The Day the World Changed

WTCThat day I was running late (as normal) to my medical office manager job.  Luckily, the doctors were running later than I was.

I opened up the office, turned on the local AM radio station the head doctor liked to listen to and started preparing the patient rooms for the patients that were coming in that day.

And as I was getting the ledger ready for the day’s entries, I heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  It sounded like it was a small plane. ‘A Cessna probably,’ I thought and continued my daily work.

Then the announcer started to get more panicked as news started coming in of another plane hitting the World Trade Center.  Then a plane at the Pentagon.  And another plane downed in Pennsylvania.

I can’t remember the order anymore, but I remember the panic in the announcer’s voice.  I remember every one of our patients canceling that day.  I remember sitting in the doctor’s private office with his old TV turned on so that we could see what was going on.  After the office closed for lunch I remember going to a friend’s house so I could continue to see the news coverage.  I remember being in line for gas for over an hour as I tried to get home and thinking that the world was falling down around me.

I remember not being able to sleep that night, and for weeks afterward, without the TV blaring because it was just too quiet and scary.  I remember sitting inches from the television, listening to the president speak words that weren’t in my common vocabulary before, “Al-Qaeda,” “Jihad” and later hearing the name Osama bin Laden.

Even bringing those things out and speaking about them, 17 years later, still hurts.  I still want to cry.  I still want to scream.  I still feel a thickness in my chest that threatens to overcome me.  Perhaps it’s PTSD, perhaps it’s simply the fact that the visions of those towers falling will forever be imprinted in my head, no matter how much I try to get them out.

This year, on this anniversary, I’m already seeing posts about how we shouldn’t have memorial services.  We shouldn’t be marking this day at all because we created these evil people with our Middle East politics in the first place.   Some would rather use this day to rally against the government and its international politics.  Others want us to turn this day into a national day of mourning to honor the heroic dead that died on this day to ensure it stays fresh and can be recalled instantly by every American.

The fact of the matter is, I really don’t give a flying shit about any of those things.  Right now, I simply still just want to grieve. 

I want to grieve for what my nieces and nephews have lost thanks to now necessary extra security measures.

I want to grieve for the pain of loved ones that are missing friends and family that should have come home from work that day.

I want to grieve for my own life changes because on that day I became a little less naive.

I want to cry for the people on that plane, who realized they were going to die no matter what happened, and decided to take it down themselves.

I want to grieve for the unity of the country after the event.  That unity was caused only by the shared pain everyone felt.   We all were willing to pitch in and do what we could to help those that were hurting and try to pick up and get things moving again.  It was comforting, yet upsetting to see all at the same time.

And now, seeing the posts I am, I want to grieve for the loss of that unity as I think now it may truly be dead in this country.

So for today, I really don’t give a shit about why you say we should or should not have memorials and why this happened in the first place.  I don’t care about comparing the number of people dead in wars versus this horrible event in US history.  And I’m certainly not going to respect those who bang a drum of remembrance while saying we should be doing such and such right now because of the heroes that died on this day.  And the people who continue to place fear in hearts and minds that this could happen again because they want to get something passed in Congress can just go to hell.

All I want to do today is fucking grieve.  And try to heal.  Something I’m still trying to do after 17 years.  So just give me the space to keep trying.

 

Photo from Financial Express picture gallery

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Logic, Discernment and Paganism: A Discussion

A man with severe anger issues that have caused significant criminal repercussions for himself decides that the reason he has so much anger is because of his past lives.  So he seeks out a friend who is a past life guru and they decide to do all of the past life work they can with the belief that once he is done dealing with past life pain his spirit will shine brighter than the sun.

A couple with a history of arguments recognize their fights are getting more and more acute and almost violent.  They decide to look for a witch that will help exorcise the demon that they feel is connected to each of them so that they will no longer be angry at each other.

These are only two of the many situations that I’ve seen over the years that clearly demonstrate how someone who focuses on metaphysical work can lose sight of clearly logical explanations for issues within their own lives.  It’s something that can be a danger in any religion, really.  Anytime someone is claiming that a deity intervened directly because of a specific sin someone committed reeks of lack of discernment.  Anyone who tries to claim that they are being attacked or cursed needs to carefully vet the situation as well to ensure that a logical explanation is not the root cause of the issue.

