Artistic Expression Is A Moral Obligation

Sophia Burns
2 min readSep 22, 2020

A Pagan’s world moves in circles.

Today, the light half of the year gives way to the dark. Daylight will shrink and nighttime will lengthen. But after the wave-form reaches its trough at Midwinter, the sun will return. Summer will come back. The Wheel of the Year’s eight holidays mark this astronomical time — the rythmic dilation and contraction of day and night.

Meanwhile, most city people are psychologically and socially distant from the agricultural cycle. But physically, they’re just as close to it as any farmer. After all, they eat what farmers grow; they may not think about the rhythm of seeding and harvesting, but they still depend on it. Without it they, too, would die. Pagan seasonal holidays recognize this dependence. They help city-dwellers remember realities that their lifestyle makes it easy to ignore.

When you use ritual to connect with and sanctify the cycles of the year, you evoke their latent spiritual power into your life. You feel more rooted. You’re more aware of the larger world. At the same time, though, you’re also more in tune with the specific details of your neighborhood ecosystem. That connection energizes you. It feeds your spirit. You become less prone to burnout and loneliness. You start to interact with the world as its equal, rather than passively receiving whatever comes your way.

But when you tap into that sacred power, you’re starting another cycle. Unlike the waxing and waning seasons, it won’t progress on its own. Effective ritual makes you strong, but it also creates a moral obligation. You have a duty to take that spiritual energy and bring it back out into the world. You shouldn’t hoard it by renouncing worldly life.

Ritual calls down holiness into you. You need to complete the circle by passing it forward. Paganism is the practice of sanctifying and re-enchanting everything: you cultivate spiritual power, then use every aspect of your life to spread the blessings.

The best ways to do that are service to others and artistic expression. Creativity takes your private inspiration and puts it into a form that makes it available to other people. Drawing, telling stories, performing, even role-playing hobbies like Dungeons and Dragons — art is a Pagan sacrament. It’s a sacred act because it imbues other people’s experiences with meaning, not just your own. And by giving your time and energy to make other people’s lives better, not only do you elevate your own moral character — you also inspire others to do the same.

Ritual and spirituality open the circle. But art and service are how you seal it.

Sophia Burns

Paganism, Buddhism, Classics, philosophy, LGBTQ culture, and the art of living well. Former activist; I don’t trust culture war.