Posts Tagged exploration

New Challenges for Paganism

Just over a week ago I posted a new video to my Youtube channel, as the start of an ongoing discussion/stream-of-consciousness-chat about the current state of the world.

A large part of me went into this not quite knowing what to say. Because the world is in a completely new place right now – or if not new for humanity, certainly new for this generation.

As I spoke, the ideas that had been cogitating and fermenting came out. From a little hopefully-motivational talk came more and more thoughts, to the extent that this one-off video demanded that it be the first part of a series. This was just Paganism is Isolation (pt1).

I had to focus, to keep on-topic. My mind wanted to wander off in any number of directions, about fears and worries, but no – this was about Paganism. How my Pagan beliefs, practice and lived spirituality were helping me right now. Or how they weren’t.

One huge thing that the lockdown/isolation life has forced me (and no doubt many others) to acknowledge is our priorities. What is important to us and our faith practice? This is something that’s been on my mind for many years, but as shown in the video, it feels as if the universe is physically forcing us to turn and LOOK at what we need to see. And then do it.

We had become complacent. As the pandemic news was starting to break, I saw many conversations about content for groups and publications, generally carrying on as usual. Let’s talk about Spring and all the new life, potential and brightness! What trees we feel affinity for, what crystals, whether spells should rhyme or not…

I sigh.

I know such things are interesting to some people, but as I watched… and then compared such chitchat to the news stories unfolding around me… how easily I could see why people dismiss Paganism as ‘fluffy’ or inconsequential.

I’ve spoken in the past about how we celebrate Harvest when it’s been a bad year. Right now, we’re looking at an Ostara season, and likely Beltane too, from a completely new place.

Yes, we need to celebrate life – because we’ve realised how valuable it is. Yes, we need to look at the trees – because going outside is no longer a right, but a privilege. (I’m not commenting on crystals or linguistic word-salad. Just no. Not my thing.)

Many of us have more time now than we’ve had before, but we can’t truly enjoy it because of the price. People are either confined to their homes or to a hospital bed. If working, they will have constant anxiety of what might happen in the next minute, hour or day, for those they meet and how such random strangers may affect – or infect – them.

We are being forced to realize just how much we have taken for granted. We are forced to see exactly what is important, and what can be left by the wayside.

I’ve also spoken in the past about a certain reluctance (or even dread) on the part of some Pagans to discuss or acknowledge ‘dark’ deities. Well, now we’re having to. Because that darkness is part of life. It’s not ‘evil’ or ‘bad’, it just is.

We celebrate every sunrise, because it’s another day. We sit with the darkness of potential death, unable to reach out a physical hand. Thinking on it, I see more connection with our ancestors than ever before: that sense of uncertainty, or lack of control, of the wish to pray for guidance, strength or hope. Of the need for community and shared experience.

This is what our Paganism can bring to us right now, if we’re finally brave enough to face it. The balance of our lives, our world… and so of our faith that is specifically based in Nature. We’re not playing any more. We are now required to open our eyes.

Yes, it’s difficult. I absolutely know this. Yes, so many of us have already walked this path (personally with my own mental health battles, but for all of those who have their own everyday challenges). ‘Normal’ is fluctuating constantly. Folks who have been physically confined due to difficulties getting out are now able to be better understood. We can look, truly see and so empathise, perhaps help more usefully.

This is not about guilt. Guilt isn’t helpful. This is about our shared humanity, life and doing what needs to be done.

I don’t have answers – that’s kind of the point, nobody does! But I have a hand, reaching out across the wires, and a voice to tell my story. So do you.

I’ve absolutely more to say on this, and will do in the weeks ahead. But for now, perhaps take time to sit and look out at the world, while looking inward to what your own deeper Pagan beliefs are. Is it time to adjust your practices? What can you do to make your outer world reflect and aid your inner (or vice versa)? What is no longer needed, and can be put aside? What fuels you, where does your motivation, your power, your strength come from?

What stories can you tell, and what stories call to you to teach or guide you? What makes you uncomfortable… and can you face that to see what is hidden behind the unease?

Yes, in my own hemisphere it’s Spring. I can see buds on the trees and hear birds singing. But I also know there’ll be chicks fallen from nests, crops left to rot due to closed eateries, and so many looking for help…

What are we doing? What can we do? Individually and slowly reaching outward.

We have technology that our ancestors didn’t. We are modern Pagans, with our own thoughts and ideas. Let’s stand together and use them.

Love and solidarity, my friends.

Comments (1)

Layers and Labels

Years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to study archaeology. Just for a couple of years, at ‘A’ Level, when a teacher volunteered to go off-timetable for the few who were interested. It was fascinating.

We learned about the layers of history that are visible as you dig downwards through the earth. From the concrete of the crust beneath our feet, through to the soil… but so much more besides. The strata of the ground we walk upon holds as much history as the rings within a tree, each gently layering one atop the other to finally reach the current time. What we see and take for granted – unless, perhaps, it is breached by excavation or earthquake.