Now the above examples of the man and the couple are extreme cases, and those cases are somewhat rare.  Yet the topic of discernment is one that comes up again and again in the pagan community, especially within discussions of Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG).  For many of us, there are no tangible rules to our spirituality and metaphysical practices.  This forces us to look at what others have done (historically and in current practice) and learn what we can from them.  Then we rely on ourselves and our personal experiences to fill in the gaps.  Some things are easy to accept.  For example, Odin liking hot coffee as an offering.  That’s a pretty common personal gnosis among those who work with him.  Others, like being a God-spouse or God-slave, are a bit harder to personally accept.  Harder still to accept are some of the personal, deeper experiences people have had with divinity – solitary rites of passage, ordeals while journeying, even conversations with a Spirit, God or Goddess could be suspect.

If things weren’t complicated enough, looking to the answers to whether something is ‘made up in your head’ or actually happened can be so personal that the answer may not be the same for everyone.  I’ll take an example from my own life.  When I was a child, I dreamed of my current husband.  In one of the vivid dreams I remember of him, he was in a martial arts uniform, taking instruction from his teacher and practicing kicks.  In another dream, I saw his house.  Did I really dream of my future husband?  Romantically I want to say yes, I did, but I couldn’t truly believe it until I verified with my husband details about the dreams.  And after those verification conversations that included verifications that he and I both agreed upon, we both believe we dreamed about each other when we were little.  Someone else could look at this and say it isn’t possible and it didn’t happen, and that’s fine.  However for my husband and I, we believe we did dream of each other, and what others believe about the dreams doesn’t matter.

But where is the line drawn between something that could happen, and something made up in the mind of the individual?  This is a question I am butting up against quite a bit, especially when discussing Gods, magic and divinity with other people on social media.  Add to this the fact that I do significant amounts of work with a trickster god and that’s a recipe for even more frequent questioning of events, and VERY frequent questioning as to whether or not my personal discernment is good enough!

But as much as I question myself, I don’t seem to see others question their own discernment, which I think is a concern for many of us in the community that do follow more of a magical path.  A misguided spell  or judgement call can lead to many situations where someone needs to clean up the mess that is made after the misguided event has occurred.   At the very least, the person who believes something that is incorrect could become a physical, mental and emotional drain on the people around them.

If you think this is starting to sound like a psychological problem, you are right.  Many times the person who is creating events don’t realize why, and those events could be utilized as a ‘mental escape’ from trauma that has occurred (or is still occurring) in their life.  They also could be simply young, learning on their own (or simply doing very quick google searches for answers to questions) and are making mistakes when deciphering what they believe are signs and symbols.  Or, like in the very first example that I posted in the beginning of this post, the person could simply not be ready to assume the responsibility of the trauma that they caused to their children and their (now ex) wife, and never will be.

A final reason for someone misleading someone else in a UPG situation is that it could be deliberate.  As in the case of pastors pushing for more and more money to be given to their church because of the ‘tithing’ belief, or other priests claiming a God requires devotees to have sex with them, there could be ulterior motives for the lies.  I wish this didn’t happen often, but it happens enough that it needs to be considered.

So what are we supposed to do here?  How can we recognize when a UPG situation is verified, and when it is not?

I think the very first thing we have to consider is the state of mind of the individual who had the situation occur in the first place.  Is there trauma going on in their lives that they are addressing, or still reeling from?  What is the mental age of the person?  Someone who has had significant trauma in their life could act younger than what they are in physical years due to the brain’s own methods of protection from trauma and abuse.  Does the person think logically on a regular basis, or are what others would call ‘down to earth’ about things, or do they crave being in a spotlight?  Has the person been found to have caused situations that could be considered dramatic or drama filled in the past?  Those are all things to consider when helping someone vet whether or not a situation is truly divine in nature or is something that the ego has made up.

A second and just as important item to consider is the logic of a situation.  Is there a physical explanation for the event?  Could the apparition be a shadow cast by the sun, or could something not be sitting as solidly as you thought when it fell over?  If I wake up in the middle of the night with red bumps and scratches all over my body, was it a demon torturing me, or did I happen to have windows open in the height of summer with screens that have been ripped up by cat claws, and said cats are using me as turn four in their kittyopolis 400? (Anyone who has cats knows what I’m talking about.  For those that don’t have cats, they love to run around at night.  A lot.)

