A Case for Drunken Holy Days and Gluttonous Sacred Rites

Siduri, Nin-kasi, Teshub, Aegir, Dionysus, Bacchus, Bast, Shiva, Pan—some of these names you’ve probably heard of. Some may be new to you (they were to me). What do they have in common?

They were all associated with alcohol or partying to some extent.

Whether they were the deity that passed down the knowledge of how to make beer or whether worshipping them brought with it the expectation of getting high, to one extent or another, they encouraged the occasional . . . debauchery.

In other words, to pantheonic people, partying was considered sacred too.

We don’t live in that kind of world anymore. Within Judeo-Christian culture, excess is met with guilt and shame. We’ve been taught that indulgence in alcohol, food, fun, etc. is all or nothing. Our “health” books are riddled with extreme diets. Our exercise programs are built on the idea of making people feel bad about their bodies. Our lives are compartmentalized into stages of immaturity and lack of control vs. maturity and rigidity.

With regard to spirituality, self-control ranks as one of the highest virtues. The sacred is that which is somber and very often the opposite of pleasurable. The “holiest” people, in general, are seen as the ones who lead the most ascetic life, giving us abstemious monks in every major religion.

But what if even moderation needs to be practiced in moderation?

I’m thinking that the pantheonic peoples had it right. Some“holy days” are meant to be days of being wasted, stuffed, and lazy.

I’d go so far as to suggest that it’s good for us!

I’m not saying that a constant state of pursuing pleasure is healthy or wise, nor am I advocating all of the practices that were associated with these party gods and goddesses. But it seems that ancient peoples at least recognized the value in having decadent days interspersed throughout the normal, subsistence days.

Even Christianity has a measure of allowed debauchery built into its system (think Mardi Gras). Unfortunately, it’s an indulgence that is followed by shame and extra abstinence later. It’s not considered holy in itself, despite the fact that Christianity’s god took days off, created wine for a party, and used feasts as illustrations for heaven A LOT.

Maybe . . . maybe having planned days to let our hair down as a sacred rite would help bring a little more balance to our lives. Maybe all those healthy things that we all promise to do more at the beginning of the new year wouldn’t seem so goddamned burdensome if we also included promises to be a little indulgent and a little crazy every once in a while.

Maybe excess wouldn’t be so appetizing as a constant way of life if indulgence wasn’t considered a character deficit.

Maybe it’s time to start thinking of spirituality as encompassing more than just the serious stuff. Maybe a spiritual life is a life lived fully, in balance, with room for both self-control and self-indulgence.

This post sponsored by my wild partying in celebration of the new year, my escape from a cult, and my anniversary with my partner. Five years of life and love. Hangovers are welcomed without guilt. 😉