Monday, November 29, 2010

Pagans

Having last month accepted a very large commission for four portraits, I've had very little time for much else, blogging included, but I did manage to spend a few brief hours with friends over last week's holiday: good friends and some fairly newer acquaintances, one of whom turned out to be a practicing witch and pagan (and here I thought I'd be the only one in the room that evening). For the life of me I cannot remember how the conversation over dessert turned to the subject of hymns, but indeed it did, and from there it was a quick hopscotch to paganism. With her husband an Episcopalian, this lovely lady stated how truly beautiful the hymns are in his church, which prompted me to remark on how horrible they are in the faith in which I was raised: Lutheranism (or as I like to call it "Catholic Lite"). There has never been more plodding, heavy, dire, nor depressing music ever composed. If you're looking for a soundtrack by which to commit suicide, the Lutheran Hymnal is the book you want. My new friend laughed loudly and said, "Try growing up Jewish." And this got me thinking.

Though we come from many faiths and backgrounds, is there a common thread that draws people to a life of paganism? True, some are lucky enough to have been raised by multi-generational pagan families, but in today's world, most of us come from a place far, far removed from witchcraft, wicca or paganism. For myself, having always been drawn to the rituals and spirituality of my Native American ancestors despite my rather conservative upbringing, it wasn't a giant departure from my inner beliefs to openly practicing the earth faith I have embraced for many, many years. Still, there is something to be said for the pagan path vs the more conventional spiritual paths society (and family) has to offer.

Paganism as a general rule comes with little or no guilt and certainly with no all-powerful body of (usually) megalomaniacal, egocentric men telling us what we can and cannot do, what is right, what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is most certainly not. The freedom of paganism is not only a beautiful thing in and of itself, but it also allows the follower of this faith to make their own choices when it comes to good vs evil. And most of the gentle folk who call themselves pagans make these choices wisely, far more so than someone who thinks they can make last minute amends for their wrongdoings on their deathbeds. While not all of us follow the path of wisdom in this faith, I find that the majority of us do.

If you took away from me the endless circles I've cast, the powerful spells I've written, the library of books I've amassed, you won't have hurt me in any way because those are not where my spirituality lies. Those are mere adjuncts to a pagan and witchy life well-lived. If all that were gone today, I'd be left with what really matters to me: the four elements, the sun and the moon (especially the moon), the earth including her rocks, trees and herbs, the magnificent ocean, animals, and the gentle touch of the Divine; the Great Spirit in all I do. These are why I left the mind-numbing drudgery that was the faith of my youth and embraced wholeheartedly my free-spirited and compassionate pagan self.

"Beeches and Bluebells" courtesy of the always-brilliant Giles C. Watson.

5 comments:

Celia said...

Very well said! I have been drawn to earth based spirituality for most of my life. For a very long time I didn't have a name for what I was drawn to.....but now I do....of course my entire family is Christian and they believe I will be going to hell....I just can't imagine why I'm drawn to something as peaceful as being Pagan. :-)

Robur d'Amour said...

I don't know what the defintion of Paganism is, and it doesn't matter.

To my mind, Paganism refers to any spiritual belief that isn't specifically Christian or Jewish.

That includes Celtic beliefs, and also Roman and Greek ideas. The classical mediterranean is the Pagan world.

Some Christians would even say that Islam is a pagan belief.

One of the downsides of the term 'paganism' is that it is so all-embracing. A believer in Celtic goddesses might not see exactly eye-to-eye with an ancient Roman, and certainly not with a Muslim.

Then there are the Arthurian Romances which assimilate Christian ideas into Celtic and Greek paganism.

One of the best ways of practising Paganism is Eclectism, which you did an excellent post about earlier this year.

Victoria said...

Celia, I've always found it interesting why some people feel the need to remind us of our final destination when they don't agree with our belief system as it varies so very far from their own. Is it brainwashing? Fear? A little of both? Or maybe a bit of jealousy that we can be as free with our feelings as we are?

Victoria said...

Robur, the term pagan IS a very broad blanket term, but one that as a general rule refers to polytheist old world religions, including those you have mentioned as well as many, many others. It also means "of the country" which to me refers to the modern-day pagan's earth-based spirituality although this originally meant something far more literal. Most pagans also embrace both the male AND female forms of the Divine, something that traditional monotheistic religions ran far, far away from as fast as their theological, controlling feet could carry them. Just as being a witch doesn't make you Wiccan (or vice versa) so does being Pagan not necessarily make you a witch or a follower of Wicca. I personally adhere to a rather eclectic mix of my own Native American ancestry, modern-day witchcraft, a bit of the Wiccan tossed in and of course, my earth-based Pagan beliefs. I'm a true melting pot of spiritual beliefs and it works very well for me.

Teresa said...

This is a wonderful post! I grew up as a Luthern, albeit it on and off. My mother felt we needed religion, but it wasn't the go to church every Sunday kind. I'm grateful for that. Now that I've come into my own as an adult, I've chosen this path, which always seemed to be waiting for me. I've embraced it wholeheartedly and yes, the guilt is gone. I'm free to worship in a way that is of the Earth and of Nature and I feel so blessed for that.

Thank you for sharing your insights . . . I was very moved by your words.

Blessed Be,
Teresa
Embracing My Goddess-Self