Mornings are a special time for me. Watching the sun peek over the horizon, and then softly illuminate the world around me, its just a magnificent scene to behold. Plus, there’s the feeling of the sun’s rays as the warmth touches your skin – a concept I have heard termed as “sun-kissed”. For me, its just a moment of bliss that I cannot explain in words, but “sun-kissed” certainly makes the point seem more romantic.
My last post was an odd little piece for me – discussing my moral compass is not something that I do often. However, it certainly got a lot of views, and over on Facebook it got quite a few likes. So I am guessing that a lot of people seemed to like what I was trying to get across. Or at least I hope they managed to understand what I was trying to get across. Some of the secondary comments on Facebook tended to focus on the manner in which my friend was juxtaposing his beliefs against mine. I understand where they may have been going with that, but to be honest, it was not where I was trying to take my conversation with him. A lot of other folks have mentioned that I should have argued more vigorously with him over the point. After all, by “giving up” on the “debate” I was essentially allowing him to “win the point.” Which brings me around to where I am headed with this particular blog post.
Professing, Preaching and Chaos – the Vortex
One of the things I cherish about most of the Pagan community is a lack of desire to proselytize or profess one’s faith to others. Very rarely, have I encountered a Pagan with the need to tell everyone within earshot about their faith – and how all of mankind can benefit from it. There is nothing that is more of a “turn-off” for me than when I see/hear a Pagan doing this. And there’s a few reasons behind that….
In my teen-aged years, I searched from Christian faith to Christian faith before settling into the Southern Baptist realm. The first worship days I ever attended, I sat up in the front — only to experience the heavy duty turbulence that comes from a preacher that shouts his message of fire, brimstone and hell-fire. That drove me to the back pews, where I found all the other folk that were my age. Here, I found young folks that would occasionally wave their hands in the air and hollar out “hallelujah” in much the same vein as some of the older church members who sat much further up. After church services were over, I would hang out with a few of these folks, where they would do the very things that the preacher had mentioned were to be avoided. But when other Christian kids from other churches were around, the prim and proper behavior was placed back onto their faces – and they would loudly profess how much more Christian they were than the other kids from the other churches. Honestly, the last place I ever wanted to be was in a church where it was a contest to see who could out-Godly the other kids.
When I became a Pagan, I found Pagans that did much the same thing. Pretending a possession by a God and spouting out orders and such nonsense to the rest of the folks there. I was told by this individual that I needed to “protect and clean the forested area near Kindsbach, Germany. Quite an interesting feat – if I had not just taken this individual up to that same area, where he observed me picking up trash along the forested trail there. While his “possession” may have been authentic, it was far too convenient and timely for me to really believe he was doing nothing more than to try and pull me into his group under his “control”. Even then, some twenty years ago, I had spent enough time working with Spirits of the Land to know that this was typically not the way one made communication with them or even with the Gods. Every event that we both attended jointly, he spent time with anyone who would take the time to listen, in order to try and sway them to his Path. It was, for me, a nauseating sight to behold.
But, perhaps the strongest example of a pushy, proselytizing Pagan that I can provide comes from one of the oddest places: myself. That’s right. I was THAT Pagan in my earliest of footsteps on a Pagan Path. Not to make excuses, but I really had very little guidance when I stumbled upon Wicca. And what guidance I initially was given was Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon“, Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance“, and Raymond Buckland’s “The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft” — along with the single statement: “read”. I was working at the Data Processing Center at the Air Force base, and with plenty of downtime on the weekend – I was reading. The subject matter was something no one in my duty section had any knowledge of – and the vast majority of them equated it with Satanism. Added on top of that, it was the height of the late 1980s “Satanic Panic” here in the United States. I found something that fit very well into my own personal world view, and I embraced the concepts and ideas within the books. I bristled at the notion that I was “filling my head with crap” and took every opportunity to voice my disagreement along with knowledge of just “why” from the books I was reading. I took the offense on some of the debates and arguments, by purposefully opening up discussions that I knew would lead to long, protracted arguments. All of which created a very chaotic and antagonistic environment – and I reveled in it. In a manner of speaking, I was at the center of the vortex I was creating – and yes, there is a certain energy that goes with situations like this. Very seductive, very destructive. Looking back, I can see that I was not a very pleasant person to be around when these situations were being orchestrated.
Calming the Winds of Chaos
Perhaps the best thing that could have happened to me was being transferred overseas. I left behind people that I dealt with on a daily basis – people that I found myself in contextual combat over personal spirituality. I wound up in another Pagan community that was filled with strife, anger, and a lot of misunderstanding. As an outsider, I found myself on the outside of the debates. And when I did manage to find a group to integrate with, I found an individual playing the part of leader for personal power (see second paragraph in previous section). In short (no height jokes here!), I do believe that the Gods placed me in this spot so that I could see the Path I had set myself on. Arguing contextual semantics to try and prove that one was holier than another. That my Pagan path was far more pure than anyone else’s. That everyone should hang on my every word. I watched all of that with a very close, up-front seat. I even partook in some of the political aspects of the group and managed to work my way into the Vice Director’s role of the local Pagan group. And when I was enmeshed in this place, I realized that it wasn’t where I needed to be. It did not happen overnight, but over the course of a single year. I watched as experienced Pagans with years of being within a Pagan community came to our gatherings, and left shortly after. I watched new Pagans – people interested in Paganism but had never had a group of others to question and talk with their Spirituality – come to the same gatherings and be easily swept up into the whirlwind of the personalities there. And I saw these same personalities abuse that trust for favors that should never be utilized in the manner in which they were. And I knew I did not want to be that way.
I was there in Germany for three years. The first year, I worked my way into the whirlwind. The second year, I watched what went on from the inside, saw the Pagan versus Pagan arguments and debates that mirrored the same arguments and debates I had had with my Christian co-workers from the duty station previous to this one. I listened to the ramped up rhetoric, heard the rhetoric turn to personal insults, felt the battle lines being drawn, and was appalled to see others step to one side or another of that line. And yes, I felt that pull as well – the raw, sensual energy that the chaotic vortex offered.
The last year I was there, I spent nearly every single day in the woods just south of Kindsbach. The woods are filled with walking trails that the locals have stamped down in their numerous treks through the trees. I spent a lot of time walking, stopping, listening to the wind in the trees… A few times, I communed with the Spirits of these woods – when they offered such solace to me. And I slowly learned how powerful peace and quiet could be as well.
Yes, I was THAT kind of Pagan. I’m not any longer. I stopped seeking out arguments and debates. I will hold a conversation – until it gets contentious. Then I back off and let things go. Particularly when there is nothing that really can be gained from the conversation. I want to discuss and explore for knowledge – not to prove that my religion has more power or is more correct than yours. But at one time…I was THAT Pagan…
One thought on “I was THAT Pagan Before…”
Your former approach to your path is the type of attitude that I perceive when I hear people saying, “We need to become more like mainstream religions to gain acceptance,” or ” ‘The Pagan Movement [oh, how I hate that term — Sorry, Brendan Myers] needs more structure.” Really? I beg to differ. I am not “anti-community”, mind you. I just don’t think Paganism, in its many styles and forms, should morph into something more homogeneous. This will lead to more proselytizing and the “you’re not a Pagan, because. . .” in-fighting which you and I both strive to avoid in our personal approaches. I think you will probably tend to agree with me in this regard, but I wonder if you might have anything to add. I should point out that I am also not against Pagan “groups”, in general. I do think OBOD, Circle Sanctuary, and the like serve important functions, but again, I fear the centralized, homogeneous type of direction in which many seem to be pushing for.