The Pain of Division: Why the Native American Taunting Hurts So Damn Much

I hate that I hurt enough to write this. I hate that I sit here, partially in tears, thinking about the division that has everything in this nation polarized. This incident this weekend is already making the rounds on the right and left, with people already camped out and digging in their positions on both sides. And until now, I’ve been doing my best trying not to become entrenched.  I’ve done my best these past years trying to not let the horrid atrocities I see on the news get to me. I’ve been carefully navigating my way through each new situation, each new bit of news and its revelations with my heart still intact, hoping that sooner or later there would be a solution and we would just get back to all being united in SOMETHING.

But seeing this weekend’s horrible video of Elder Nathan Philips being taunted by a group of ‘Catholic’ kids broke me. It hurt. It made me angry and made me want to throw up all at the same time. It made me angry cause I recognize that demeanor and that sense of entitlement, and it sickens me because where I see it is in my own extended family.

 

My upbringing
I grew up Roman Catholic with blue collar, Baby Boomer parents. Thanks to my Grandparents payment of the fees and at their request, I was put in private, Catholic school. And while the school’s religious doctrine was significantly lacking compared to other Christian schools in the area, the same, simple teachings were expressed over and over. Love one another. Treat others as you wish to be treated. For what you so do to the least of my brothers you do onto me. These are the lessons an impressionable youngster like me took to heart, and I still do my best to follow them.

The same lessons weren’t taught at home. I asked my mother one time why she wouldn’t let me wave hi to a group riding motorcycles as we were going into a restaurant one time. “We don’t associate with THOSE type of people,” was her reply. My father taught me about ‘reverse racism’ and used to point out examples – anytime a black person ever stood up for themselves it was labeled as ‘acting entitled.’ The migrants (that was their name; never immigrants, Latinos or other culturally appropriate titles) that worked in the fields around our small city were ones to stay away from, because they were uncivilized, stupid and dangerous. I still remember a garage sale we had where I accidentally opened up the second garage door at the same time a family of Latinos were looking at what we had for sale. My opening the second door allowed all of the tools my father had that weren’t part of the sale to be seen. He was mad for weeks after, fully expecting his garage would be broken into at any moment.

It didn’t stop with cultural racism. When a new priest came to town, he decided to teach meditation and even did a laying of hands and prayer ceremony after mass one time for a woman who had stage 4 breast cancer. I remember her being in tears, thanking all of us who participated with hugs. I was so very excited at learning from this new priest as I knew these were things that would make me feel closer to God. But of course my parents saw it differently. They joined the group of parents that worked to get him kicked out of the parish for teaching “Buddhism”.

Of course, my religious questions continued. Dad had taught me the Nicene creed, the Catholic statement of faith, had a line that said, “Of all that is seen and unseen”, meaning that we believed in spirits and life after death. I think he wished that he hadn’t said that later, because his demeanor changed after I started asking more questions he couldn’t answer. When they became too profound, he said I shouldn’t be asking them. “The meek shall inherit the earth,” he would say, “Be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven.” He told me I was thinking too much. I had to start taking things at face value and stop asking questions.

 

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
The beliefs I grew up with and were ‘supposed’ to have didn’t feel right to me, and so, after moving away, I studied for myself and found out that many of the things I was taught were wrong. There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism.’ People of color DO have more issues trying to live in any society in the United States because they are still dealing with the after effects of decades of laws that did not allow them to become as financially stable as whites during the Jim Crow era. I know now that many of the immigrants that come from that southern border are fleeing from horrible situations. They have nothing, and they are simply coming here to find hope and to live their life as they wish, much like my own family came from Germany, France and England many generations ago.

But you have to go back and visit sometime. And for the longest time I did go back like a dutiful child. I tried like hell not to bring anything up that would cause problems. I wanted them to be proud of who I had become and of the life I made for myself. And most important to me was that I wanted them to recognize that I still believe those things that I was taught so many years ago in that private Catholic school. Love one another. Do onto others as you would have done to you, for what you onto the least of my brothers you do onto me. Perhaps I wasn’t going to mass regularly, but I was still searching, doing what I could to find my religious place in the world and make it balance with still being accepted by my family.

It never happened. Even up until ten years ago I was still trying. I’d bring something up to my father that another minister had said and he would immediately end the conversation with, “that’s too liberal.” Months later I tried again as I found common ground in Oprah Winfrey’s talks with Eckhart Tolle. I brought up to my father some of the topics and how they connected my personal beliefs with their Catholic teachings. “She’s a reverse racist.” He quipped.  The worst of it was seeing the anger he had in his eyes when I brought a book for him to read.  I saw he was reading a book written by John McCain during the last time he ran for the presidency.  So I brought Barack Obama’s “Audacity of Hope” into the house. I was hoping to switch books with him so we could find some common ground. After he told me to get that book out of the house, I stopped trying.

 

The Familial Reality
I know now that there is absolutely no common ground with my parents when it comes to beliefs about culture, religions and privilege. The Trumpian madness has just made things more clear than I ever wanted to know. I had put boundaries on visits with my extended family because of the gross chasm of different beliefs. Stupidly, I relaxed those boundaries this past holiday season and was hit in the face with more talk about how ‘we’ are getting ripped off by ‘those’ illegal immigrants; how heaven has a wall, so we should too, and how there is no such thing as racial injustice in this country. I left the Christmas family celebration feeling alienated and betrayed, painfully aware that there was nothing I could do to change their minds, and that they had become even more feverous in their beliefs. I liken it to a cultish fervor now.  And it doesn’t stop with my parents anymore. Many of my aunts and uncles share the same beliefs. Some even more radical.

