When they tell you to take baby steps, I didn’t know that walking was so overwhelming …. metaphorically. Recently, I emboldened myself to come out of the Pagan pantry and express my identity as a Druid. The process of figuring out why Druidry fit better than other faiths took quite a bit of work and yet I have failed. I continuously failed to address the underlying truths within myself.
In this article, I want to go over some of the initial items that I have had to tackle as I started my journey in Druidism. Moreover, we will examine the cognitive dissonance involved with my continued practice of Paganism. So buckle up, be prepared for triggering statements, and look forward to informative information throughout the article.
We all have expectations whenever we enter into something new, even if we tell ourselves otherwise. It would almost be un-human to not have some expectations about pursuing a new faith. After all, if you took the time to research and genuinely paused before making the commitment, there is already a foundation formulating. Humans tend to avoid being reckless with decisions around faith, and we are hard-wired to establish and seek patterns. Not this man though, I didn’t pause nearly long enough.
My expectations were very unrealistic as I approached Druidism. I came into my studies with a true desire for something fulfilling. Up until this point, I had not experienced a Pagan faith that checked all of the boxes. Though I cannot critique OBOD in their material, I can critique my dissonance.
I keep referring to this phrase ‘cognitive dissonance’ but what does it even mean? The website verwellmind states, “The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes. People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort.”
The sensation of being uncomfortable because of contrasting beliefs is a marker that I have not addressed in my spirituality. There are major pitfalls when we try to rationalize actions we take that lead to embarrassment once we face our errors. For me, the experience of guilt, shame, and embarrassment have been exceptionally heavy whenever I explore religions and faith.
I never felt forced or pressured into joining a Druid order. The decision was mine and though I was influenced by the belief that I would connect with a higher power, the fault was all mine. My expectation was that I would find a faith that felt closer to what I believe and that I would finally experience a deity’s presence. Druidism was not the problem. I can say that Druidism does indeed match several of my beliefs but something was still missing. So what happens next?
I’ve established my primary concerns at this point, and that is the first battle. Next, I had to begin addressing my clashing thoughts. To separate which beliefs are moral and which beliefs are spiritual. The challenge is that you are battling your own mind. Not only is this exhausting but it can lead to clashing thoughts and even anxiety.
I handle anxiety like most of us do nowadays, online aptitude tests (I know, not exactly a science). The results were in and I was placed with a top three that somehow made perfect sense. 1. Secular Humanism 2. Mahayana Buddhism 3. Reconstructed Paganism. How did a series of algorithms know me better than I knew myself? More importantly, why did it take a Select O’ Matic quiz to jolt me into action?
Look, I know you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Oh great, another Pagan that went off their rocker and calls this whole thing a sham”. You’d be wrong, well mostly that is. The impact from my cognitive dissonance truly does sadden me. My heart wants to believe in some form of Paganism. I have experienced more joy than I can describe in any amount of words and yet I have also suffered immense distress internally. I felt like a fraud every time I stood in circle or worked with some outstanding people. My anxiety does not discredit the hard work and beliefs of anyone in the Pagan community.
The work I have done for several years has all been in an effort to understand my place in this vast universe. I have worked with therapists, I have studied various faiths, I have read books, blogs, and even tried to contribute to the Pagan community. The work we do is valuable in creating a centralized system of personal values. That is at the core of what I have done.
Unraveling the adopted beliefs and ideas that I used to justify my conflict was the hardest part. I hid my beliefs, even in my blogs. I have hinted at the disbelief in a deity for years. Usually masked behind statements such as, “I haven’t felt a connection” or “It would be great to have a deity slap me upside the head”. There are plenty of people who tried to tell me that my prospects were dim if this is what I needed from a higher power.
At the end of the day the advice I have been given has been nothing short of a confirmation bias. I only sought information that would confirm an existing belief and hoped it would minimize the feelings of dissonance. It doesn’t though and it diminished the ability to critically think for myself. I had to push aside working with other Pagans in order to explore outside theories around theology.
Before you worry too much, please know I did not turn to another religion to help sort out my feelings. This will not be an article that tries to shine a light on Jesus and shake the hedonism out of you. Pleasure and hedonism are actually central points in my conjecture. Thus far you have read about my discomfort and anxiety. I couldn’t let you think that I would allow my article to be so dismal. Although my work isn’t complete I am forming a basis; you’ll just have to keep reading.
Do I have critiques for the Pagan community? Absolutely! This section will cover some of my critiques. Obviously, this section is where I will likely land myself in some hot water. I would like to preface with a statement. None of this is definitive or intended to harm individuals. These views are my own and should be taken with a millimeter of a grain of salt. If you feel angry or heated by anything, just close the article, and walk away.
- You will never get it right: One thing I cannot stand is needless debating. Especially when a view cannot be supported with reasoning. Online, we drop our manners and let everything fly! It creates a sense that no matter how educated you are, how versed you can be, or how well you do something; you’ll never get it quite right. This is a personal sensation but it is also one that many Pagans have created content about. We pick at each other and don’t realize how destructive that can be.
