Pagan Monasticism Part 1

How I long for a monastic life.  As pagans, we really don’t have that option, however.  Yet I still dream, of a life completely given to the gods; days spent in prayer, in total connection, separated from the outside world in order to go deeper.  I know, many would say that this is possible in every day life, that we are always connected – that the ability to go deeper, to drink awen from the cauldron is always at our fingertips, if we only know how to access it.  But it is in the quiet, in the stillness and relative solitude of like-minded people, who wish to give themselves completely to their religion that I seek.  That is rare, if it happens at all, in today’s society from the pagan perspective.

I dream of joining other priestesses and priests, in daily ritual, devotions, songs and prayers to our chosen deities. Of living as one with the earth – growing all our own food, of being as self-sufficient as possible but still serving the community.  Again, people will say that I can do this now, and yes, I do it as much as I can, but it is part of my life, not my entire life.  I still have to spend parts of my life working other jobs to keep my cash income flowing in the pay bills, to buy the food that I cannot grow.  I could dedicate some of my jobs to this goddess or that, but it just doesn’t feel the same.  I can’t sit at my desk and pray to my gods while I’m answering various client queries and emails.

It’s that urge to dedicate myself 100% to my religion that I crave.  It would mean giving up many things, some which I long to give up, others, like my husband, I would find very, very difficult.  But would I, if I had the choice? I don’t really know – I’ve yet to be offered that choice, and so cannot say for certain.

Does anyone else feel this way, I wonder?

P.S. I have since found this – though they have yet to build a physical building, the points are in place for something quite special.

http://monasticdruidry.weebly.com/

P.P.S.  There is a lot of interest in this, and ideas are brewing… I will keep you all posted!

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48 thoughts on “Pagan Monasticism Part 1

  1. For me, part of Paganism is integrating spirituality with everyday life. I understand what you are saying, though, and I feel that way often. However, as Pagans, we view ordinary life as sacred, not just the monastic life. We have to take spiritual retreats occasionally where we go camping for a few days and just enjoy the forest (or desert, or mountains, or whatever), while spending much of that time in prayer and devotion.

    Still, your vision sounds lovely though! I would join you!

    Blessings,
    Victoria

    • Yes, for me everyday life is also sacred – I feel that a monastic life would simply make it much easier to see, to live – but I may be deluding myself lol! Never know until you try… I am having a week off soon and shall be spending that whole week in a monastic style…

  2. I have felt this for the last twenty years. Although not pagan at the time, I tried Roman Catholicism, which was a huge disappointment, and a Neo-Hindu cult later, in which I even joined an ashram for several years, but which turned out to be an even greater disappointment.

    Yet, despite these experiences, and my current “lay” life, I hunger with the very core of my being for the life you describe here, the quiet contemplation with like-minded adherents, while being helpful to a broader public. I literally cry with longing when I read somebody has found such a life for themselves, and wish them all the peace and happiness I crave for myself.

    So, no, you’re not alone. There are more of us out there.

  3. More than I could ever express. I’ve dreamed of such a life for over twenty years, and I know of at least one other who feels this way as well.

  4. I imagine a pagan monastic life as a utopia, a vision we cling to, a vision of perfection, tranquility, enlightenment. But how would it be, in day to day life? Even in a monastic life, you would have to do the laundry (by hand), take out the trash, deal with a leaky roof, snoring housemates, minor and major tensions between us mere mortals. So my answer is twofold: yes I too daydream about having all the freedom to pursue my devotion, but no: I would not wish it to become a reality, because in the end, it wouldn’t change a thing about me, on the inside.

    • LOL! Yes, living communally would be a challenge for the solitary side of me that loves retreat. I don’t think it would change me either – it would simply allow me the space to be, fully and completely, in the calling of my gods. Blessings Catty! x

  5. I fully understand what you mean.
    In the old days, it would have been possible to live in “monasteries” – before they were Christianized – I bet.
    Maybe it’s something to look into: create a community of sorts for people who want to do either short/middle length retreats or live their lives fully dedicated to paganism.

