Lots of assembly required

So while I’ve been brainstorming and outlining my post for this week, I read The Wild Hunt’s guest post about Humanist Paganism, and I spent my entire evening wondering if I was in fact a Humanist Pagan all along, without a clue. Great! I thought, I don’t have to write another long post using extended metaphors to explain why I’m so damned picky about how I want to celebrate the Divine! I’ll find all the answers and directions somewhere on this damned interwebs, and I’ll be a perfectly practicing HP within a few days!

Let me explain:

  1. I was born and raised Catholic. I read the Bible, went to Mass, and listened at CCD. If I needed religion and my priest had already gone to bed, I had my rosary and the saints. I was a good Catholic; I followed all the rules. And until puberty I had achieved a measure of spiritual satisfaction.
  2. I’m a raging Virgo, and I love having a to-do list and an established road map for doing everything right. Established religion provided that.
  3. Except for when it didn’t. That’s when I moved to Wicca, which is (IMHO) the most structured of the public Pagan paths.

I know that even if there was a super-established HP tradition with it’s own guidelines and paths to enlightenment (which I couldn’t find in my few hours on the internet), that it wouldn’t solve my problems. I’d still need to find the right ways to express my devotion to the Divine and the right combination of practices that resulted in my feeling connected and calm. Perhaps I could use whatever they provided as a general map to at least begin anew any of my practices, but that would be limiting myself, right? It makes sense to open myself up to any practice that supports my beliefs, and possibly to make up a few of my own along the way.
In short, I think I really just came to terms with how much work will go into this. I’m pretty sure it’ll be a rewarding experience, but damn, sometimes I’m really lazy. It’ll be slow and painful, but also beautiful and inspiring. I’m still deciding exactly how to really start experimenting again. I’m not sure if anyone’s actually reading this, but if you’re reading this right now, please grace me with 1 minute of your time, and use it as follows: spend the first 30 seconds thinking of a spiritual/religious/etc practice that either really *has* or really *hasn’t* worked for you (but you were told it would), and then spend the last 30 seconds leaving a comment describing it. I think I’ll start my experimenting with whatever comes of this post.

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The Purpose of a Watch

Pocket watch, savonette-type. Italiano: Orolog...

I’ve written about my need for a solid spiritual practice, but where do you find one that’s actually worth something and will last longer than a convert’s frenzy? I think I’ve got to build it from the ground up. I gave up on texts that tell me how to live without even trying to explain why their way is correct (other than that is just is) many many moons ago. I fell into Paganism/Wicca in part because of my ability to (responsibly) mix and match what works for me without feeling guilt over not doing it right. I suppose this means I’ll be “shopping around” for the combination of practices that quench that thirst I was writing about, but how will I know what’s worth bringing home?

As a student of philosophy, it’s always made sense to me to examine the foundations of any concept or the purpose of any action before assessing it. You know that a watch is not a good watch if it doesn’t tell time, since that is a principal purpose for a watch. Right? Right.

I think before I can really decide what is a fitting and functional daily practice, or an appropriate practice at all for that matter, it makes sense to explore a bit more of what I believe. Here’s what has always made sense to me (and I’ll warn everyone before we start that I am not a highly scientific person. I understand the basics behind what has fueled my beliefs, but I welcome any comments correcting/modifying my scientific logic at any step along the way here):

  • Everything is made up of atoms.
  • Those atoms exist because of tiny little particles that contain energy.
  • As far as I can tell, we have some ideas but aren’t exactly sure what it is that creates/causes this energy at the very beginning.

I think this is the Divine. Or God/dess, or the Creator or whatever you want to call it. The initial something that infuses every cell of every thing with some form of energy. I think that at the heart of it all, literally or metaphorically, this is what everyone is praying to: that which causes, that which creates.

From here I take a few steps that are a bit more tangible, but a lot less scientific. A little more extrapolating and some basic guidelines:

  • The Sacred Energy that’s found in active organisms (plants, animals, people) is different from that of passive organisms (rocks, water, metals). I think this has to do with ability to react to the environment and the drive to preserve oneself/procreate.
  • Therefore while everything has some of this Sacred Energy, active organisms must have more of it, because they actively participate in the creation process.
  • Because everything contains some amount of the Sacred/Divine/etc, all things are Sacred as well. At no time should we seek to cause harm, and we should avoid action whose chief consequences include such harm, even if that is not the intention behind the action.
  • If preference must be given in what should be honored/preserved/etc, it should go first to the Earth as a whole, since she is the ultimate Creator of very nearly everything we will experience in our lives, and then to active organisms, and then to passive organisms.