I have spent the past month trying to come to terms with this new normal. I’m going to have to make tougher boundaries, because I cannot even fathom how to face the fact that my family are racists.  It hurts that they are so comfortable in their privilege that they refuse to see anything else. Like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, they refuse to stop looking at shadows on the wall because they like what they see. Worse yet, I will always be treated as ‘different’ when I visit. Perhaps they think I’m too intelligent for my own good, or just have too big a bleeding heart for others. I don’t care anymore. I have spent too much of my time trying to bridge a gap that no one else is reaching a hand out to help with.  A gap that they claim I’ve put there myself in the first place.

 

Why The Covenant Catholic Incident Hits so Close To Home
I am no longer Catholic. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings toward the Catholic Church and Christianity in general. Yes, many atrocities have happened in the church. I don’t deny that. But there are also very good people out there that are Catholic. My Grandparents were some of the good ones. My Great-Grandparents were as well. My sister teaches in Catholic school, and although she can be a bit bossy (she’s a Virgo after all) she is still a damn good woman. My Godparents were damn fine people who raised damn fine daughters of their own. I saw one of them post on Facebook about being just as appalled as I am of this incident.

But what still hurts is I already know that my parents are echoing the language of the priests and the parents of these boys. ‘That man was pounding his drum in my boy’s face.” “Why don’t you play all of the tape so you can see the real issue here and not make it about my son who was defending himself.” “We don’t know everything that happened here, so we can’t truly judge who was at fault.” Every time I hear or read someone say something in support of the discrimination both in this situation or anything that is pro-prejudice, it’s heard in my father’s voice. Because that is what he has become, and he doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

 

What Do I Do Now?
There is a reason why I haven’t gone to many marches, joined a resistance organization or done anything else but donate money since these things all began. The fact of the matter is I can’t. It just hurts too much. It hurts because I know people on the other side, and these people were supposed to be the loving, caring individuals that I grew up with, and should be living the truth they taught.

Now, it’s a lot worse for me.  Since Christmas I have been doing everything I can to not be overwhelmed at this new reality of boundaries I must now consider. I’ve already unfriended family on facebook, I refuse phone calls and only responded to the occasional texts. And even that little bit of communication feels uncomfortable as hell. But right now, I just don’t know what to do. Even my ancestral veneration work feels solidly off.

All I know for absolute certain is that I have to do what is best for me and my immediate family. I need to take care of myself. Those boundaries aren’t because I am being mean, not ‘listening to both sides,’ trying to ignore some ‘truth’ or because I’m just being a bitch.  They are there because of the pain I feel. I may even take a break from social media for awhile, even though I don’t really want to do that as it will also cut me off from facebook friends that have been my support. I’m still figuring it out as I go, but I am damn proud of myself for recognizing where I am at and that things do need to change, for better or for worse. (And to be perfectly honest, this post is either going to make things worse if they ever see it, or make things better because I’ll feel better once it’s posted.)

 

The Takeaway From All Of This
If you have read through all the way to now, thank you for reading. And just please know that there is such a thing as a good Catholic, and even a such a thing as a good Christian. Know that there are also good, caring individuals out there that for whatever reason, they refuse to step away from watching a shadow of what is really going on in the world. I may not agree with everything my extended family says, but they do try to care. And they, along with many others, don’t deserve hate. Perhaps pity, but not hate. Save that for the ones who are making the speeches and performing the actions that are further dividing people.

As for me and what I’m going to do in this new normal?  I’ll still keep my eye out while I’m in public, prepared for something that could go awry if someone decides they are going to go public with their racism. I’ll still donate to charities as much as I can, and I’ll still pray for justice and peace.  But that is really all I can do.

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Roles in Paganism

My first foray into pagan communities was in the early 90s.  Back then the spirituality du jour was Wicca, and covens made up a bulk of the pagan communities.  There was the occasional sprinkling of heathens, but the ones that I knew well really didn’t do any worship of their deities like they do now. (To be honest, many of them were scared shitless of their Gods and basically worshipped in hopes they wouldn’t piss them off.)

So roles back then were pretty simple; either you were a priest or priestess, a high priest or high priestess (as in, ran your own group), a member of a coven or you were a solitary practitioner.  That was about it.  Many covens at the time, including my own, had a lot of training going on to ensure the laypeople would be able to participate and run circles of their own.  This made a natural transition for more people to step up and be a priest or priestess in time, and in a lot of ways was expected.

When I finally returned to being a physical member of a pagan community about 14ish years ago, I found a very different place than the one I left.  Gone were the ‘plug and play’ days of simply invoking different deities in a common ritual and calling it a specific genre or culture of witchcraft.  Now there are specific rituals and traditions for specific cultures, complete with their own hierarchical organizations.  Ancestral veneration is a huge part of practice, along with more flavors of beliefs in the pagan community than there are stars in the sky.

Because of this diversity, trying to group people together by a specific belief is pretty much impossible.  There are too many versions of ways to venerate a specific pantheon of Gods to even comprehend trying to find a universal way to worship.

So instead of trying to come together by belief, perhaps we should consider coming together by traits of beliefs.

