“…I got better.”
Various townspeople, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
This post was a bit tl;dr, so this will be the second installment. To see me discuss Catholicism click here.
Let’s start out with Neo-Paganism, because this is something I’ve delved into in the past and it should be somewhat familiar to my readers. First, let’s examine the term Neo-Pagan. When the word Pagan refers to modern practitioners of the revival of ancient pre-Abrahamic faiths, it is capitalized. When the word pagan refers to ancient non-Abrahamic faiths (particularly when the word “pagan” is used in the Bible or when it is used to describe the religious practices of, say, ancient Rome), it is lower case. The most common Neo-Pagan faith is Wicca, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, although to do so in my case would be incorrect. While I attend major Sabbat (“Sabbat” refers to a high holiday in Neo-Paganism/Wicca) services at a local Wiccan church, Wicca draws its practices from a variety of backgrounds, including but not limited to Celtic, Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and Roman/Italian paganism. Being of Scottish and Irish descent, I focus my Paganism on the ancient pagan traditions of the Celts and Gaels, and I am currently doing more research on trying to make my version of Paganism more authentic to the sometimes Druidic, original Celtic/Gaelic paganism. If I’m feeling in a Pagan mood or conducting a Sabbat or Esbat ritual (“Esbat” referring to the moon cycles – a full or new moon is an Esbat), then I pray to Cerridwen and Cernunnos, a goddess and god of Scottish/Welsh/Pan-Celtic origins. The only non-Celtic/Gaelic holiday I involve myself with is one called Matralia, a Roman pagan holiday for the goddess of the dawn Aurora, whose Greek counterpart was Eos. There is evidence supporting the idea that the ancient Celts/Gaels only celebrated the major Sabbats – the four holidays that have to do with the harvest (the minor Sabbats take places on the equinoxes and solstices) – and so those Sabbats and Matralia are the holidays I celebrate.
There are a lot of things about Paganism that I find appealing. Outside of the religion I was raised in, it was the first faith I ever explored that I had any actual say in. I love the way it connects me to nature and to my heritage, and it’s a very freeing faith. There are few restrictions other than the Law of Three (whatever you do comes back to you threefold), and while the revival is recent, it has roots in many fascinating ancient traditions. Every Abrahamic faith, despite the fact that they do not condone “witchcraft”, has roots in pagan traditions because they needed to borrow from what already existed to encourage converts. It’s a very accepting faith – I can’t imagine finding a Pagan or Wiccan person who is not supportive of gay rights. What’s probably the most important to me is that I have family members who practice this faith and who are open to this faith, so there’s sort of a built-in community that I can take part in. As someone who is getting married soon and will be building a family (even if that family is just two people), the aspect of familial involvement and family traditions is very important to me. While I’ve only ever been in interfaith relationships, there’s something about family unit cohesiveness that I find appealing. Despite all these positive things about Paganism, there’s something that’s holding me back. I’ve always based my religious practices on what elicits emotion and raw connection, and I’m not feeling that emotion or raw connection currently with Paganism. Now, that could be due to a variety of reasons – I could be going through a period wherein the natural ebb and flow of having faith is receding and I’m simply doubting the presence of a higher being (think the “faith is like filling a glass with water” discussion from Dogma); I could be feeling like I’m not a member of this community due to familial feuds; I could be simply drifting from Paganism in general. I find when I attend the rituals that I can’t shake the feeling that they are childlike in their simplicity. I suppose it makes sense for Paganism to be a childlike religion – it’s old in the sense that it was one of the first and most basic religions, and it’s new in the sense that the revival is recent, and I feel that those two factors contribute to the simplicity of the rituals. My goal for this year is to be involved in all of the public rituals for the major Sabbats, so perhaps an extended ritual practice will change my mind and warm me up to Paganism once more. Alternately, it could make me decide that Paganism isn’t right for me. We’ll have to wait and see.