An Earth-honoring religious path rooted in science

Shame, Trust, Safety and the Freedom to Make Magic

Shame. It impedes so much.

It’s easy to succumb to the impulse to think that it’s something to be overcome, and that’s the end of it. Freedom, eh?

And yet…

Someone completely without shame is a sociopath.

Shame is a guide. It can help us to understand how best to fit to the fractal puzzle which is human relations. And once having learned its lessons, it’s time to let it go.

But we don’t.

Unfortunately, we tend to seize it too closely, to internalize its voices, to make into Big Truth About Me what should really only be a gentle nudge, a wise voice about how to be a Better Me.

And because Shame is so powerful, we can learn to cower from its view. We can learn to be timid about expressing ourselves, for fear of feeling shame.

And so we come to the challenging work of Letting Ourselves Shine. Of overcoming the excess of Shame with which we have been laden. Of stepping out into the sunshine to dance. To sing.

All of which sounds like a load of pontificating, but what I mean to do is to  write about doing ritual.

Doing ritual sometimes feels awkward, especially when you’re new at it. I’ve been doing Pagan ritual for more than 25 years and I still get self-conscious about it sometimes. The biggest impediment I have ever experienced to my expression of my religious life has been my own embarrassment. Even when I’m by myself.

That’s because I’m not really alone, of course. The voices in my head are with me: the ones we all have, the ones that ridicule you, try to keep you small and timid. The internalized voices of bullies and abusers. They mock the earnestness of devotion, of love, of symbolism. They hector us that it’s all just pretend, anyway.

Basically, they do what they can to fuck up our ability to enter the Ritual State of trance, and to experience the transporting awe, wonder and joy of religious experience. Which is not pretend. Which is as real as love, as fear, as rage, as courage.

So I take a little time for confidence building before I do ritual. Some of it is the donning and deploying of trappings: special dress or special jewelry, laying out of ritual tools. And then the speaking of intention: I am Mark Green, I say, of the good Planet Earth. I am a miracle of the Universe: I am made of stars. I come here to speak my love, and sing.

This varies somewhat depending on what the ritual is about. But for me, rituals of celebration and humble wonder are the baseline, the typical.

What we call “confidence” is basically a feeling of safety. It gives us permission to stretch, because the stakes aren’t so high as when we feel our survival, dignity, or social standing is at stake.

I cannot express how much richer a life becomes when you are free to express yourself in this way. There is so much more to us than the cognitive. There is deep joy and reverence and realness to be had if only we have the courage. If only we step forward to declare ourselves and our passion. And even more so with a lover, with a partner, with true friends, with a community.

The glorious world is filled with beauty and horror. It is everything we long for, and everything we dread.

Step forward, friends. Show us the unique glory that is your particular self. Shame is too tawdry a thing to hold you back.

Light that candle, and murmur those reverent words. Sing. Weep. Laugh.



  1. This post speaks to me on so many levels, but mostly because shame and embarrassment have surrounded/do surround my spirituality. While some of it does deal with what others would think/do if they knew, a greater deal of it come from within – as you say, those inner hecklers. It competes with the other voices that speak of self-compassion, acceptance, and connection to the world around me (including others, my gods, and my self). It’s a crazy form of cognitive dissonance.

    I’ve gotten better, slowly, at over coming this self-imposed “shame”, with the help of many loved ones. But I have to say, it helps to see others in the pagan community, particularly this subset of the pagan community, speak of the same cognitive dissonance I’ve experienced – and provide tips for circumventing it. It makes me feel less alone and understood. So thank you.

    On top of your tips, I’ve found that becoming comfortable with who I am and why I do what I do helps. Learning to lean less on labels and focusing instead on finding out “What do I want to be, what helps me get there, and what celebrates the process?” also seemed to help a good deal. Learning to live with ambiguity is hard, but rewarding. Learning to live with yourself is even better.

  2. Good to know that I’m not the only one who gets the “this is stupid” feeling from time to time when doing Pagan ritual and meditation. The more I practice, the more that goes away, but it can be a real struggle at times.

  3. “The voices in my head are with me: the ones we all have, the ones that ridicule you, try to keep you small and timid. The internalized voices of bullies and abusers.”

    I heartily agree that confronting – and silencing – your internal bullies is one of the most critical and effective pre-rituals you can perform.

    Never let bad actors take over your personal stage – YOU are the Director of your own Play!

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