Most importantly, the questions I pose here should not just be ones we use to look at others situations and stories.  These should be ones that we regularly ask ourselves when we try to verify whether or not something is metaphysical in nature or just happens to be something with a physical cause.  If we don’t keep asking these questions of ourselves, we end up committing the greatest error of all, which is to delude ourselves and others into false situations and use false guidance as our personal truths.  That is why this issue is so serious.

To bring this subject up and seriously look at the issue and its implications can be hard.  Many people will be defensive about it, and that is expected.  I’m talking about possibly denying something someone else believed truly happened.  In some ways, you are denying someone their belief of a personal truth.  They may get mad.  They may get defensive.  They may not listen.

How do I know that someone would act that way?  Because when I was in this very situation where I had my own beliefs challenged, that is exactly how I acted.  I went between anger, surprise and disbelief, and uncertainty.  It was downright painful too.  Here are people that I trusted with my own personal beliefs and yet they were cutting them to pieces right in front of me.

Guess what…They were right.

I’m of course talking about a time over 20 years past, when I was in my teens, JUST starting out on this pagan road on my own.  I wasn’t too much of a drama queen, but boy I caused my share.  And I had no idea why I was doing it either, until I realized years later that I had trauma that I had to deal with.  And it was that trauma which goaded me into thinking what I was hearing and seeing was right.  That’s why I recognize now that there is a learning curve here.   And not many people are ready to go to those places to understand why they are wrong, because ultimately that will mean dealing with that trauma.  Sometimes those issues are just too powerful, and those ideals that we are trying to break down for the person as being false are actually shielding them from that trauma for a reason.

That discernment earning curve can be further influenced by the person who is trying to help show them the issue.  Sometimes that person trying to point out those issues does it in a manner that will help, and sometimes that becomes part of the problem too, especially when someone does it just to boost their own ego.  Even if there is a PERCEPTION that the discernment push is being done by an ego boost, it can still cause a longer learning curve.  That isn’t the fault of either party, it’s just what happens.

Even after all the care, planning and gentleness  utilized to try to help explain to someone else that something may not be exactly what they think it is, the whole situation could still turn sour.  In those cases, it’s best to let it go.  Let each person  do what they can in order to take care of their own energy and their own mental and emotional health.   Not attack the other, simply let things be as they are.  In my own case it took a move away from the coven I was with, a marriage and a divorce before I dealt with the trauma that allowed me to see metaphysical issues more clearly.  And that is a much shorter period of time than many take – I was motivated.

I wrote about this because I’m seeing more and more posts where people talk about their own discernment, and I think it’s not enough to simply put out there how someone discerns for themselves their own dealings with divinity.  I think we also need to talk about the ‘why’ we have to have discernment, and talk about why it varies between people so much.  I hope I’ve given some good things to ponder here, and I hope the conversation continues.  And as always, I’d love to hear other’s opinions.

Thanks for reading.

 

The Struggle for Radical Inclusion

I’m getting very tired of hearing other opinions, especially when those opinions are openly against another person’s belief, the color of their skin, the way they dress, what they choose for themselves, or those against an entire religion. Yet, that feels like it’s all I’m surrounded by. And not only am I surrounded by those opinions I know now I have family members with those types of beliefs. And what is worst of all, it is now confirmed that people I chose to be a part of my chosen family and those I looked up to have opinions that demean and belittle others.

Each time I have heard about someone else close to me who has a believe that excludes others, it makes my heart ache. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s a story on the news about things that people are doing against each other, it hurts too. You pray for those affected and do what you can if there are monetary needs or petitions to sign. But when it gets close to home, things get really bad for me. Heartache turns to outright anger, bitterness and a whole hell of a lot of pain. But yet, when the talk from family or friends turns to those sore topics, I have still tried to be civil. I agree to disagree, or bring up reasons why things are not the way the person who is biased claims them to be. Even when my own uncle comes out against others for the color of their skin, I still try to ‘play nice’ for the sake of the family. I still try to listen, to understand, and to get them to understand where I am coming from.

