Being Pagan

Sometimes being a Pagan is simply not fun.

In my path of Druidry, I have to consider the ramifications of every action that I take, in order to maintain honourable relationship with the world around me.  I gave up eating meat nearly twenty years ago. I have since given up dairy altogether.  I recycle everything I can, even though that can be time-consuming and tedious.  I’m spending thousands of pounds on solar panels for my home instead of putting it into a personal savings account.  Every day I make choices based on my spiritual and ethical practice, most of which are “not fun”.

We as humans have been altogether far too selfish. Our endless consuming of resources, without thought for future generations, demonstrates this.  We as humans have the capacity for forethought, and yet we still destroy the planet, our future and the future of our ancestors yet to come.  The world population has doubled in the last 50 years, yet people are still having children, or visiting fertility clinics when there are millions of children already born who need good homes.  We believe in an economy that only works when it keeps growing, when we keep spending to keep this mythical beast alive, feeding it with our hard-earned cash.  We invest in nuclear and chemical weapons, sometimes unknowingly, through the banks we put our money in.  We take, take and take, and virtually give nothing back.

It’s easy to dismiss those people who take a stand for what they believe in, who care for the environment, for whom their religion would not allow them to do otherwise.  Call them overly dramatic, call them attention seekers, call them hippies, fluffy bunny new-agers, or just plain crazy.  De-humanize them, for it is easier to control them and dismiss their arguments then.  Their feelings don’t matter – they’re all just fluff and air.  We need to get on with having our fun, for crying out loud, and not listen to these whingers.

I have been called all these things.  I defy them all, and stand proud in my convictions.  I make my choices based on generations of humans and non-humans yet to come, not out of selfish greed.  I will take a stand against destruction of bluebell woods.  I will protest fracking.  I will sign any petition Greenpeace throw my way.  I will feed the badgers in my backyard and pray for their counterparts in the culling areas, and I will continue to write to MPs to ask them to stop.  I will eat as organically and as locally as I can.

This may mean that I have to give up a hobby with a certain company rather than see the destruction of a single plant, or give up a weekend away with my husband to go to a rally.  My internet time of looking at cute kittens will be limited.  My evenings will be spent ensuring the welfare of my animal cousins.  My food may not be as easy to get, or as accessible (being seasonal and all), but dammit – I don’t care.  This is my life, and this is how I am going to live it.

My Paganism is not limited to circles glowing in the candlelight, the swirls of incense drifting about my upraised arms as I pray to my Goddess.  My religion is in my every action in life.  It is not mystical in the least – it is real, it is practical and it is me.  Whether I am in my ceremonial robes or my pyjamas, my work is important, my connection to the world and my relationship with everything in it equally valid whether I’m waving a wand or not. I may stand at the clifftop and shout my thanks to the ancestors across the sea, or I may sit in the conservatory and stroke my kitty in the growing twilight.  Either act is an act of devotion, of dedication to the present moment, to this world, this time and this place.

I cannot leave my Paganism, my Druidry behind.  It is me.  It is my life.  Others may try to dismiss it, but with love and compassion for all things, I hear their words, and I smile, letting them know that I’ve heard them, and then get on with what needs to be done to spread peace, harmony and love in this world.

I stand proud in the starlight, gazing out at the Milky Way and knowing where my place is within that great spiral dance.

 

You Are Doing It Wrong…

bunneh powaIn my 20+ years of being a Pagan, I have met the most wonderful, inspiring people. I have also come across my fair share of people who seem to revel in trying to take other people down.  A lot of this, I’ve found, stems from the thinking that “you’re doing it wrong”.

For me, in anyone’s religion or spirituality, there is no right and wrong way of doing whatever inspires them, whatever heals their soul and whatever helps them to establish that connection with the songs of life.  I liken it to creating art, for it is an expression of one’s soul, one’s inspiration.  Would Da Vinci tell Jackson Pollack that he’s doing it wrong? Maybe, but both are equally an expression of the artist, both are equally art.  I must confess, I have in the past walked around art museums, seen a painting, and thought “I can do that – that’s not art”.  I’ve since seen the error of that thinking, and the divide that it creates.  Is a six-year old’s expression of a drawing of their mother any less worthy than a piece by Donatello? However, I digress.

