Over the weekend, I wrote about some of the differences in knowing your Path and walking your Path. Apparently, it resonated with a lot of people, since I got a few comments and questions on it. I’m always happy when something I write about resonates with people, not for the clicks on the blog post (I don’t pay attention to the stats that much), but because it provides some food for thought for others. Or it may provide a moment of synchronicity to confirm thoughts and perspectives that they have been mulling over, essentially providing that spark of Awen that they needed to move forward on their own Path. That stuff makes me extremely happy. I like when people feel that moment…they always provide a hint of radiance for that extra little nudge.
One really awesome thing that comes from these blog posts are questions, which further everything into something akin to a linear discussion. That’s where today’s blog post is going. I got asked what I believe is an interesting follow-on to the weekend’s blog post:
What happens when you lose the Path? How do you find the Path again?
To be openly honest, I’ve only been asked this once or twice in my entire time on my own Pagan Path. However, I have some personal experience I can relay that might (I emphasize might) be helpful.
When I was in the Air Force, I was originally stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. I was still learning about the myriad of directions I had available to me within Paganism. The Wiccan coven that I was part of was a ninety-minute drive one way. Plus, their gatherings on the weekends usually collided with my workdays. I worked twelve-to-fourteen-hour days or nights, depending on my shift, on the weekends. So, my face-to-face time was somewhat limited. To provide a more consistent method of contact, the High Priest and High Priestess created a spot on the electronic Bulletin Board System where I could gather materials for the classes I missed – so I could keep up. In 1990 (still in my Rainbow year), I was deployed overseas to Germany. The change in my permanent duty station was a culture shock for me, particularly in my studies within Wicca. The Pagans I encountered there were all solo individuals. No covens or groups for study. The group that I helped to found in Kaiserslautern was more a social gathering of like-minded individuals. The rituals that I did attend were mostly flat with group energy, since we were all unfamiliar with one another. The only real connection I had to Paganism was through Circle Sanctuary and their monthly newsletter that I received via US Post.
I felt more “at home” with my habitual long walks in the forests around Kaiserslautern than I did anywhere else. The three years I spent there felt like complete desolation. What little I knew of being a Pagan felt small, unfinished, and somewhat empty. To put it in a different light, it felt like I had been walking along a well-worn trail in the forest when I was in the States and in constant communication with that coven of folks. When I made it to Germany, it felt like the trail had slowly disappeared under my feet. Like those who had gone before had walked to a certain point, and then turned back. The well-worn Path slowly disappeared until I found myself alone in a deep, dark forest, surrounded by trees that had grown very close together. Under my feet, there was no longer the worn trace of path, but a wide expanse of dried, fallen Pine needles. Going forward meant walking where there was no Path. Going backwards meant trying to find a trail that had dissipated so far behind me that I wasn’t sure of being able to successfully trace my way back.
I’m not sure if any of you has ever been lost in the forest or in a wide-open, unpopulated area in the country. Not knowing which way to go can be a very scary proposition. This was the feeling I had on my Path back in 1994. I was in Germany, connected only with Pagans who felt just as lost as I did. Our safety lines back home was limited to letters or the occasional (and very expensive) long distance call home. For me, contact with my former coven was limited. That feeling of isolation was immense. Being new (relatively – I had been on my Path for less then six years…calculating in my head….more like less than five) I wasn’t sure of my footing or direction in what I was to do. In the three years I was in Germany, I purchased about ten books on Wicca and Paganism. I tried to follow what these books taught, but I was unsure of what I was doing. When I finally departed the US military and came back to the States, I found so many things had changed in a little over a thousand days. My coven was gone, having disbanded and all of the members scattered to anonymity. The Dallas Witch Wars were coming to their end, with groups basically ignoring one another. I felt like my entire world had been destroyed and all I had left was pure desolation and the prospect of even more isolation.
I had moved away from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro-mess and headed across the border to Shreveport/Bossier City in the northwest corner of Louisiana. Back home to my parents. A few months later, I decided to look up my grandmother Priestess, who ran a Pagan store in Grand Prairie, Texas. A four-hour drive one way. When I walked into her store, she was behind the counter – just as I remembered her being back when I was stationed at Carswell. It took a few minutes of talking before she remembered me. We spent a few minutes catching up before she asked me what brought me in. I explained my feelings of being lost and isolated. Did all of that mean I wasn’t meant to be a Pagan? That Wicca wasn’t for me? She laughed, placed a hand on my arm, and started her perspective of me. “Wicca is probably not your Path, but Paganism is your vehicle. You need to spend some time exploring a bit more. You’ll find where you belong.” She handed me a copy of Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” which I handed back. I already had a copy in my library. “Pick it back up. Reread it. You’ll find new directions to go.”
I followed that advice. I went back and reread the book. As I did, I started to see the various directions to go. I also realized that my Paganism was mine to live. I didn’t need the agreement or praise of another to know what I was doing was “right.” I just had to do it. If I had questions, there were others that I could seek out and drop questions to. But in the end, the “rightness” of what I was doing depended on me more than anyone else.
Don’t be fooled. The above paragraph took about another three years for me to slowly realize. It took even more time for me to find my footsteps bringing me back to Druidry. That’s right. Back. I had stood at the doorstep of Druidry very early in my Pagan Path and decided that it wasn’t really for me. It probably wasn’t back at that time, but it was when I found my footfalls approaching it again. That moment is about twelve years into my past now.
So, how to get back on your Path? What to do when you feel lost or isolated? Well, I’ll quote Winston Churchill here. “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.” Its fairly Christian in thought, but its useful (at least to me) when you’re going through a period of feeling lost or isolated. That feeling of desolation, in my opinion, is the epitome of the Christian myth of Hell. Some red-skinned dude with a forked tail and a pitchfork doesn’t scare me. But that feeling of being lost, alone, and having no direction…scares the shit out of me. But when you’re there – in that point of Hell – just keep walking. And if you’re lonely…reach out. I know how you feel. My door of communication is always open.
3 thoughts on “Thinking About: What to Do When You Lose the Path – Keep Walking”
And the Theodore Roosevelt corollary…. “When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” 🙂
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I like that!!
I lost my path deep in depression, brought on by too many life vents all at once paired with schooling, working, parenting, husbanding… Too much. I fell. Getting back up is easy. Now, deciding to get back up… That is the hardest thing ever. But I made that decision, and took the steps I needed to take to rid myself of the specter of my own self doubt. Now the next hardest thing… getting back on my path, to wherever it might lead. It is truly a never ending journey. And like all journeys, it has mountain tops, valleys, swamps, forests and deserts. Your blog post here was an inspiration, and though little practical value is to be found, it offers what is far more important… knowledge. The knowledge that none of us are truly alone, we all walk the dark roads of the deep wood between the worlds. We just need to reach out to find that we are all in fact walking together, just out of sight of one another. There is strength in numbers, even we are all lost. We are lost together. Is that, then, truly lost? Or merely that we have not journeyed far enough yet to realize we were where we were meant to be all along?