- There needs to be better material: Often enough there are divisions between Reconstructionists and Revivalists within the community. The unfortunate impact of this is that Revivalists are missing out on extraordinary material that can help support their faith. The product we get when we suppress scholarship is repetitive information that is outdated and poor. There are some authors who are working extremely hard to break this pattern and I commend their efforts!
- Compassion expansion: We are in a pandemic, people. I’m going to be blunt and just say it. If you’re not willing to get vaccinated and you do not have a valid medical reason for avoiding this vaccine; you are a massive problem! The lack of compassion for others is glaringly bright in these modern times. The expansion of compassion carries beyond doing the right thing for our global community by being vaccinated. The expansion includes efforts to actually reduce plastic waste, doing humanitarian efforts, and stepping it up for our home. This planet is all we have and so are the people on it. Like it or not, you are stuck here with the other 7.8 billion people, so you may as well try being compassionate.
- Embrace science: This one is probably the most profound area that I need to talk about and the shortest. Do not be afraid of science and do not be afraid of change. Many Pagans openly incorporate scientific reasoning into their beliefs and they are doing just fine. We need more bleeding of science into Paganism. As Ru Paul says, “Reading is what? FUNdamental!”
My Current Position – Ending Thoughts
Here we are and thank you for reading to this point. Some of you might disagree with everything I have said so far and others might find a bit of themselves in my words. People like to believe they are logical beings that are good at making decisions. Unfortunately, we aren’t always the best at making long-term decisions. Humans are wired to choose a pattern that appears easier and sometimes that can force us to deal with some form of dissonance.
I may not have all of the answers at this point but I do have some. There are things that I will have to continue studying and there are some things that I just need to openly accept about myself. This blog is not easy to write. It creates a gap between the community I love and the things I truly believe. The largest lesson that the Pagan community and the LGBTQIA+ community has taught me is the value in accepting who we are.
- Agnostic Atheism: It feels very good to finally admit this out loud. The lack of connection with deity and conflicts with scientific reasoning leave zero room for belief in my life. I leave room for possibility but cannot see the point in worrying about the existence of a deity or deities.
- Environmentalism: This is a moral area of my life. I acknowledge global warming (how can you not at this point!) and the destruction caused by capitalism. The effort to better our planet can be tied into religion but it is not a religious affiliation, for me.
- Education and Curiosity: My education is keen in assessing the world around me. I maintain curiosity surrounding scientific reasoning, theories, and numerous other topics. As I explore these topics I would like to maintain a higher level of scholarship. It has become an expectation that material I consume should come from a reputable source.
- Magick: My belief in magick is strictly in alignment with the placebo effect. This is a powerful tool that can enhance our lives but I do not believe it shifts into anything further. This statement is purely from my twenty years of experience. This view on magick extends into divination and astrology.
- Mediums: This is an area that has recently pushed some buttons for me. I cannot tolerate cold reading or hot reading. These techniques take advantage of people in a vulnerable state and exploit them for money. This one gets a massive wag of my finger!
- Diversity & Inclusion Statements: It should go without saying that all groups need to take a firm stance against racism, sexism, bigotry, and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. There is zero room for nationalists or hate in the modern world or religion in general.
- My isms: I have no idea where I stand at this point with my ‘ism’. By this I mean my religion of choice. There isn’t much else to say here and that is okay.
Druidry, Wicca, and Witchcraft have been a part of my life for over twenty years. I am grateful for every experience that has come with identifying as Pagan. Although I am at a nexus currently, it doesn’t feel as uncomfortable. Lying to myself in hopes that I could find the divine was far more painful than this situation. Will this remove me from Paganism entirely? I cannot say at this point. Will I be shunned by certain people? Maybe. The path is not clear right now but the morality of carrying on a confirmation bias is not acceptable anymore.
Whoever you are and wherever you are reading this, I hope you will always find peace with yourself. Stay curious, expand your knowledge, be compassionate, and get vaccinated for goodness sakes! I sincerely hope you have enjoyed my content and have found the information useful. Below are some links surrounding Druid Reconstruction, Revivalist movements, and I’ve tossed into some Secular websites as well.
- Paganachd: Collective authored answers to questions about Celtic Reconstructionism.
- Tairis: A Gaelic Polytheist website that focuses on resources and practices in Scotland.
- An Chuallacht Ghaol Naofa: A website that is dedicated to education, community, restoration, practice, and preservation of Gaelic Polytheism.
- Dagda Bard: A website that explores Ireland’s lore, tales, and history.
- Irish Pagan School: A central hub for educational material surrounding Irish Paganism, language, and culture.
- OBOD: Modern Druid order that offers comprehensive training, some free material, and membership to a worldwide community. Based in the United Kingdom.
- Ár nDraíocht Féin: Polytheistic Druid order that offers training, ritual outline, and an Indo-European outlook. Based in the United States.
- OBOD – Kilkenny, Ireland Grove: This is a grove website that has helpful information for applying OBOD material in the Irish language.
- John Beckett – Patheos: John’s writing is indisputably one of the most beneficial sources out there. This article focuses on reciprocity and the Gods.