I have been a Pagan since 1987. That’s approximately twenty-six years of my forty-eight year life. I say approximately, because prior to 1987, my own spirituality and my religious life were not that important to me, but many of the primary issues that drive my life were quite similar. My love of Nature has never changed. I enjoy being outdoors and being in the wilder parts of the environment. You know, the places where there are no concrete sidewalks, no prefab restrooms for the public. Places where you step behind a group of trees to take a piss. Where the paths you walk may be nothing more than a deer trail that has been worn through over several seasons.
I’m no hunter. I carry no weapon to point and shoot at the animals I encounter – unless you count the camera I carry. I do carry a walking staff, and a knife. I do respect Nature enough to know I need to protect myself to some measure. But guns are not something I care to carry with me. I did that enough for eight years in the US military. My camera provides enough of the point/click/shoot interface that I need. Besides, I come to the wilder parts of the environment to carry nothing more than experience and memories from my visit. I’m here to be a part of my environment, not find some manner to dominate, control or use it. As a Pagan, I understand that I am merely one aspect of what my environment is. Everything else deserves the same amount of respect.
I do get a lot of questions about my chosen Path in Life – particularly from my non-Pagan friends and acquaintances.
Why Paganism? Could you not find the same measure of solace within the bounds of Christianity? Why Druidry? What makes Druidry more appropriate than any of the other Pagan beliefs? Is this just your desire to be more weird than anyone else?
…and there’s definitely more than these. But the common thread is simple to understand: why this particular Path? And to be perfectly honest, this is one of the more difficult questions I tend to be asked. Trying to formulate a standard answer is not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, at least for me.
Certainly, there are ways to try and answer this question. For instance, there’s the “Elevator Speech” concept that I have heard/read many of my Unitarian Universalist friends espouse. And I do agree that this methodology is an effective one, where you can craft the entire one- to two-minute spiel to a particular audience. But the difficulty that I find, is trying to explain something that relates the entire world around me in a series of connections that I explore so carefully and have spent a lifetime cultivating – into a simple, short message. This particular delivery method may work for others, but it is certainly not something I have managed to balloon-animal into a working format for myself.
On my podcast, Upon a Pagan Path, I ask my guests to talk about their own perspective of Spirituality and how it helps them to relate to the world around them. My manner of approaching this, is to ask them leading questions and then let them work forward from that point to explore the topic on their own. In a way, what I am doing here is quite similar – except that I am essentially interviewing myself, admittedly a tough prospect in its own right.
So, let’s start at the most obvious. Why Paganism, indeed. The basic premise behind the over-arching concept of Paganism is a reverence and respect for Nature. I am not going to try and define what Paganism is, but rather will describe what it is to me. The distinction is important, because I am not going to try and describe the experiences of others. I can really only relate what and how Paganism relates to me. It is likely, that I will touch on areas that correlate to others who have had similar experiences, but in the end I am still only describing my own experiences.
I never truly knew what Paganism was when I was growing up. I had a very strong feeling of belonging when I walked through the woods in West Germany with my family on while Volksmarching. My mother and father figured me to be daft in the head when I spoke of the “people living in the trees” and wondered why I was fascinated by the various rings of mushrooms that I would find just off the walking paths. I rarely stayed on the paths – I was always bounding off into the woods, walking parallel to the trails until I encountered some obstacle that would force me back, such as a large stream. When my parents enrolled me in Cub Scouts, I was overjoyed to learn about outings where we would camp in the woods, and get to explore on our own. When my father’s USAF position brought us back to the United States, I was disappointed to find that we would be living in a city. There were certainly wooded areas to play and explore in, but nothing like the deep, quiet woods that I had found in West Germany. I never lost my love of the woods, nor did I lose my understanding and feeling of the forest denizens.
Upon returning to the States, I started to understand a bit more about religious beliefs – mostly thanks to my enrollment into Catholic schools. At every grade level, students were indoctrinated into the Catholic faith with classes, and regular church services, held specifically for the students. In junior high school, I made the mistake of noting that I did not believe in the Christian faith, and found myself face-to-face with the school’s Principal and my parents who had been summoned to explain me. It was then that I realized it was smarter to keep my mouth shut and not state what I did not believe, much less what I did believe. And I honestly had no idea what I believed at that point. Eventually, I stepped into the Southern Baptist faith, mostly due to the urgings of a few friends.
The Southern Baptist faith was an odd one for me. My reverence for Nature was noted to be nothing more than an observance of the beauty of God’s creation. That everything I saw and held as beautiful was placed here for mankind’s usage. Man controlled the environment, and utilized it, as had been laid out according to God’s master plan for the Earth. I never believed a word of that. It never felt right to me. I had realized fairly early on, that we co-existed with all aspects of our environment – that together, we made up all the components necessary to have balance. That damn Libra mindset of mine struck again. And once I found that little chink in the Southern Baptist philosophy, I found more and more…and began to realize that this did not fit into my understanding of the world around me either. So I drifted in my spiritual understanding for another group of years. Eventually, I stumbled into Wicca, and thanks to “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler – I discovered a world of kindred folk, and a spiritual viewpoint that nearly matched my own.
In writing this, I have found that I may have bitten off more than I can chew at a given moment. Therefore, I will write a second part to this – “Ok, So Why Druidry?” will be the next part. And there may possibly be a third part to this as well. Hopefully, those of you reading this will be intrigued enough to continue along with me when I finish the next post on Monday (tomorrow).