Did you know that skin has a similar layering system? Despite archaeology being ‘an ology’ and so SCIENCE!!! (ahem), I know little about such things (so apologies to those who do) – but lately I happened upon this:

skin-strata

We carry this around with us constantly, and all unaware – again, perhaps until something goes wrong and we are forced to notice as these partitions are breached. People would often ask about my dermal piercing; you can see from the image above why it didn’t hurt, as the dermal layer and nerves are separate. Admittedly by mere fractions of millimetres, but even so. The mysteries of the human body in action.

I’m reminded of this recently as I’ve been progressing on my healing journey. Talking therapy has thrown up various thoughts and ideas, with previously very ‘normal’ foundations being rocked as I challenge them, discovering how fragile and sometimes even false they are.

I’m performing archaeology on the strata of my mind, right now. Layers are being peeled back, light is being shone on ideas that seemed as solid as concrete, but are in fact as easily penetrated as the membranes of our skin.

I’ve seen ritual undertaken to explore this idea, usually using external props such as masks that can be peeled away or used to represent different facets of ourselves. I’ve helped others break down the emotional or spiritual walls they’ve unconsciously put up around themselves, initially for survival but then becoming trapped within.

I’ve seen the layers of armour my husband and his battle-brothers strap onto themselves before taking the field at medieval tournaments. We all put on clothes each day to protect and warm ourselves, but also to represent who we are, from hidden undergarments to outer uniforms. But how often do we consider the strata of our minds? The layers that can only be seen when we stop to take notice – what we choose to show to others in terms of personality or persona, compared to the sub-layers of neuroses, fears, desires… all of those mysteries that the psychologists are still exploring.

Part of the realisation of this mental landscape is identifying each section, realizing what it is and why it is there, perhaps with an ‘aha!’ moment of remembering when it was put in place. As with the external masks and protections, internal walls go up in response to abuse, misunderstandings, trauma: scar tissue over the delicate breached skin.

In one sense, I was concerned at the idea of picking at these mental ‘scabs’, but then I saw that the excavation was more like rebreaking a bone to set it properly, or restitching a wound. We throw up our defences without much skill, often reflexively I think, and so it takes gentle care to see what happened and help the healing process.

All of this is done with acknowledgment and intention, and with the help and guidance of one who understands. It has to be, otherwise another false layer is simply being added to cover those wounds. I have various lovely friends who have tattooed their skin around external scars – not to cover and obscure, but to make those tears their own.

This is a process, and as I move forward in life, so it is part of the healing journey that I’ve been on this year. I know I’m not alone, and am so glad that I’m finally at this stage where I can undertake such difficult work.

But in the course of shining a light on old wounds and determining what is ‘real’ and what is ‘false’ – what is truly ‘me’, if you like, what feels like my truth versus implanted protective armour-mechanisms – I’m discovering just how many labels I’ve taken on.

This is something I’ve considered for years, ever since I started exploring my Paganism. Because there’s a label, eh?

As I took on the label ‘Pagan’, then ‘Druid’, then ‘Priest/ess’, so I considered what that meant to me. More and more, I wonder if these truly represent me, or if they’re for the benefit of others – verbal shorthand to give an idea of what it is that I do. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a mixture of both, but what any label means to one person may be completely different to someone else. That old Getafix idea of the white-bearded Druid, for example.

It always frustrates me that people seem to want to define others by those labels. What you should and shouldn’t do, because you are [insert title here]. ‘You can’t do that, you’re a —-‘. This is where the labels start becoming walls, traps, false foundations which identities are then built upon.

‘I have to do this because I’m that’ may be helpful sometimes, but what if it isn’t? I love messing with expectations (not being a white-bearded Druid, for example), but as I’ve said in the past, I also love to hear people’s stories. Nobody is defined by just one or two key words, but by many, many aspects of their personalities. As I get to know them, I see the ones they present to the world – the external strata, if you like – and then perhaps the deeper layers, if I’m permitted so far in.

I’ve often been accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve, but as I undertake my mental archaeology, I realize how much has actually been lost over recent traumatic years. No – not lost, but subsumed. It might have been for my own wellbeing, but what have I actually been showing to people? I’d rather honour those who pay me attention by being the ‘real Me’, not some false front, and I think I have done that – but insofar as I’ve been able. When people have said ‘Oh, you don’t really mean that’ or ‘That’s not you though, is it?’ I’ve been confused, wondering if they know something I don’t. But no – they’re just objecting when I don’t fit into their image of me. That label isn’t enough, so I must be reminded to get back into the box!

I’m looking forward to exploring this more. Of course there’s trepidation, and inevitable pain as layers are stripped back… but also frustration that they had to be put in place at all. But that’s life, isn’t it? The key here is that I’m digging now, learning to my own self be true, to Know Thyself… all of those ancient truisms that are part of life’s journey.

It’s interesting that my dermal piercing recently removed itself after many years, popping free after a little pain and discomfort. Herein lies the parallel, of outer reflecting inner. I can only keep reminding myself that I would rather live truthfully than surrounded by nonsense. If I challenge the labels others place on me, or even simply ask ‘Why?’ then no insult is intended – just curiosity. Because what’s going on in here is a true excavation, but also a positive step in the ongoing battle of my own health.

And as I find myself, I find my smile again. Because that’s something I have always done easily and honestly.

Much love, my friends. Journeying onward.

Comments (1)