8 thoughts on “I Love This So Much

  1. Sorry. Can’t hop on board that train. That piece reminds me of why I couldn’t ever feel comfortable in any organized group of pagans. Faux history, made up traditions, including contemporary ones (we always sing that…), self conscious ritual, and an appropriation of a celtic past that wasn’t ours/mine/yours. (And I do have Irish in me.) In the end, I guess, it’s all still church to me. I’ll always be a solitary practitioner.

  2. Yeah, but isn’t that what she’s saying? At least, that’s what I took from it. Anyway, I’m still pleased to see pagans talking about this stuff, because I do think these are issues we have to talk about. Plus, I’m curious about what other people do. I don’t have any desire to join a group, but I like to hear what people think about what they do.

  3. I (very) occasionally join in a Circle, and I come home each time saying, “Why the hell did I agree to go?” I am glad to see the piece in Slate, though. Very funny. Love the part about the sound of the the beer tab popping.

    FamTrad! ACK! My daughter (sorta) follows the path I’m on, but if I ever hear that term out of her mouth, I will tear her arm off and whack her about the head and shoulders with it.

    I’ll stay a Solitary that once-in-a-while ventures out to a Sabbat to remind her of why she’s a Solitary.

  4. But Aunt B, why do we have to talk about them? (And just what is it exactly that the Slate article is talking about?) Why does paganism have to be organized? One of the things that draws me to it is that there is no dogma, no organized community. Those who would lay out patterns for rituals, ask for conformity, dictate to others…well, it just doesn’t sit well with me. I think this is because there is no knowable continuity. Sure, there are old practices, but all of those were dependent on a relation with nature that we no longer have. We may long for that relation, and do what we can to regain it insofar as we can, but we are living in a society not only hostile to it but based on wholly different principles. So we have no living traditions in common, we pagans, and any that we make are manufactured. To me, at least, they ring always false. Those that arise from my life, from my lived relation to water and air and sun and clouds and earth, …well, those I can believe in. And I can believe in those that arise from your lived relation to the earth (and how wonderful it is that you are out in the country now, with its freshness and air), and others’ too, but to pretend that we’re sharing the same thing, and impose a common ritual? I’m content to know that you practice. I don’t have to want to practice as you do, or have you practice as I do.

  5. Well, that’s good. I completely agree with you. I mean, for starters, I’m never going to be Wiccan because the idea of there being only two gods rings just as false to me as there being only one god and I’m not interested in reconstructing any rituals on my own or with anyone else.

    I think it’s on each of us to make our own way.

    But I’m hungry to read and hear pagans talking about the meat of things. Not the rituals themselves, but what those rituals mean to them, why they work when they work, why they don’t when they don’t. And I’m glad to hear people say “Well, sometimes folks would rather drink than get all woo-woo.”

    To get at this from another way, every year I block off nine nights to deliberately and thoughtfully hold open the veil between here and There. I sometimes call it utiseta, or sitting-out. But it’s actually not like that at all. I’m not spending all night laying on any grave, let alone a barrow I know contains most of my relatives, known and unknown know will someday contain me. I literally cannot do what they did, even if I could be 100% sure I knew what it was.

    But I do think my ancestors would recognize the heart of what I’m doing–a ritual for opening and holding open that connection in order to seek wisdom.

    I talk about it here not because I think that what I’m doing is the right way to go about doing it, but because I believe there are ways and this is a way that works for me and other folks, if they’re so inclined, can find ways that work for them.

    Which, again, probably won’t be anything like what I do.

    But I want to hear about what compels you to do whatever it is you do, not because I want to do it, too, but because I’m hungry for people to talk about paganism in terms of that.

    I mean, it is no problem–there are hundreds of books and hundreds of websites–where you can sit around and talk about what people “should” to. I couldn’t care less about that. I also find that trite and too doctrinaire and bordering on the worst sillinesses of the Golden Dawn.

    But I want people to talk seriously about what they do and why, because I’m so interested in that.

    I think where we’re having the disconnect is that I love that article because I’m happy to see someone speaking about her experiences as a pagan in a public forum with the surety that her voice belongs there.

    Of course I disagree with her on just about everything she’s talking about. I’m glad she’s talking about it.

