I have to be honest, folks – when Wolf Wind first came to me with this article and asked if it could be posted at Deaf Pagan Crossroads, I was a bit hesitant. An article about Domestic Violence on a blog site that focuses on the merger of Deafness and Paganism? Well, I don’t know…
But as I read it, it was clear that Wolf had put a lot of thought into this article, and it was well-written. Besides that, there is no doubt that Domestic Violence is a subject that we need to address, and not avoid. I’ve known individuals – both male and female, deaf and hearing, black and white, Pagan and Christian who have been victims of this tragedy. It must be stopped, and it can only be stopped if we acknowledge it, discuss it, and do something about it.
I was also worried because I didn’t want people to get the wrong idea – to read this article and then go away thinking “Holy shit! So that’s what you heathens do…gather together in the forest and start beating the crap out of each other!”
Whoa! Time Out! NO WAY! We as Pagans are expected to live by our Code of Ethics, and to abide by the Wiccan Law that says “Harm None.” Most Pagans I know abhor violence, and would never accept such behavior committed on anyone or anything…be it animals, children, women, Mother Nature, etc.
What Wolf Wind is trying to do here is to take a subject of importance (in this case, Domestic Violence) and look at it from a Pagan perspective, using the analogy of ritual to help gain an understanding of how such violence develops and occurs. By doing so and then writing about such perspectives and sharing them with the rest of us, perhaps we also can gain a better perspective.
It’s not uncommon for us as Pagans to do so…in much the same way that a person who is Deaf might look at something through a Deaf perspective. We tend to see things in ways that reflect our beliefs, our backgrounds, our cultures and our identities. You will find examples of this Pagan perspective in a number of posts on this site – my blogs about Gallaudet, for example, discuss my thoughts on last year’s Gallaudet Protest from a Pagan perspective. “To Capitalize…or not to capitalize” uses this same approach to discuss the “Big D/little d” issue. Several of the blogs here utilize this approach, and I expect more of them to do so in the future.
I found this article to be quite thought-provoking, and I thank Wolf for sending it my way and addressing this important national issue. I hope that you will take the time to read it, and forward it to others who need to read it as well. Let us all do our part to stamp out Domestic Violence in our society.
The Ritual of Battering
As our society advances and becomes more “enlightened”, we are finding more and more just how little we really know. Joseph Campbell’s works on mythology are a good example, how despite our advancement we are losing, or unaware of just how deeply the threads of our ancestors tie us together. The loss of myth and ritual, simply put, leads to chaos.
As Pagans, we place an important focus on ritual. One of the things we teach by this emphasis is that the mundane and the sacred worlds are not necessarily as clear cut as many would like to believe. Ritual – if we believe that it speaks to us on all levels – has much to bring the world of sociology and psychology in moving it to acknowledge just how important the spiritual realm plays in our lives. As such, ritual draws some parallels to one of the more destructive social ills we face today and that is intimate violence. Just as ritual is something taught, violence adheres to the same ritual components with just as much power as a healing/positive ritual. One of the keys to understanding intimate violence is to recognize it as a cycle, with identifiable stages. Just as our rituals are attuned to the cycles of life, battering has possessed its own cyclical stages. Below is a breakdown (general) of the battering cycle and the ritual aspects it has. I will start with the positive ritual component and then the violent cycle counter part.
Building power: This is the part of the ritual where the circle becomes drawn, members meditate, participate etc. in making the gathering sacred space, opening channels for communication etc. The domestic violence portion follows a similar pattern, in that battering is not a spontaneous event, but is worked up to. This is called the stage of tension/stress building.
Height of power/energy reached: This event in circle can be different in form, but the purpose is the same in that this is the high point of the ritual, when energy is at its highest – the climax of energy if you will, and when all the major workings are accomplished in the ritual. In domestic violence, this is the point of no return. The energy has built to its highest and in that moment the energy is released and actual violence occurs. This is the result of the energy being reached at it maximum, and unlike circle the energy released is very destructive.
The return: For ritual, this is the conclusion of ritual, when the quarters are dismissed and the circle opened, and the experience of the working is continued and brought to the outside. It is often a “calm” in that the released energy has been “spent” and sent out to work etc. In intimate violence, this becomes “The Honeymoon” stage where the violence has ceased and all is well, seemingly the balance is restored, etc. But like in the circle, the energy gathered and released does not stop but goes forth, the energy has to go somewhere and often it will go to maintaining the status quo in battering. It is not uncommon for one to stay in a battering relationship because they truly love the person and feel if they work hard enough, can change the pattern.
Just as in our celebrations, the Priest and Priestess in a large part determine the pace etc. of the ritual, so in battering the participants direct the cycle itself, sometimes speeding up the cycle to the point of no return with the intent to “get it over with” and reach the honeymoon stage again. The misunderstanding here is that this cycle is truly a destructive ritual – that the power released has Karmic effects in that the honeymoon stage becomes shorter and shorter and ultimately results in the death of at least one participant. This I think underscores just how powerful ritual can be, and the awesome responsibility which comes in putting it together and thus working ritual.
At this point I will say this tends to be over simplified due to space etc. yet can be observed in other settings other than domestic violence, just as all ritual doesn’t apply to just one aspect of our lives. One of the important points to remember is just like our own rituals, the ritual of battering is taught and will follow the cycle it sets unless interrupted (i.e. restructuring the tools of ritual to prevent it from getting to the point of no return).
If nothing else, this brings an appreciation of the complexity and ritual nature of our relationships (in any sense) with each other. At this time in our political concerns, it also has implications as to the bearing of certain policy, etc. And thus, points out another important aspect of ritual – that it operates at many different levels and can have impacts we are unaware of.
Wolf Wind is a Mental Health Professional and practicing Pagan who resides in Northern California. Hard of Hearing himself, he has consulted with Ocean on a number of issues related to deafness, and participated in various Deaf Pagan activities. He is also a loving husband and father, and freely admits that his favorite animal (as well as being his totem) is…the wolf.