I stand with my feet firmly planted upon the flesh and bones of the Earth. I seek that which is real. I seek truth. I seek ever elusive wisdom.
I was once numbered among Christians, but I did not wish to be as a child “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14 NASB). It was by “craftiness in deceitful scheming” within the church that I entered a dark night of the soul. I left the congregation of those who claim the name of Christ and wandered in a dark wilderness for many years.
I clung to my knowledge of scripture as I wandered the wilderness, but I only found more disillusionment as time passed. Nothing seemed real; all seemed permitted. Then one day a seed was planted. A book revealed that the old religions were not dead, and that the old ways were not evil as those crafty in deceitful scheming portrayed them to be.
I discovered Wicca, first. The Wicca were refreshing because they were not hateful towards other beliefs. In fact, great respect was shown towards other beliefs. I was taught that many had glimpsed the divine throughout history, and their revelation was the root of a religion, tradition, or path. I was taught that all paths had some wisdom to offer. I was taught that the quickest path to enlightenment was to first find the deities that resonated strongly within one’s heart; this would be the path of least resistance. This encouraged me to be open to other beliefs and to appreciate what they had to offer, rather than find fault with them. This is also what is called eclectic.
I then discovered that there was not a simple difference between witchcraft and Wicca, but that there was a controversial difference between the two; this controversy was called the Witch Wars. Wicca had gained some public acceptance as an alternative religion, and with significant struggle. Some of the Wicca wanted to formalize beliefs in much the same manner as the Council of Nicaea formalized Christian beliefs, or so it seemed. This may directly or indirectly have influenced the controversy.
For some time, I thought the significant difference between witchcraft and Wicca concerned a code of ethics called “The Wiccan Rede,” which I assumed led to witches calling the Wicca “fluffy bunnies.” Recently, I have been given reason to think otherwise. Apparently, the public notoriety and acceptance that Wicca was gaining also attracted people simply because Wicca seemed revolutionary, and therefore cool. These “fluffy bunnies” ran around with the trappings of Wicca, but seemed to detract from the the seriousness of Wiccan beliefs. Therefore, it seems a small jump to postulate that the “fluffy bunnies” might have been the ones pushing to formalize beliefs as other religions had. Personally, I was mystified as to why the Wicca or witches would want to become like those who had persecuted them. Without a clear explanation at that time, I simply moved on.
I discovered a strong attraction to a Welsh deity found in the Mabinogion, the Lady Arianrhod. I studied Celtic lore, particularly Welsh, for about a year when a cousin revealed that we appeared to have Welsh ancestry. This indicated a strong reason for my attraction, so I proceeded to investigate all things Welsh, which was also connected to things Celtic.
Concurrently, I went to a local hill top to perform a Midsummer ritual. During the ritual and after, as I made my way back down the hill, I had visions of Native Americans walking in this place. It occurred to me that Native Americans probably had a better knowledge of this land and its spirits of place. I say “probably” because I was not sure about how much they retained of their ancient ways. I did attend some of their public ceremonies and was quite inspired. Despite persecution, they have managed to hold onto more of their ancestral heritage than us of European descent.
Celtic studies eventually lead to investigating the Druids. Druidry had much in common with the things I had been studying, but it also had organizations that are publicly more accessible. One organization was led by a well known, prolific author whose work resonated deeply. I joined this organization, but in an online encounter I discovered a man of great arrogance. This was too reminiscent of my Christian experience, and it reinforced my aversion to organized religion.
I returned to the internet site where I had observed the “Witch Wars.” Now the great contention concerned the qualifications to be Pagan. European re-constructionists declared one had to follow the tradition of an ancient European system that some faction was reconstructing. Some believe that those traditions would not have remained static over the centuries, so they (revivalists?) are in disagreement. The eclectics hold to the definition that, if not a belief of the Children of Abraham, then you qualify as Pagan. I was inclined to agree with the last, although it all seems like religion building to me.
The root of pagan is found in the Latin “paganus” which means countryman, peasant, or villager. The derogatory usage seems to reflect the view of a sophisticated city slicker towards an earthy country hick. When the capital of the Roman Empire fell, the same city became the capital of Christianity through the Vatican. I imagine the uneducated country-dwellers were seen as simple, ignorant, and dirty. They worked the earth for food and were in touch with the cycles of nature; they knew the great Mother and her dance.
The Children of Abraham generally seem to have Heaven on their minds. While I saw the Revelation as a warning, many Christians seem to desire it and call for it. Islamic fundamentalists embark on jihads hoping to find themselves in heaven with numerous virgins. Contrasting the Children of Abraham, an appropriate title for my Pagan brothers and sisters seemed to be “Children of the Earth,” at this time.
While studying druidry, I noticed a similarity with shamanism. Druidry is much more elaborate and sophisticated than shamanism, but that is not necessarily better. Some anthropologists believe that the shaman was the original prototype for all spiritual and/or religious people onward through history, so this is not surprising. Shamanism became the focus of my current study because it seems closer to the source. Closer than I imagined, because it has already caused me to confront something truly intimate.
Many years ago, I walked away from a man, a congregation, a church, and a religion. In retrospect, that seems simple. Through shamanism I came to realize that I had not and could not walk away from the Christ.
A shaman has been described as one who always has one foot in the material world, and the other foot in the spirit world. Spirit is generally part of Wicca, witchcraft, druidry, Native American beliefs, etc., but perhaps the intensity of shamanism is why I couldn’t ignore it this time. It certainly has caused me to see things differently. While I have learned much, there is no label for me.
Now, I stand with my feet firmly planted upon the flesh and bones of the Earth. I seek that which is real. I seek truth. I seek ever elusive wisdom. I am a child of Arianrhod. I am a child of God. I am of Earth and Sky.