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.