Monday, August 13, 2012

Set Fire to Your World

"Do one thing every day that scares you."
                                                                ---Eleanor Roosevelt 
I recently read's article on ten bad habits of Pagans. Seven down from the top is "Stop Wasting Time" with a common complaint that I have heard fall out of my own mouth. So, in an attempt to stop wasting my time, I decided to do something about my spirituality like a boss. I went to a Sikh Gurdwara (temple).

Everyone has to cover their hair, men and women. Here is my turban. Yes, I wore my pent.
I have wanted to visit a Sikh temple since I first learned about Sikhism via Project Conversion (there are more posts, the blog just doesn't show them) in September of 2011. You see, if I was not in love with Paganism, I would totally be a Sikh. Why? Because a good portion of the belief system I agree with -- from complete equality between men and women to the defense of the weak, powerless, and oppressed to service to the community, I love it all. And my experience today has strengthened my admiration. 

As you walk into the temple, you see a beautiful replica of the Sikh holy place, the Golden Temple. There is also a receptionist who started my day off great. I had told him that I had no idea what I was supposed to do and he kindly showed me (you have to take off your shoes and wash your hands). There was a special prayer going on that day for the victims of the Wisconsin Temple shooting, before the regular service. Afterwards, I met a woman in the main prayer room who was very nice and tried very hard to let me know what was going on, even though she didn't speak a lot of English. I couldn't pronounce her name even if I tried, but I do know that her name means Air, or "that which you breath in." 

The Golden Temple replica. You can see one of four doors leading into the main prayer hall in the back.
I should mention that the entire service is spoken in Punjabi. Luckily for me, the temple had TVs that translated the songs sung into English. They were quite beautiful and very much story like. In fact, that was a lot of their purpose; to remind everyone about Sikh history and history in general. There was a lot of singing. Here is an example, but keep in mind it is a lot better in person. 

One of the songs I heard was talking about the Indian Revolution, when India was fighting for its' freedom from Britain. It tells the story about how power and corruption devastated India, and there were millions of innocent people slaughtered for no good reason. It was a sad song, but like the woman who helped me said, it is important to know ones' history. 

Another thing I asked my new friend about was why the men and women were sitting in separate places. She explained to me that it is more for focus than anything else, so that everyone would focus on the service and not become distracted, but that if I wanted to, I could sit by the men and no one would look twice and if a man wanted to sit with the women, that too was his choice. I was impressed, actually. There was a bit of crossover, but mostly it was children and a group of Methodists who sat together. More about them later. 

After a short morning prayer, everyone went into a big dining room/kitchen area to eat breakfast. I was not expecting to be served at all, but what they had was amazing. Completely vegetarian, Sikhs believe it is better to eat plants than animals. But, as it was explained to me, you can do whatever you please.
The gate.
The first woman had to leave, so she ushered me into the dining area and said good bye. There, I met another woman who spoke better English and was just as nice as the previous people. She actually elaborated on some of the things that Air had told me and also taught me how to say hello (sat siri akal) and thank you (tanbad) in Punjabi. Did I say that the food was amazingly awesome?

After breakfast, there was a few more hours of service and learning and at the end of the service, a priest asked the congregation if anyone wanted to say a speech, and was specifically directed to the guests/newcomers of the temple. A woman went to the podium and explained that she and her group were from the local Methodist church and that they were there to become acquainted with the local Sikhs. They wanted to offer their condolences and compassion over the Wisconsin shooting and said thank you and Namaste. 

Being egged on by my new friend, I also went up there and gave a rushed and off the collar speech. I must admit, I was shaking a bit. I said that everyone had been so nice and welcoming, and thanked them for it, and told them that I had come to learn about Sikhism. I said that the shooting was very tragic (ugh! That's like the one thing you DON'T say!) and that as a member of the Pagan community, if they ever needed anything, not to hesitate to ask. Maybe I was stepping over my bounds by speaking as the Pagan community, but I don't think we would turn away from these people who were legitimately benevolent and peaceful and who were viciously attacked despite their openness and compassion. Oh, and I screwed up the hello too! I am so ashamed, but my friend told me that everyone had understood. She said I could speak again next Sunday. (Everyone wants to see me again. :) )

Concluding the service, the congregation again went back to the dining area to have lunch. It, of course, was mind blowing. This time, I ate in peace, surrounded by all sorts of people. For lunch, everyone mixed together and there was much rejoicing. Several people came up to me and gave me hugs or hand shakes and thanked me for the speech. I was totally blushing. Anyway, I kept wanting to leave and tried to tell a few people, but ended up with more food on my plate. It was funny (and also very good).
Lunch! I was given handmade ice cream later and some special Indian tea. Yum!
 The Methodist lady came to say hello to me, and at the end I tried to say thank you to an old lady (who was the only other woman who was wearing a turban) and she ended up telling a guy to give me tea. Oh, the men were serving everyone. <3

The Methodist lady told me that she had Wiccan roots but that she was currently in the church and stuff and that there was a local pagan group and yata. She then introduced me to her group. About the time the intros were finished, a Sikh woman asked everyone to come with her. Rami told us about the holy book and how Sikhs believe it is alive. The book has its' own clothing, is fanned during service, and is put to sleep in a real Queen sized bed. It also has its' own bedroom. People sometimes take it home and take care of the holy book there, also putting it to sleep and clothing it in garments. Rami explained that Sikhs believe the book is a Living Guru. I can tell you that it definitely has a LOT of spiritual energy about it. 

Today is just one step to a thousand mile journey. Soon I will finish A Witches' Bible and will start on Drawing Down the Moon, will begin conducting my own Esbats like I should have been, start meditating daily (if not twice daily, like the Sikhs), and will get on with my spiritual work. My cards are right, now is the time to set fire to my world.
Front of the Temple.
Will you step out of your comfort zone and do something that scares you today?


  1. Wow. Thank you for sharing your experience! I'm glad it was so positive.

  2. Great story.Thank you.With my own share of exposure to a few different cultures, it had no influence on my embracing Islam as for that being practical.same in case after case of any one's conversion to any new faith, anywhere. It is just as clear. There is a bit more to it. There is a deeper underlying reason why we wind up on which ever course. The great part is realizing that part of the story. Do'nt you think ?