There is a reason I was doing this. The thing is, one of the biggest problems this nation faces today is that we aren’t listening to each other. We aren’t recognizing there is an allowance for differences of opinions. There was a time when being ‘democrat’ or ‘republican’ meant that ideals were different, yet everyone believed in being civil, and both sides strongly felt they were doing the right thing for the nation. There was a time not too far in the past when civil debates could be held without fear and even political candidates stopped their constituents from throwing angry slurs at their opponents during rallies.

But unfortunately, those times are long over.

Today, it’s not just an opinion about whether or not to tax something anymore. Today, the differences of opinion are about large swaths of people and whether or not they have a right to education, a right to live and worship as they choose, or even just a right to exist. And I can understand why those beliefs are held. Some people that hold opinions against others do it out of fear, or they do it out of experiences they have, or they do it because that is what they were taught. And almost always those with the opinions of exclusion don’t think they are doing anything wrong. For example, I was recently told by someone that equality currently exists between a gay couple and a straight couple if the gay couple had at least a couple doctors to go and see. Sure, not all the doctors would be willing to see them because of their ‘christian’ faith, but because they still had a choice of some doctors who would take them as patients it didn’t matter if others wouldn’t see them. I couldn’t help but think if the situation was reversed that they wouldn’t think it was equal, no matter how many times they said they would feel the same way during that conversation.

No matter what it was justified it with, this person was talking about the exclusion of a human being. They were excluding another life, another spirit, another soul. They are excluding another in which, in many different religions, is believed to be that which has been made in a likeness of God – the very God they claim to worship. If that wasn’t bad enough, by excluding that person, many break a second tenant that is said in many different ways based on the specific religion, but basically boils down to ‘do not judge others’.

So here is where, in any conversation with someone whose opinion is being sliced to shreds, the cherry picking begins. Either I’m looking at something the wrong way, or I don’t fully understand the verses being spoken about, or another verse overrides what verses or holy books I’m quoting from. It doesn’t matter. In my personal belief system a human is still a human, and until they do something that clearly shows they don’t deserve it, respect for who and what they are matters deeply to me.

Automatic respect of others is radical. Automatic respect is the hard road. Recognizing the difference of opinion and accepting it (not approving mind you, but accepting) is ridiculously hard, especially in this polarized nation. But it’s what I’ve tried to do, time and time again. I’ve recently been in conversations with others that my husband has outright told me he would have immediately quit the conversation and stormed out of the room. Not because he nor I were being disrespected, but because the person was so passionate about their belief that they were right. This person wasn’t an outright hater or excluder, but they certainly were on the slippery slope to allow exclusion to happen and not find it to be wrong.

But I have to admit, even though I do my best, I still get shaken to my core. Recently in the Society for Creative Achronism (SCA), the ruler of a kingdom who has made racist statements on social media elevated a known racist to the highest honor of the kingdom, even while the other members who had a say vetoed the elevation. In another kingdom, months earlier, royalty decided to wear clothing with swastikas clearly sown into the embroidery. And today, I’m forced to recognize yet again that someone in my own household shares radical opinions about Muslims. This is someone who swore an oath to be kind to all, generous with their time, who is known as a caring individual, and yet, it seems to me now that these traits are just part of the ‘game’ that is the SCA, and not what they strive to be in real life. This is truly disheartening and sad.

Unfortunately, because I’m getting hit by this over and over, it makes me wonder about my own personal guidelines on dealing with these people. Do I give more benefit of the doubt than I should? Do I need to follow the example and turn away from anyone who even speaks about exclusion being right, even though it may not be outwardly racist or bigoted? And if I do, doesn’t that just mean that I’m becoming a part of the polarization, and not part of the solution? It breaks my heart that I have to consider these things. I have watched my own parents become bitter as they got older because of the beliefs and actions of others, and swore to myself that I would never become that way; that I would always seek the good in others no matter how hard it was to find, and only quitting if the actions of that person became threatening to me, my friends or loved ones.

Now I don’t know if I have the strength left in me to not be bitter.

