In the past couple of weeks an author on Patheos had an open Q&A. I asked about their decision to remain a Druid and what kept them on the path. After mulling over their article I thought it might be good to post my own article on the topic. So that is what this article is going to discuss. I want to go over areas that support my decision to remain on the Pagan path and two of the largest reasons I am excited to be Pagan. Additionally, I will also go over my winding path and how it is coming to a point that beckons me to consider my future within Paganism.
Choosing to walk down the path of Paganism happens for different reasons for each of us. My introduction to Paganism may feel pretty similar for a lot of you. I began my studies at the age of twelve and fully committed to being an Eclectic Wiccan at the age of thirteen. I’ve experienced the sweets and bitters when it comes to being Pagan. Though my experiences created cracks that allowed doubt to seep in, I always return, and continue to walk the Pagan path. I think this was largely to do with my perspective of the universe but also the passion of learning about Pagansim.
Blinded Me with Science
Science is something of a repeat in my blog posts. The various forms of science are something that pop up in my use of herbs, how I view cosmology, and it helps me regenerate curiosity about my place in the universe. As a modern practicing Pagan I have had ample area to compare beliefs and practices with scientific methods. This thrills me once I finally establish a connection and it only pushes my curiosity when I cannot. Moreover, the ability to discuss science in comparison to my religious beliefs has given me a platform that allows my voice to be heard. I refer to science fairly often when I am exposed to a new concept or idea and it is a source of comfort for me.
Sometimes referring to science to validate my practice has good intentions but I have sometimes missed the mark. An example that I once used (and see often) is the misunderstood use of the Law of Conservation of Energy. We hear something that tells us energy cannot be created or destroyed and run with it. The problem here is that we haven’t finished the last part of the law or bothered to examine how it is applied. It might disappoint some of you to know that this law cannot be used to prove we continue after death. It is used to examine energy in motion and how energy can be transferred or transformed (no, not as in ghosts, stop it).
So what should we be doing instead? First, I like to eat a slice of humble pie. I am not a scientist and I rely on individuals with a reputable scholarship to inform me about scientific theories and laws. Second, we need to stop looking at micro-level arguments. Looking at laws and theories in a singular frame of science does not help us examine the bigger picture. We need to look at the macro-level arguments that are not only tested but extremely well studied. The theory and sciences I source most frequently are String Theory and Paradoxical Quantum Physics.
Since I am not a researcher or scientist I have to do the work and trudge through the dry desert of articles and books around these topics. Why do I frequently return to these two areas to help my mind justify my practices? String Theory appeals to me because of the way it is explained by scientists. The theory is explained metaphorically with strings in a piano. We can observe how one string can play multiple notes based on vibration. String theory says that fundamental constituents of the universe are one-dimensional “strings” instead of pointed particles. Particles are viewed as vibrations in loops of a string, each with its own characteristic frequency. String theory requires six or seven extra dimensions of space, and it helps us to connect large extra dimensions to small ones. Exciting, no?!
Paradoxical Quantum Physics examines the paradoxes found in quantum physics. Although there are not many areas to talk about in this area, the areas that do exist are quite deep in explanation. I highly recommend researching these for yourself. The area that excites me the most is quantum entanglement. Science Daily describes this theory as such ‘Quantum entanglement is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which the quantum states of two or more objects have to be described with reference to each other, even though the individual objects may be spatially separated.’ The idea that two mathematical objects that are separated will react to the other blows my mind!
I get that a lot of this can be overwhelming to examine and even in some cases not interesting to people. For me, it was necessary to know that I wasn’t submitting myself to a faith that did not have room for scientific reason. After leaving Christianity and practicing Wicca for some time, I had to find a way to connect my logical mind with my intuitive feelings. It is so important that we equip our minds with knowledge and passion. Without being a Pagan, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to make some of these enlightening connections.
I’m Observing Your Framework and It Looks Great
Framework, as I am going to use it in this blog, is a basic structure and underlying system used to support religious beliefs. I like the term framework because it does not have to limit a person’s practices while utilizing the structure and support of a particular set of beliefs. Metaphorically speaking, it is like a decorative frame and the art within is created by you. You get to choose what the picture looks like and the frame is what holds it all together.
Beyond being fascinating, I find that observing people’s frameworks provides me with new angles in my own framework. We get to format our theism, our practice, our cosmological beliefs, and so much more. The framework you choose should help give perspective about where you stand in the universe. It also needs to be solid enough to support you in times of need.
So how do we begin the process of structuring our framework? You may not like the answer but the base of this process is trial and error. Since this is meant to support your spirituality, only you can determine the right structure. There are resources out there and people who are willing to help answer questions. When dealing with outside resources be cautious of anybody who is proclaiming their methods are the only / correct method (it is super rare but it does happen). Books are also going to be your best friends throughout this journey, along with journaling.
