Z is for… Zealotry

fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political, or other ideas; fanaticism

What are these things
And whom do they serve?

– the Grail Questions asked of Percival

I’m a zealous type. It comes with the territory, on the autistic spectrum. I’ve had utterly all-encompassing obsessions for a select few lucky things, from Star Trek to the Manic Street Preachers. By far the longest-lasting of these obsessions has been religion. The wrapping may have changed, but a lot of what goes on inside is much the same. (A difficult admission to make, especially in the Pagan world…)

I’m doing a lot of work on my religiosity, at the moment. I have a lifelong tendency to do everything very religiously – especially religion. My inner world is highly chaotic, and religion and devotion have always helped to order it – to give it boundaries and borders. In the struggle for balance between chaos and order, I’ve always been very strongly on the order side of things. Which must be at least partly why Bhearra, lady of chaos, arrived a couple of years ago. She’s not against my zealotry. She just wants me to think about what it’s for. “What are you doing? Why are you doing it?” she asks. (As you can tell, sometimes she speaks with the voice of Cat Treadwell. *grin*)

This month Bhearra’s had me doing 13 days of devotions to her. This is probably the longest set of intense devotions I’ve done, to any deity. So you want to be pious, do you? She pushes my limits. I don’t get away with the things I find comfortable. Some of the things she has me doing during these 13 days, while they’d be no trouble at all for some people, have had me trying to work out where I even start. Can’t I just go back to the old forms of Work that I like? And then what would you learn? I don’t know whether this is about encouraging mindfulness and awareness, or some odd kind of exposure therapy (!), or both… And it gets worse – because I think these 13 days are only preparation for something… else. Sometimes, the questions What are these things? And whom do they serve? take a long time to answer.

Zealotry may be like an old tool for me, that was once useful, but became warped with over-use. Too much order becomes brittle and needs an influx of the uncontrolled, as the Xartus shows. I’ve spent my life trying to organize my chaotic world so that it is boundaried by prayer-books, bordered by Sundays, measured out in empty candle-sticks. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to inject it with the unexpected. I don’t know if anyone would notice the difference if I did. But maybe all that matters is that I do.

That doesn’t mean losing my uniqueness, of course. If I became someone else, someone entirely without the zealotry, what would make me any different from any other spiritual-but-not-religious types (who are very much not me and I am very much not them)? I serve my gods by being myself. But only by being myself in the truest way possible.

Here’s to a chaotic 2014, with zealotry measured out by passion for sunsets, poetry for deities, and dances in the rain. And, of course, some old time religion.

8 thoughts on “Z is for… Zealotry

  1. This sounds like exciting work! I know that, for me, knowing I trust someone enough to let me push my limits like that is a bit of a rush. Good luck with wherever it takes you next year.

  2. Perhaps the unexpected will come not so much in what you do but in the people you share your thoughts with and who share theirs with you. Relationships can be the most chaotic of all sometimes. Here’s to 2014 and new challenges being not too difficult :)

  3. ‘I have a lifelong tendency to do everything very religiously – especially religion.’

    I can so relate to this- poetry, philosophy, horses, religion… and I also had Holy Bible era Manic Street Preachers obsession…

    Your work with Bhearra sounds really interesting. I’ve found working with Gwyn ap Nudd also pushes my boundaries, taking me to the edges of chaos and back again. It also keeps me sane. Learning to be true to myself is also an important part of my path at the moment.

    Hopefully you’ll be sharing more about this later in the year?

    New Year’s Best Wishes!

  4. I’ve actually had a few conversations with Jack about the trends I’ve noticed locally to embrace the spiritual-but-not-religious type of spiritual life and nearly shy away from religiosity.

    I guess I have my husband to thank for the idea that zeal isn’t always bad. It’s been scary for me to re-embrace as it was part of how my father used to control me growing up, with my piety.

    But I think the difference comes in what Bhearra asked, creating a focus on why and for what purpose. When we own something fully, from impetus to action and make a conscious choice over simply being that way, it’s genuinely us. To me, that feels like a very whole and good thing.

    So I’m looking forward to another year of reading what you share. :)

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