What Does It Mean to Be a Pagan?

Every time someone that *thinks* they know me finds out that I am a Pagan, the questions begin in a cascade. I am used to the shower of questions, followed by more questions, cynicism, disappointment, happiness, and the literal tidal flow of other emotions and questions. But sometimes, its a decent exercise to stop, pull up some ground underneath a tree, and ask some of the questions of myself. Some folks call that “navel gazing” – so be it. For me, its more like a casual inventory to see where I am headed along my personal, everyday Path. Sort of like stopping from time to time, and checking the backpack to make sure that there’s plenty of rations for the next few days, and that there’s enough clean clothes before I pass beyond this stream.

There’s literally a dozen-dozen ways to describe what a Pagan is, isn’t could-be, might-be, should-be….but I am not trying to define what a Pagan is for the masses. Rather, I’ll approach what being a Pagan means to me. I am all for disagreement over the terminology, but in the end, this particular meaning is my own.

Walking on Wild Horse Island in MontanaBeing a Pagan is about being not only connected with one’s environment, but also being aware of that connection. Yeah, that should be vague enough. LOL For me, its being aware of the changing in the seasons, and how those changes affect not only me, but the immediate area around me. Currently, my area of the world is experiencing Spring. I drive through a set of cow pastures via a Farm-Road, and have passed many new-born calves in the fields, attended by their mamas. The sights of those little calves going all wobbly on their new legs has been fun to watch, as has been their transition to running, frolicking little cows as well. As I watch, I am reminded of all the people I have encountered in this last year that have started on their respective Paths. During Gulf Coast Gathering, I was honored to lead a Bard initiate to her Bardic initiation in OBOD. I was also present to watch several others taking their initial steps on their respective Paths. Their excitement and enthusiasm has helped fuel my own desire to finish with my long trek through the Bardic grade as well. Yes, the enthusiasm of frolicking Bardic initiates is contagious, indeed!

While my own Pagan Path is rooted in my connectivity to the world around me, I am also a polytheist. The Gods and Goddesses are indeed real. Every day, I leave a small portion of my lunch outside for the local Crows and Sparrows. This is my offering to Crow, the God I am pledged to. My offering of water in the evening, at my backyard circle, is for Fliodhas and Coyote, the Goddess and God that I also work frequently with. I do these offerings as daily devotionals to these three, because I wish to honor them. I accord myself with the Gods because I not only believe, but know that they are real. I do not wish to be someone that attempts to convert people to how I believe. I would rather that people who do believe come to polytheism on their own; there is no need to swell the masses by forcing people to believe. Either they do or they don’t. For me, it really is that simple.

Above anything else, being a Pagan is simply living my life daily. I do my devotionals to my two Gods and Goddess that are part of my daily worship. I read, watch videos, spend time outside in my local environment…all to build up my knowledge, as well as my experience. Paganism, for me, is not about sitting at home and just reading books and watching documentaries. Its about getting outside, and experiencing the world around me. To me, Paganism is an experiential belief system. If you aren’t getting your hands and boots dirty…well, isn’t that what being in a nature-based belief system is all about?

I work in a job that is about compiling statistics and numbers in relation to the rest of the departments. Its not really about looking at percentage rates, its about finding the causes for those rates. Its about finding the connections that make those rates climb or fall. And its about telling the stories behind that data. Certainly data is just a numeric counting of stuff…but those numbers represent people – and each of those people has a story on why they are here and why they are doing this or that now. To merely report the numbers only scratches the surface, the true merit of understanding things is in understanding the information underneath all of that – understanding the people. The single mothers wanting to better themselves so that they can provide for their children in a manner that they believe is appropriate. The individuals returning from military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, eager to put their GI Bills to use, in order to better understand their desired trade, and get a leg up on the competition for their careers. The faculty members who spend countless hours not only teaching their subjects, but also working with their students to help them become the very best graduate that comes out of the college. The administration folks who facilitate all the things that keep the buildings running, the lights on, insure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, so that financial aid comes to the student on time, and that the classroom is available, clean and the technology ready to use. All of that is part of the story of the data. Connectivity brings all that together to make the story.

I can’t definitively state what it really means to be a Pagan for anyone other than myself. My Paganism is a part of me. What I have learned on my Path so far helps me to understand inter-related concepts throughout my life. I can’t really separate or compartmentalize my beliefs from other parts of me. I used to say that religion, politics, and other aspects shouldn’t mix. But to be perfectly honest, there’s no way I can separate any of those things within myself. How I approach my daily life, through the lenses of my Paganism, relates to how I see other parts of life. My personal politics is informed by who and what I am. Certain candidates do not align with my viewpoints…and that’s fine. They certainly will not gather my vote. While I will never find a candidate that meets every single perspective that I have – unless I run for a political office, which is HIGHLY UNLIKELY – I can choose candidates based on how they approach their worldview, and how comparable it is to my own.¬†When I come across an accident on the highway, my compassion for the victims of the accident comes from who I am, and what I am. try as I might, I can’t set things into little categories anymore.

I am a Pagan. I am a polytheist. I do try my best to be aware of the world around me. I don’t always succeed at any of that. I am, after all, human.

 

 

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