I'm going to betray my age. When I was a little girl the only option we had for taking groceries home from the store was paper. Large, brown paper bags. Later when plastic bags became common, I would ask for paper because the plastic bags were so weak that they always ended up with breaks and tears. Either you used paper or you had to double or triple bag the plastic bags to ensure that you didn't end up with your stuff all over the ground. Somewhere between 1977 (when plastic grocery bags were 1st introduced) and ~2003 or 2004, paper all but disappeared and plastic became the norm. The only good thing about the plastic bags was that if I strung multiple the bags over my arms, both arms, I could carry more in a single trip up the stairs than I ever could with paper. This gives me grocery shopping as a form of weight lifting aerobics. With repeated use and over time, plastic bags became an accepted part of American life. And we stopped thinking about it. Now, paper is back as an option too but more importantly there is a large, global push to eliminate plastic bags and move to reusable bags.
But this means that we need to change. And we have established practices that work. We have grocery store rituals, decades of muscle memory in consumers and grocery clerks. I want to move from plastic bags to reusable bags. I have my zip into a pouch, reusable, holds a lot of stuff, Whole Food grocery bag. But each time I go the store it is still a struggle to avoid ending up with plastic bags. Those "zip into a pouch" Whole Food bags are so dang useful that I end up unzipping them for a grocery run and then using them for other things. So sometimes the bag I want to use is being used elsewhere. Or if I have the reusable bag, I have to remember to take it out and give it to the clerk. Even if I take it out and have it read I often have to interrupt the grocery clerk and stop them from putting things into the readily available plastic bags. Or if I have this bag and I remember to use it and I get the clerk to use it I still need another bag because my groceries won't all fit. So I acquire additional bags and keep them in the truck so that I always have one. Then I have to remember to take the bags, all of them, and get the clerk to use them and then return them to the truck to use them again. I've been at this for a number of YEARS now so I've established the necessary rituals to ensure that this happens. But it literally took YEARS. 2009 was the first year that I can say I succeeded in using reusable bags.
What I had to do, what anyone else who wants to change has to do, is to create a new pattern, to instill a ritual.
How do we change? Especially when it is so hard to get into a new pattern.
We change by committing to the change.
We change by acquiring the things that will facilitate the change.
We change by changing. If we want to be different, we have to be different.
For the plastic/reusable bag switch, we have to buy the reusable bags, we have to consistently remember to take the bags with us to the store or have the bags with us all the time. We have to take the bags out and insist the clerk to use our bag instead of the ubiquitous plastic bags. We have to return the bags to a spot where they can be used again next time. We have to have these rituals as a part of our life.
One of the things I was taught as a beginning Strega, was the importance of doing ritual. But as a solitary pulling together all the bells and whistles to do a ritual seemed more trouble than it was worth. I could just follow the cycle of the moon and the solar seasons. I didn't need a black altar cloth and a bell and elemental bowls and... It was a significant change from not doing the detailed ritual. It required energy be raised and consistently directed. I didn't have ritual muscle memory so it seemed hard. It was easy to do ritual whenever my group of eclectic pagan friends wanted to get together. It was easy whenever I met with other Streghe. But doing smells and bells ritual as a solitary required that I conquer the inertia I had not to do it.I was confronted fully by one of Newton's description of nature's laws: An object at rest, stays at rest unless acted on by another force.
So my guidance and encouragement to any one who is a beginning strega (or cloth bag user wannabe) is keep trying. Collect the necessary tools: Candles, bells, black cloth, God & Goddess Icons, ritual bowls, round altar. Now before anyone starts complaining about how difficult times are there are ways to do this inexpensively. Candles cost money. So I'll give on that one. But God & Goddess Icons don't have to be expensive statues. I started out with fossils. A cast of the inside of a clam shell is surprising erotic and goddess invoking. A cast of an ammonite shell with just the right curve was appropriately god invoking. These cost nothing. I already had them on hand AND I had acquired them via walks on the land during trips to the Texas Hill Country. But I'd bet that if you keep your eyes and spirit open suitable icon items will come to you from nature and your environment as well. Ritual Bowls... try garage sales or use small bowls you have already in your kitchen. Be creative. I bet if you dig around in what you have already that you have enough to start. My round altar was discarded spool used to hold wire that I spray painted white to clean up the edges and stop the altar cloth from catching. Eventually I upscaled to a circle bit of plywood that could be placed on top of the spool. Now I use the discarded bottom of a papasan chair and a round piece of glass from a local hotel surplus store on top of the plywood that I spray painted silver. When not in use the table looks like a mirror.
You have to commit to the change and gathering what you need to do the ritual is part of the energy you have to expend. As it says in the Myth of Descent "Nothing is given unless something is received." It is fully expected that you will have to expend energy. But you will also get something back.
With or without all the appropriate tools you still have to commit the time to do the ritual. The first few times you set things up you won't have it all right. And this is ALL RIGHT, specifically because you are committing the energy. You are doing it. This will highlight what you need to do next time and eventually you will have the ritual tools and the ritual memory. Each time streghe cast a circle we are recreating the universe. This in and of itself is a powerful experience, even if you don't do any ritual. But a full moon ritual is actually quite easy to do alone, once you get over the fact that you are doing it alone (or at least without other corporeal humans). Read the all the parts of the ritual out loud. Do all the motions. Read the Veglia, out loud. It never ceases to calm and center me and YES the experience is different IN CIRCLE, in ritual from just reading it out loud any other time.
I'm going to steal a line from my mother-in-law: "Fake it til you make it." When I first heard this I wasn't sure I liked it. Faking it? Really Fake it? That can't be right. But the essence was the equivalent of saying, Do it, even when it feels false, even when it feels like you're not doing it right. Eventually all the parts will come together and it will be fine. Or as Yoda says to Luke: "No. Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try."
The sun has returned. It's start of the new calendar year.
What will you DO differently?