But for now, trying to be open is the requirement I have set upon myself, not only as a personal ethical code, but for me, a religious one as well. So I keep trying. I keep listening. I keep trying to get both sides of the story, and try to change others minds when I can. Many are perhaps a lost cause. Probably many more than I’m willing to admit to myself right now. And perhaps there may be need of more distancing myself from those who don’t want to see another side. Perhaps those whose beliefs include exclusion of any kind should be distanced, their businesses not be patronized as much as I had before. And perhaps I withdrawal from the SCA even further than I have previously. And perhaps these things aren’t being done on my part out of malice or anger. Perhaps I simply need to do them for my own sanity. Perhaps then I might have more mental energy to engage someone who might actually listen and come to understand.

I can still hope.

The Trial of the Flame

flame_by_vexix1887
Photo from Deviant Art

Well take my hand, and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.
Oh take my hand, and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

Now well within the cold dark battlements,
Black raven calls my name.
Never’ fore have I explored this backside of my brain.
There amongst those misty ruins likes this port of death and pain.

Take my hand, we’ll make a stand,
Through the trial of the flame.
Well take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

Gonna take this long trek down the shoreline.
Where the sea awaits me there,
If you do not fear it friend,
You’re ‘bout as mad as can compare.
Lost souls, and ghosts and phantoms are there awaitin’ in the rain.
So take my hand and walk with me through the trial of the flame.

Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.
Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

How does it happen now good lad
Black raven calls your name?
On this dismal voyage through a world that reeks of death and pain.
So clear the smoke it’s vastness so infest your mortal brain.
Take my hand I’ll lead you through this trial of the flame.

Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.
Take my hand and follow me,
Through the trial of the flame.

 

 

I may not have all of the lyrics of this song correct, but they are as close as I can get them from listening to Garold Amadon’s album “Tillerman’s Rye”.  This song for me is speaking to a lot of trials that I seem to be going through lately; with the fibromyalgia, the changes in my social groups, my work and in my spiritual life.  It’s funny, Tillerman’s Rye came out over 20ish years ago now and those lyrics are still as meaningful now as they were then.

We aren’t meant to be stagnant beings on this planet.  We are meant to learn, grow wiser and to help others.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt along the way as we stretch ourselves.  We can only try to keep moving forward, keep pushing, keep striving for what is right for us and for our communities.

 

(Song by Garold Amadon, off the album “Tillerman’s Rye,”  available at his website)

Poem: I fly

The draft around me
I feel the sky
Wings outstretched, taut
I  bob and weave, leaning  into the wind
I see my prize

Water splashing around me
I dive in
Chaos reigns and could kill
Only a moment I have
I claim my prize

Pounding hard now
I regain my height
Heavier than before
But yet I overcome
I have my prize

I shall live a day more

Death…and Detroit

Language warning here – just sayin’…

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN
NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 31: Anthony Bourdain films Parts Unknown Queens in New York, New York on November 11, 2016. (photo by David Scott Holloway)

Anthony Fucking Bourdain. Gone before his time from a disease that doesn’t give a shit if you are rich, are poor, physically healthy or have the best supportive care network on this earth.

I’ll admit, I thought Bourdain was a big time jerk and arrogant ass until he took his show to Detroit for the first time.  And I realized when I watched that, he ‘got’ it.  He ‘got’ Detroit. Bourdain loved Detroit. It didn’t all come out on that show that night, but I could see it.  He understood the grim reality of those who live there.  He understood their loss, he understood their resilience, and he understood how they just continue to move forward when everything feels so very much stacked against them.

“Detroit looks like motherfucking Detroit.  As it should.” he said in the show.  “Those who watch this show, smugly thinking, “That could never happen to my city” are dreaming.  Detroit’s problems are America’s problems.”

I’ve been a “Metro Detroiter” on and off for about 17 years.  I wasn’t born in the city, but still I have a fondness for it and it’s hardships.  I’ve been angry about the ‘ruin porn’ and I was pissed as hell about the fact that Detroit entered bankruptcy and screwed the pensioners that still called the city home.  I’ve driven 8 Mile, Telegraph, Gratiot and 696 back and forth to work, worked in the RenCen retail areas and when I was really lucky, took in the occasional Wings game at the Joe.  I even scored a pair of tickets to the Auto Show at Cobo center for my boyfriend and I once when I barely had enough money to scrape by.  That was back when the auto industry was still doing somewhat well.  But that changed soon enough.

