Q: How does one become a Pagan??
A: Well, in my experience, as well as what I have managed to glean from others, it’s not so much “becoming” a Pagan, as much as it is finding that this wide myriad of Paths holds one that simply just “clicks” with you.
…another of those questions that I get a lot from non-Pagans. Perhaps, I am a little different in my own personal theory on this, but I do not believe that people become Pagans, so much as they find one of the many Pagan paths that are out there that align better with what they believe within themselves. Not everyone is going to be a hard polytheist. Not everyone is going to find what they need within Wicca (I didn’t). But there is nothing wrong with either of those or with any other approach for that matter. Yes, I will even defend those that decide to place a pinch of racism into their own beliefs. So long as you are not harming anyone else because they do not follow your beliefs…or trying to push them off a Path that is similar to your own, simply because they will not align exactly with your own or (Gods forbid) using your beliefs or your position within those beliefs to harm another…I have zero issues with someone exploring their own idea of what the “divine” is.
For me, people eventually come to their own beliefs through their own experiences. For me, I always felt that the Gods and Goddesses were alive and individual beings when I was a young lad, hunting through encyclopedias in the Base Library. I could feel Their presence in the woods throughout Germany when I went walking with my parents (and several hundred other folks) during volksmarches. For others on their own spiritual paths (even on a path of Druidry very similar to my own), they may hold that there are an archetypal God and Goddess, or a universal Spiritual Divine, or even the Christian Trinity. It is not how I connect to the world around me, but I am not willing to push them off their Paths simply because the manner in which they experience their connectedness is different from my own.
We are nearing the beginning of Spring here in North Texas. Every day that I drive the eleven miles to and from work, I see the new-born calves in the pastures, sometimes huddled close to their mother cows, and other times running with my truck as I drive past them. Even despite the last pushes at a bitter cold have come down from the northern tier of the United States, these newborns are a reminder that Spring is on its way – as promised every year in the turning cycle. Through those moments, I see the hands of the Gods and Goddesses everywhere. Just as I am sure that a soft polytheist sees the nurturing aspects of the archetype Mother, and the Christian sees the nurturing hand of God.
Though it sounds like I am making a hard comparative point, I am actually not. Each of these is a manner in which some of my friends see the world around them, and find their own connections. Each sounds similar, but the reality is that they are not. Every individual finds their own unique connection to their environment utilizing the framework that works best for them. Other folks, do not even attempt to seek that connected strand out in their lives, while some will find the strand regardless, with no spiritual pull to it all. And the hard reality is that each approach is correct – for the individual that utilizes it. And if it is not, that individual will seek a new connected experience, in their own time, at their own pace.
I know how I feel the connection to the Gods and Goddesses – to the Ancestors – to the Spirits of Place. That approach works for me. It is definitely not for me to tell a single person that their approach is wrong or incorrect. When someone comes to seek my advice (and admittedly, it is not often), I try my best to describe my approach and point out that it is my own. They might be able to glean something that works for them or perhaps, just hearing about my approach might spark an idea in a completely different direction for them. And that is really all I can do. Try to show other avenues that might be available and useful for them. It is why I write this blog. It is why I am going to continue the podcast. So that other folks can see that not every avenue is appropriate, but that searching out for different approaches might be enough to open the door.
This morning, I was watching the movie “Troy”. This is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the dynamic between Achilles and the Priestess Briseis. There is a moment, which disagrees with how I perceive the Gods that takes place between these two characters:
Achilles: I’ll tell you a secret. Something they don’t teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.
While I agree with the sentiment of the beauty and fleeting treasure that a mortal life is, as Achilles describes it – I disagree that the Gods envy us. I believe, like us, the Gods have their own aspects of connectivity. Certainly, there is something to be said about how much richer the beauty of a fleeting moment may have. It certainly is a reminder of what we are as mortal beings. To find beauty, we only need to be silent in a forest at morning. Or in a field. Or even just outside of our front or back doors to our homes. To hear the wind whisper through the branches of the trees, through the tall grasses of the farmer’s field or through the leaves of the bushes near our homes. The warmth of the sun on our faces, or the cooled drops of rain. The feel of the dirt in our hands as we plant our crops or weed our flower beds. And those moments, those fleeting moments that will not be the same – even if we come back in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or ever…those are the moments that live in our memories. Moments we will never experience exactly the same, again.
How we connect to everything around us, everyone around us, the Gods and Goddesses, our Ancestors, and the Spirits of Place – how we celebrate those moments in our own memories is what is important. Which Gods and Goddesses we seek the Divine in our lives is important – to each of us individually. When we gather together at certain points in the Wheel of the Year, we honor all the Gods and Goddesses collectively – aloud or silently. We also honor ourselves and each other. For we are unique individuals, and we will not be the same ever again then at that moment. For like our environment, just like the Gods and Goddesses, we are changing. Some changes are small, others (such as death) are massively consequential, for us, and others.
This all might seem a bit “rambly” (the spell-checking dictionary claims it to be a word) in nature, but I assure this is not. For me, it is quite a cohesive thought. I never “became” a Pagan. I never “became” a polytheist. I am both. I have always been both – even when I had no words or concepts to express it as such. I firmly believe that we do not “become” what we are. We grow into it. From whatever faith. From whatever perspective. Some get to that point of understanding faster than others. There is no judgment in that whatsoever. Some people walk a darkened forest path very quickly, instinctively knowing that illumination in some form will happen eventually. Others move along it slowly, careful not to trip over a hidden rock in the path, and listen carefully to the still air. The correctness of either of those choices or some other option is clearly up to the individual. It took me a while to find my Path, and to be at this point of it. There is a lot more for me to walk, experience and learn from. And even when I reach that destination tht I am seeking; there will be more Path to explore beyond that.