I’ve referenced John Beckett’s Big Tent of Paganism a lot because it’s really the only way I have found to recognize differences, yet unite within a specific pagan community.  These are clear ideas that we can see where we ‘fit’, something that is still necessary in this pagan environment full of individuality. Pagans still want to feel like they belong and by looking at this tent set up, they can see the ways where they do.  So in essence, moving forward with other possible traits to compare and discuss personal beliefs is a good next step.  Perhaps it isn’t an additional rallying point for unification for Paganism itself, but it at least is something to discuss.

So in an effort to discuss common traits, I wondered about the clarification of roles; not by using specific cultural words, but using actual traits of roles that could span across multiple cultural differences.  The reason is that when we use specific cultural words to describe our pagan identity, the intent of those words is so watered down that their true definition doesn’t match what the person is intending to convey.

For an example, consider words like “Shaman” or “Witch”.  They describe intent of work, but what specific type of work? Are the people using the word “Shaman” to describe a core Shamanistic style of belief? Are they lineaged, or are they a hybrid of both lineage and core beliefs?  It’s the same with the word “Witch” – are you Wiccan, or are you another breed of witch from a different lineage, or do you use the term differently than it is currently defined?

So ultimately, when describing yourself, the cultural words being used end up describing very little about who we are, leaving confusion regarding personal belief and level of activity in a pagan community.  Another big issue is that utilizing cultural words to describe who we are could also be ‘fighting words’ to some who feel they were culturally appropriated in the first place (and that could very well be true).

 

Is it Time for Clearer Roles?
When trying to explain what role I play in a pagan community, I try to discuss the traits of my beliefs instead of discussing culture or using cultural words.  Many times the trait itself translates well across multiple cultures and also allows clearer communication of what it is I actually do.  The only time this isn’t the case is when I or someone else is discussing a specific title from a specific tradition, but I’m finding this to be more uncommon as the new norm of pagan spirituality seems to be that pagans are drawn to Gods and Goddesses of multiple cultures.  This can further confuse the situation.

In an effort to further look into the possibilities of defining roles based on traits instead of cultural references, I have written a draft of what those roles may look like, complete with my opinions and observations on each.  Many times these roles will most likely change as someone learns and grows, which is expected.  Our roles can also change because our Gods drag us into the new one kicking and screaming.  It’s also possible to stay in one or many of these specific roles for your entire life.  Either way is dependent on your relationship with your Gods, your personal goals and the needs of your community.

It is important to note that none of these roles are more important than the other.  I see many Pagans thinking that being a priest or priestess for deity is the ultimate goal that is to be strived for and that it will immediately gain the person a high status in the community.  This isn’t the case.  There are way too many complexities in today’s paganism for us to all be reaching out to be a priest or priestess, and in many ways, it’s a thankless job.  Further, in order to serve a healthy pagan community, we need to be striving to have the most variety as possible.

 

Priest/ess
While the role of priest and priestess are necessary, in many ways I feel like the titles have baggage left over from Abrahamic religions.  In Christian religions especially, a priest is someone who intercedes on your behalf to the Christian God.  A Christian priest is also someone of high status who is looked upon in times of need for wisdom and guidance.  In short, they tend their ‘flock’ of believers. In paganism, we don’t NEED to have someone intercede (most of the time).  Yet, possibly because of the Christian example, these two titles are coveted and used by many pagans even though they aren’t really ready for them.

I believe a person calling themselves a priest or priestess should have a very strong amount of training.  It is best that parts of this training come from an organized and established group or mentor-ship with a well-known teacher.  This is not a role that can be easily undertaken with information just gleaned by reading books.  A priest or priestess is not only a servant of the Gods they have oathed to, but they are also a servant of the pagan community as a whole.  Because of this, their training shouldn’t stop with just learning pagan ritual.  They should also have a solid understanding of mental health, training in techniques of nonviolent communication and learning differences (at the very least), and be familiar with mental health and physical resources in their local communities.

Priests and priestesses of a deity also have the responsibility of putting their own ego aside as much as possible. Someone who claims the title of priest or priestess must be able to serve others the way their God wants, or there could be serious consequences.  As a priest or priestess, you are now a spokesperson for your God – what they want is now what you need to do.  If this means that you have to approach something a different way to ensure unity of a group, then so be it.  Most of the people that claim this title that I know also do significant amounts of work in this role…LOTS of work.

Being a priest or priestess is not a status that will quickly bring honor and prestige.  By accepting that title you are choosing to do the dirty work of the God you work with. It means being there when someone calls at all hours of the day and night because they are afraid of some sort of sign they see. It means understanding and soothing fears, or working with someone in order to help them recognize their own shortcomings in a manner that they can learn and grow from. It could mean you are now leading a group and expected to teach in that leadership role. It could also mean you are going to be the one called to the hospital for spiritual aid when an emergency strikes (I have seen this happen!) or called to do the work of fellowship in a jail situation. (Yep! Seen this happen too!) Priests and priestesses need to also have patience, as there will be a significant amount of drama that they have to deal with on a regular basis.

Finally, if you call yourself a priest or priestess, you better know the legal ramifications in your state or country for reporting abuse or crimes. Many states require reporting of specific issues, and you may be found liable if you do not report something you were told by someone you were counseling.