And now, after hearing the news today, I now understand a little better why Bourdain got Detroit.  And perhaps I understand it a little more than the average person does.  Because depression fucks with you just as much as the people of Detroit have been fucked over by the auto industry, politicians, the state of Michigan and by billionaires like Matty Moroun making riches even now off the city’s blight.  Depression sucks your will to live ever so slowly, making mincemeat out of the joys you once held dear, making you think that you aren’t worth the air going into your lungs.  It hurts, and it hurts bad.

“Detroit’s Problems are America’s problems.” Bourdain said.  He’s right there too.  Suicide rates in the past decade have gone up 33% in Michigan, compared to the national average raising by 30%.  Both are grim statistics.

Perhaps one reason Bourdain had a love of the resilience of Detroit is because he willed that resilience within himself.  If he had anything like the depression I’ve battled with, I’m sure thoughts like that crossed his mind.  I bet he had days where he was proud of himself and his resilience, beating those demons for another chance at another day.  I bet he’s thought of the Detroiters he met while he filmed Parts Unknown on those days where the battle came to a draw and thought, “if they can go one more day, so can I.”  And he’s probably thought of those Detroiters on the days where he couldn’t bear to go on, wondering how the hell they actually did it; how they survived and made it bearable day in and day out in an a place that he compared to Chernobyl.

Maybe he was trying to get some of that resilience to rub off onto him.  After all he was working on a documentary about Detroit before he died.  And he consistently spoke fondly of the town in almost every interview, even going so far to say he wished he could say he was from Detroit, because that would be the coolest thing he could ever say.  In one interview he described Detroit as:

“Beautiful. Magnificent. The boundless hope and dreams and optimism of its builders is reflected in the architecture. I feel anger seeing the extent to which it has been allowed to crumble. I feel hopeful. And I feel a tremendous appreciation that people have stuck it out and are proud of their city. They’re loyal to it. It’s truly a great city and the font of so many important American economic and cultural improvisations and movements. That it could have been allowed to come close to failing is a national disgrace.”

And the fact that he, like many other people in this nation couldn’t openly talk about the depression they faced is also a national disgrace.

Now, in the aftermath, perhaps knowing that this larger than life person who said he had the best job in the world lost his battle means that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself when I fight my own battles.  Perhaps I can recognize a little better that my own struggle is real, and it’s hard enough to take anyone down.  Perhaps I can start being a little bit easier on myself on days when it’s the worst, and push off those harder tasks until tomorrow, when I might have a bit more mental strength.  Maybe I can try to find even more healthy coping mechanisms to keep fighting.

Maybe this Metro Detroiter can find that resilience Bourdain was looking for.

Lifeline Suicide Prevention Hotline

To Write Love on Her Arms – Help by topic page

Finally Coming to Terms with My Own Paganism

countryside daylight grass hd wallpaper
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Lately I’ve come to the realization that my personal pagan theology doesn’t ‘fit’ with anyone else.  I don’t call myself a wiccan, druid, heathen, Lokian or even a polytheist or pantheist.  Sure, I can fit into all of those labels from time to time, but they don’t always describe my personal religion or my spirituality.

That realization has at times given me comfort, but other times I’m distressed by it.  Not having a label means that I don’t ‘fit in’ with a specific pagan group.  And while being solitary is awesome, there are times you just wish that you had a group around you to celebrate a holiday, full moon, or other special occasion.  And don’t get me wrong, I do have pagan friends, but because my path is so personal, none of them will ever ‘fit’ into my personal paganism.  Even my husband’s paganism doesn’t fit my own.  His has his own personal beliefs and history with specific forms of divinity that very much revolve around his forge.

I don’t think I’m the only one that fits in this category of not-fitting anything.  Many people in my pagan community have to use more than one label in order to describe their specific paths.  Sometimes it’s because their paths span pantheons, sometimes because they span different traditions.  The more paganism grows as a religion, the more labels are going to be necessary to explain the differences.  And the more argument is going to occur about what the definition and intent of that label actually is.