Stepping back I can see how observing framework and my love for science look very similar. That isn’t just coincidence. Having a naturally curious mind is my maddening way of navigating the world and is one of the key parts in my framework. Remember that pretty metaphor I mentioned above about the orchard? It is part of why I love being Pagan. My curious mind is allowed to seek out various fruits and listen to the wisdom around me. I can be as structured or as nebulous as I like and that doesn’t cause a flinch! Not many religious paths can say they allow the same freedoms as those found within Paganism.
All Roads Lead Back to You
This section is a bit more sentimental but hopefully not disjointed. I want to encourage people to examine their beliefs, question ideas, and to remain skeptical. However, at the end of the day I want us all to practice what makes us happy. Throughout my 20 years along the Pagan path there have been some serious deviations. My doubts and anxieties trump up blindness towards sentimental feelings and intuition. I like to fancy myself as someone who is deeply logical and has little room for items that cannot fit within scientific reasoning.
All of the scientific reasoning is wonderful but it isn’t my whole picture. Another side of me has a stronger determination than my logic, and it controls my interior compass. Every time I deviated, I have always come back to my Pagan practice. Each time I thought Paganism had served its purpose, I find another reason to stay. This is because Paganism was a safe space through a very dark past and is now a relevant friend in my present. Paganism shows me that my potential is not limited to something mechanical or materialistic. I have found creativity by being Pagan. I have found a connection with other Pagans that is purely kinetic.
There are still moments where I doubt myself, and my husband calls it cycling. Though I think that sounds a bit manic considering what is happening internally, he isn’t completely wrong. I cycle through and observe my doubts to see if there is something I am misunderstanding. Usually the issue can be remedied by reaching out to other Pagans. There are times I have had to reach out to other areas of specialty to find an answer for my curiosities. Reaching out to others has given me the humility and wisdom to continue expanding.
My deviations have lead me down some interesting paths and I have picked up some tools along the way. My time studying Buddhism has taught me how to better meditate and be mindful of the gaps between actions. My time looking into Atheism gave me the tools to observe and ask better questions. Even my time in the broom closet had some positives. Yet, it is my time as an open Pagan that has given me the most in life.
Will My Path Change?
I can understand how reading my blog posts seem as if I am on the verge of leaving the Pagan tent. However, I can assure you that this tent is where I find peace. The community is filled with personalities that understand what it is like to be recognized as distinctly different. Some Pagans can relate with my personal struggles, while others are more likely to be deeply sympathetic. Moreover, none of us are here to tear the other party down for their beliefs. It comforts me to be surrounded by unique, creative, and gifted individuals.
Having said all of that it is still a good thing to ask if my path will change. Naturally, from the first steps I took as a Pagan at a local library to where I am now, have already changed greatly. My spirituality started with books from Scott Cunningham, Ellen Dugan, Raymond Buckland, and then expanded outside of Pagan authors. You can see that I have been heavily influenced by various schools of Buddhism and scientific reasoning as well. Yet the thing that has not changed all along the path is the religion / spiritual label I evolved under, Eclectic Wicca.
Admittedly, I have wandered around our giant orchard of Paganism to sample the rituals and basic beliefs followed by other paths. There is beauty to be found in all of the paths I have sampled and in those I have not. Druidism, for example, constantly reappears in my interests. Some of the best conversations I have had about Paganism have come from Druids. I have also tried my hand in some outer courts of Coven Based Wicca (e.g. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and Brown). Choosing to participate in an outer court has helped to expand my knowledge of Wicca and what it means to practice a deeper form of the religion. There is something deeply profound to the practice and in having a mentor along the way. There is definitely more to Wicca than most Wiccans even know about.
Am I shifting gears at this time? No, not quite there yet. I am devouring books and as much information as I can before making such a major decision. As I near the fork in the road there are roadblocks to consider beforehand. One such consideration is around community and available teachers. Community is a large part of my practice and both Coven-Based Wicca and Druidry are short in numbers around Utah. This means that I have to fly or drive out of state to practice with a coven or pay a lot of money for Druid study materials.
Another option is to continue evolving on my current path and to cherry-pick lessons from areas that appeal most to me. After all, that is some of the benefits in being eclectic. However, I have this aching intuition that it will soon be time to choose a concrete path. We can call it intuition or even exhaustion from picking so many cherries. Whatever the future brings, I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to sharing it here as well. For now, I am still on the path of an Eclectic Wiccan and continue to study, reflect, meditate, and hope that I am confident to make a decision when the time comes.