A patchwork of ideas: introducing myself

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne

I have been a Pagan since 1985, when I realised that the various philosophical perspectives I had cobbled together for myself could be described as Pagan. This was a bit scary at the time, because I thought I was the only Pagan in existence; this was pre-internet and before I met other Pagans.

The philosophy I had patched together for myself was this.  I had decided that there was no external deity outside the universe, controlling it – how could there be when there was so much wrong with the world? I had decided that sexuality and the body are sacred. I had realised that Nature is full of divinity. And I had realised that if the world is going to get any better, it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the work ourselves, not wait for some deity or deities to do it for us.

These realisations have formed the basis of my Paganism ever since. My emphases have shifted and changed from time to time, but these are my core values. I realised that the label “Pagan” best described my philosophy because I had read Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling.  It’s still one of my favourite books.

I also believe that we are not here to serve deities; we are here to work with them as allies to make the world a better place (for all its denizens, human and non-human). The deities need our finite, time-bound and local perspectives as much as we need their infinite, eternal and non-local perspectives.

In 1991, I became a Wiccan, and in 2007, I also joined the Unitarians. However, I have realised that it is too hard to follow two paths and do them both justice. I can only be fully part of one sangha (spiritual community), in one dharma (model of how the universe works), and in one tribe. Wicca is my dharma, my sangha, my tribe. I have learnt much of value from Unitarianism and will always value it. But I need the wildness and eros of Wiccan spirituality; it’s in my soul.

One of the reasons I looked elsewhere was the way in which much of the Pagan community is fixated on a binary gender model; a model into which I do not fit, and which makes me profoundly uncomfortable. The Pagan community is certainly not homophobic, but it can be decidedly heterocentric at times. However, this does seem to be changing – albeit with the slowness of glaciers.

I also affirm the idea that all religions are looking at the same underlying  phenomenon from different perspectives; and that includes Christianity. There is much that we can learn from Christian spirituality, even though we reject most of the theology. There are plenty of heretical and mystical ideas that have come out of that tradition which are worth investigating. Many Christians are now interested in these ideas, and in Pagan ideas too. It’s time for dialogue, not flinging stereotypes at each other.

My approach to Wicca (and that of many other Wiccans in the UK) is experimental and fluid. I think that every witch should build up their own Book of Shadows, not regard the text inherited from Gerald Gardner as some kind of holy writ. Wicca is not a religion of the book, and should not become one. Our “holy book” is Nature, not the Book of Shadows. I have other “heretical” ideas about Wicca, which will probably appear in subsequent posts.

And finally, I think that the basis of theology is relationships – our relationships with each other and the world around us.

About Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow has been a Pagan since 1985 and a Wiccan since 1991. She has an MA in Contemporary Religions and Spiritualities from Bath Spa University, and lives and works in Oxford, UK. She has written four books on the mythology and folklore of trees, birds, and animals, and two anthologies of poetry. She is the editor of the Theologies of Immanence wiki, a collaborative project for creating grass-roots Pagan theology.

  • http://inhumandecency.org/christine Christine Kraemer

    > The deities need our finite, time-bound and local perspectives as much as we need their infinite, eternal and non-local perspectives.

    This is my experience too, but not one I find is all that common among devotional polytheists, with whom I otherwise share a lot of views. More often, I’ve been hearing the refrain that “the gods know better than we do” — although Raven Kaldera’s recent book, _Dealing with Deities,_ addresses the issue by saying that we can connect the gods at more and less transpersonal levels. The more personal the relationship with the god, he says, the more fallible the deity’s judgement.

    Very excited to have you here!

    • http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/ P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      Although, many of the deities that I serve (and who I have chosen to serve–they do not require it of me or of anyone else) don’t have infinite, eternal, or non-local perspectives; and yet the relationships that we have are very cooperative, mutualistically symbiotic, and fruitful, as well as being profoundly and penetratingly personal.

      Likely, we have some disagreements on terminology (which may or may not indicate disagreements in theology), but at some level are in relative agreement and sympathy on much of what’s been said by both Yvonne and Christine.

      And, Yvonne, I’m happy to meet another conscientious objector to the gender system, not only as it applies to much of modern Paganism, but of society more widely speaking! ;)

    • http://yaburrow.googlepages.com yvonne

      Yes, there are local deities and spirits of place, and we can’t be sure how infinite or non-local their perspective is, but either way, it is my view that we are allies and partners with deities, rather than their servants.

      I would be interested to discuss terminology and theology – the whole point of theology (in my view) is that it is discursive, provisional, and negotiated. It is poetry, not doctrine or dogma (as Christine said in an earlier post).

      “conscientious objector to the gender system” – I like that :) Happy to meet you too.

      • http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/ P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        It is certainly an indisputable fact that the work which the gods I deal with have wanted me to do in the world is stuff they can’t do, and that no one else besides me (at least that we know of yet!) can do, and thus to think of me as beholden to them is not at all correct; in many respects, they’re almost more beholden to me than I to them. And yet, I’m very conscious that a great deal of what I do is for them, and not for myself, and that I enjoy serving in that capacity for them. There is no doubt some ego satisfaction in being someone who is able to do something for GODS (!?!), but at the same time, I’m also aware of the fact that they know much more than I do, and are far more powerful in many ways than I am, even though I currently have advantages that they don’t. It’s a complex dance, but one that depends on recognizing that though our work is mutualistic and symbiotic, at the same time there are major power differentials, and to consider myself an equal to them at present would be incorrect, if not complete hubris.

        Certainly, the negotiated nature of theology is something that far too few people appreciate, and I’m glad you brought it up! ;)

        Will you be at PantheaCon, incidentally? Some of my gender conscientious objections will be taking place in ritual form there, and it would be great to meet you in person and not just virtually! But, virtual goes a long way in absence of other options, too!

        • http://heartofflame.blogspot.com Yvonne

          I live in the UK, so it would be expensive for me to get to PantheaCon.

          Your gender discombobulation rituals sound great.


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