Dance and Paganism–Your thoughts

Given my particular preference for thinking of Paganism as a religion inextricably tied to dance, I tend to notice any time I read another Pagan use the word dance.

And, in case you haven’t noticed, Pagans talk about dance a lot. But usually they’re talking about dance without actually discussing dance.

We talk about the dance of the elements or the dances of species or the dance of the circle of life or the universe. We write poetry about dancing gods and goddesses. But, while I would say that maybe 10% of the pagan blog posts I read mention dance, I’m not sure I’ve ever read more than a couple that actually speak about the act of dancing (other than a narrative reference that dancing occurred at a particular ritual), and I’m not sure if I’ve ever read any other than my own that explicitly muse of the role of dance in the greater Pagan world. (I have read a few about specific historical dances, and then there is of course the Spiral Dance). Which makes me feel sometimes like I’m standing up on a soapbox talking about dance but missing out on any larger dialogue.

So that’s what I’m asking for. Muse in the comments about what dance means to you, and why it is that we write about the world dancing so much, but not about ourselves dancing, and what you think the relationships is between Pagans and our own dancing bodies. Or link to your favorite article about dance and paganism. Or better yet, write your own blog post on the subject and link to it in the comments.

I can’t wait to read what you guys have to say!


10 thoughts on “Dance and Paganism–Your thoughts

  1. I did write about belly dance and what it means to me a month or so ago. In particular, I focused on what it means to be 1) a Druid and 2) a woman with regards to that style. It’s something I’d like to explore more as I practice.

    For me, dance is all about expressing ourselves and our world. Sometimes it’s sensual, other times it’s animalistic, or interpretive. We’re having fun, relating to each other and the spirit world through movement.

    • It’s great to read about how you got into belly dancing and why you like it.

      I have definitely noticed that belly dancing is popular among female Pagans. I think it’s because it’s a form of dance perceived as sexy and embodied, which is pretty much why I think Pagans like dance. But I’ve only barely belly danced, so could you speak a bit as a belly dancing Pagan lady a bit about why you think the two seem to fit together so well in a broader sense?

  2. Have you ever tried ecstatic dance? I’ve only done it a few times but frankly I think it negates any use for recreational drugs and increases the need for hydration.

  3. Thank you for writing about the role of dance in Paganism. Another belly dancing Pagan lady here – I do dark fusion/gothic belly dance as part of my devotional and ritual practice. My project is called Shrine of Skadi. You may enjoy a recent blog entry I wrote about my journey into dark fusion dance. I address the perception of the dance as “sexy” and discuss the reasons that this specific kind of dance is so important to my spiritual life. I’ll definitely have more to say about this in the future!

    Here are some quotes from the post:

    “The dance that I prefer to do is intended not as stage entertainment, but as a ritual offering of praise, service, emotional catharsis, and devotion to the dark and earthly divine. It’s a form of meditation, and a way of opening myself to altered states of awareness mediated and grounded through the Earth. Dance is also an embodied epistemological tool – it can be a way to receive divine guidance and access deep visceral wisdom through rhythmic movement. No matter how dissociated or anesthetised we may become by life in the modern world, there is still a great source of aliveness and intelligence living in the bones and flesh of our bodies that runs much deeper than is commonly acknowledged in our culture. For me, belly dance opens the door to this intelligence more effectively than any other kind of dance.”

    “I see virtually none of the stereotypical entice-your-husband belly dance persona in dark fusion and gothic bellydance, and as a feminist, that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. It’s passionate, for sure, but it staunchly refuses to cater to the male gaze. When it’s done well, it has an intense, smoldering power in which a dancer can display a fiery, unapologetic spirit in a healthy and transformative way. (And if your partner – of whatever gender identity – happens to find that seductive, well, then, so much the better!)”

    “Dark fusion belly dance allows me to constructively tap into and develop aspects of my shadow self that might otherwise have remained hidden. By costuming myself ritualistically and draping myself with jewels and layers of costuming that permit me to more deeply inhabit my dark dance persona and set aside the person I must be in mundane life, I find I am better able to access sources of wisdom that come through the body rather than the conscious mind.”

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I am very sorry that it took me so long to respond, but I wanted to be able to take the time to read your post and process it before answering.

      I love what you’ve written. I like that you mention Isadora Duncan, the inventor of Modern Dance, as a dark Pagan dancer. I like that you talk about dance as experience rather than performance, and its transformative power in mind/body relationships and body confidence. I love that you started dancing all the time because you found something that spoke to you, and I love that you wrote so thoroughly about it.

      I love what you said about being sexy while refusing to cater to the male gaze, because that’s a distinction I don’t think is often enough brought to light. I think everyone loves to feel sexy, but there’s a certain loss in being sexy more for pleasing the viewer than accessing the inner sexiness. That distinction allows for room for sexuality and sensuality to blur, and for sexuality to emerge from each individual instead of being a power play of a woman pleasing a man.

      Thank you.

      • Thank you kindly for your reply, and for all of those lovely compliments! I’m so glad that you enjoyed my post. I very much appreciate your writings as well!

        I especially love your series of posts on The Case for a Dancing Heathenry, and your article “The Gods in Our Bodies” in Hex magazine. I think Heathenry as a whole is in dire need of a good strong infusion of the kind of embodied joy that ritual dance can bring. When I first discovered Heathenry in 2004, I found the heavy focus on stereotypically masculine Viking warrior stuff to be rather off-putting. I knew I was a mystic who loved the Northern gods, and I knew that I wanted to do devotional dance as a form of worship, but I felt like there was no acceptable place for this in the Heathenry I knew. So thank you for making the important link between dance and Heathenry in such vivid detail. Much appreciated.

  4. Thank you for asking this question! I am just returning to using dance as worship (at Freyja’s behest)- I dance tons- just without ritualizing it- I’ll post about it once I’ve done it a bit. I’ve had the same issue, finding dance as metaphor in writings as opposed to activity.
    Until then, I’m loving reading your blog and all these responses.

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