So perhaps not having a true label is the right way to go.  Perhaps in a way that is where paganism needs to be headed.   After all, we are all unique individuals.  We all have different talents and needs.  We think differently from one another.  We  communicate differently.  It makes perfect sense that our paganism would be different.  Even if we practice in the same coven, that doesn’t mean that we do our personal ritual and disciplines the same as our coven sisters and brothers.

 

Our Different Paths: Too different to connect?
Our paganism is also going to be different because of our own past experiences.  There are those who came to paganism late in life, while others were born into this belief system.  Still others had different training prior to joining together in a specific tradition or style.  Those are all things that will influence the individual work that we do.

So if we are all different, then how can you say any particular style or tradition is the ‘right’ one?  How can we say if you don’t do this specific style of heathenry, or that you honor a specific God it means that you aren’t doing it ‘right’?  Really, you can’t.  Because one person’s version of heathenry is not going to be right for someone else.  You may visit the same topics as someone else when trying to figure out your path, but if a particular practice doesn’t feel right to an individual,it may not be because that individual isn’t trying hard enough.  It may just mean that the particular practice doesn’t fit that individual.  Instead, something else will have to be found that ‘fits’ better.

There are always caveats to any rule in paganism.  So even though I say perhaps we need to get to a place where labels aren’t needed, I know there is a caveat here.  We pick and choose our paths, and perhaps some of us will choose to work under a specific teacher.  in those cases, perhaps a specific label WILL fit for the time they are with that teacher, or that coven.  There will be people who are happy in a coven and that is where they choose to stay.  There will also be people that follow a certain heathen teacher and choose to stay on that specific path under the guidance of that teacher.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But I don’t think that particular style of paganism is meant for everyone.

Growing up in primary and secondary school here in the United States, it was pounded into my head that we are a ‘melting’ pot of people from many different areas of the globe.  People came here to start a new life.  They brought their culture with them, and that culture morphed into things we see and take for granted today.  Mardi Gras/Carnival, St. Patrick’s day,  and Paczki day are great examples of this.  While somewhat watered down or modified, these are still ancestral traditions that have made their way into common holidays celebrated by the general population.  It makes perfect sense to me that our ancestors would also look to us to follow other traditions in ways that would celebrate our ancestry as a whole, and not just a specific piece of that ancestry.  Add the matter of oathed or claimed ancestry and an entirely new facet of someone’s personal paganism is born.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that my paganism is going to be exactly that; mine.  Others have given me the labels of Lokian, Heathen, Witch, Shaman, Spirit Worker, Druid, Bard, Spiritualist, and perhaps they all fit, in their own way.  Perhaps more general terms would be better to explain like the Venn Diagram discussed in John Beckett’s essay on the Big tent of paganism.

 

The important bit that’s easily forgotten
But there is one very important part of this conversation that seems to get missed.  The definition of a religion for a pagan means that which who you are as defined by your actions.  Being defined by our actions means we own our beliefs.  We own our beliefs so strongly that we act upon them.  We don’t just debate them or talk about them for a couple hours once a week and go back to being whoever we were before the conversation.

So when someone decides that someone else’s belief is wrong or judges that belief, it isn’t something easily dismissed.  Because it’s not just a judgement about a simple religion.  We have internalized our belief systems enough to act upon them, so that judgement is about someone’s very nature.

Perhaps that is why we seek people out to worship with in the first place, and why we get so heated about others criticizing our beliefs or the labels we give ourselves.  And perhaps it’s why I feel so very radical when I say my own way is good enough.  Perhaps it’s because too many of us have been brought up in another way, where the only religious validation that we may get is from others.  And now we are asking others to validate our beliefs as before, but our paganism is so individual, we cannot get that validation.

John Beckett has recently written posts about pagan unity, and what paganism will look like in the future.  I agree with his optimism.  But I do believe that more of us have to come to terms with our own personal systems of belief being exactly that – OURS.  Let’s recognize that we are all unique and different and come to terms with that.  Let’s also recognize that everyone else’s religion is just as valid as our own before we open our mouth to judge something we don’t understand.  And let’s work on getting these two skills down first before we start attempting to unite as a whole.