  6. Aunt B,
    I’m not sure if this is a conversation to have here–it seems too exclusively two-sided to be public discourse.
    But taking you at your word: here’s what I do/don’t.
    You say you can’t be a Wiccan because you can’t limit yourself to two gods anymore than you can to one. I can’t be a Wiccan, or anything else, because I can’t believe in many gods any more than I can believe in one or two. Or, perhaps, I should say that for me the whole concept of deity, no matter how many gods/goddesses one posits, is a concept rather than a reality; that is, human generated. So I can accept all and none–and I don’t mean this as tolerance of deism and atheism. It’s all the same to me, a construct. I don’t particularly care what your construct is, but I’m quite interested in the kind of values you attach to it, because the actions and behavior that stem from those values will certainly have traction in everyday life. And I confess I wish that you (and I don’t mean you particularly) could get the fact that deity is a construct, because one consequence of not doing so is that the world is convulsed in conflicts caused by believers. I don’t claim universal peace would be a consequence of jettisoning deity as actually existing, but I’d like to have a chance to experience what it would be like.
    Our best guess is that evolution has favored some artifact of consciousness that can be said to be spiritual in nature. It’s my experience that all religions seem to have given voice to similar hard earned wisdoms, a commonality that I find convincing as a statement about human nature, or, at least, human tendencies or behavior as developed in very different social structures (neolithic, agrarian, hunting-gathering, etc). I find this of value. I learn from what these traditions have confirmed about us and provided a perspective on. I don’t think that value is linked to all the specific trappings, the gods and goddesses little and big, local and cosmic, except as metaphors or symbols, when understood as such and not taken as reality. I find a river’s wellspring, its source, miraculous, and if I want, if it provides me with some spiritual or political or psychic satisfaction I can express that with a metaphor or a personification (a deification?), but, frankly, I’m not going to believe there’s an actual goddess there. Whatever spiritual need there is that comes with being human I can satisfy with the fact of the welling of the water itself. That water wells from the earth and supports life is miraculous enough for me, and provides me with the basis for a seamlessness between life and world, a seamlessness in which lived existence is itself sacred that I find much more…divine, if you will…and more satisfying, than something imposed and separate.
    But for me it’s all immanence, one based on physical reality. No here, there, veils between worlds, doors between life and death and a spirit world. When on the Day of the Dead I set up an altar with sugar skulls and skeleton folk, and pictures of those I loved who have died, I don’t expect or believe that their souls or their ghosts come back, or that a membrane between life and death thins. I think that what I’m doing is paying tribute because it is satisfying, and even good, for me individually and for us a species and us as a community to remember the dead, and a good time for it, maybe event the impetus for it, is that time of year when the growing season in my part of the world has ended, when we’re pausing between the death of this season’s plants and the beginning of the slow underground nourishment that takes place in winter.
    To the degree that someone like me can be called pagan, it’s because the rhythms of the earth of which I am a part inspire me and I find what I choose to call holy.

  7. It’s up to you. I don’t mind taking it private, but I also think that, if I’m going to complain that there aren’t enough people chewing over this kind of stuff publicly, I need to be willing to put my butt out there and chew over it publicly.

    Of course, you might not perceive such a need, so I’ll follow your lead.

    In the meantime, I’ll say that I try to keep myself open to the possibility that the things I believe are not “real,” even if I experience them as such, because it is craziness.

    And I do agree that the world would be a much different, and possibly better, place if everyone kept in mind that the stuff they believe is just some stuff they believe, constructs for making sense of the world.

    But the thing is, some constructs do work better than others. I mean, when I was a Christian, we were told “Ask and you shall receive,” and yet it never worked for me–of course, there’s always a reason: you didn’t ask right, or it wasn’t the right time, or God’s not your personal genie, or the thing you’re asking for is stupid. But no one said explicitly at first, “Ask and you shall receive, if it’s okay with God.”

    And yet, when I switch to a belief system (using the term just about as loosely as possible) in which there is no omnipotent god, but instead a web of reciprocal relationships, my life improves and I am happier.

    I don’t know. Maybe there’s not more I can say about that at this second, because I’m distracted by the other thing that annoys and frightens me about Christianity, now that I’ve taken a step away from it, and that is how nothing is as it seems. Things that feel good and are pleasurable are bad. Relationships that bring people great joy and support and comfort are evil and must be publicly thwarted because the people are of the same gender.

    This idea that you cannot trust your own self and your own experience of the world, but pretty much have to assume that whatever you feel about something is the exact opposite of how God feels about it, until you bring yourself into line with His will.

    I mean, the fact that I’m having to hear and read about how Obama is obviously the anti-Christ because he might succeed in bringing peace to the Middle East?

    There are a lot of reasons we might not want peace in the Middle East–say, for instance, that peace comes because of the rise of a dictator who takes over everything, or there’s no one left to fight, or it comes at the price of more severe oppression of minorities, or whatever–but the generic goal of peace in the Middle East?

    Who opposes that?

    And why, once they say, “Because God said so” do we treat them as if their opinion has any validity on the world-stage?

  8. Aunt B,
    I’m in complete agreement with you that too much of the way Christianity is practiced is in fact damaging and indefensible. And I agree that some practices, and maybe even the belief systems from which they come, some constructs, are better than others.

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