    • I was thinking of something very similar, Marie: much like how people can visit Buddhist Ashrams for X amount of time, there could be places of tranquility where people could go to replenish themselves and contribute to/take part in the monastic community for as long as they needed to. If some chose a life of full dedication, that option is open, but it would also be possible to merely spend a week, a month, etc. to reconnect with spirit and stillness.

      • Exactly – you can do that with other religions – would be nice, even if the monastic life doesn’t suit your lifestyle, you could still go for a “working retreat” like you can at other spiritual orders!

      • ♥)O(♥ ♣ The “Moon Mother’s Monastery” in California is *Not* really a Monastery at all! She is just a YouTuber… and it is her YouTube moniker for her home in the suburbs, which has a big backyard and garden. Once in awhile she has a temporary visitor come who stays with her a few days, and pays a lot of money to do so, to stay there a few days, and maybe have the woman “teach” some of her “witchy” ways… which are her personal ways that I do *not* recommend! Moon Mother has lots of sweet innocent darling bunnies and chickens and doves, and some goats in her back yard, that she cruely slaughters for her dinners. Sometimes she gets a young deer and raises it to be slaughtered for her dinner table too! In my opinion, Anyone who can raise precious divine beloved Animals and Birds in their backyard and feed them and gain their trust, then slaughter them is bloody vile! ♣ I am an organic vegan and a lover and protector of all beloved divine Animals and Creatures and a devoted Animal Rights Activist… so I find this woman and her husband to be especially disgusting! ♣ ♥)O(♥

      • Indeed, to the vegan and many vegetarians, this way of life can seem horribly wrong. Personally, I would never eat meat. However, I would not chastise people who raise and slaughter their own meat, for they are involved 100% in the process of life and death, and not simply buying meat packaged from the supermarket. To each their own. I believe that raising animals for meat is not the best way environmentally forward, and it all depends on which statistic or report you are looking at. It’s a heady and very contentious issue. I would suggest if you feel so strongly, to comment on her youtube channel. I also question, however, the need or desire to change other people – all we can do is to be the very best people we can, and hope to inspire others by the life that we lead. Blessings. x

  6. Hi Joannavdh. It all sounds lovely and something I love. however I don’t think the Gods and Goddesses would approve. They want us to be here in the midst of life on our earth walks, deep in the cauldron of learning, serving and doing the work. We’re meant to be here in the harshness and beauty of it all. they give us archetypes to accompany us in this and also to give us our deepest teachings. BB x

    • I understand your point, Herbwitch, however, a envision a pagan monastery as being in complete service to the community, and working damned hard at it too 😉 It’s all about offering different ways to serve and devote yourself to your calling, I suppose. I can see a pagan monastery regularly getting their hands dirty for what they believe in – the sanctity of nature and life! x

  7. My initial reaction (and this may sound bad) is no beer, no way!

    On a more serious note I’d say no again as I walk my path as a bard by seeking inspiration from all avenues of life- from woodlands and suburbs, hills and mills, theme parks, supermarkets and grotty old pubs to journeying the wide and wild ranges of the Otherworld.

    I feel that my gods are intrinsically bound up with nature and humanity in all walks of life- from fresh to treated water, handicrafts and aircraft manufacture, to the fate of all souls through life and death. If I decided to retreat to a Druid monastery they would most certainly not be impressed!

  8. Pingback: Thoughts for your thought « www.rosher.net

    • I know that quite a few people crave some sense of community, in person, a sense of uniformity within that community, which can be achieved provided that all hold the same values, beliefs and intentions. It’s not impossible – perhaps it’s a response to paganism’s wide-reaching, all embracing theology…

  9. I have definitely felt this, but I know it’s not yet for me. I fully admit to not wanting to give up my husband for it. I feel that my relationship with him has been a gift from the spirit world, and our unborn wee one is especially so. Right now, my priority is my family. I will continue to help facilitating my little grove, but I recognize that I can only do so much right now. I look forward to more spiritual focus later in life or, if that is not in the cards, the next life.

