How do I know I’m a Pagan?
I mean, really.
I had this thought after my unexpected visit to church. I also had this thought after I returned home from Beltania, the Colorado Beltane gathering I attended and presented at over my birthday weekend. It may seem strange that I would question my Pagan identity after a Pagan gathering, but that’s what happened.
Don’t get me wrong — I had fun. I mean, I erected a giant phallus after all. The festival provided a sense of community for the Pagans who attended, and it was clear that most everybody was having a great time. Joy Burton and the Living Earth Center crew worked their butts off putting this thing together, and they deserve a huge congratulations. But on a personal level, I walked away feeling like most of what I experienced — the culture of it all — was simply not my cup of tea.
Perhaps it was the Wiccan-centric nature of the gathering that made me feel a little out of place. Or maybe I just had Lonely Druid Complex. It certainly wasn’t anyone else’s fault, though. The festival did exactly what it was supposed to do. It’s become a very important part of the Colorado (and surrounding states) Pagan community, and I’m glad I went.
But when I got home I couldn’t quite remember what it felt like to be a part of ADF, or even to be a practicing Pagan. It was like I didn’t know what path I was on any more.
Then, this morning, I did ritual.
I did a full fledged, bells and whistles ritual. My shrine was fresh and new after an impulse yesterday afternoon to rearrange it, so I lit a candle and some charcoal and began.
I did my Paganism.
And that’s how I know. That’s how I know I’m a Pagan.
I know by doing.
I am through the doing.
My beliefs, opinions, ideas and thoughts move fluidly from one shape to another, never solidifying into something hard or rigid. (Who wants ideas with hard edges? I don’t.) But my practice, a practice that I’ve been developing for years, is the foundation of my Paganism.
It is informed by my mystical experiences, by my meditative inquiries, and by my upbringing. This ritual of mine is about as close to an Episcopal service as you might find from any Pagan (well… short of the drumming mid-way through). My home practice informs my perspectives about festivals, and church services, and dialogues about deity, and all the other things that cross my path.
Mine is a religious practice of relationship. Ghosti is the word used in ADF to define this ancient understanding of reciprocal relationship, and the need for relationship is real. I maintain relationship with my practice in order to maintain relationship with the Kindred — the Gods of my heart and of this place, the Spirits of the world around me, and my Ancestors. These relationships inform my other relationships, which circle back to inform my ritual…
It’s a series of cascading circles of reverence and sacredness.
I’m happy to discover after a brief dry spell that I am still very much a Pagan; still very much an ADF Druid. It turns out it wasn’t really an identity crisis, but just a moment of pause.
Should I begin to question again, I will light my fire, burn my charcoal, and see how the doing of my Paganism affects my perspective.
What about you?
Have you experienced this sense of disconnect from your path? Was there an event that made you wonder if you were still a Pagan? Where did you go from there? How did you reconcile yourself to that experience, and do you still identify as a Pagan now?