If it sounds like I’m pushing back on using the titles of Priest or Priestess, I am. You have to know your stuff. I’ve seen way too many people use that title over the years but then not be able to back it up.

 

God/Goddess devoted
I believe a majority of the pagans in the US today could fit under this role. Many people aren’t called to a leadership role in the community.  Instead, they are comfortable in a background role. They are devoted to one or many Gods and Goddesses, and do offerings and work with that deity either in a group or alone.  They may or may not have a specific oath to a God or Goddess, but if they do, it’s a personal one that most likely doesn’t include extensive outreach and leadership in a pagan community.

There is nothing wrong with not being in a specific leadership role, being a lay member of a group or just being focused on solitary work. In my opinion, it is the people who are in the role of devoted practitioners that are the most valuable, as it is their needs that leaders need to understand in order to better focus the group as a whole. Without this insight, we who take leadership roles in our communities wouldn’t know how to properly meet the needs of the members, ultimately causing communities to splinter and break up.

Those who are devoted are the ones that show up and make the difference. They are the ones who are willing to engage and send energies.  They allow their energies in group settings to be crafted and weaved together to make things happen. These are the ones in the blot who form the bond of family, who make people feel included. And these are the ones that show up and make fellowship happen, even if it is in a simple social media group. Many times it is the devotees of a particular God or Goddess that become the initial contact for many new people coming into this religion, which is a very important role to be in as without new blood, groups grow to stagnate.

 

God/Goddess bound
There are a lot of people that I see binding themselves to a deity without even realizing it.  Loki is a great example of this.  Many times I think that has a lot to do with Tom easy-on-the-eyes Hiddleston, who plays Loki for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People who don’t quite understand what they are getting into decide to become a Loki follower, thanks to his portrayal. They pledge themselves to Loki thinking they are binding themselves to what they see in the comics.  And then the flame-haired one appears.

I’m sure the phenomenon also happens thanks to Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins and probably Ian McShane too (American Gods is a pretty well-known novel after all). But even if you didn’t mean the words in that manner or are surprised at the results, once you have oathed to a God or Goddess you will need to do a lot of work to get out of what you said you would do.

Oaths are very important in the eyes of the Gods. They are not meant to be taken lightly. However, they do have their place, and many people take them for many different reasons. In my own case, the first oath I took to my God was one of intimacy.  My God opened me up and looked deep within my spirit, for part of my oath meant that nothing I had within my spirit was kept from him. In return, I learned from him how to transform those pieces of me that were broken and tortured.  And by doing so, I gained strength, knowledge about myself, wisdom, self-worth and a sense of peace that I never thought I would ever have.

Oathbound doesn’t always mean intimacy or even free will.  Other forms of binding include the God requiring it whether or not the person wanted it. It seems to me that it’s rare when a God ‘claims’ someone, but it does happen, especially in instances of karmic issues or of oaths that had been broken previously.  In these cases, the oath a person takes toward a God could be a way of reducing a karmic burden they carry. Another situation could be that the person may have a specific trait that the God or Goddess needs or requests to be used for a specific purpose. In those cases, if you can, negotiate heavily for what you get out of the deal.

No matter the reason, someone who is bound to a God or Goddess will be working heavily with that source of divinity for a long time. They may be pushed into situations they are not comfortable due to their God or Goddess wanting or needing something for them to do. And at times, those situations could mean they are working within the community to connect, protect, or to help others in other ways. At the very least, they may find themselves saying something to someone else without any idea where the thought came from.

This is also not a role or status to be taken lightly.  Regular discipline will be required to continue to nurture the connection between the devoted and devotee.  The job isn’t glamorous by any stretch of the imagination but in many ways, those who are oathbound receive significant satisfaction through their connections, even if originally they were not given a choice.

 

Seer
This is a category that I put myself into frequently. As an intuitive reader, it is my job to be able to see things that others cannot. It is also my job to be able to communicate those things to the requestor or client in the best manner possible. This also means I and other seers are of service to the community.  This can also mean that, like the role of a priest or priestess, there are times when someone is in need that I have to find a way to make it work to help, even if it means moving my schedule around to do it.

Seers help bring solace, understanding, healing, and connections to someone who (at times, desperately) needs it. Seers can help guide people when they are lost, connect them to their loved ones and make them feel like they have control of their lives. It is a hard job at times, especially when there is troubling news to share. But it is still a worthy role.

You don’t have to be reading cards, runes or doing astrological charts to be a seer. My husband is a great example. He has a seeing gift, but it only comes in spurts, which suits him just fine. Every once in a while he will pipe up with a saying or respond with a statement that isn’t ‘his’. It’s during those times I know he’s using his seeing gifts to bring necessary messages (that I’m probably not hearing because I don’t want to).

Although there are many fine, gifted seers out there, getting some sort of training in your preferred medium is an excellent idea.  A seer only gets better by doing their craft and honing their skills.  They also get better by receiving feedback from their clients and the community they serve. Seers are also another role that encounters people new to paganism, and they have to understand that and adjust their mannerisms appropriately. Finally, If the seer cannot provide additional help or information about the topic their client needs to discuss, it is very important for them to identify other contacts in the pagan community that the client can go to for aid.

Seers should also be aware of the local laws regarding obtained knowledge about situations that could be unlawful.  Not only is it unethical to not report this information, but it could seriously wreck your karma by not doing so.

