Monday, June 24, 2013

Sacred Drunkenness and Pan's Ball

I am a child of Set, one of whose epithets means, in a nutshell, "Drunk."  Beer is sacred to him--as well as many Egyptian Gods--and in ancient Egypt among other civilizations drunkenness from alcohol can be used as an altered state for ecstatic ritual.

In fact I've used beer--and to a lesser extent wine--specifically to get into a spiritual altered state.  It's interesting because nowadays it seems alcohol has been seriously downgraded as far as its use to induce an altered state of sacred drunkenness.  Many a warning has been given to Pagans that alcohol in ritual is not meant to get you drunk; while this is usually true, using drunkenness in ritual is not inherently a bad thing, especially when you understand how alcohol affects you and have some sort of ritual structure and safeguard.

Personally?  The majority of times I have drank alcohol in more than moderate quantities, I have used the altered state for spiritual purposes.  The last time was at Pan's Ball at PSG, where I drank one of their awful wapatui drinks before realizing no good could come from it and I switched to Spotted Cow (the best beer in the world).  I spent a big part of that experience, once I had entered a state of very lucid drunkenness where I was heavily aware of my surroundings, wandering the camp and contemplating the mostly-full moon among other things.

Pan's Ball turned out to basically be a regular wap party.  This isn't inherently bad either, but it had literally all of the same problems as a wap party.  People groping each other without permission, getting so drunk they were physically incapacitated, there was at least one person who kept egging me on (it was jokingly but a bad joke) when I did not consent to a sexualized activity with him or his partner, and I am not confident there weren't people doing things they would loathe to do sober (to use a terrible euphemism).  There was very little structure.  There were practically no safeguards to prevent people from wandering off into the woods and getting lost except for people incidentally being in the way (I know this because I prevented a seriously drunk person from walking off into the woods and had nobody been there he could easily have gotten lost).  So in these regards there are things that really need improvement, especially if you are going to call it a religious experience.  There was very little about this event that felt sacred to me, simply because it was so similar to mundane drunkenness.  I am running on the assumption that that's what most of the attendees really wanted... but that there were people acting as though this was an appropriate ritual use of drunkenness bothers me.

To draw a parallel, tobacco is a sacred herb.  It's a healing herb... but only when it's used exclusively in a ritual context.  People who have appropriated tobacco for purely mundane purposes or who use it irresponsibly in ritual are not healed from it... and often die.  In the same way, alcohol is a sacred consciousness-altering substance that is perfectly acceptable to use in ritual, including to induce drunkenness, but can be made dangerous when used irresponsibly.  If you are using alcohol to the point where people are prone to sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, or so much inebriation they cannot actually use the altered state, you are no longer partaking in a sacred activity and you are putting people at undue risk.

Maybe at one point I'll write a guide to how I use sacred drunkenness to help reduce the potential harm that can come from it.  For now, though, just realize that there is a difference between getting drunk for fun and getting sacred drunk, although these things may overlap.