I just finished reading John Halstead’s post regarding his frustration with arguments regarding his status as being pagan. John is an atheist pagan, and although I don’t fully understand his system of beliefs, I appreciate the fact that he is open about them. Through his posts I have found quite a few theories that he has written that I have taken into consideration and have thus changed my own beliefs.
Isn’t that what blogging is about in the first place?
John started discussing the things that he is done with, listing quite a few terms and classifications of paganism. This got me thinking; what terms fit my belief systems? Where do I fit? I don’t want to know to put my shingle out there and carve my place out. I want to know more so that I can understand who I relate to and thus what else to look for in this blogging world to find more nuggets of insight that I can add to my own understanding of the community as a whole.
So I started pulling up definitions for some of the terms he used in his post so that I can very clearly understand what fits me, and what does not. The surprising thing is that all but two seemed to fit into my set of beliefs.
The first term that didn’t seem to fit was Hellenic, but because I have never been drawn to the Greek Gods in the first place, nor do I know much about them with the exception of what I learned in school, I understand why.
The second is the term “New Pagan Orthodoxy”. It sounds like this is describing the ‘right’ way to be a pagan verses the ‘wrong’ way, and in my mind, there is no such thing. As pagans, we all have our own sets of fate that we work in, and we all make choices either with that in mind, or deal with the consequences of not thinking about that framework. To judge someone else’s beliefs as outright wrong isn’t something that feels right to me to do.
I knew the term polytheist and animist fits me. I recognize the spirits in natural (and sometimes mechanical – who hasn’t named their vehicle?) things. I recognize that I currently have dealings with Eir, Loki and Sigyn, (which in a way makes me also a heathen – another term check-marked off the list) and in the past have been called on by Yemaya and have had occasional dealings with The Morrigan. My husband works with dwarven spirits as a blacksmith, and also has dealings with The Morrigan. These are all separate entities, all unique, and request different things at different times. I recognize as I grow as a person my needs change, and thus I am called on by different deities to learn and to do work with and for them.
At the same time, I recognize that I am also a pantheist. I can see how all of these deities that are separate can form into one source. I was told once that during a talk, Raven Kaldera likened separate deities to stalactites on the ceiling of a cave. You can interact with the lower portions of these deities, which are each unique and different. However, as the stalactites go up, they join together and finally meet at the top of the ceiling, representing all of divinity. This goes along with my personal theory. You can experience Divinity at any aspect or area of these stalactites.
The thing that makes me recognize that I also have pantheist belief is that unlike Raven Kaldera’s belief that you cannot reach the ceiling, I believe you can. As a reiki master, I recognize that the source of Reiki is the ‘ceiling’ in this analogy. I also think that a lot of people who talk about spirituality as a whole are speaking about their experience with the source. These are people that for their own reasons may not go deeply into religion, but instead, and in their own way, worship the divine through spiritual work. Spiritual gurus like Deepak Chopra fit into this area. And while a lot of people might roll their eyes at the thought of ‘new age’, ‘fluffy bunny’ type of thinking and the cash flow that someone like Dr. Chopra and people like him have coming in, they wouldn’t be here unless there was a need for them. For some people, they cannot fathom the deep belief systems that people have. But yet they still have a yearning to grow and live in a manner that helps to heal others and the world. Spiritual gurus fill this need.
So in my past posts I’ve talked about how labels can be problematic, so why the heck am I claiming so many here? I’m doing it so I can understand where I am coming from. John said something that really hit home for me:
“Whether or not it makes sense to us intellectually, what matters is if we feel Pagan … in our blood and in our skin. And no one can gainsay that part of us.”
This post is one of me starting to go into a deeper understanding of my own belief systems. I’m writing down what it is I feel in my bones. And now that I finally have it down, it can become a new starting point for me to learn by and move me forward into new understandings and insights in my spiritual practice.
It’s funny, I’ve been a pagan for over 20 years and yet I still feel like I am starting from the beginning. But I think that is how it is meant to be. In order to understand others we have to understand ourselves and how we relate to others. This is where as a Wiccan I think I was lacking a bit. Always being surrounded by those who believed just as you did and not branching out into learning about other areas of paganism is good to learn at first, but it can become a hindrance. By learning about other areas of paganism, even if I don’t agree with them, I feel I am becoming even more of who it is I am supposed to be. And that is what matters most.