 

 

Additional roles could be added, or some could be considered a sub-role to one of the categories above.  I’m not certain where a Ceremonial Magician would fall, although I think they may be almost in the middle of all four.  I myself recognize that I’ve fallen into every one of these roles sometime during my pagan work and sometimes more than one role at a time.  It’s all about what the community, the specific God or Goddess you work with and what your needs are.

I offer these thoughts as a possible way to connect with a fellow pagan; to more easily identify what your identity is without the utilization of possible cultural backlash.

I’d love to have other’s input, as always, and thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

Bias Problems?

I got a lot of response from friends on the post I wrote about not bashing the new age movement.  And while some people felt I had made some good points, I got the idea that overall many people read and dismissed what I had to say as being either naive or simply dismissed me personally as being too ‘New Age’ to think critically about the issues in the first place.  I had expected that.  I also expected people to leave hurtful comments about the post (which luckily, I did not get).

Overall, there was a bit of good discussion about the post.  And while I was going back and forth several times with other members of the pagan community, someone else popped up and made the comment that the arguments in the pagan community never change.

I laughed off the comment with him as I agree that there will always be arguments in the pagan community about labels and issues, but I disagreed with him about the particular discussion.  Instead, I framed what I was engaging in with these other pagans was a discussion with other peers of the pagan community about the points I had brought up.  He then disagreed and brought up his points as to why this was an argument; I gave my side, the others involved gave their sides, and neither of us budged.  He concluded again that based on that definition, we were in an argument.

I reread the posts, and he was right.  And my heart sank.

Now in all fairness, I had no idea what to expect when I put that post out there.     But when I reread the posts, I did see the underlying theme of “I dare you to try to convince me that whatever you say is something I should consider” with some of the participants, so thus, it was in many ways, an argument.  So I gave up.

I was in an argument, and that really bothered me.  The post wasn’t supposed to become something to defend against.  It wasn’t supposed to be me defending my ideals and my right to my own beliefs, nor to defend what I meant by recognizing that even New Age ideals had a bit of truth to them.   It was simply me trying to get another facet of a situation out in the open for people to consider.

Perhaps I am naïve.  In the late 80s/early 90s, the pagan community that I was a part of were mostly open to new ideas.  We were all growing; and information wasn’t easy to come by.  All we had were books and each other.  So, if someone had an idea, most of the time people would listen, consider the idea, then either admit it wasn’t right for them or perhaps continue the discussion to see how it could fit into their spirituality.

But that isn’t this pagan culture now.  Instead it feels like today you get into the pagan community under a specific set of labels.  And if something doesn’t fit into that label, or (Gods Forbid!) if someone tries to push themselves into a label that a specific definition exists for (and is thus considered ‘incorrect’), arguments break out.

That argument culture is the current culture for everything; at least here in the United States.  No matter what the topic is, someone is going to disagree with what it is you think.  And not only will they disagree, they will be sure to make certain you knew it complete with taunts and expletives if you push it enough. Why I thought pagan spirituality and culture would be different and more like the culture I grew my own beliefs in, I don’t know.  But I guess I needed an awakening to what things were truly like.

Why does it even matter what others think?  It honestly doesn’t matter to me if someone dismisses my idea.  But it does make me wonder that if by dismissing a different spiritual idea immediately are they doing a disservice to themselves?  Perhaps instead of challenging them, contemplation on at least a small scale should be considered?

Many years ago, I read a book called “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book has stuck with me all these years because of the exercises.  Those exercises in the book very quickly proved Mr. Gladwell’s point about how we don’t necessarily think, but instead react to unspoken and unknown biases.  While doing those exercises, I realized that I held biases that I had no idea I had.  Me, then a practicing pagan and someone who tried very hard to be open to new ideas and opportunities for growth still had biases.  The realization hurt.  And it also made me vow that I would always look at someone else’s opinion as objectively as possible to ensure that there wasn’t some grain of truth to it for myself.  I admit that it isn’t always easy.  But it is something I aspire to as a personal creed.

That personal creed is why I was so upset at the argumentative nature of the discussion.  I had hoped that other spiritual people would also believe the way I do about bias, and thus try to look at things with an open mind.  Now perhaps some did, I don’t know for certain, but the intent that I read from the posts seemed to me to suggest that the bad things the new age community has done outweighs anything I would have put forth as good, and thus the ideal of the post was dismissed.

And I could go the other way and say perhaps my bias at belittling myself makes me think that the intent I describe above happened when it didn’t happen at all.

It sounds like minutia, doesn’t it?  It sounds like critical thinking gone awry perhaps.  But in my belief, we have to think that deeply to understand the currents of energy that are around us.  We have to let our bias go; let any anthropomorphic ideals of those energies go.  The world and its energy behaves differently than we think it does; no matter how much you learn, no matter how many teachers you have or how many lives you live, we still need to expect the unexpected while we are living on this Earth.

So I come from this experience a little wiser and with more understanding, but with even more dedication to my personal creeds.  But I’ll always hope, and make time for an open minded discussion with my fellow pagans about ideals.  After all, that which does not change me only makes me stronger.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

New Age Bashing

Several weeks ago, an article entitled “New Age Bullshit Part 1” popped up in “A Parliament of Owls – Spiritual & Metaphysical Chat for Wandering Owl Fans” discussion group on Facebook. Since then, It’s been on my mind quite a bit.  It’s been on my mind because I agree with some of the author’s points, but I also very much disagree about his stance on the new age movement.

