Finally Coming to Terms with My Own Paganism

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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.

 

 

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Living My Pagan Truth

I like having a lot of different pagan authors and bloggers on my social media feeds. There are a lot of ideas and differing opinions and seeing these make me feel like this religion is still very much growing and changing based on the needs of its followers.

At the same time, I don’t like it, because there are a lot of ideas and different opinions.

Sometimes the topics can get me really frustrated, especially when the topics seem to be about things that really have no bearing on what actions can be done on a day to day basis. Don’t get me wrong; they are still important discussions. I simply tend to be much more practical in my thinking than hypothetical. I want to look at things from the perspective of what is happening right now, and how my morals and ethics should be applied to decisions that I make each and every day. So discussions involving Paganism as a whole, interpretations on what the current trends are saying (or not saying) and what paganism is going to look like and/or how we are going to get there are interesting, but I don’t tend to get involved in them.

It does make me wonder however, if we are spending too much time discussing philosophical concepts and scenarios and not enough time discussing day to day thoughts and issues. Many of the thoughts I get from blogs and the community seem to me to distance their practices from their daily life. We talk about futuristic societies and how communities will learn to get by when they rely on their neighbors and trade for goods. We talk about how corporations as a whole are just in it for the shareholder value, and how they destroy our earth. We rail against the fact that a solid part of the population doesn’t have the means to get by from day to day. These are all good subjects, and needed conversation, but is it too much discussion and not enough action? I fully believe we need to stretch our minds and consider issues, vent when we need to, and I’ll absolutely read and ponder, but it doesn’t feel to me like the current conversation is going to bring any conclusions that can be immediately acted upon. The one thing I know about me is that I am a person who wants to act on things to make them better; not just ponder and hypothesize. And when actions do get discussed, they are usually about the “We” as a group and not what “I” can do.

Extreme solutions
There are extreme solutions that some can already live out. I know pagans who are trying to live by cash alone as they don’t want to borrow money. I know others who are trying to not have a digital footprint and still others who recycle everything and live carbon neutral. These are all very worthy and I applaud those who have made it their life’s work to live to those standards. But it very much is a life’s work as this society doesn’t make it easy to do any of those things. I would also imagine there is no free time. I expect the people that live this way have to work very hard each day in order to live, and it’s a very hard life with very little niceties thrown in.

One part of me wonders why I, who profess to be pagan, am not trying to do the same thing. And then the practical part of me says that none of these things are possible for me; some because I already have a digital footprint and debt to pay off. Therefore I still need to hold down an actual job, cannot walk to work as it’s too far and I still need to buy things to work and live. I also have medical conditions that require vigilant care and cost lots of money. And while I do have a nice size garden, and the hubby is a blacksmith, I’m far from being self sustainable.

As much as I’d like to live in a world where I could work for my food and have a roof over my head and trade for the things I need, society as a whole is simply not set up that way. And it would take loads of money to just get something like that started here in the United States (not to mention cash the taxes on land that need to be continuously paid.) And oh yeah, we don’t have healthcare for all, so there is more money that’s needed for those pesky medical conditions.

Can we strive to build toward something like that? It’s very possible! But I see it more working out in retirement by living off savings built throughout working careers – at least for my husband and I. Others could be living in different situations that would make it more doable, but I’m established now. And being established has made me realize I can give more back to the pagan community now that I’m established than I could by trying to uproot and live in a religious group.

So if I’m not contributing to some sort of group effort and am not going to the extreme like others do, then how do I live my pagan truth?

Corporations
Well, some may consider me not living as a true pagan. Some would forgive the fact that we can’t live in an extreme in today’s society, but that I’m still suspect because I’ve violated some universal pagan identity.

I work for a large corporation.

The same pagans that I respect and care about also rant and rail about those that they do (or don’t) work for. Corporations are the worst. They are out to stick it to the little guy. They don’t care about anything but the bottom line. I get the feeling a lot that there are those that believe if you are working for a corporation and aren’t angry about having to do it it, perhaps your morals are skewed.

To be honest, I LIKE where I work. Yes, it’s a corporation. Yes, it’s about the bottom line and about how much we sell. But the product that we do sell helps people – in fact, it’s used in surgeries to help people get better. To me, that isn’t all bad.

Before I worked here, I worked for an automaker. I helped to make people smile because they liked looking at shiny new vehicles and collect pictures of them. I also helped people get from place to place. Was the corporation’s main focus about the bottom line? Yep. But there were still things about the job that as a whole, helped others in some form or fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, if I needed to be replaced, I could be replaced – easily. But that is the nature of the corporation. What people don’t realize is that each replacement also costs the company thousands of dollars in hiring, training and new benefit and tax costs. So even being replaced has it’s trade offs.

