Soon the lovely and commercialized holiday of Valentine's Day will be upon us, openly mocking those among us who are not in romantic relationships. I remember hating the entire month of February for this perceived injustice—why create a holiday in which not everyone can equally share and celebrate? What kind of sadistic Hallmark writer came up with that?! Even though I now have a permanent Valentine, I still find Valentine's Day more than a little clichéd and trite and hurtful.
When confronted this year with the blather and bluster of the season, let's try to focus on Love with a capital L—not the romantic love you feel for your partner (or your crush), and not the love you feel for your family. What I humbly suggest to you this year is a love spell for the whole world, and everything in it—including yourself.
Some faiths are more focused on love than others. Sufi poet Rumi was and still is famed for his brilliant and spiritual love poems, in which burning, overwhelming love was a conduit of and metaphor for the ecstatic and direct experience of the Divine. Christianity teaches its adherents to love their neighbors, and to turn the other cheek rather than pursue a vengeful path; even non-Christians have heard of the all-encompassing love associated with the figure of Christ. And the Greeks had a word, agape, meaning "divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional, and thoughtful love." All of these are forms of love that surpass the personal and touch the infinite.
Yet in many Pagan paths there is no exhortation to love one another for no reason whatsoever. Even the Wiccan phrase "Perfect Love and Perfect Trust" is not advancing the practice of universal love; it refers to your covenmates, or at least to those with whom you do ritual. It guarantees that you won't be bringing negative personal energy into the circle when doing ritual or magic, not that you're going to love your dentist or bill collector or governor.
And if we look beyond Wicca, we equally find no moral maxim, no dogma declaring that we must all love one another. Druid philosophy places import on virtues such as truth, community, and honesty, but never suggests that you should love others at the expense of these ideals. Heathen and Asatru ethics extol the Nine Noble Virtues: courage, truth, loyalty, perseverance, discipline, self-reliance, industriousness, hospitality, and honor (see love anywhere on that list?). The Roman Virtues don't mention love either. So do Pagans not believe in a higher love? "Harm none" is a far cry from "love all."
Yet Love is still an important underpinning to most Pagan belief systems. I believe that love is what allows us to respect others, even when we don't agree with them. Love is what moves us to protect the earth so that all her wonderful creatures can enjoy life. Love is what leads us to commune with deity so that we can make the world a better place for everybody. In The Circle Within, Dianne Sylvan writes of Love as one of her "Wiccan Graces," which include compassion, forgiveness, humor, gratitude, integrity, wisdom, joy, and growth. She writes, "The love of the Goddess is poured freely out upon the Earth—even on the evildoers and the biting flies. The goal, then, is to strive to look at the world from a place of love, and to act accordingly.
"We all have this love within us, but for most people, it's buried beneath a haystack of conflicting desires, attachments, and pain. Cultivating love for all creatures—for all creation—is a lifelong quest. All of the other graces are facets of love or ways to help us find it in ourselves and others."
Here are a few suggestions for you to try to open yourself to universal love.
To close with the words of Deborah Blake in Everyday Witch A to Z: "This may be the hardest task the goddess sets before us, but it is, nonetheless, one of the most important objectives for Witches: to learn to love ourselves and those around us as fully and as freely as possible."