  10. Short answer – yes I would do it. I used to think a lot about that when I was younger, becoming a Buddhist monk, even though I am not a Buddhist. There is just something about it. The only thing I could not reconcile was how much I loved women LOL.
    Now I have a wife and 4 kids (2 grown and 2 little) so I could not ever find it in my heart to be apart from them. But if it was done in a way where I could have them with me I would consider it. A life of total commitment and activity devoted to the Gods – I can’t think of a better life. The shared learning would just be insane!
    My wife laughs at me all the time because I always say if we won the lottery I would build a cabin in the woods, fill it with books and never leave except to get supplies.

    • 🙂 Kindred spirit! I’ve often dreamed of that as well, but my newer dream would be to actually physically build that monastery, with different sects dedicated to different gods, where people could retreat if they wished, work hard, and give back to the community when they are ready to so do…

      • That sounds awesome. That makes me think, a lot of Christian organizations have retreats, places where people can go for a week or a weekend and get away from the world and get closer to their God. I have never seen anything like that in the pagan community (of course I might just be missing something). Not sure how feasible it would be given the huge number of different pagan paths, but with some thought I’m sure it could be figured out. A place where people could have that “monk” experience for a weekend, a week, a month – whatever without totally giving up the life they have built for themselves.
        Great now you have me thinking – and that always hurts LOL

  11. I get periods of wanting intense hermitude, and periods of wanting to do that kind of communcal communing way of life for a while, but I don’t know to what extent it would be possible to be a druid having stepped away from the world. The intention to step back after a while seems important to me. If the monsatic life included a few hours of day of doing things for people outside the monstic setup, I think I’d be up for that.

  12. I’ve often thought about becoming a hermit but I think I’m too antisocial to live for any length of time in a closed community with others. I remember, at university in the ‘60s, coming across the Findhorn community and being inspired by it (http://www.findhorn.org/aboutus/community/#.USSxEx29BXc – looks as though it’s a lot more commercialised now) but life experience suggests I wouldn’t really have been cut out for it

    I worked very closely with a convent for eight years (don’t ask!). You may be one of those who think that the problems I saw there arise from organised Christianity but I think there’s something inherently wrong with all such single-purpose groups. Nature works best with plenty of variety and, though you propose a fairly mixed community under a druidic umbrella, our evolution has designed us to be more than just spiritual. Too much of any one thing is unbalanced, even spirituality. I think it tends to promote extremes, both the good and the bad – just look at what the Christian monastic movement produced! I don’t think it’s worth the risk of what the bad products can be. (I know there’s the physical part of growing your own food etc but somehow hierarchies always seem to develop and the “dangerous” people move away from the physical to become controlling in their spirituality.)

    I think it’s natural to long to step away from modern life into a more spiritual, monastic setting but it’s a bit too much like rejecting the real world and the real world is where my gods live.

    • Thing is, a pagan monastery would offer the space to retreat for those who need it, and then work with them to incorporate back into mainstream society – not just an escape route for people to flock to, but a real, working, and benefitting the community, through whatever means necessary – I envision growing food and herbs, getting involved in local projects, tree planting, litter picking, letter writing for environmental campaigns, etc alongside the more “spiritual” things – the monastery as part of the community, not separate from it, just offering the sacred space for people to devote themselves totally to their gods. And it would incorporate many gods as well – not just one god. A loose form of monasticism, I know, but I do think it could work. I read about Findhorn a couple of years ago, and was inspired by it then. Hierarchies – well, there’s always that danger, but not sure most pagans who are that devoted would tolerate it 😉

  13. Pingback: Pregnant Pagan: The Sacrifice of Self « The Ditzy Druid

  14. Excellent post, this really touched my heart and tugged at my soul. perhaps one day we will have this ability, this chance to totally commit ourselves. please keep me abreast to any news concerning this, I would greatly appreciate it.

  15. Glad I found this even though i just found it in 2017! I too have longed for this life and I have been able to have it kinda as I am disabled and rely on social security so I do not have to work, I can spend most of my free time in meditation, contemplation, prayer, magic and other areas.

    I am thinking an intentional community? Id love to find or start one if I had the money and means. It for me would have to be Vegetarian or Vegan though and one that honored all paths as I can be quite eclectic.

    Love this!

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