|Photo by lica20/deviantart.com|
During the social period after yesterday's Summer Solstice ritual, when we were taking advantage of the longest day relaxing around the remains of our bonfire (a real bonefire, mind you, because someone thoughtfully brought a few bones to toss into the flames), someone came up with the idea that we needed a snappy phrase to describe ourselves because "relentlessly gay" only covers a few of us. Since "Wild,Wonderful" is already taken by our neighboring state of West Virginia, we bounced a few phrases-mostly lame-back and forth. Someone came up with " Wonderfully, Amazingly Pagan"...close enough for me.
I am hard pressed to describe myself nowadays. I incorporate a lot of things into my version of being Pagan. I have developed a big bent toward Buddhist philosophy in the last few years. I'm using a lot more techniques from folk magic/medicine. I am a both a kitchen witch and a hedge witch . My solitary rituals are sometimes loose, spontaneous and less structured. I am more at ease leading ritual in a group setting than I ever have been ( encouraged by the small cluster I occasionally join). I am still very much Wiccan because that's where I started on this path, but no longer rigidly bound to any particular tradition. I am not particularly attached to 'witchy' jargon other than for the sake of clarity.
I believe there is a point when we simply become "Wonderfully, Amazingly Pagan": it's the moment of realization that we are no longer bound by the constructs of our former religion; when we are comfortable in our spiritual development to work outside of an established Craft Tradition; when we transcend the limitations we place on ourselves and become cognizant of being that small speck in the Universe.
The discoveries and mistakes we make along the way are frequent and many. We try to fit our new spirituality into the skin of our old one and find we are altogether another animal. It's starling and scary to see the old skin peel away. We loose the identity and comfort of it. Until we slowly develop this new Pagan self hood, we are sometimes distressed by the spiritual free-fall until we land someplace in the journey where we are satisfied and not fixated on a destination. It's difficult to adapt to new ideas; one a lot of people have a problem casting off is the concept of original sin,which does not exist in paganism. The personal implications associated with this moral time bomb are disarmed by Pagan theologies; the realization is truly an awakening to a new life. You are no longer held to the rules of a tradition you are no longer a part of.
But...When bad things happen to other people, we do need to speak up. As Pagans are still considered a minority religion. We are certainly not in the mainstream, even though we're making great strides toward being accepted. When things happen to other minority groups, we need to speak up to show our support. Many of us, like myself, are LBGT-Q allies.Working toward equality for everyone makes our relationships and society stronger. Remember the story about how when the Nazis were overtaking one group of people after the other much of the world stood by in silence and watched until those who were left realized there was no one to speak up for them? It's still like that in the world today. If we stand silently and allow intolerance and bigotry to just go by, chances are there will be no one else to speak up when we are the target of discrimination. Pagans should be active in their community, not just in Pagan-sponsored activities. Showing you care-letting others get to know you first- is a good way to build a solid foundation prior announcing your religious affiliation.
Just as we are unique in our individual personalities, not all Pagan Traditions are alike-but you knew that, didn't you? Don't we all know this? Then why do we continue to have pissing contests over who's a 'real' Pagan and who's not? I don't want to put energy into this argument because it's absurd. Each of us have a relationship to the gods that is uniquely ours alone and we choose to integrate being Pagan into our lives as we see fit. It's not a contest. We should be helping one another on the journey and not be competing against one another. This is not the Pagan Olympics and no one is handling out metals. There are a lot of people out there who are not like you, and a few who will not be to your liking. Most of the time we can agree to disagree and still be civil. I am Pagan enough, thanks, and so are you.
And please, please, stop believing everything you read about how Pagans should act, believe, look like, etc.There are some 'must have' books and some really awful ones on the shelves. Trial and error will teach you which is which and which ones are beneficial to your spiritual development. (Admittedly some of the really crappy ones are fun to read!) Apply this general rule even more to things you find on the Internet. While it's true that Paganism has no central authority and no one is monitoring information we still share a few core beliefs and have some moral standards in common.
While you are certainly free to believe whatever you desire because that is your prerogative, whether you should is another discussion. You know that little voice in the back of your head? Listen to it.
Like everything else, you get out of being Pagan what you put into it. If you don't study and practice, you'll get nothing out of it. Paganism (and Witchcraft even more) is an experiential form of spirituality. You cannot will knowledge to wash over you like rain. You may call yourself anything you like, but standing in a circle with twelve other naked people under a full moon doesn't not necessarily make you a Pagan. Dressing in all black clothing and wearing pentagrams dangling from every appendage will not make you a Pagan. Teachers will not be knocking on your door begging you to become their student; you will have to put a lot of thought into what you want to get out of being Pagan, and when your head stops spinning and you have a vague idea of that, then you will have to search out a teacher-be that an actual individual, a group or author.
My most effective teacher is not a sage adept practitioner of the mystical arts; it has not been the author of any book. My most effective teacher has been me. I still believe that everything we need is with us. I'm not trying to claim to be a font of wisdom in any narcissistic way. What I'm saying is that my spirit knows what my soul needs when I take myself into the Place of Deep-Indwelling, when I create and sit in sacred space. Joseph Campbell said "... if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."[ The Power of Myth,1985] He meant to trust the process, participate in creating the process, be the process. The place I am most myself is when I am sitting alone in the center of a draw circle. Within that circle I can visualize and experience anything. I can be my most quiet in that sacred stillness. What is Pagan within me (and this is very, very complicated) was born in this space, grew and radiated into the world.
Wonderful. Amazing. Indeed.
[ Further reading and study:http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/04/09/find-your-bliss-joseph-campbell-power-of-myth/ ]