Yesterday, Friday, I picked up my first real Pagan book called Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by Joyce and River Higgenbotham. I have other books, such as Scott Cunningham’s Oils, Insence and Brews and an old, old, old copy of his Wicca: Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Both were ‘interest’ books, and not necessarily ‘serious’ ones.
Since Imbolc I’ve felt it imperative to begin—really, continue—the journey I began months ago. I let it rest for the winter season, but now that the sun is slowly waxing action is necessary. Wanted. Desired. Anticipated. You get the idea.
So yesterday after some web-licious researching I decided that Paganism looked like a promising beginner’s guide that included thoughtful journal exercises, discussion, meditations and light craft work. I took the entire evening to read it over, except for the section on physics (which, hopefully, I’ll go back and finish tonight). The contents of the book are pretty basic but very satisfying. They address the Wheel of the Year, celebrations, rituals, beliefs, diety, good/evil, the concept of satan, ethics and values, magick, divination and briefly discussed the differences between the major sects of Paganism. Lots of nice graphics and essential points of Pagan philosophy, such as Paganism is about personal responsibility, spiritual work, engagement, etc. It is not a book friendly to arm-chair spirituality.
Today I took the journal exercises for a test drive. I sat in Chick-Fil-A, where I get my best journaling done, and completed two sections of the first chapter. It addressed thoughts on the seasons, how Pagans view life/death, and if I thought I was a pagan.
I scratched my head for a moment. I ate a piece of lemon pie. I sipped some Diet Death.
I put my pen to the page several times, each time leaving a little black dot but no answer.
Am I a Pagan? Do I think I am?
I eventually wrote that I might not be a Pagan, yet, but I don’t think I am a Christian anymore, at all.
What I love about Christianity is this: Jesus, as a wise person. The Incarnate of the One God? I can’t attest to that. I can attest to Jesus’ sacrifice, his words on love, community, priesthood and wisdom. But I have so many problems with so much of everything else: inerrancy, the Old Testament (as spiritual text, not as history–as in, I take it as a historical/mythological document, not necessarily a spiritual one), Paul, the inherent stance on women, the pervasive sense of fear in the Church, the us/them mentality that stems from a rabid belief in satan, demons, possession, generational curses, etc. Just when you thought magic wasn’t in the church? Hah. The church—all stripes—is full of magical belief.
Some might say, well, cut the wheat from the chaff and just take a belief that Jesus died for your sins. See? You’re a Christian.
I struggle with that, I do. Christianity is seeped into the very marrow of my bones. But also sharing the marrow are some very non-Christian feelings. Like the pull towards nature I get every time I am alone in the woods, or on a path, in the rain, in the sun, before a storm, looking to the moon, when the wind blows across my neck. The electricity that vibrates in the air before the first spring storm or the first autumn cold front. The life in the earth when I garden. The taste of wine. The salty flavor or cheese. The feeling of curiosity co-mingling with a coming home when I read books on certain kinds of paganism, magick, philosophy or folktales. The utter connectedness I experienced at Imbolc.
It seems…stupid, in a way. To look to all of this as a sign of another Divinity, of being mutually exclusive with Christianity and Jesus. But the Christianity that I am emerging from believes that, if not under the name of God, what I am experiencing is demonic. That the Tarot is demonic. That if I pray to another god/dess I am praying to demons and inviting them in my life. That, at this moment, I am in sin. It’s a scary mindset to be in, a fearful one. I’ll be honest: when I started this path I felt terrified. I still do, at certain moments, though the terror is easing into an acceptance. This is my life stage. More importantly, this is my life. I shouldn’t be afraid. I am starting to slowly trust myself, and starting to slowly trust that I am a mature, adult woman who has a sense of ethics, values, balance and right action. Imagine! Being a spiritual adult and not perpetually an errant child.
Whether I revert to Christianity or journey to Whatever Else this single thing will always stay with me: I choose, and therefore am responsible for, my religious/spirtual belief.
I should say that I know all churches aren’t Charasmatic, Evangelical Protestants. I am going to a UU church tomorrow to experience liberal religion for the first time. But I don’t think that I can just easing into a…less rabid? easier? more liberal?…church is going to solve the problem. The problem is I’ve always let myself be told what to believe (because I craved that structure!) and never figured that out for myself.
And that’s what Paganism gives you. That’s what it promotes, actively. Figure it out. Paganism is a buffet, not a restaurant. Get your ass out of your seat and get your own food, dammit. Sure, there are figures in Paganism/Wicca/etc. who make money on those looking for quick-fix-its, but the majority of the pagan community I have found online are thoughtful, earnest seekers. It’s not an easy path for them and it requires constant work. Again, sure, you can find the quacks and flakes all over the web as well, but I guess I’ve been blessed to find some really good forums and blogs. *
That is what draws me to Paganism. The work. The ritual. The curiosity. The demand for intelligence, research, study, journaling, activity whether you are solitary or coven/grove/community oriented.
So am I a Christian, at this moment? I don’t think so. Am I a pagan? Not yet, no. I won’t label myself (again) until I am so positive and so sure it hurts me to not call myself by that name. Then…then I can attach some sort of label. Until then I am me, seeker, wanderer.
Ah! There is such freedom and joy and rightness in my heart.
*One forum I’ve especially enjoyed is Ecauldron. Also the blogs on the sidebar, as well as others that I find randomly through comments sections.
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