There is significant concern in this day and age though about corporations stepping outside their boundaries. They lobby for lax tax and environmental laws, and that is a very good point. And there I feel it is my duty to say something – to vote, tell my representatives how I feel about that so they can push back, and to donate to causes that will help fight back. But overall, I am not going to decide that each and every corporation is bad because of the work of some of them. Just like not every pagan is bad because we have a few problems with bad people occasionally.

One last thing about corporations. A lot of people don’t care for the fact that there are few people in the world who seem to have all of the wealth and money (read power). But that is how it’s been in many cases in history. I’d rather be concerned with what I can do when those corporations abuse their employees (vote with my money) than to try to overthrow the entire societal structure.

My Own Actions
There was a story about a man walking along the beach that was full of starfish. He’d walk by one, pick it up, and throw it into the water. Another man saw him doing so and asked him why he was wasting his time because he could never save all of the starfish from dying. And as he picked up another starfish and proceeded to toss it into the sea, he said, “I made a difference to this one.”

I have come to terms with the fact that there will always be something else you can do better to promote paganism and to live within your personal truths. But until I find that thing to do better, I’m going to do the best I can with what I have.

• I am going to do my best to touch the lives of those I meet by being compassionate, kind, fair and honest. That also means if I am asked what my religion is, I’m going to be honest and speak about it.

• I am going to do the best I can for this earth by continuing to recycle, reduce my waste and carbon footprint, and pick up trash when I can.

• And since I spend 45 hours a week there and employees (and managers) are people too, I’m going to do my best to be a good employee. Because being a good employee helps touch the lives of everyone else you work with and helps make their lives easier. And even though overall my work will affected the corporation’s bottom line, it also helps people. So by doing my best to be a good employee, I will also be doing my best to help people who use the product. And, if it ever becomes a situation where I find the money the corporation makes is more important to my upper management than the people, I will choose to find someplace else to work.

• I am going to take care of myself the best way I know how, in every aspect of self care that I need. Because how can I help others if I don’ t help myself first?

• I am going to do what I can to vote by the money I spend. I will speak to my representatives when I see serious injustice and help take care and protect my family and friends.

• I am going to do my best to serve the pagan community by speaking where I am guided to, teach when I am asked and guided to, comfort and listen when I am asked to and to use my skills and gifts to help others as is asked and is needed.

• I am going to do my best to honor my ancestors, my Gods and Goddesses and my allies and spirits. And I will continue to learn how to do this better.

After all that is said and done, the only thing that I truly have control over is myself. And as a pagan who focuses significantly on self improvement, this truth rings out over and over again. I can’t change the beliefs of someone else unless the other person chooses to change them. I can’t guide others unless they choose to be guided. And to try to purposefully choose to act with a purpose to only change others beliefs 100% of the time is downright exhausting.

However, if living in my own truth helps someone else find their own, then that is something worth striving for.

I don’t always live these personal truths well, but I keep trying. And in the end, that is all I can do.

Finding a Path of Belief

Something occurred to me on my walk with my husband recently.  On April 24, it will be 19 years since my first wedding. It surprised when I remembered this, having divorced the man I was first married to in 2002.

There was so many things going on around that time that we should have never gone through the ceremony. My then fiance’s mother went into a coma a month before the wedding. Columbine happened, which was on the minds of many people. Exactly one month after the wedding, his father would die of a heart attack. Two months after that, we would take his mother off of life support.  Most of his extended family didn’t even come to the wedding, deciding that it was better if they stayed vigil at their Mother’s bedside instead.

I will fully admit I was young, inexperienced, and going through a lot of mental issues of my own at the time. I had no idea how to be a wife and to give all the support I needed to give through his trials.

But even if I could have given him the support, the biggest issue for me to deal with through those trials was that I couldn’t relate to him on any spiritual level.

As I have said before I was raised Roman Catholic, and at that point I had been studying paganism on and off for  9 years.  But this man was not raised with any faith.  In fact, when the issue came up, it was quickly dismissed in his family.  So when he was forced to deal with these losses, he had no belief system to fall back on; he didn’t even know where to start to comprehend the losses he suffered.

In the end, he blamed himself for these losses.  If he would have just been at his parent’s home instead of going to work, perhaps he could have gotten help for his father.  If he had visited his parents, perhaps he would have stopped his mom from eating the thing that made her sick in the first place.  If he would have been a better son, he would still have his parents; they wouldn’t be forever lost to him.  In the end the spirituality factor wasn’t the final breaking point of the marriage, but it did a lot of damage.

