Saturday, December 19, 2015

No, I Didn't Answer That Directly

I'm asked about my beliefs and practice more than occasionally. People expect direct, specific answers articulated in a way they can understand. Why people think they can just ask about my religion and get that kind of specific answer is that to their experience, most visibly religious people (cough Christians cough) want to talk about their religion so much, they will find excuses to do it and reasons why you ought to listen to them.

I truly don't need to talk about my religion. I am not religious to prove a point. I couldn't care less if nobody except the people I practice with were aware of my path. This isn't to say that I don't appreciate true respectful discussion, when the discussion is actually mutual and personal insight and respect is being shared on both sides.

With Michael Talvola, Elder Druid of Raven's Cry Grove, ADF- and a personal teacher- at Pagan Pride 2015.

There is, however, a remarkably innovative tool called Google. My own insight, which is three years' of a crooked path tinged with belief and the assurance of where it is I am now, will not be put out on the table to be tinkered with in the name of someone's "learning" or "curiosity." I do not care about your curiosity, mostly because I do not believe you will benefit from my divulging my personal insight to you, spelled-out and made accessible.

I am not qualified as a teacher, which is also an important point here. Three years is a decent amount of time for me-- at least it might point out to someone that this isn't a passing interest-- but it pales in comparison to the decades devoted by people who actually are qualified to teach. I have experience, but I am not initiated-- if you truly want more than the basic FAQ-response-answers, you actually can locate some of these people. Some of these people teach classes, and would likely be happy- or happier than me- to speak with you.

In the meantime-- I have no desire to be a poster person in this regard. There's an important saying that I remember often:
Does this need to be said?
Does this need to be said now?
Does this need to be said by me?

If the answer to all of those is yes, I will share some of my own insight. If not, and you feel you genuinely want to understand or learn-- and I can't help you-- there are many resources out for you if you are willing to look.

That is how I got to this point, incidentally-- being willing to look, and take the long way round.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

All It Takes

I have a lot of energy. I uncovered my paganism to begin with because I needed to be hands-on in my religion. Beyond hands-on; body-full, body-deep. Soon enough, I was gifted with the discovery of ADF druidry- whose core order of ritual was just the amount of length and involvement I wanted to start work on my practice. (ADF ritual averages around an hour, 30 minutes more sometimes for certain high days, and meets for the eight high days.)

Maybe due to that in part, I like going long and in depth in ritual. So when I started entering other circles that were less than the hour/hour and a half I was used to, and/or with less ritual steps- I can be underwhelmed, particularly in the moment. That's it? And afterward- why do I have all this energy?

My dance is one of my primary offerings, and I dance until I physically can't as a point of virtue in ADF ritual space. Then at Samhain (when I was underwhelmed by ritual length) my mentor clued me in-- "You're not supposed to be exhausted after ritual all the time."


So this time around- and gods, I don't know what I was expecting- when I went with my mentor to a Krampusnacht rite, completely full to the brim with energy beforehand, I wasn't exactly overwhelmed as soon as we started getting where we were supposed to go with it. Like? What next? That notion was proven wrong, however- our energy was directed in time.

The point of the rite was community, family, tribe-- not abandoning one another to the cold and the Dark Time. Strength in family. I realized a couple hours later-- being underwhelmed is in ill taste, because that task was what needed to be put in place. Family. Stick with each other.

Setting that in gear is important. I don't need to be knocked on my behind due to physical exhaustion to value that. (Sometimes, we'll get knocked down for other reasons...but that's another article.)

So truly- a clean working for an important goal is all it takes. And what cures the itch for long, heavy ritual every single time- ritual well, ritual often.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pagan Belief

I have knee-jerk reactions sometimes. I don't know if any human being is truly immune to these.
Somehow, hearing the phrase "pagan atheist" triggered a knee-jerker from me. My assumption towards the phrase "atheist" was that it indicated lack of belief; hence, furthering my assumption that "pagan atheists" had no belief, but that ritual- our ritual- made them feel good. That irked me, because the purpose of what I do is not to feel good. It's not white light, ambiguity, lukewarm and ankle-deep, or solely a form of therapy to exercise insecurities. While therapeutic benefits are definitely present and real, I'm trying to convey that I am not playing pretend for a personal end goal. When I call a deity, it is not a mental exercise. I am calling that deity.

John Halstead's writing on Patheos Pagan helped me to understand that my initial assumption of "atheist paganism" was a solid misunderstanding, and that it's actually quite similar if not identical to my original take on polytheism.

I am often decades younger than most people I ritual with. I don't expect to have the exact same belief set as anyone else. I am not "enlightened"- I am on a path. Furthermore, I first approached polytheism a few years ago from a purely pantheistic point of view. I saw the names of deities as ways to address the elements they represented, and then over time, I found far more personal relationships developing.

I was brought up in a religion where doubt and disbelief are virtue; where it is more common than uncommon to have no belief in what we spend hours praying to. Where people often say they want to believe- but they don't. This should be a dead giveaway that I was brought up in conservative Judaism. This belief set never worked for me in terms of practice because of the community's lack of sincere belief, as well as the monotheism and the writings in the Torah itself. It is part of my blood that I don't dismiss or try to hide, and I know its role in my life is with purpose, but that's another conversation.

Essentially, I'm sensitive to doubt and disbelief in terms of what one practices. Personally I feel if you can't or don't believe something, you should not claim it as your religion. It's why I stopped referring to myself as a LaVeyan Satanist, for the most part- while ideologically I identify with its principles, I have no religious belief in that canon.

I am different from many members of the pagan community in that I am not solely pagan; my path goes beyond religion, in a manner of speaking.
I am fiercely concerned with the understanding of the separation of religion and practice-- for example, Wicca (a religion) and witchcraft (a practice, that exists contextually within a variety of traditions). Of course, many within the community represent combinations of a variety of the religions, practices and paths I've only touched on. This, again, is another can of worms.

What I'm trying to say is that I don't believe condescension or shame based on level of belief or disbelief is fair in the pagan community, as "pagan" is the most broad of umbrella terms. It is up to us as individuals to seek out what fits the bill of our calling.

Essentially, when I step out for ritual, I hope that I will hold circle with those who at the very least believe what they are doing to be real and true, despite the various ways we all process and understand.