Most people know that I’m doing a Lenten working for my deities (Hecate, The Dagda, and Jesus). It ended up being a pretty hardcore (for me) disciplined working that is similar to how the nuns that I stayed with a couple of years ago for my Immersion Course structured their lives and prayer time. Before I talk more about religious life, let me describe what I’m doing in a bit more detail:
Part 1: Hecate
From the February New Moon to the Day before the Full Moon in February will be my time for Hecate. I wake up around 6:30 am (and this is agreed with all the deities for the whole working), do my morning prep (go to the bathroom, feed the cat so she doesn’t meow through my meditations, etc), and then do a (for now) 20 minute meditation. I set my timer (I use Insight Timer on my iPhone because bells!) I light incense for Her and pull a Tarot card for the day. In the evening, before I go to bed, I do another 20 minute meditation, prayers for those who have asked, and light more incense and put away the Tarot card.
So far, the meditations with Hecate have been more in regards to my own inner work and shadow work that I’ve been neglecting. (And learning not to look at the timer when doing the meditation.)
Part 2: The Dagda
From the Full Moon in February to the day before the New Moon in March is the time for the Dagda. For this part of the working, I’m still doing my morning and evening meditations (although, I don’t have to light incense). But because the Dagda is the keeper of the ever full cauldron, I have to cook (really cook, from scratch) breakfast and dinner, preferably not just for me but to feed others. Most of the time it’ll be just my wife who will benefit from this, but there are going to be a few times where I’ll need to cook for others. (Hey Cerridwen folks, this means you don’t need to bring potluck food to our next meeting on the 27th!) I also have to go to bed early (by 10 pm) during this time.
Part 3: Jesus
From the New Moon in March through Easter will be my time for Jesus. I will still be doing the morning meditation (and offering incense), but in the evenings, I need to do my own Compline prayers (the Franciscan version) and prayers for those who need them. I’ll also be going to Good Friday service, keeping a Holy Saturday vigil, and attending Easter service at City of Refuge UCC.
I came up with this working because I was thinking of doing something for Lent, and when I brought it up to my wife, she suggested I do a working with my deities. I thought that was a great idea, so I negotiated with the deities, and this is what come out. I also have a leaning towards a dedicated monastic life, and if I had gone in a different direction in my life, I may have ended up in some sort of monastic order. It got me thinking, though, that we, in the Pagan community anyway, don’t really think about Religious Life on that scale.
There’s usually a disdain towards the idea of Religious Life because when most people think of Religious Life they think Christian monks and nuns, and maybe, if they’re more in the know, Buddhist monks and nuns. Many traditions have had, or do have, dedicated people who pray for others, or do other contemplative practices for their tradition. It also doesn’t necessarily mean cloistered nuns in habits or monks in robes, or celibacy, or being a hermit (unless you want to, that is).
I’m sure some Pagans would argue that they are leading a “Religious Life” because their tradition isn’t separate from their mundane life. However, a dedicated religious life is different level of devotion. You are dedicating your life, and sacrificing parts of your mundane life, to a leveled up form of devotion. It can be in your own home or in a dedicated cloistered type of situation, but it involves some level sacrifice of lifestyle. In my working, I’m giving up good chunks of my time for prayer and meditation. I am reorganizing my mundane life around my devotional work instead of the other way around. (The biggest part for me is getting up really early every day. For those that know me, and know that I’m a huge night owl, you know that that’s a Big Deal.)
It’s not that pagans don’t have people who are doing this type of work (one example that I’ve actually experienced are the Radical Faerie Sanctuaries), but for those who may have considered religious life in other traditions before they converted to one of the myriad of Pagan traditions, that kind of dedicated life may have seemed lost to them. I think, though, we’re big enough as a community to really start thinking about this kind of devoted life, even to the extent of creating Pagan monasteries (even cloistered or semi-cloistered). We don’t have to have the same beliefs as other monastic groups, but we can learn structure and form, which is something that I think some people may just want. In other words, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but having these types of structured options are something that is needed.