I went to the Spiral Dance Ritual in Golden Gate Park today to celebrate the Pagan New Year. I know, I know, you're all thinking, "Did he just say he celebrated the Pagan New Year?!?!?!?" In a nutshell, yes I did, but to be completely honest, no I didn't. No offense to any pagans who might be reading this, but I just don't share your belief system. I thought the ritual was a wonderful experience. It was beautiful, thoughtful and a great way to build up the community, but since I don't believe what their doing is real in any theological way, I had to experience it in a way that made sense to me, which is actually a very pagan thing to do, so I don't feel bad.
I used the experience as my own personal worship of God. People worship God in all different kinds of ways, so I figured why not worship God by doing the Spiral Dance? It didn't matter that the people around me were worshipping something else. And who knows, maybe they weren't. The main difference was that it felt kind of lonely worshipping that way. I'm sure if I was doing the same thing with a bunch of Christians who were worshipping God, it would have been a totally ecstatic experience for me. As it was, although I was able to connect with God, in really profound ways at times, there was always something missing. Worship really is best when done in community.
I have to say, those pagans really know how to put on a show! Ignoring the naked people for a moment (yes, there were a few covered with body paint) there were colorful and imaginative costumes, an outstanding drum routine, and even ribbon acrobats! (You know, those acrobats that use a pair of ribbons attached to a ring suspended from the ceiling and they wrap themselves up, and twirl around and do all kinds of flips and twists and stuff?) The spiral dance itself was pretty neat, too. If you watch the video, all those people are actually part of a single unbroken line twisting around itself. There was one point during the dance when my section of the line was stretching too much and I couldn't hold on the hand of the girl next to me, so I threw her the end of my scarf and we were able to keep the line unbroken that way. I was pretty cool actually! I also noticed a woman who had done the 72 hours of discernment with me last fall, but didn't end up going to seminary, so it was nice being able to catch up with her.
All in all, a really good experience. A lot of the people that went were more dressed up for it, so I felt a little bit underdressed, although there were a lot of people more underdressed than I was. If I go next year, I'm definitely breaking out the blue fairy costume!!!