Fast forward to 2006. I elope with my then fiance to Las Vegas.  A week later, we get back home and he gets a phone call in the middle of the night.  His father is diagnosed with a bowel perforation and needs immediate emergency surgery.  He was a ‘snowbird’, having left Michigan for warmer Florida weather, which made things even more complicated.  My new husband flies down to be there for the surgery.  Several days later his father takes a turn for the worse and is taken off life support.

My husband was raised in a Catholic family, as I was.  And he also didn’t feel that path was right for him and was exploring paganism.  But because he had done enough exploring on his own to form his own beliefs, he knew his father was some place safe and that he WOULD see him again. Even though there was no dogma attached to his beliefs, and that he had no core religious or spiritual practices, he still felt a comfort from what belief system he had.  It was faith in that belief system that helped him grieve and helped him get over the trauma and be able to move forward.

Thinking back on both these experiences, I wonder if it would have made any difference to my first husband if he would have been raised in a religious family.  Would he have fallen back on that teaching?  Or would the teaching have sparked a hunger in him to find his own place, like it did for my second husband and I?  Did it hinder his development that religion was so glossed over in his family growing up?

It makes me wonder if we are teaching our children enough about belief and religion.  And maybe we need to go even further with that teaching.  Maybe we need to also teach them about other religions as well as the one they grow up in to allow them to make an informed decision when they become of age.

If we give our children consent to ask questions about beliefs and faith, it allows them many different options.  They may grow up and choose to become stronger in the faith of their family.  They may choose to take another faith as theirs, or choose to either continue to question the existence of divinity or not believe at all.  Whatever their choice, they will have (or at least start to have) a belief system that works for them.  And that system will help them answer some of life’s harder questions for themselves.  At the very least, they will know where to go to help seek out more information and find comfort.

From a Pagan perspective, I think we as a community are doing better at teaching our children to ask questions and grow in their own belief system.  However, I wonder if in time we are going to have to come to terms with those who choose Christianity as their belief system once they grow up.  Much like many Christian parents do when their children choose a faith different from them, we may become upset and feel rejected by the child that chooses a monotheistic faith.  But if we preach freedom of religion, we must allow our children to choose what they feel is right for them.  If we don’t, we risk another generation of children growing up angry at their parents for not allowing them to be themselves, much like many Pagans are now when thinking of their own upbringing.

However, even though there are still struggles with belief from parent to child, perhaps things have gotten better in some ways.  When thinking back to my grandparents raising my mother and uncles, things were much more strict.  Beliefs weren’t allowed to be questioned and obedience to religion was mandatory.  When I look back at my mother’s actions as I was growing up, it occurred to me that the faith she had was obedience to her parents more than anything.  And even though God was mentioned, it is more fear of their disapproval that kept her focused in that specific religion.

I really started feeling that way after seeing her reactions to a couple of situations.  One in particular still stands out in my mind.  I had met her for lunch at a buffet on a Lenten Friday. When she looked at the offerings on the bar, she became upset because she wanted to eat meat, but instead was confined to the fish and vegetable options due to Lenten obligations.  She told me that my Grandmother would be upset if she ate meat that day.  I replied that Grandma and Grandpa weren’t eating with us, and wouldn’t know.  She said it didn’t matter.  Those were the rules she grew up with, and those were the rules that had to be obeyed.

How sad it is to me that someone feels like they must obey rules that someone else made for them.  And that they don’t feel they can vet those rules for themselves.  To be true to your own heart and mind in your religious beliefs means such a significantly stronger faith than one would have because they are told to.

Hopefully this is changing.  Maybe because of the many sources of information that are out there things are getting better.  Or perhaps it’s changing because more people are more willing to challenge the beliefs that they grew up on to truly see if they fit their mind and heart.  I hope so, but then again, the term “recovering catholic” wouldn’t be utilized so much if there weren’t more stories out there like my mother’s.

No matter what way the world is going, I can only be responsible for my part, and to live the example of being proud of my faith and being willing to allow others to have their own.

I am very proud to have a Godson.  For his first communion I took the day off and stayed with him through his religious preparatory programs at school.  It didn’t matter that it was a different religion; it gave him comfort to have me there, and it showed that I was willing to help him with his beliefs, even though he didn’t see me at his church every Sunday.

