(I probably don’t need to do this, but let me just say that the following post is going to contain a bunch of woo-woo crap. If that’s not your thing, please don’t make a big issue about how stupid it is or how I’m going to Hell or how we all need to embrace Christianity or secular humanism or whatever. I understand that, if you’re born and raised in certain religious traditions, the kinds of stuff that may come up here can be very shocking and distressing. I also understand that, if you think that spirituality is hokum, the urge to share how stupid and deluded people with religious beliefs are can be overwhelming. I’m still going to ask y’all to treat anyone who will share openly with respect. And I will try to talk gracefully and unselfconsciously about it, myself.)
It’s hard for me to untwist whether I was a feminist before I became pagan or if I became pagan before I became a full-fledged feminist. Probably the two things were always hand-in-hand for me. I was raised in a very religious household. My dad is a Methodist minister, now retired, and my mom is one of those people who suggests praying about everything that troubles anyone, because she firmly believes that it will help. We often lived next door to the churches my father served and I would say that I was at church, for one reason or another, at least five days a week.
Women in my Dad’s church could perform all the duties men could. I myself was often acolyte and liturgist and, for many years, I gave the message at the sunrise service at Easter (I had written up something about meeting Jesus at the tomb from the perspective of Mary Magdalene. Basically, if you’ve ever sung “I come to the garden alone,” you’ve got the gist of it). My dad also had close female minister friends.
So, while I have my… differences… with the Methodist church, I wasn’t raised to believe that women were somehow less holy than men.
Still, I wanted desperately to have some female religious role models, some stories that I could relate to. I wanted to look in the Bible and read about someone like me. And the whole “I know it says ‘God the Father’ but God doesn’t really have a gender” and “Just look for the minor female characters and imagine whole lives for them” and “Well, you have to understand that when this was written…”just didn’t cut it. It was like, in order to find my place in my own religious text, I had to close one eye and squint and do five mental leaps, and frankly, I just wanted to be able to take the damn thing at its word.
I didn’t want to have to say “Mother” or “Parent” softly to myself when it said “God the Father.” I wanted to believe that what God said about Himself was true. Not literal, necessarily, but true. Because the way I was doing it was exhausting and wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t making me feel closer to God; it made me feel like a girl who makes excuses for her abusive boyfriend–he didn’t really mean those mean things he says about me, he’s just stressed.
So, I decided to read the Bible as if what it said was true. Again, not literally true, but that, if God said He’s a dude, I’m not going to sit here and say, “Oh, well, that’s just metaphorical.” I’m going to take Him at His word.
And then I encountered the passage–Proverbs 8:22-31. If you’re not familiar with it, at the beginning of Proverbs, Wisdom, who is female, talks at great length about herself. And Wisdom doesn’t say, “I’m a metaphor! Don’t worry folks! Everything’s cool in Monotheism land! I’m not real.” Instead what she says is, “I was there before everything.” Instead what she says is, “Then I was the craftsman at his side.”
Holy shit. That sure doesn’t sound like monotheism. Even if God “birthed” her before everything, she was His aid in creation.
I felt lied to and kind of cheated.
About this time (and I told you we would get to the woo-woo crap), I noticed that I was drawing the Hanged Man in every tarot reading I did and that it never seemed to fit in with the rest of the cards. In other words, it didn’t seem to be a card for the person sitting across the table, but for me.
I didn’t know what to make of it, so I went back to all the books on tarot cards I could find in the library and read up on all their explanations for the card and in one of them, I found these words, “I know I hung from the windswept tree, nine whole nights.” Ha, it gives me chills to even type it to you, just from an aesthetic standpoint, something about the “o”s in “know” and “whole” maybe, or just that nice turn of phrase “windswept tree.”
The speaker there is Odin.
And Odin does something I had never, in my life, heard of a god doing: he listens to women, hangs out with them even. No, it’s more than that: he assumes that women know things that he doesn’t know and that they can teach him. And that the things he can learn from us are of such value that he’s willing to risk public ridicule to learn them (see, for instance, Loki’s claim in the Lokasenna that hanging out with witches has made Odin unmanly).
And I thought, okay, then I’m throwing my lot in with these folks.
As I said, I’m not a very formal heathen. I don’t really hang out with other heathens doing heatheny things. My heart is with my family and my community and my home and land. I feel my ancestors are with me, always, and that the gods are just the most ancient, most powerful of those ancestors and that the thing that would be most fortunate for me and the people and things that hold my heart is for me to work to be in right relationship with them. I believe that luck, or fortune, or what happens is the driving force in our world (a girl can have a long discussion about that, but I’ll point you here and here, for starters, but be warned, I was still pussyfooting around coming out and saying, “Yes this is my truth.”) and I do what I can to try to ensure that our luck is good.
I consider myself a hardcore polytheist, but within limits. I think, for instance, that Wodan and Odin are the same god. I don’t think that Mercury is. But I’m also not blind to the fact that Zeus, Jupiter, Tyr, and others all seem to share at least variation in the same name, if not similar characteristics. What can I tell you? I still don’t want to think of Zeus and Tyr as being two versions of the same god. So, I don’t.
So, what about you? If you’re a pagan, what brought you here? Do you see your paganism and your feminism intertwined? What are your gods like? Why do you like them? I’ve rambled on long enough. Your turn.
(Cross-posted at Feministe)