'Diana said one day to her daughter Aradia:
"It is true that you are a spirit. But you were born to be yet again a mortal; and you must go on earth & you must become a teacher to women & men who will have willingness to learn your schooling, which will be composed of witchcraft.' (Aradia 1: 1-7, Pazzaglini translation)I have recently got back into exercising (after hurting my arm, then my knee, then getting verrucas, derp). I'm not starting from a complete standing start as I was before - I have the remains of the muscle I built until I stopped - & after only a few weeks am feeling taller, firmer, better balanced, & more focused. Of course the last one & its relationship to the others is the real purpose of this post.
I wonder how many gym-goers realise the word's ancient, intellectual, & respectably Pagan origins:
'The gymnasium in Ancient Greece functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. The name comes from the Ancient Greek term gymnós meaning "naked". Athletes competed nude, a practice said to encourage aesthetic appreciation of the male body and a tribute to the gods. Gymnasia and palestrae (wrestling schools) were under the protection and patronage of Heracles, Hermes and, in Athens, Theseus.' (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gymnasium_(ancient_Greece))
Tell a lie, some do, & of course it's at this point we begin to recognise ourselves in real witchcraft territory:
'If you dig a little deeper into the word, you find the root word 'gymnos,' meaning 'naked.' Ancient Greek and Olympic athletes exercised, trained, and competed in the nude in order to honor the gods by imitating them (it is, as you know, the sincerest form of flattery). In fact, getting buff in the buff was so beloved that a 6th century attempt to introduce loincloths to athletes was vehemently resisted!' (http://blog.zocdoc.com/the-weird-ancient-history-of-the-word-gymnasium/)
In fact, simply the combination of nude honour of the gods, intellectual pursuits, & developing the concentration necessary to work on the health of the body...hmmm, let's see if it's in a book with a crescent moon on the spine! In fact it's interesting how the word has remained somewhat closer to its ancient origin in English, than its use for a school in some European language.
Because that is actually what a gym is - a school. For example, on Friday I woke up having barely slept because it was so hot. I was in work at 7 & was booked in for an appraisal with my manager (major advantage to being a witch - you can tell what your manager's going to bring up in your appraisal & can spike her guns). I got home knackered, thinking that I couldn't face working out. But I slept for about an hour, & realised I had to do it to keep on track. I actually felt better after exercising than after sleeping. It's something to do with the hormones I think. Some exercises actually feel meditative, & the funny thing is after an hour of exercising I feel the way I do after an incense stick-worth of meditating. I suppose it ought to be better because of the physical health aspects.
The point of the Aradia quote is for me to make a point by deliberately misreading it. Aradia's human embodiment was fated for her & was what enabled her to school the poor in witchcraft. Similarly, if we are looking for true schooling in witchcraft we won't avoid the physical side of it. I'm not implying the Pagan community are big or anything, but...
To my great satisfaction I've found some still-existing parallels of the gym thing, or rather settings where the whole person is not neglected. I'm delighted to find that the same word is used in India for both wrestling schools & some monasteries (one forms the illustration to this post. Picture credit: http://kushtiwrestling.blogspot.com and get the Gods along the wall!):
'Akhara (sometimes romanized as "akhada") is a Sanskrit word denoting a place of practice with facilities for board, lodging and education for a particular sect or order. It can either refer to a training hall used by martial artists or a monastery for religious renunciates.' (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhara)
In fact I'm beginning to think I would personally prioritise 'physical' training over 'mental' or 'spiritual' training - I'm coming to think it is the one of the three that has the most effect on the others. When I was student I met a man who had just left an Anglican religious order, who joked with one of his housemates who was sporty, that he was only interested in spiritual fitness. What was wrong with this picture was that he was grossly obese & could hardly move, so how he could expect himself to be 'fit' in any way, or even able to concentrate, I don't know. Similarly a nun once told me that monasteries of men that don't have manual labour tend to get very petty & queeny - this was certainly the experience I had, & I do feel that physical exertion can give a new level of proportion.
Of course the other example of physical training & meditation combined is the dojo:
'A dojo (道場 dōjō) is a Japanese term which literally means "place of the way". Initially, dōjōs were adjunct to temples. The term can refer to a formal training place for any of the Japanese do arts but typically it is considered the formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style such as karate, judo, or samurai, to conduct training, examinations and other related encounters.
'The concept of a dōjō as a training place specifically for martial arts is a Western concept; in Japan, any physical training facility, including professional wrestling schools, may be called dōjō because of its close martial arts roots.
'The term dōjō is also used to describe the meditation halls where Zen Buddhists practice zazen meditation. It is sometimes used instead of the term "zendo" which is more specific, and more widely used.' (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dojo)
Now, while I'm obviously going to have to face the fact that Aradia doesn't seem to have been running a gym, I can take refuge in the fact that she gave her followers things to do. At no point is sitting in the back room of the local metaphysical shop, listening to a lecture, mentioned. She taught her followers how to do things. And then the specific ways she tells them to hold their meetings are all things to do - how to hold the supper, etc.
On the other hand, it may just be that I'm writing this post to assuage my own [Catholic] guilt at the fact that I am the world's least disciplined witch, have always gone for 'spiritual' exercises on the hop, & have completely failed to establish a daily 'spiritual routine', which all the books tell me is a must. On the other hand I'm one mean psychic & witch, who pays very close attention when I've a mind to! I suppose that's what I'm hoping to do by my commitment to exercise - a honing to razor-sharpness of my concentration & the fruits of meditation. Just, as usual, in a completely unspiritual way!