Sunday, October 28, 2007


The time of Samhain is approaching.

I love this holiday, both in it's sacred aspect and the secular celebration of Halloween. It's a time of darkness, but with the knowledge that dark does not mean bad. It is only an absence of light. For a little while we can wear our fears and laugh at the darkness, knowing that it is a part of us whether we accept it or not, and so we might as well accept it.

This is a time of death, both physical and metaphorical. Last year I was drawn to honor the ancestors and collect bones. This year I am being told to explore my own interior darkness, and perhaps shine a light onto some old demons. So I try to let myself sit with the darkness, and I wait.

In spite -- or perhaps because -- of this, I find myself oddly apathetic this year. For the first time that I can remember, I'm not looking forward to either Samhain or Halloween. This month has been riddled with obstacles for me, and now I'm just tired. I've decided to take November 1 off, to spend the whole day in ritual (and the preparation thereof). It's decadent, but I think I need this. I need something to rejuvinate me, and maybe show me a light at the end of this dark night of the soul.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I've been thinking about pagan ethics lately, and particularly forgiveness. Starhawk claims that forgiveness isn't a pagan value, and on the surface she seems to be right. But my heart disagrees.

Forgiveness isn't about not bringing rapists to justice. It isn't about letting people walk all over you. Forgiveness means that after a certain amount of time, you try to let it go. It means choosing (or trying to choose-- forgiveness can be difficult) not to carry anger and resentment.

On the other hand, anyone who claims that you have to forgive someone in order to prove yourself as a spiritually evolved human being is full of shit. Nobody can tell you when it's time to forgive something, if ever.

Even more important than forgiving others is forgiving ourselves. Ours is a religion without sin, and supposedly without guilt, and I am beginning to wonder if this might actually hurt us, in some ways. Despite our best intentions, we will make mistakes. We all do; it's part of being human. Yes, we should try to learn from them, but tormenting yourself every time you accidentally through out a glass bottle instead of recycling it doesn't do anybody any favors. And many of us will do that, rehashing every minor mistake, reliving them in our minds. That doesn't help us to grow, except in neurosis.

So what do we do, when our religion does not recognize this problem? In The Circle Within, Dianne Sylvan suggests calling on the compassion of the gods, remembering that you are a child of the God/dess. Personally, I find that to be a lovely, if difficult, solution. And since I'm not exploring spirituality for the easy answers it might give me, that satisfies my problem on a personal level.

I've seen pagans argue that our gods are not the compassionate types, and hold us to the highest standards. I disagree. As humans, we will make mistakes. We aren't here to be perfect; we're here to learn and love and grow. And I can't bring myself to believe in a deity who is not wise enough or generous enough to recognize that basic truth.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rant Cancelled

I had a rather substantive post half written, but then I took a walk and realized that it would have to wait.

Right now in New England, it is a sunny day in the low 80s. This is either a sign of the coming apocalypse of global warming, or else New England being its usual unpredictable self, or possibly both. But at the same time, today is the first day that I've really noticed the fall foliage. Thus far I have been disappointed by the display, but today..... Today I am just blown away by how beautiful everything can be, even so close to the city. The yellows are brilliant, the oranges a rusty perfection. The reds are still a bit lacking, but they are starting to come out. There are finally enough fallen leaves to make a satisfying crunch when you walk down the sidewalk.

If it were ten to fifteen degrees cooler, it would be the archetypal autumn day. Even so, it really puts life into perspective, so that my rants seem less pressing. This is what this spirituality is all about. The singular power of nature, the great manifestation of the Lady I worship, and of many other gods and goddesses.

I even found the most perfect leaf as I walked back: a tiny maple leaf, a perfect rusty orange with a yellow center and red tips. I'm keeping it as a reminder of the healing power of taking a walk.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Struggles of the Spirit, Part 1

Last week I went to my local library in search of some spiritual autobiographies. There's nothing better than reading the words of someone who has come before, struggled with the same problems we all face, and recorded that process for the rest of us. I learn more about how to live from one book of reading personal essays than from ten so-called self-help books.

The problem is, there don't seem to be any by pagans. I'm sure that I'm wrong, and that there a few out there, but the problem still stands; we as a religion are not creating that literature of the heart. My dream is to someday help fill that hole, but in the meantime, I need something to read. Thus, I find myself reading the works of Madeleine L'Engle and Anne Lamott, both devout Christians. However much the particulars of our religions differ, their words still ring true for me, and I am immensely grateful for that. But it has led me to wonder why I make things so much more difficult for myself by adhering to such a young, marginal religion.

I'm not one of those pagans who hates Christianity. In fact, I think it is a beautiful religion, filled with rich truth. But it is not my truth. When I look at the world I perceive a great unifying spirit, yes, but also countless others, all derived from the same source yet each independent and unique. And while I sense the power and mystery behind that Great Spirit, I cannot relate to it. I'm not even sure that it has a consciousness, as such, or if that Great Spirit is simply the force that flows through all of creation, be it human, tree, or deity. I suspect that one of the goals of meditation is to quiet yourself until you can feel that resonance that connects you to everything else..... but that's about the only way you can directly relate to something that large and amorphous. I need something more personal.

I need something more physical, too. If I sense the sacred in the trees and the air, in the ocean and in candle flame, then are those not sacred as well? I can not bring myself to believe that this life is just a trial, a practice session for something else. Life itself, with all of it's physicality and messiness, is the great gift of spirit.

Truthfully, I don't think I could follow any organized religion. I seem to have a deep need to discover the mysteries in my own way. That doesn't mean I won't or can't learn from others, but I could not let someone else explore for me, and then expect me to take their word about what they found. I have to forge ahead on my own, and I have rarely found myself on the well-trodden and accepted paths. Though I admit that I sometimes envy those who do; it must make life so much easier.

All of these arguments are moot, of course. I am pagan because that is my path, and I am not Christian because it is not my path. Neither is better than the other, and each are beautiful. I just wish that more people would write about the struggles of life from the perspective of paganism. If paganism can even be said to have one perspective..... but that is a topic for another post.

Who am I?

I suppose that, if I intend to share my spiritual wanderings with others, I should begin with an introduction. But what to tell? I am a solitary pagan, and have been since the summer of 2000, when I turned 18. In college, I would occasionally celebrate with my friends, but I've always enjoyed the freedom of the solitary to discover what works best for me, testing new ideas and techniques against my own experience. When I left college I also left behind the only pagans I've ever been able to truly share with, which makes my path more lonely than I would like. It's frustrating; I prefer to do ritual alone, so I have trouble getting to know other pagans, so I don't have anyone to talk to locally when I find myself stuck, or confused, or just needing to share.

I won't try to list all of the sources that influence my spirituality right now. There are too many to list in one post, and I imagine that they will become clear with time.

I'm not out to set myself up as an expert on anything. I'm just one little pagan, walking my path as best I can.