In the article, the author speaks immediately about the jargon people in the new age movement use. (He calls them ‘lightworkers’ in the article).  Specifically, he speaks to how most lightworkers only talk about love and light, Further down in the article he speaks to how some of these people refuse to even consider the darker sides of the soul, speaking to how most lightworkers believe that if they don’t give any energy to that side of them, the dark side can’t hurt them, or basically, it won’t exist.   This is where I do agree with him.  Yes, there are people out there that have been in the new age movement for quite some time and don’t think about anything but ‘the light’ and preach how staying in ‘the light’ allows this and that and allows you to develop <insert touchy-feely statement here>.

I further agree with the author that many of these lightworkers are stuck in their own personal development because they only focus on the light.  But just like the minority of any religious or spiritual discipline that ruin it for the rest of the population, the same thing has happened in the new age movement, and these lightworkers he speaks of are the culprits.  Yes, we are going to get the people that are that are stuck but they claim they are not.  We are also going to get the people in the New Age movement that specifically speak to only certain practices are ‘true’ and only using certain tools are ‘right’ and so on and so forth.  And we should deal with them like we do when we find them in any other aspect under this great big umbrella called paganism:  We need to ignore them and continue our path.  Because if the lightworkers are true to form, anything we say to them is only going to get us angrier.

The author basically leaves his article there, which makes it feel more like a rant to me than being anything informative.  (In all fairness, he did say this was part one, but I could not find anywhere where he had a part two.)  Again, I see his point and can understand why he would rant.  People like the lightworkers he describes can be very frustrating to deal with.  But there are other facets to the new age movement he doesn’t even consider covering in his article, and that’s a shame.

As most of you already know, I do intuitive tarot readings.  Many of the clients that come in to see me for readings are searchers.  Some of these people are clearly out of their comfort zone, they come to me even though they have no idea how a reading works or what to ask.  Some don’t even know how a tarot deck works.  Still, they come because they are searching for something that they cannot name.  Still others come speaking of ‘talents’ or ‘gifts’ their recent ancestors had; and their visit to me is them grasping at straws trying to connect with that talent that might be innate in themselves.

In these cases, I do my best to be the gracious host of the metaphysical realms.  I speak to them and give them ideas on reaching out to their ancestors; or other ways they can start ‘testing’ the waters so to speak.  But I don’t give them too much.  Going straight into how to cast a circle, gathering spell components for a spell or talking about some of the more specific areas of the metaphysical realms are just too much for these clients.

So in short, I give them what some people would call New Age practices to start with.

If you look at some of the practices of the new age belief you will see immediately that they are very basic.  They are easy to comprehend and they can be communicated and understood in a very short period of time.  That makes them the perfect building block for me to present to my clients so they can start building their own foundations for metaphysical practice.  Also, the so called ‘light’ exercises are perfect to help teach protection and grounding; which most newbies desperately need.

The practices I speak about aren’t any that need deep oversight.  I’m also not designating myself as their ‘teacher’ by giving them suggested practices, nor do I say they MUST do them.  I simply suggest them and allow the client to make up their own mind as to whether or not the practice is right for them.  And if they choose to go deeper and want more information, then I can suggest a specific person from the list of people I have that I know to be very reputable and that can give them further information about a specific subject.

Another reason I start with new age practices is because of the terminology of the movement is so common.  Reaching for a common language to communicate to someone is the same thing I do in my day job.  As a technical writer, I constantly have to think about my audience; Is my writing going to someone with technical knowledge so I can let lose more technical terms, or is the audience a group who doesn’t know the difference between Kaizen and a Kanban?

In order to communicate anything, we must first make certain we have a common language.  New age terminology easily bridges that gap.  It also allows me to bypass terms that might scare my clients.  Sure there are things that I still must explain in more detail, but overall I have a common language that I can use to start connecting with my client and help them work through whatever problem they have come to me to get more information on.

The people that come to see me and people like them are some of the biggest reasons why the new age movement is still thriving.  These are people who could be just becoming aware of the energies within and around them and have no idea how to work with that energy.  They might be scared shitless of something they saw, felt or heard and have no idea what to do about it.  Or they are like me when I found new age practices – they are the people that feel deep in their heart and soul that something is missing, and are reaching for the piece of them they cannot define.

I am a Reiki Master, and that, to many people, is a new age practice.  Yet it was my training in Reiki that ultimately led to my being able to control my intuitive gifts and become the adept reader I am today.  It also led to me being able to use healing abilities and helped to teach me not to send out my own energy and deplete my own personal energy sources.  Reiki became my teacher in other ways too.  It was what I reached for as protection when I started doing my own deeper journey work and it has helped deepen my understanding of the Gods as I know them now.  In fact, Reiki still is a very important piece of my spiritual discipline.

When I found Reiki, it was the only thing that I could find in the pagan community that made any sense regarding my healing and intuitive abilities.  I was already pagan; I’d been practicing rituals at that point for roughly 10ish years and no matter how much I searched, I could find no one who could help me with my intuitive and healing gifts.  Reiki was the only thing that helped me understand what I was doing wrong in my practice, and it was the only thing that helped me correct my mistakes properly.

