Sunday, February 20, 2022

My Pagan path in an elevator pitch.

Maroon Bells | Lynne Cantwell 2017

I got name-checked on the Patheos blog of a Druid priest this week.

I've mentioned John Beckett here before. I've occasionally used one or another of his posts as a springboard for a blog post of my own. I've also taken some of the online classes he has offered; I'm not a Druid, but his classes are all ecumenical, if I may repurpose the term to mean practices and beliefs that are common to all varieties of Pagans. I did my best to enumerate the types of Pagans in a blog post a few years ago. 

But I still get questions about what Paganism is. A lot of them come from folks who have quit one or another Christian sect (I seem to have collected a number of ex-Mormon friends) and made a 180-degree turn into atheism. As if there are only the two choices: believe in Jehovah or believe in nothing.

So I asked John how to talk to these friends about Paganism -- keeping in mind that Pagans don't proselytize (no, really -- we don't). His answer is in the post that I linked to up top.

He calls these types of folks "religiously ignorant." I think that's a little harsh -- I'd go for "religiously uninformed" -- but his blog isn't mine. Regardless, the point is that because of the ubiquity of Christianity in the West, for the vast majority of folks, that's their only religious reference. So, as he says, first people want to know what you believe, and second, they want to know what your holy book is. Alert hearth/myth readers will see the problem immediately: Paganism has no holy book and no single set of beliefs. 

The next thing they often want to know is what you have to do to keep from going to Hell. When you say Pagans don't have a Hell, it doesn't compute. Pagans strive to live morally, of course, but not because of some heavenly reward awaiting us. The reward is here, in this life.

I encourage you to read John's post for his overview. If you're looking for more in-depth info, I could recommend a book or two. But if you want to know what I believe? Well, I guess I'd better write an elevator pitch for you. Here goes:

I believe there are a whole lot of gods. I've spoken in meditation with several of them, and I am confident that they are separate persons -- neither facets of a single overarching deity nor figments of my imagination. I have relationships with a few gods, and if you've read any of the Pipe Woman Chronicles, their names may be familiar to you: Lugh, who can do anything; Brighid, blacksmith, healer, and poet; Morrigan, both a warrior and the personification of the land; and Mokosh, the Slavs' Mother Earth, who spins the thread of life.  

I believe in animism: that not just humans, but everything on this planet, is a person who deserves respect. I believe that none of these persons is more special than the other -- which is to say that humanity has no special, elevated place on this earth. Our job is to learn to coexist, not just with each other but also with animals, with plants, with the air and the water, and yes, even with the rocks. 

I believe that magic is a thing, and that it works. I've seen it work.

I believe that to believe in Hell is to live in fear. I look forward to going to the Summerlands when I die, and I know I don't have to believe a specific thing or live in a particular way to get there -- the Summerlands are open to all.

I'm happy with this path. It feels right to me. It makes my life richer. It makes it make sense.

If you've chosen a different path and you're happy with it, that's awesome. I would suggest, though, that you ask yourself how you found your path. If it's simply a wholesale rejection of the path you grew up following, then consider whether your former path is still controlling you. If that's your jam, then great. If not -- well. Maybe shop around for one that has no relation at all to the one you rejected.


The legislative session ended at noon on Thursday -- right on time. I've been cocooning since then (other than a trip to the grocery store), readjusting to being retired, and I'm just about ready to rejoin the world. 

So I'm taking a break from the blog next week. See you back here in two weeks. Might have some new  pictures for you then.


These moments of bloggy pathfinding have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!


Malcolm R. Campbell said...

Well said. Speaking of hell, I used to wonder how those holding the witchcraft trials came p with the idea that witches were working with the devil. What devil? So now, when people talk about hell, I just let it go because that's their fairy tale.

Lynne Cantwell said...