My husband made certain that his niece had a rosary for her first communion when it looked like her Godmother was not going to gift her one.  Yes, he is also Pagan, but it didn’t matter.  This is the faith she is currently growing up with, and it’s important to her.  She already uses the rosary in solitary prayer, which makes the gift even more satisfying.

If my Godson ever has questions about faith, I’m going to do my best to answer as truthfully as I can.  This goes the same for all of my nieces and nephews.  To me it is important to have faith in some sort of belief system  and be open to the fact that others will believe differently.  And when the time comes that they decide what faith or spirituality is best for them, I hope they will be able to do so with the acceptance of their parents, because I want to see them growing up with a faith that is true to their mind and heart, not a faith handed down without question.  In the end, the faith in a belief that stands up to questioning will mean stronger support for the individual, the family and the community as a whole.

 

The Awe of God

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on my growing up lately.  I think it’s necessary to do at times; you need to re-remember the good, and deal with the bad so that it doesn’t affect your life moving forward.

And as I remember my life as a child, one of the things that pops out to me the most is how awed I was of the concept of God.  Even at a young age I could feel divine energy all around me, and it was fascinating.  I remember being in church at a young age, wanting to do so much more than just sit in a pew and sing to honor the God that I felt so strongly.

Now that I am in my fourties, I am thankful that I feel this spirit of awe even deeper.  I am free to understand and worship on my own, and because of that I have done a significant amount of research into what type of devotion to God is right for me.  And I’m very glad I have done so.  I remember my father being upset with me asking questions so long ago.  It was almost as if he felt that if I learned too much, if I studied religions too deeply that I would lose the faith I had in God.  

But what really happened was quite contrary to that.  I’ll give an example to explain.  

As I sit here, typing this out, I’m watching my cat walk back and forth across the floor, picking up the bits of bacon my husband put down for him from our breakfast.  I understand how he walks, the connection of the muscles connected by tendons to bone, the nerves firing, making the muscles contract and relax.  I know how he exists, and I’m awed at the marvel that is the life going through his body.  That life, in my belief, is there by divinity. And even if I no longer believed in a divine force, my cat is still a marvel of ingenuity that is worthy of awe.

I think those of us who forge our own religious path sometimes lose the spirit of awe, and that is sad.  We are more apt to focus on specifics about pantheons, ancient writings, specific practices and disciplines to grow our own awareness and energy that sometimes we done stop to think about the fact that all of this creation just…exists, and it does so without us.   And that is worthy of looking at things with awe.  

Awe to me makes things holy.  It gives me a reason to continue to learn, and strive to be the best person I can be.  If I am worthy to live in a world that was built with wonders and energies and life, then I must learn to be the best person I can be in this world in order to give back – to say thank you for the awe that I feel.  

Issues with A Broken Religion

Pandora really pisses me off sometimes.

I started building a new radio station to listen to at work based on one of my favorite bands, Breaking Benjamin.  I’ve been in a bit of a melancholy mood for a while now so it fit to create a station around them.  (For those that don’t know, the lead singer of Breaking Benjamin has been pretty public about his personal issues with anxiety and phobias, and to me you can feel that in his music.  You can also feel the strength he uses to fight those illnesses, and that is what appeals right now.  Times are tough, and we can be upset, but we also have strength in spades to get through).

So everything is going pretty well, and of course, as Pandora is designed to do, new music pops up.  And it’s from the band Skillet.  This is a band I wrote about awhile back.  They are Christian, and don’t shy away from speaking about that.  In fact, the reason they are still together is because one of their pastors counseled them to keep pushing forward and continue to speak about the “Glory of God”.   In other words, keep that recruiting up!  We need the revenue! (Yes, I’m aware my bias is showing here).

So that song got the Pandora thumbs down.

Then Ashes Remain came on.  Again, another Christian Rock band.  I looked them up, and they are too much like Skillet for my tastes.  So another thumbs down logged.  After the third Christian band popped up, I just decided to start looking up a list of “Christian” rock bands.  I found out there are quite a few.  The Color Morale, Red, Beartooth, Thousand Foot Krutch and many others I listen to identify as Christian.  And that really bothers me.

So my choices now were that I’m going to have to either keep logging thumbs down on songs a lot more than I thought, or I’m just going to have to accept that there are a lot of Christian bands out there and pick and choose what I like.  And if I just listen to them anyway, I get to do this despite the fact that I feel like most of these bands are out there specifically to recruit people to a religion broken by the people who identify with it.