(Still with me?)

  • Since no particle on this planet is new, we should respect the cycles of life, death, and transformation.
  • And because life is both the cause and the end of Creation, it should be celebrated. Pleasure, education, experience and connection should be treasured as experiences of active organisms alone.
  • Everyone has the right to responsibly celebrate life however feels right and fitting to them, so long as they do not cause harm (either through the act of celebration itself or by restricting another’s right past this initial step).

I think these are really the foundations of my belief. It seems natural to me that the Earth should be regarded as a chief source of guidance, since even though atoms throughout the Universe have some of this Divine Energy, the atoms here were put together in such a way as to create Life as we know it. I’m honestly not sure exactly why yet, but this seems special and important to me. Call it a feeling.

(As a side note: You’ll note that my very basic beliefs are not based on stories, myth, legend or any other form of extended metaphor. Someone made those up at some point, perhaps to teach those who might not understand the philosophical abstract, but I don’t trust those authors to be the very foundations of how I live my life. I trust my intuition, logic, and of course, Nature.)

So there you have it–  I’m searching for a path to sustained spiritual fulfillment, and this is what my bricks will be made out of. I can (and likely will at some point) get a lot more specific about these beliefs, but here is my square one. I can assess my practices using these ideas. If my practices don’t cause me to honor and celebrate this Divine in all its forms, or they don’t enable me to connect with the Divine, then I’ve got a bad watch.

Dying of thirst in the middle of an ocean

thirst, the 2nd

When I was thirteen and I started to discover Wicca, Paganism, and the alternative practices and beliefs I now call my own, I was overflowing with wonder and energy for it all. I’d read books and articles on the Craft every moment I wasn’t in school or with my very conservative family, and I’d spend any time I managed to carve out practicing and playing with these new ideas. I’d spend weeks preparing for the mini Sabbat rituals in my room, researching the lore, the traditions, and finding just the right colors and kitchen herbs to adorn my “altar” (usually a stack of my largest textbooks in the middle of my floor, covered with whatever pillowcase I thought best suited the ritual). I remember being so excited for getting older (or rather richer and away from my Roman Catholic family) and being able to decorate my home with Goddess symbols and brooms and little altars everywhere. I wanted to host Lammas feasts and have Yule parties and make altars for the dead on Samhain. I wanted to “bless” every room of my house on Beltane and build a bonfire in my backyard (or maybe just light a tiny candle in my living room) to jump over for Midsummer.

More importantly, I wanted to be in touch with the Gods, or the Goddess, or Spirit, or whatever it was that I’d end up believing in. I wanted to be in tune with Nature (which I remember as a child believing was alive and powerful) and doing good work. I saw myself growing up into that calm, cotton dress-clad, loving, knowing mother-figure who always spoke slowly and would reveal some secrets if you asked nicely. There was always a measure of serenity in that figure that to me said “happy” and more importantly (though aren’t they the same thing really?) “grateful”.

Here I am now, graduated from college living with my (somewhat more liberal) father and my always understanding boyfriend, working a job that pays the bills but in no other way enriches my life, and still dealing with the fallout of a barely tamed anxiety disorder. I am, for all purposes, independent, and yet I’m nothing like (and nowhere near) my image of a Pagan woman grown and practiced. I managed to lose my experimentation with practice over the years, with only brief periods of study and devotion sprinkled in between. Without a constant source of inspiration and appreciation, my spiritual cup runs dry rather quickly. And I really do believe that it’s better to leave the tap on a drip than to just try turning the water on full force after you realize the cup’s bone dry and you’re thirstier that you could ever imagine.

And that’s really where I am now. I’m thirsty like you wouldn’t believe and I’ve got no one to blame but myself. Of course there’s tons more to the prologue, but right now I’m going to focus less on the road behind me and more on the one still in front of me. So here it is, my blog: to document my journey towards Mother Serenity; to find myself more in tune with the natural rhythms of life on scales both large and small; to live life more fully and gratefully; to examine, re-examine and refine what I truly believe; and more specifically, to build a solid daily practice.