As you may or may not have noticed it is not a Friday- and yet here I am, writing about Pagan stuff! This is due to the fact that for the first week of O I was out all night, first having a birthday tea with my Grandma and then going to an all night party/rave/vomit-fest, then the second week of O (which was Friday) I was… well, let’s be honest here, I completely forgot that it was Friday…
This was down to a couple of factors- one, that I normally work on Fridays but actually worked on Thursday last week, and two, that the Olympics confused my brain.
So I’m now going to attempt to make up for my shocking absence by giving you two posts on the letter O!
Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen.
Human beings are pack animals (don’t argue against me on this point, I actually just googled it to confirm) and so obedience is, too an extent, hardwired into us as a survival tool. I’m an AS psychology student and so have been studying obedience for the last year or so and the one thing that’s really struck me is how much we obey.
It’s the little things that really stand out to me, the inconsequential rules that don’t matter- the rules that if we broke no-one would care and no-one would be hurt.
Sometimes I think it’s frightening how much we obey and how reluctant people can be to disobey… one of the very first demonstrations I had of how mindlessly people can follow instructions happened in a psych lesson:
Sir walked into the classroom at the start of the lesson, sat down and told everyone to take their shoes off.
Everyone did. There was no grumbling, no complaining, no questioning- the people who were still eating their lunch or texting their friends continued to do so with one hand whilst removing their shoes with the other.
Then we all stopped and looked at Sir, waiting to see what he was going to ask us to do next.
At this point he laughed and said:
Why did you all take your shoes off?!
I remember how spooky it was to sit there and watch everyone staring at each other, it was quite funny and a lot of people laughed, I joined in but at the same time I felt deeply uncomfortable.
Sir then told us to put our shoes back on, which we did and then waited again. This time he just kind of looked at us and then pointed out how none of us had put our shoes back on until we had been told to… this only served to make me feel even more uncomfortable, I like it had suddenly been pointed out to me how controlled every single one of my actions was and is.
For the non psych students out there I’ll briefly explain that one of the main reasons someone will obey someone else is if they believe that person to have some sort of authority over them- known as ‘request by legitimate authority’ hence why we all obeyed our teacher when he told us to remove our shoes.
So, why am I talking about obedience with reference to Paganism?
Well it’s simple really- I could talk about it with reference to obeying ritual procedures set out by authors and so on, but I’m actually going to talk about it with reference to obeying the Gods.
We obey legitimate authority- but how do we judge what is legitimate and what is not? It’s one thing to judge that the Gods, non physical beings who cannot be seen or heard (generally, as we would see or hear our friends and family) are real, we can put that down to faith- to our deepest instincts- but that instinct has to be strong, incredibly strong for us to obey the Gods- sometimes blindly.
On one hand that kind of blind obedience is something I’ve been warned against again and again- learning through some truly horrible experiences that it should be avoided at all costs- but on the other the idea of blindly obeying the Gods is something I find thrilling and admirable, my trust and faith in the Gods is so deep, so very bone deep that I don’t feel at all scared about following them.
I think that there’s sometimes a theory that people follow deity because they see it as authority, and as humans we are programmed to follow authority, but it isn’t this- the important word is ‘legitimate’ and legitimate is a subjective term. I don’t think we just follow authority, I think we only follow authority that we believe to be legitimate- and we establish legitimacy by the clothes that people wear and the way they move and talk. As the Gods are not physical beings we can’t use these as markers of their legitimacy- we have to use our instinct.
I think that’s enough rambling for one post, it had no sensible structure and my philosophy teacher would be ashamed of me but I hope you found it interesting.