Believe it or not, this is a pretty hard decision for me.  I’ve done my best to steer clear of Christianity for many years.  Christians can go live over there, and I’m here in my own belief system that suits me just fine.  And occasionally, on my own terms, I’ll seek out those that I know don’t ‘recruit’ and see what they have to say.  Speak to me about learning to become a better person, helping the planet or helping others gain their basic human rights and we will have things in common.  Talk to me about how my religion is somehow wrong or beneath yours, and the conversation will very quickly be over.

However, times are changing, and perhaps the mix that Pandora chose for me is just a catalyst for the realization that I have more lessons to learn.  Sooner or later, I’m going to have to accept that those of the Christian faith who look at me differently are integrated around me more than I feel comfortable about.  Right now I just keep that out of my mind.  However, perhaps that habit is a negative response, especially because of the amount of anger that comes up when I think about it.  And sooner or later, I’m going to have to deal with that anger; the real reason my bias exists.

So here is the crux of the matter: I have more issues with the Christian religion than I thought.  And now, I’m going to have to get off my gluteus maximus and figure out what those issues are and deal with them.

I talked about the fear of God syndrome once before.  And I thought that once I wrote that post, that I had dealt with my issues regarding Christianity, and that was that.  I thought I was doing a good job separating the religion from the people.  Because honestly, the religion itself isn’t THAT bad.  Love one another.  Judge not lest ye be judged.  Be still and know that I am God.  Let him without sin cast the first stone.  All of these things have profound meanings.  And they are meanings that transcend the Christian religion.  To me, it’s the PEOPLE who claim to be Christian that cause 90% of the problems with that religion, maybe even more.

I don’t need to go far to come up with excellent examples.  Look at those who are against abortion.  Sure, they are pro-life while the child is in the womb, but the minute the child is born there will be very little support it if the child was born outside of a strong family unit.  Look at the prosperity gospel and how many people who have given up their entire life savings hoping for a miracle.  Finally, and what angers me the most, is the issues in the current situation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘Christians’, in the current political climate argue against verses from the book that they claim to follow.  “Oh, that verse is just hyperbole.  Verses like that are throughout the entire bible.”  Or, “Sure, it says turn the other cheek, but at the same time, Jesus wouldn’t want me to stand by and watch as my family gets robbed and killed.”  Plainly put, these people will twist things to match what they want to believe, and they don’t give a shit about the true meaning of that religious text.

Perhaps I’m tired of seeing how people twist religion to make it fit what it is they want to do.  It’s the same with the racism in Heathenism.  There are interpretations of many religions that inflict more harm than they do good, and when that happens, there is something seriously wrong with the people that profess to be following that religion.  Perhaps it wasn’t the case in older times, but in the current age I firmly believe that religion is meant to help us understand the world around us and how we fit in with that world.  I firmly believe that the times where religion divided us should be over.  We have evolved further than that.

But unfortunately, power over people is still something that is strived for by many.  And religion is a tool that has been used for thousands of years to do just that; get power over people.  And for the most part, people are programmed to accept that when it comes to religion, you are expected to relinquish your power to get anywhere.  And thus you have the strife and conflict that we see today.  And that leads me back to my current dilemma.

But at least now I can speak to the issue more clearly.

I am pretty damn angry at people within the Christian churches.  I’m angry at how they failed me in my upbringing, how they didn’t answer my questions and how they forced me to follow along in a religion even though I felt so very different in my soul.  I’m angry at the strife they caused me and so many other people like me that felt different.  I’m angry that they made us feel like outsiders unless we conformed.  I’m very angry they caused us to be afraid of the very Gods that were there to help us the entire time.  And I am mad as hell that I have to deal with all of the leftovers of this upbringing.  I get to deal with all of the confusion and pain as to why I can’t understand or fit with the people who call themselves Christian.  I get to deal with them time and time again telling me that I still am wrong and that I need to ‘get with the program’ in order to save my soul.   I get to deal with the embedded ‘fear of God’s wrath’ if I dare try to be myself.  I get to deal with how I felt back then because I dared ask questions that people couldn’t answer.  And last but not least, I get to learn over and over again how to be a survivor in a country that claims to be Christian, yet refuses to treat people the way their own Jesus said to.

And I’m allowed to be mad.  I’m allowed to be mad as hell.  I’m allowed to be so mad that I can spit nails anytime anyone asks me if “I’ve found Jesus” yet.  Yeah, I found him, and he’s over in the Middle East doing what he can for the refugees that are dying.  And now that you mention it, I saw him the other day in your church, bent over the altar weeping at those using his house for their own personal gain.

