There they were, all the well-dressed white people, holding their little candles and singing "Silent Night" as the sanctuary lights dimmed around them.

That's when I realized. I'd been through this scene 44 times, conscious of it at least 40. Forty years of "Silent Night," little white candles, in a big dim church.

I sat there looking around, and there were a great many white heads in the congregation. I began to wonder how many times these people had sung "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve, holding little white candles?

Many of us revel in tradition, in doing things the same way year after year, regular as clockwork. Just watch my mother-in-law turn white as a sheet when I say I want to make fresh bread stuffing on Thanksgiving. Unthinkable!

It's this need for comforting regularity that helps religions stay in business. Someone who loves Christmas as a kid is going to remember all those carols as an adult and want to sing them again, because it reminds them of being a kid.

Okay, sue me for the grammar lapse, but you get what I mean, don't you?

It's the craving for tradition that has allowed Halloween, Easter, and May Day to survive, even if these holy days have mostly been tweaked. Would I go to McDonald's on Halloween, and then out to a movie? Pish tosh, no.

But there's that little conundrum. How can we keep a tradition going without it getting trodden to dust with boredom? Will there come a day when people yawn as they worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

I think this is a personal matter, but here's my advice:

1. If you're bored with the same old rituals in your praise and worship regimen, change religions! (I always suggest this first. It helps the bored gods.)

2. If you're bored with your religion and the rules of that religion allow it, alter the regimen! You don't have to throw out every tradition, just feel free to indulge in modifications.

What brings this pressing topic to mind? My Druid Grove will celebrate Beltane on Sunday, and I'm willing to forgo the Maypole. Do we really need to wind ribbons around a stick to celebrate the resurgence of life and the beginning of the growing season?

This is where worshiping bored gods comes in really, really handy. They are so glad you're paying attention to them at all that they're not going to chide you for not doing it right.

Perhaps you appreciate this more if you once were a ten-year-old acolyte trying to heft a bronze cross up a long church aisle, keeping it perfectly straight all the while, only to find the acolyte coordinator hissing at you from the nave because you have white socks on under your robe. To the tune of "Joy to the World," to which you know the soprano descant.

We at "The Gods Are Bored" say that traditions need to be tweaked, or trashed, or observed as you see fit. Have a heart-to-heart with your deity of choice and let him, her, or them guide your practice. You'll see. White socks will be A-Okay.


Erik said...

I was definitely that kid with the bronze cross - acolyte, crucifer, youth choir, I even followed the minister (my grandfather) with the tray for the empty communion cups.

Thing is, I liked it... I do crave the regularity of religious ritual. I just have severe disagreements with the theology. What's a wannabe "high church" pagan to do?

Sarita said...

Maybe most Christians aren't aware the Jesus intentionally shook up traditions, to make people actually think rather than doing things mechanically (and maybe getting bored...)...anyways, that's what I heard. :P

I like your ideas here, Anne. I'll keep it in mind if I start getting bored. And it's nice to know that white socks are allowed. :)

dawtch said...

Well, alrighty then! I went to Catholic School (two of them), Catholic church, Pentecostal church & Baptist church - both regular & "southern." I really don't miss the traditions, though as you can probably guess, I never really got attached to any of them :) So we make 'em as we go...Our Yule tradition..? Rotini! Preferably with friends, but we can eat a whole pan ourselves...usually. Halloween? Ours actually DOES include McDonald's - but not the movie. (The monster child is allergic to chocolate...)Ummm...Easter..? That's the day we stay home & hang out, and the boy gets a basket of goodies - usually movies, games or cool clothes (chocolate allergy again...) so yeah - I think make it up as you go is the best way :)
Although - I DO do the whole decorate-the-shit-outta-anything-that-doesn't-run thing for Xmas - I Love that part, and would start mid-Oct (if Hunny would let me...)
ps it only lets me list one address, and I have two0:( the second is at

Celestite said...

I think the only thing the Catholic Church ever did right was the full blown High Mass and they don't even do that anymore.
My rituals are always different because I can't be bothered to write them down and I have a short memory. I tell myself the bored gods appreciate that.

yellowdog granny said...

the only ritual i ovserve is the lighting of candles and the sending of prayers...

Thalia Took said...

Aww, but winding ribbons 'round a stick is so sexy!

Okay, probably I'm just jonesing for a Maypole since I haven't had one in years.

Oh, er, yeah, I mean, you know.