Virtues of the Goddess is a series on the eight virtues mentioned in the Charge of the Goddess and their relationship to the sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. This is Part 4: Mirth.
Mirth seems to explode around us as we approach the season of Beltane. Nature seems to be slipping on her best dress and looking for a good time. The flowers burst open with their colorful and aromatic call to be pollinated, and here in southern California, the eye-popping purple blooms of the normally unremarkable jacaranda tree light up our sunny days. The birds sing beautiful songs and flutter about in elaborate dances to win a chance for love. Thrilled with the longer, warmer days, humanity also begins to migrate from indoors to outdoors as we wear more revealing clothing or head to the gym in our quest for that perfect summer beach body. After all that darkness, we’re all looking for a little fun right now.
The virtue of Mirth is unique. The other virtues advised by the Charge of the Goddess can be claimed in some form by most mainstream religions. That’s trickier to do with Mirth. Mirth is a traditionally secular value that is somewhat opposed to most religions. In some religious circles, the Mirth appears to celebrate THIS life and to turn attention away from the divine. The Puritans even outlawed Christmas because people were having way too much fun.
But that really shouldn’t be the case. For Pagans, especially those who identify as Wiccans or Witches, our bodies, this life, and the Earth are sacred. In the tradition of “Remember thou art Goddess,” this physical world and this current life are expressions of the divine, so why not have just as much fun as the gods do? Why not celebrate them? As far as I’m concerned, that should apply to all faiths. I’m not here to tell other religions what to do, but it seems to me that if your God created you as well as sex, dancing, wine, and other sources of fun, then it’s probably alright if you utilize His creation.
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
– Benjamin Franklin
I recently ran across a new style of mead called “Mirth in a Bottle.” We, of course, enjoyed it with our Beltane ritual. I could go over the tasting notes, but that’s not the point. I love the idea of this mead because I believe there’s a greater truth to that name. In everyday life, it’s all too tempting to avoid mirth. To keep it bottled up. Our jobs are stressful, our obligations close in on us, our lives are busy. As a society, we often put our own needs – especially our own fun – last on the list. That means it never gets done. We often keep our mirth tightly corked.
It’s a shame. Whether we have one life or many, we still have a limited time to enjoy the wonderful sensations and experiences only available to spirits in bodies. On the cosmic scale, our chance to enjoy the wonders of physical incarnation, from laughter at silly pun to the ecstasy of amazing sex, is limited. And yet, we squander that time doing work we often don’t like and performing the joyless chores that we place as a higher priority to the enjoyment of life. We feel guilty when we take some down time for ourselves. We’re bottled up.
Have you seen that commercial that begins with the words, “When did leaving work on time become an act of courage?” That ad expresses an unfortunate truth about our society. We don’t allow ourselves enough mirth. We bottle it up for the sake of the next promotion, peer pressure, or some other excuse. To me, that means we don’t value our lives enough to enjoy them.
Mirth is an expression of gratitude to whatever gods you believe it. It is enjoyment of the gift the universe has given you. To ignore it is to waste that precious gift and thumb your nose the gods, God, the Universe, or whoever you believe gave it to you. In this way, mirth may be the highest and most spiritual virtue I can think of. So dance, sing, feast, make music, and love. For the sake of the gods, open up a bottle of mirth any time you can!