Obviously I’m showing my anger.  I’m trying to get it out; to get a name to it.  I need to identify and deal with it.  I need to deal with it because of people like John Pavlovitz, Rob Bell, Michael Beckwith, Revered Ed Bacon and many others.  Although these people are only a few of the vast number of Christians out there, they believe differently.  They believe like me; that God is large enough to be involved in many different religions.  They believe we are stronger if we support and take care of each other, no matter what religion you profess.  And their beliefs contain the possibilities of what Christianity could become.  So there is hope.  Further, and thanks to the current political climate,  I’m reminded that I, someone who is in a religion in the minority, needs to learn to work with others who are in the minority.  Get enough of us together and we will become the majority, forcing change throughout the country.

Even if it is for that last reason alone, I need to deal with this anger.

I’m not sure where this thinking is going to lead me.  I hope it’s someplace positive.  I don’t want to dismiss good people trying to do what is right.  And I know the people I mentioned above are trying to do just that.  But the tenant of my faith says that I must work on myself; that I must overcome my own shortcomings and strive to be a better person.  This is what it means to me when I say I stand with my Gods.

So I guess because of my faith, my religion, I need to figure out a way to be more accepting to those that truly profess theirs.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to feel bad for not listening to Skillet and bands like them that profess the current status quo of this currently broken religion.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Roles and Titles

Roles are a hard thing for me.  Even with my comments in earlier posts about titles being something that can cause significant hardship, I still have a hard time trying not to assume a role of some sort.  Let’s face it; no matter how much we want to identify ourselves without some sort of title or role attached, we live in a world full of roles.  We have to therefore agree to have SOME sort of title occasionally.

The role that fell to me a lot during my early years in the pagan community was that of a facilitator in some form or fashion.  I led groups, answered questions, put together rituals and overall was heavily involved in my pagan community, not just in the state that I lived in, but also in the state I was born in and had family in.  After getting tired and frustrated with a great many things, and having lots of many other personal issues that I needed to work on (including getting back to college, finding work, getting married and divorced, you know, all of that stuff of life), I stepped out of the limelight, so to speak, of my local pagan communities.  I went ‘incognito’, for many years.  I didn’t fully leave my practice; my gifts were always there, but I didn’t rely on them as much anymore.

Fast forward to several years ago, and I found myself getting back involved.  And while many things never changed, quite a bit did.  And with that change, my original role of ‘facilitator’ went away.  Sure, I can give you all of the detailed information you want about how things were done and why back then, but with the invention of the internet (yes, I’m THAT old), changes started coming fast and furious, and there was no way anyone could really keep up with those changes in practice, in worship, heck, even the terms themselves changed.  This left me struggling for a long time.  The same position that I was in so many years ago was now something that I didn’t feel comfortable enough taking anymore, yet I was absolutely not a newbie to any of these forms of worship, ritual or magic.  I found myself stuck; feeling like I didn’t belong, was constantly ‘sized up’ or was pushed away from those of higher lineage in Wicca.

Trying to find my own role within this new pagan community also was made even harder by status.  Many times I also felt looked down upon by others of the same belief structure that I followed, whether it was my Native practice, the Wicca, or even by some Heathen Shamans.  I realize now that I was not the only one feeling these times of rejections; or sizing ups.  Many people in face to face pagan communities feel this way.  And perhaps the people who are doing it don’t even realize they do.  Perhaps they are looking for a ‘peer’, but are unsure of how to do it without belittling.  Or perhaps they are so tied up with defending what their beliefs are that they decide that is more important than making feel welcome.

Another concern of mine are the ones with good intentions, but expect that they are going to now make a living off of taking a title of “shaman” or “Witch” and use it to sell their goods and services.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic people out there who make fantastic products, but there are also those who don’t have the greatest of intentions, are interested in a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or don’t expect to put the long hours into building a clientele or making a product.  Unfortunately, those who bring negativity to those roles only belittle the ones whose intent is true, making it much harder for the legitimate businesses to actually get anywhere.

However, the more that I blog and the more that I pray, the more I realize I still have to figure out where I fit.  “So, what’s it going to be?” my Gods ask; “Are you going to be what is that we we know you are, or are you going to keep trying to find a human term for all of this?”  That question basically was the entire dilemma summed up in a nutshell.  And perhaps it tells more truth about the entire pagan community than they wanted to let on.

Using a Role or title like “Shaman”, “Witch”, “Priest” or the myriad of other titles out there brings up certain assumptions within the pagan community.  When looked at as an aggregate, the community is not nearly as structured as many other religious communities either; we are lucky if we fit in a structure of a scatter diagram much less any hierarchical organizational chart.  This means that many who take on a role might end up also having to take on countless other roles, such as ‘counselor’, ‘advocate’, ‘role model’ and many others that they may or may not have the training to do.