Now had this article been written back then, and had I seen it prior to my decision to be attuned to a new age thing such as Reiki, perhaps I would have reconsidered my decision to become attuned.  And I would not be following the wonderful soul fulfilling path that I currently follow.  I would not be the strong person that I am today.  I would not be devoted to Loki and Odin. I would not be a member of OBOD.  And I would not be a keeper of the Sacred Pipe of my ancestors.  That’s one reason why I’m a bit upset about this article; who is going to read it and step away from possibly the very start of a very fulfilling spiritual path because of what others think about the practices they do?

The whole ‘new age bashing’ in articles like this one also makes me wonder if there is a deeper reason why it happens.  Was there a time where we, in our newbie ignorance, were like those lightworkers perhaps?  Did we condemn practices that weren’t exactly like our own? Or, are we condemning new age practices that are so simple that we in our current knowledge base would now assume that ‘ANY’ newbie should automatically know them as common sense?

Or are we embarrassed at our own beginnings, and that is why the new age movement gets the brunt of the bashing, much like pagan publishers that publish lots of beginner books like Llewellyn publishing (or bash the so called ‘Llewellyn babies’ who read said books), authors that write lots of beginning practice books (Silver RavenWolf) or why books that we once held in high esteem get joked about (Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue anyone?).

Perhaps that is the crux of it.  We all DO have to start somewhere.  Let’s stop bashing those starting points.  And while we are at it, let’s not worry about the lightworkers or other people that choose to stay stuck and help the ones who truly want to reach deeper.  Let’s help them realize that the tools they received and the skills that they learned in the new age movement can help them learn that there is much more to these paths than what they know.  And in the meantime, let’s recognize the new age movement as the stepping block that it can be into a much bigger world.

 

Photo from Deviant Art

Finding Gods of Compassion

Many times when I do readings I get the message to tell someone not to be so hard on themselves; to give themselves time to heal from the wounds that the world has given them.  And inevitably, the client (especially my deeply pagan clients) look at me with surprise.  They then proceed to tell me that their God is not the type to allow someone to wallow in pity.  Instead, they tell me their Gods and Goddesses are the type to push someone to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

I fully agree, to an extent.  As someone who feels very honored to have a relationship with Odin, I know first hand that there are Gods out there that want us to ‘get on with it’.  They want us to accept our shortcomings and grow up.

But that request to ‘grow up’ or ‘get over it’ isn’t the same as giving ourselves time to heal from the deep wounds that the world gives us. And in that aspect, I think that we are missing an important factor in the relationship with our Gods.  Although they want us to grow, Gods and Goddesses can also can be compassionate and supportive of us being compassionate for ourselves and for our fellow human beings. 

Now before you start getting weirded out by images of Odin sitting around a camp fire holding hands and singing, hear me out.

We know that during early periods of civilization the Gods moved around within pantheons a lot.  We know that at times one God usurped another when civilization changed.  Gods of the wildlands were replaced or altered to represent the fertile fields and of agriculture.  And in time, those Gods were also altered or replaced to represent war and protection from other civilizations thirsting for conquest.  I’m not going to get into all the specifics, but they are all there in the history books for anyone to see.  And this happened in many different civilizations.

The point that I’m trying to make is that the Gods changed when humanity needed them to.  And for thousands of years, humanity was OK with that.  In fact, in our current time, we have been known to modify our own practices to mold to our own needs.  And even from a reconstructionist pagan standpoint, we see that modification today.

For an example, let’s look at Beltane, the fertility festival celebrated by many pagans around the world.  This festival was originally a fertility rite, both for the fields and for fertility of our species.  We still see this holiday as a perfect time for couples to do fertility rites to get pregnant, but we recognize that the survival of the species because of lack of fertility is not as serious of an issue today as it was two thousand years ago.  We don’t need to utilize that rite to secure survival of our species.  In fact, I think we all can agree that there is an overabundance of humans now on the planet.

So what do we do with this fertility rite?  Do we stop celebrating it, or do we reframe it to our needs today?  What we find is that many pagans do a very good job of reframing it.  We still honor and remember those of long ago and why they celebrated Beltane, but instead of fertility for the fields and for our species, pagans might celebrate the rites to work towards the fertility of money, the fertility of ideas that would allow them to further their careers or the fertility of wisdom and aid with the goal of bettering themselves in some way in order to continue to honor the Gods on this plane of existence.  And I think we can all agree that the Gods worshiped during the height of Beltane haven’t abandoned us because we modified the rites to more clearly represent what our needs are in this day and age.

I’ve pointed out that we have modified rites to reflect our current culture, and I’ve also pointed out that the Gods have changed based on the needs of the population at the time.  Now what does all of this have to do with the Gods having compassion?

One of the biggest needs of the day in my mind is compassion.  Open your favorite social media site and I can guarantee you will find something in your feed that is argumentative.  You may also find something that will get you frustrated or even angry.  It’s a very easy example because it happens on a regular basis.  Want another?  Drive your daily commute, or just drive anywhere on a highway in fact.  We are human, we are going to get angry at the person who just jumped in front of us and slammed on their brakes, or who decided to drive in the faster lane of the road yet is going under the speed limit for some reason.

All of this anger has slowly built up over the years to the point where we are today.  For years we have let the anger fester in our minds and souls, causing us finally to lash out at ‘those’ type of people.  Those that don’t think like us, those that don’t act like us, or those that believe differently than us.  We have become a polarized world that praises ‘sticking it’ to the other person over trying to come up with a compromise.

