What seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a post on my Pagan history. This week’s bonus Pagan Experience entry asks us to Tell us a little bit about how you came to your current spiritual path and what has held your intention to remain on it.
Since I’ve written about how I came to be on this current spiritual path, I thought I would focus more here on why I continue to follow it.
Note: I have toyed back and forth for many days on just what to write and how to write it, but keep coming up against sections which could imply that I think Paganism as a religion is someone superior to other religions, or that people who are Pagan are somehow better than practitioners of other faiths. I’m not really sure in some areas how to explore how I personally have experienced life without doing this. So, please know throughout that I am at all times speaking of my own experiences, my own feelings, and my own path. I am in no way trying to imply ever that I am in some way more than, better than, or superior to anyone else.
A brief recap
The Gods know, it would sometimes be easier to just tuck my head under and go with the popular social flow. I know many people who mark themselves as being Church of England on forms, who have not set foot in a church in decades except for the occasional hatch, match, or dispatch. It would save me from dealing with other people’s misunderstandings and prejudices and internalised fears about what being Pagan really means if I were to just go with the status quo and tick that C of E box then never set foot in a church.
Dealing with the fears and prejudices of others, and at times blatantly discriminatory words and actions have helped to strengthen my stance on being Pagan over time. Today, while I am more than willing to engage in discussions about my Pagan beliefs I refuse to take part in discussions in which the other participants try to tell me that my beliefs are wrong, or where it is obvious they are more interested in proselytising than in having a respectful discussion.
I am also more than happy to have my children take part i religious education classes at school, and take part in seasonal religious services. And I happily go to sit in a church pew while my youngest son takes part in his school’s Easter and Christmas programs at the local C of E. Of course, I sit and consider throughout the service all of the Pagan influences of that part of the story. But I’ve not been struck by lightning yet.
So, why continue to be Pagan? I’ve long since moved past the adolescent desire to shock and rebel against authority. Why write about it and share so much of my own struggles and doubts, and ideas with others? Again, it would be very easy to keep my head down and just quietly go about my life without drawing attention to myself. Hundreds of thousands of Pagan men and women do that every day.
I don’t want this to devolve into a discussion about why I am not “mainstream religion”, but please bear with me here.
I grew up in the Methodist Church. My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were all members of that same congregation in a small town in Kansas. But for all that I wouldn’t say that the house I grew up in was overly religious. Religion, for the most part, was something that you put on and took off like clothing.
I firmly believe that religion does hold a purpose in some peoples’ lives. It bring comfort and a source of strength for those times when life gets rough. It provides a sense of community and a “tribe” to call your own. This is not to say that one must believe or follow any religion to have these things. I know plenty of people who find all of this who are atheist, or agnostic. It is also not to say that one must follow a specific religion in order to find these things. I have friends of all of the major world religions, and a few of the minor and all have found within the teachings of their own particular religion (or philosophy) this same sense of comfort and companionship, and connection.
I have found this as a Pagan. More importantly, I have found that Paganism expects me to think and determine for myself issues of right and wrong, good and bad, ethical and non-ethical. My own experience has been that many of the more mainstream religions asked me to blindly follow rules, without questioning. I don’t like being told to blindly follow anyone or anything. I found there to be an expectation that I would remain like a child with God as the all-knowing and all-powerful parent. And I don’t particularly like that model.
My relationship with the Gods now is more that of one adult to another. I do not hold a concept within my belief system of ‘sins’ or of being a naughty child with a benevolent parental figure trying to mould me into a better human being.
I do, however, believe in my heart that there are consequences for my actions. Not punishment. I don’t have the whole “God’s gonna get you for that” mentality hanging over my head. More the natural laws of cause and effect. When I am making a decision on my behaviour I ask myself – will this action harm me? Will it harm someone else? Am I willing to accept the consequences of this action?
When I was at my lowest point emotionally and physically, my knowledge of the Gods as a Pagan and of the power I had access to as a witch kept me going and enabled me to put one foot in front of the other to get through each day.
When I had become well enough that I could stand on my own again, these same Gods stood back and told me – Nope, I’m not going to let you lean on me again. Find your own internal strength and stand in your own power. And as much as I might have protested and wanted to remain under the illusion of being helpless, They were absolutely right. I needed then, and continue to need now, to stand in my own Power. The God of mainstream religions says “I will carry you through.” The Gods of my religion kick me in the ass, tell me to get up and start moving because They aren’t going to do the work for me.
In this regard, the Gods are more trusted advisers and valued friends. Only a good friend could know you well enough and be trusted enough to say – Nope, not gonna take this burden from you. Now get off your backside and deal with it.
For some believing that God will carry them through gives them the strength to make it through life, they give comfort and peace in these words. Me? They do the opposite. There is a blatant implication that the person doesn’t have to do anything, doesn’t have to take any personal responsibility, because they’re helpless.
(Again, my experiences. Your mileage may vary and all the rest.)
I became Pagan because as I had grown into adulthood it was the religion that fit within the world view I was developing.
I have stayed Pagan because it continues to fit.
You can read more accounts from Pagans on this subject at The Pagan Experience.