Maybe some might think it a rite of passage in the pagan community nowadays to not fit into one specific spot.  Perhaps we aren’t meant to.  Perhaps instead we are meant to create our own place; a place where we can help others in need when we have strengths that can provide service, and refer them to others when we cannot help.  And perhaps that referral could be somewhere else, thanks to the internet we could refer someone to an author in another state, or even another country to get the information that they need or desire.

So what have I learned about my role from all of this?  I am all of these things, and yet none without the other.  I am a shaman or spirit woman, a witch, a healer and a heathen.   Perhaps that was what I needed to know all along.  Perhaps it wasn’t the role that I needed to find, but instead I needed to find (even more) courage to just accept what it is I am.

I am of the firm belief that this community and the world today are both on unprecedented ground.  The only things that we have of precedence is that things will change, our spirits will leave for other places while some may return here, and that if we don’t treat her well, this beautiful Mother Earth that we live on will begin to shake us off like a bad cold.  And perhaps figuring out new ways together, including figuring out new roles that may not have a simple word to describe them, may be all part of building that new community, and perhaps that new world.

Tarot Reading for 2017…here we go…

It is with trepidation that I start this post and reading.  Ever since my last post, I’ve started doing some contemplation on what my expectations for 2017 will be, and to me, the response I get from my Guides and Gods is that the whole year will be summed up in one sentence, “Put your money where your mouth is.”

Whereas 2016 was a year of work and action, this year feels to me like it will be one of having to now stand up for what it is you believe in; it is a time to reach out of the comfort zones that we have created and make the change that is so necessary to start putting into action that which we think and dream about.

But I get ahead of myself.  I haven’t even pulled the cards yet.  This is only what I THINK will happen.

img_3782The deck that I am using this year will be the Steampunk Tarot.  It is from Llewellyn and is a more recent offering from that company.  I purchased it when another reader I was working with at an event told me about it and showed me her own.  The deck and I have had a bit of a rough start; it doesn’t act like my other decks, and isn’t as easygoing.  I find that to be refreshing, actually.  This deck wants to be handled a specific way, and I am more than willing to do so.

Instead of trying to get information for each month, I’m going to go by quarter (three month periods).  Trying to go into any more detail to me right now seems pointless; there are still many things that need to be sorted out, and many things could change by the second month of the year.  Therefore a general ‘feel’ of the year is what I am after, and doing quarterly snapshots in the spread seems the best way to do that.

One note about reversals – This particular deck was not created with reversals in mind.  In the “Steampunk Tarot Manual,” the author, Barbara Moore speaks to this.  She says that in her mind, the Tarot is a “complete and logical system….that lets my left brain relax so my right brain can connect with the images more easily.” She further explains that in her mind, the reversals were a ‘system’ that makes no rational sense and detracted from her ability to read the cards. (Steampunk Tarot Manual, page 30, Llewellyn Publications.) Going with that belief, I have read the cards upright.  However, before writing about the interpretation, I did check intuitively to see if I could feel any reverse meaning or issues.

The spread is 8 cards:  The top four ‘prime’ cards represent each quarter (Jan-Mar, Apr-Jun, Jul-Sep, Oct-Dec) while the cards underneath represent something that which must be dealt with before moving to the next quarter.  Alternatively, each card underneath could bring a blessing from that time period, I’m not certain.  We will see as we move along.

 

First Quarter – Queen of Pentacles prime card, The Wheel of Fortune, secondary card

img_3789The Queen of Pentacles came up reversed, and my intuitive sense says to read it that way (I put it upright in the picture so that those interested in the deck could see it more clearly).  This card speaks to more learning and work to be done on the gifts that we have worked on in 2016.  Yes, we have achieved learning new skills, bettering our situations (or found ourselves in new ones) and overcome a lot in 2016.  But we aren’t done with that work yet.   Things need to be honed in for the first quarter of 2017.

For those considering new year resolutions, you can’t just go out and start something and expect it to thrive. Sometimes planning is in order, and careful planning to boot.  Here the cards are saying that for those who wish to start a new study or better themselves, it’s time to figure out the specifics and stick to what it is you want to do.

The Wheel of Fortune card speaks very much to the prime card.  If you buckle down and do what it is you are yearning to do, you will be able to get through the quarter much easier. However, no matter what you do or do not do, we all need to expect the unexpected.  We may not have to plan for it (or some of us already have), nor may it really affect us unless we allow it to.  But I’m not ready to tell people to ‘hang on to the roller coaster’ yet.

