John Beckett’s 5 Bad Reasons to Be a Pagan is a great and welcome piece of writing. There are a lot of folks who come into our little corner of the world for all the wrong reasons. We should be wary of those who have embraced Paganism for the worst reasons, but we should also celebrate the good reasons to be a Pagan, and here are five of them.
TO LIVE A MAGICKAL LIFE
Contrary to what many people think magick is a part of many religious traditions, and embracing a monotheistic religion does not cut one off from a magickal worldview, however . . . . . Pagan traditions embrace magick in a way few other spiritualities do. In practices like Druidry and Witchcraft magick is a common element, and followers of those paths actively explore magick in their daily lives.
Magick is also a part of Paganism’s very DNA. Practices such as Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft were directly influenced by both folk magick and the grimoire tradition. Even something as simple as setting up Pagan space with a circular boundary is a magickal act, and is something magicians have been doing for thousands of years.
Paganism is a philosophy with a magickal worldview, which is why so many people whose families have practiced magick over the centuries embrace it. Paganism and magick are complimentary, and it’s hard to imagine one without the other in many situations.
Those of us who live magickal lives experience extraordinary things, and embrace the ability to take hold of our circumstances. Magick is the exact opposite of an excuse for why things happen, it’s a tool to get us over the mountains that pop up in our lives. Without magick I wouldn’t necessarily be forlorn, but I think I would be slightly less positive, and feel a bit more helpless. Unlike religions where things happen “because of God,” things happen in the life of a Pagan because we made the change happen.
THE CALL OF DEITY
I became a Pagan because the idea of living a life in harmony with the world and adopting a magickal worldview made sense to me, but I primarily became a Pagan because deity. My early years as a Witchling were spent in pursuit of The Goddess, and when she initially called to me and embraced me I was powerless to resist. Since that moment deity has been one of the primary focuses of my Pagan experience.
While I still honor the Great Goddess in circle, I’ve heard the call of many other deities. Pan, Cernunnos, Aphrodite, Aradia, Dionysus, Brigit, have all knocked on my door, and I can’t imagine my life without them. Deity provides me with solace, purpose, understanding, and wonder. The gods have helped me draw closer to the world around for me, and have given me a greater understanding of myself.
In many ways spiritual pursuits are about “understanding” something, and the deities that have walked with me have helped me to better understand my place in the universe, the mysteries of my Craft, and what it is to experience perfect love and perfect trust. Not all Pagans embrace deity, but when Mercury knocks on your door it’s hard to talk to him in a Christian context.
YOU LOVE THE EARTH
Most Modern Pagan traditions focus largely on the natural world. We find wonder and awe within nature, and we see the divine when we look out our back doors. Many Pagans also seek to live in harmony with the Earth, consciously trying to shrink their carbon footprints and avoid behavior and actions that will have dire environmental consequences. (That doesn’t mean we always succeed, and life is often a series of compromises, but most Pagans I know endeavor to do the right thing!)How we we feel about the Earth goes beyond just appreciating nature and wild spaces. Many of us seek to develop a greater understanding of the Earth’s rhythms. Those of us who absolutely love holidays often reflect on just how each turn of the Wheel effects us on a personal level. Long before I was a Pagan I looked forward to the changing of the seasons and the holidays that mark those changes, and being a Pagan allowed me to appreciate them even more.
CONNECTION TO OTHERS
I don’t think Paganism is designed to be the refuge of the lonely. No one should join a coven, grove, or circle just because they are looking for friends or have no where else to turn to. That’s not what Paganism was designed for, and those that come to it simply in the search for friends or a lover usually leave disappointed. However, I’ve found that Paganism is a powerful force when it comes to strengthening friendships and cementing emotional attachment.
The idea of “perfect love and perfect trust” is often a difficult one to embrace, and harder yet to actually experience. But because of my time within Paganism I think I’m closer than ever to understanding this truly great mystery. I have a coven that I truly love and adore, and I feel as if I can say whatever I want around them with confidence that it won’t be repeated anywhere else. Paganism gives us the tools to deepen our friendships and understandings of other folks.
Practices such as Witchcraft and Druidry have some of their origins in fraternal orders, and this is both present and visible in their rites. Becoming an OBOD Druid doesn’t only make one an OBOD Druid, it also connects the individual to OBOD Druids all over the world. My Gardnerian coven is small, but my life as a Gardnerian is shared with thousands of other initiates. Many Pagan groups help us to become “greater than ourselves” and help plug us into a variety of esoteric currents.
OUR WORLDVIEW MAKES SENSE
Even if I didn’t have relationships with deity and believe in magick I’d still probably be a Pagan, and that’s because the general Pagan worldview just makes sense. Unlike a lot of monotheistic religions, we don’t get hung up on issues like sex (my response to sex is to simply “consensually have it”), rock’n’roll, and drink or drugs (just do things responsibly). And perhaps most importantly the majority of Pagans believe in people being themselves. Gay? Trans? Poly? All are freaking great, why other faiths get so caught up in the business of individual people is troubling to me. It’s your life, live it the way you want to!
I’ve heard people argue that Paganism is more of a social grouping than a spiritual one these days, and one of the tenants of Paganism as a social grouping is that we accept others for who they are. Unless you are simply a giant asshole, I don’t want to change you in any way. You are beautiful, a child of the Earth and the deities that reside here, and as long as what you do is not a threat to others I don’t care what you do. Paganism has always helped me to see such things and I credit it directly for turning me into a better person.
Also, Paganism has never been about guilt or cosmic judgement bullshit. I love that about this path, and a deity who does nothing but keep score about how many times one fornicates feels so ludicrous to me. We should do good things while we are on this earth, but we should also just enjoy the hell out of being here!