It didn’t happen overnight.  And there are more root causes of the problem than anger, but built up anger is absolutely a part of the problem.  We hold anger for ourselves, hold anger for our lot in life, hold anger and jealousy at others for having more, or for getting more assistance than us.  The anger bubbles up at our politicians (who may deserve it from time to time) and causes us to lash out at others who disagree.  And to battle we go.

For many of us, we feel like we either have limited options.  We could either take a side and fight for it, get the heck out of the way of the arguing forces or be run over; a casualty of the environment that has been slowly forming over many years.

Any one of those stances is going to cause anyone to have battle damage.  And this isn’t even the worst of the battle damage we carry around.

Our upbringings aren’t always rosy.  Our relationships with others can become abusive.  Life has its traumas, and we endure each and every one of them, but they don’t leave us exactly how we were prior to the situation.  Sometimes the changes are physical; a scar appears where a wound once was.  Sometimes the wounds are emotional, and we end up hardening some to those around us.  But no matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, there is a spiritual component to the wound as well.  Hardened hearts change the outlook on our spirituality.  Perhaps we stop caring as much about helping those in need because we are bitter about our own circumstances.  Perhaps we end up angry at our Gods for allowing things to be the way they are.

The world is changing, it’s getting more rough edges, and because of it we are hardening more than we realize.  I’ve seen even the most compassionate of Shamans make critical comments against another in the current hardened climate.  And I know I’ve done it myself numerous times.

Yes, there are times when we must be hard.  Perhaps we must defend ourselves from those abusers or from those that would do us ill will.  That is important too.

But what do we do with all the pain, anger and battle damage that has struck at our core and dimmed our spirit?

Why not give it to the Gods as an offering of endurance?

Why not ask for their aid to heal properly so that our souls can shine again?

Why not ask for their strength to see situations with compassion in an effort to make the outcome less hardened?

This is different than just ‘getting on with it’.  There will be times in everyone’s life that the hardened edge they encounter is small enough that it does little damage.  That is when it is perfectly acceptable to hear from our Gods that we must just ‘get on with it’.

But what about when the hurts are so great that they affect our daily lives?  What about those who have suffered any form of abuse for any period of time?  What about the traumas of life that shake you to the very core?  I don’t believe the Gods want to just look at us and say, ‘get on with it’.  Sure, we may THINK that is what they want us to do, but perhaps that is how we are conditioned to believe.  We’ve had almost 2000 years of a religion that has given us the group mentality that we are scum and not worthy of taking time for ourselves.  This religion has told us for years that we are unworthy of healing or compassion, and that we have to grovel and beg for healing and forgiveness.

Christianity has provided us with a group mind and culture that says we are weak and lacking.  Advertising agencies have already picked up on this and used it to sell us products to make us feel better.  Many people start waking up, and reach to Pagan Gods and Goddesses, (the very ones we think tell us to ‘get over it’) in order to get out of that mindset, and that is fantastic.  But are we allowing our personal beliefs to also make us feel better, or make us worse in other places?

At the very least, consider that the Gods and Goddesses that you are willing to fight for, the Divinity that you know will fight by your side, is also a Divinity that would be willing to tend to the wounds that you received from the fight you fought together.  That isn’t an unreasonable request, and one that could easily happen on the battlefields of old.

And if you are willing to go that far, also consider that sometimes the wounds that you receive may put you out of the fight for a while, and perhaps your God or Goddess understands that better than you realize.  Recognize too that if you could no longer fight, the Gods and Goddesses were compassionate enough to give you a place to go after you passed this plane of existence.

In my own personal journeys with Odin and Loki, I’ve come to realize that they are accepting of me when I am at my best, but they also are accepting of me when I am at my weakest.  Loki especially encourages me to look at my areas of weakness and learn to make them strong, and he has shown me that brute strength is not enough to do that.  In order to become stronger, you also have to have compassion, you have to have the courage to allow yourself to be weak, and perhaps even show that weakness to others in order to allow them to help you find your strength.  Compassion allows us to accept who it is we are without the glamour or lies that we tell ourselves.  Compassion allows us to look at the wounds we have received in battle and honestly evaluate them to understand how we need to heal.  And compassion is what we need to recognize the true amount of time we need to do that.

If we can expect our Gods and Goddesses to accept our feats of strength as appropriate offerings, why not also allow our feats of courage and compassion to be offerings to them as well?  Especially in today’s world, it’s going to take a significantly larger amount of effort to show compassion than to follow the status quo.  In those times when compassion is most needed, wouldn’t it be a better offering to show that compassion since it does take so much more effort?

And if you were one of the millions in this world who has emotional, physical and spiritual wounds, don’t you think your Gods would want you to heal as well as you can from those wounds?  And in order to heal fully, don’t you think that you have to have compassion for yourself?  So why wouldn’t a God or Goddess not have compassion for you?  Wouldn’t they be proud of you, because they know you realize that fighting isn’t something that is going to allow you to heal properly?

Perhaps it’s time for us to shift our thinking.  Perhaps it’s time we honor our Gods and Goddesses with different offerings; acts of compassion and beauty.  Maybe we need to recognize that even though they may not seem like a form of divinity that would react with compassion, perhaps they at least have understanding of the compassion that we need to have for ourselves and each other.  And perhaps they already are ready to adapt to that compassion to help de-escalate the polarization of the world.