When looking at the state of the world, especially in the United States, these two cards speak of doing that which we pledged to do.  Are the young that were enticed into the political process continuing their vow of working toward political change?  Are the people who pledged to write their representatives doing so?  Are people doing the volunteering they vowed?  Are they making choices to learn the new skill or reach out to others? There is a big difference from joining a Facebook group or talking about changing and actually taking time to do the things that may bring change.

 

Second Quarter – Knight of Swords prime card, The World, secondary cardimg_3790

As we head into the second quarter, the energy is all going to depend on what has or has not been accomplished in the first quarter.  Have we been the person who has been able to complete that which we set out to bring into our lives, or have the intentions of the new year fell aside by the beginning of February?  If we haven’t completed the endeavors that we wished, all is not lost.  The Knight brings the opportunity to strategize once more.  For those that have been able to bring the change they want in their lives, this card represents the ripples in the pond that are starting to form based on the changes that have become habits.  The pebble in the pond causes ripples that touch almost everything in the pond. Therefore an individual who changes will alter their community.  Get enough people to change and you can change a state, a country or even the world, which leads me to the next card.

The world tells me that we will see an end of a cycle in May or June.  Everything comes in its time; and it will be an ending of things, and beginnings of new ones.  The spiritual symbols in the cards tell me that this will be focused on spirituality.  It could mean a spiritual growth cycle is ending, and a new one begins.  But unfortunately I don’t get many more specifics than that.


Third Quarter – Nine of Pentacles prime card, Three of Swords, secondary card

img_3791

I find these two cards very refreshing when comparing the same time period from 2016.  July through September brought quite a bit of political craziness in 2016, and here we see two cards that are lower energy than the energy experienced in the same time frame the previous year.  However, I fear there is some caution that is needed still.

The Nine of Pentacles feels to me that it could be something we could celebrate, but not too much.  Yes, a new cycle has been completed, but there will always be another following quickly after.  We must continue to move forward; to stop would mean to go stagnant and allow muscles to atrophy and minds to become dull.  Enjoy the work that has been done, but there is still plenty of work to be done as the year is not yet over.

The three of swords is a warning to me of too much celebration.  Cogs in wheels could easily be broken, and something that simple can start everything that has been worked for to come crashing down.  Now seeing the previous cards speak to a new cycle, that may not be much at this point, but it is still a breakdown.  And if you are like me, you want to avoid those at all costs.

 

Fourth Quarter – Knight of Wands prime card, Temperance, secondary cardimg_3792

The Knight of Wands speaks to a lit passion.  Perhaps the Three of Swords warning is one that is taken too carefully and starts a hunt to root out that which could be our undoing in the third quarter.  Passion is a wonderful thing, but only when it is put to good use.  The previous presidential election results are a clear example of that; many people’s passions were aflame after the results, and while some of that was put to good use, much of it spilled over into countless situations of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ with violent consequences. Passion spurs many to root out those which do not look like ‘us’, for they may be against ‘us’.  Therefore we need to look to finding constructive things to channel those passions into.

Temperance is a very strong reminder to channel that passion, as it speaks to what will happen if we are able to do so.  At this point we have gone through a new year and have hopefully seen new spiritual and physical practices put into play.  We have grown wiser and stronger.  It’s time to put that knowledge to use here during the passionate last quarter of 2017.  Let the last quarter of 2016 be a warning on what passion can do.  Should passion ignite firestorms, let Temperance be the guide to the water hoses.  Let the strength and wisdom we have gained from the year give us the sight to know what the true action needs to be.

 

So looking at the spread, I think my first thought about 2017 is correct in some ways, but not in others.  Perhaps we aren’t going to see the horrible things that we expect after some of the things that have happen in 2016.  They will be a factor, but perhaps it is our own decisions and actions that will determine how much of a factor.  Have we learned our lessons, and have we grown, or have we not?

The biggest takeaway of this reading for me is that we cannot lose our heads over issues that we see happening in the world in 2017.  Instead we need to seek to learn about how we can fix those things.  According to this reading, we may not be done with the ‘big news’ that the last two quarters of 2016 brought us.  The first quarter may have it’s own problems.  But if we stick to logic and common sense as best we can, and continue to do things to strengthen our own lives, I believe that we will be able to grow in 2017 despite the issues in the world.

I’d love thoughts about this deck, the spread or the interpretation.  Thanks for reading.