Not long ago, Christine Hoff Kraemer, editor of the Pagan channel here at Patheos.com, published a book about Pagan theologies, or, more accurately, about being a day to day Pagan theologian. It’s called Seeking the Mystery, and for the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring my sense of place through its insights and suggested activities, one chapter at a time.
The first chapter gives a brief but thorough introduction to the language of theology – the “-isms” and belief systems that make up the sometimes unconscious foundations for our practices and the structure for our experiences. As Christine points out, many Pagans believe we don’t have beliefs, but it’s simply not possible to go through life without them.
In my childhood and teen days, as a Christian, I was an odd sort of monotheist. With the years of experience and knowledge I have now, I realise that I was a pantheist at heart – I believed that God was the sum total of the souls/Soul of the Universe. While it is very possible to remain within Christianity as a pantheist – especially in the kind of liberal church I attended – it was this realisation, along with the irrelevance to me of heaven and hell, that led me to seek spiritual fulfilment elsewhere.
Through years of exploration, and through study and ordination with One Spirit Interfaith Foundation, I finally uncovered the name for my experience of Spirit: Pagan Witchcraft, first in Reclaiming tradition, and then also in Anderson Faery tradition. I remained a pantheist, and also a monist. The mystical experiences of my youth and adult years have made too strong an impression on me for to be anywise else (experiences I used to attempt to sum up in the phrase “everything is everything”), but I was also opening to polytheism and animism.
But something started to change fundamentally in my theology once I moved to Scotland. I often say I learnt more magic in my first year in Eskdalemuir than I have ever learned from books or workshops, before or since. And it was the profound shift which happened in my consciousness which made both the change and the learning possible.
Because when I moved to this valley, the land and all of its inhabitants started talking to me – and I was ready to listen: to the earth and sun and sky; the dog violets and water avens and bluebells; the sallows and pines and alders; the waters and rocks; the birds; the Sidhe. And that changed everything.
I’m still technically a pantheist and a monist, as well as a polytheist and an animist. But most important to me now is to know the individuals around me – not to connect to the Spirit of Dog Violet, but to connect to this particular dog violet, as body, soul and spirit; not to connect to Bride, Queen of Summer, but to Bride as she lives and breathes in this landscape, and this micro-climate.
I don’t have a name for this theology, but I know it has deepened my spirituality, my magic, and my aliveness, beyond anything I could have thought possible before the move.
How about you? Have you found living in a place shifting your worldview?