Believing that there is only one way of doing things leads to all sorts of problems within the human psyche.  Out of that stems arrogance, division, and narrow-mindedness, just to name a few.  We would not have the wonders that we know today had everyone thought there was only one way of doing things.  We would not have a wealth of theologies from which to delve in and expand our human awareness, and awareness of the planet.  We would not have the wonders of the modern technological age.  We would not have impressionists, or the romantics.  We would not have haiku and sonnets.

The people that have inspired me have been those who have had the courage to follow their own path.  Figures in Druidry such as Emma Restall Orr (http://emmarestallorr.org) come to mind, people who couldn’t find what they needed to nourish their souls in what they found already existed, and so blended what mattered most to them with existing ideas, creating new ways of doing things.  Twenty years ago, Emma’s mud and blood approach to Druidry was unique, and she had her fair share of people telling her that she was “doing it wrong”, I’m sure.  Now, she is one of the most prolific writers and public figures in Druidry, inspiring millions with her approach, and making them find their own way through the forest.  It’s bloody marvellous.

I have seen some pagan groups or individuals put another group or individual down, because They Are Doing It Wrong.  Oftentimes as well, some pagans will use the term “fluffy bunny” to denigrate someone else’s path when it differs from theirs.  The fluffy bunny syndrome I find fascinating – not in the bunnies themselves, but in the way that people use this approach to make their path seem more valid.  Why on earth would anyone want to do such a thing?

A lot of this stems from the fact that assumptions are made about people. This is especially rife on the internet, where one can judge another without ever even meeting them in the flesh. These assumptions become rapid fire judgements, in which their path is better, their way of doing things holding a greater validity. This is expounded by the fact that they feel they are free assume and judge others in front of the watchful gaze of thousands.

Simply because one does not share the same opinion as you, doesn’t mean that theirs lacks validity.

I could equally assume that the people making such comments have deep-seated fears about their own path, or have had troubling experiences in the past that makes them lash out, that they lack self-esteem and this makes them feel better about themselves – but again, these are all assumptions.  We have no idea why people do the things they do. We cannot get inside people’s heads.  What we can do, however, is realise that everyone is on their own journey.

Each spiritual path, each way of doing things, is as unique as the person who is travelling along in this journey of life.  Instead of denigrating people who choose a different path, another way of doing things, differing from the norm or not following the traditional way of doing things, how about celebrating this as wonderful expressions of the soul? We celebrate art in museums in the same way, why can we not do so with spirituality? Both are expressions of the soul.

If someone wants to wear black from head to toe, cover themselves in tattoos and piercings and do ritual with the Sisters of Mercy playing in the background, then that’s brilliant – if it opens their soul to the experience and gives them what they need, the connection that is at the heart of all religions and spirituality, then let them do so without criticism and judgement. Equally, if someone wants to cover themselves in glitter and wear fairy wings, channelling white light energy into their hamster, Brutus, to clear his conjunctivitis alongside with the prescription drugs from the vet, then that is equally fabulous.  To each their own.  Remember The Rede – An it harm none, do what ye will.

In Paganism, there is no one right way of casting a circle. There is no one right way of meditation.  There is no one right way of soul retrieval.  There is no one right way of invoking the gods and goddesses.  There is no one right way of making an offering, of praying, or dancing.  This also applies to all religions, not just Paganism.

I have recently been tagged into the “category” of “New Agers” looking for the next new and best spiritual thing.  It can be frustrating at first, being looked down the nose at by some people. It is also completely bemusing.  Comments such as these are always made by people who don’t know me personally.  Assumptions and judgements abound.  I have seen and experienced things that would make some people wet their pants.  I also *heart* faeries and unicorns.  Does that make what I do any less valid than anyone else? Does it make my way better? I don’t think so.

My Way Of Doing Things Is Better Than Yours has led to all sorts of horrific things; war and strife, racism and sexism, just to name a few.  Condemning other paths because they do not adhere to what you think is the right way of doing things is, quite frankly, a waste of time.

And so I salute all those who sing their soulsongs freely, and let their true selves shine through, whatever their path, inspiring others.  And I would also say, do not let others tell you what is the “correct” way of doing things.  Do not let others denigrate your path – let them say what they will, then smile, shrug, and keep going.  We all must walk our own paths, and no one else can do that for us.  Sure, there are plenty of people who can guide us along, and become great teachers – but be wary of those who tell you that you should trudge silently along the path when you feel you should dance, skip, or cartwheel.

I look forward to seeing you along the journey!