Wheh! I really had my recent commitment to abstain from Internet drama put to the test yesterday. I’ve been avoiding the more provocative writers and sites, so I can focus on what really matters. But I thought it would be okay to visit a friend’s blog. The title of the post really should have been a warning.
I was disappointed to find him belittling and offering backhanded compliments of other people’s Paganism (OPP) — which incidentally included my own Paganism. Not to mention my surprise to read their praise for one of the most extreme and uncivil Pagan bloggers I know. All of this from someone who I have previously held up as as an example of balance and moderation in the Pagan community.
To my friend, I say, I know all too well the trap of being unable to speak positively on one’s own religion without speaking negatively about someone else’s (being guilty of it myself), and I hope you will not continue down that road.
Now, my habit would be to respond to their post a post of my own, to break it all down line by line, and then hit back with a rebuttal. I would be dismissive of their religion in turn. And then a debate would ensue on some internet forum about what I said and what I meant and what they said and what they meant.
Instead, I went to my altar. On my altar are images of many gods and other symbols of my faith. I lit a candle and I prayed:
This is my sacred fire.
This is my holy place
These are the words of my prayer …
And I called my gods — the gods within.
I called the Green and Amber Man. I called the Loathly Man. I called the Scarlet Woman.
I held space and I listened. I listened to the place where the words come from.
And then I offered a prayer to Mother Night. Mother Night, who recently broke me open and revealed a part of me to myself that I have been hiding from for many years. I asked her to be gentle with my newly exposed part, to nurture it, to let it grow strong.
These are my gods. Yes, they are aspects of my higher Self — just as is my walking conscious self. And my relationships with them are as real as my relationships with other people in my life — indeed, the gods often hide behind the faces of other people in my life … or the face I see in the mirror. And they are dangerous gods too — especially when they ride me while I am not conscious of them or when one of them becomes tyrannical and attempts to dominate the others. Some may say these are not gods, but I concur with Neil Gaiman when he said: “Gods are great. But the heart is greater. For it is from our hearts they come, and to our hearts they shall return.”
And then I went outside my other altar. I bent down beneath a tree, now bare, and before the recovered headstone of my great-great-great grandfather, where I have offered many a libation, beneath which is buried the effigy of the slain god I buried at the autumn equinox. I breathed in the crisp late-autumn air. I felt the moist ground beneath my feet, sunk my fingers into the soil. I looked up at the stars, Orion shining bright, unimaginably distant and yet present.
And I listened to my other gods — the gods without. I listened to the ground and the sky, the night and the stars, the wind and the tree. These gods are aspects the Great Goddess that is the Earth, who is part of the even Greater Goddess that is the Cosmos — as am I. But the Great Goddesses are usually too vast for me to hear, so I listen to ground and sky, night and stars, wind and tree. I listened to these gods with my ears … but I also “listened” with my nose, my tongue, my skin, and my eyes. And these gods spoke to me, in a language not of words, a language both alien and yet familiar — familiar to a part of myself that often seems alien to me.
Some may say these are not gods, either. But with Robert Browning, I ask, “What is it else that rules outside man’s self?”*
Let others say their Paganism is “deeper” than mine. Let others say my gods aren’t real enough or distinct enough. Let others say that I’m afraid to answer the call of their gods. Let others say my gods are limited or safe. I know better.
These are my gods. They are real without reification. They are mine, and I am theirs.
I am a Jungian polytheist. I am an atheist Pagan. I am a religious naturalist. I’m a post-theistic pantheist. Maybe these words don’t make sense to some people. They’ll have to deal with it … or not.
In the meantime, I’ll be communing with my gods.
Grok Earth. Praise Mama. Thou Art Goddess.
* Robert Browning:
“I saw that there are, first and above all,
The hidden forces, blind necessities,
Named Nature, but the thing’s self unconceived :
Then follow, — how dependent upon these,
We know not, how imposed above ourselves,
We well know, — what I name the gods, a power
Various or one ; for great and strong and good
Is there, and little, weak and bad there too,
Wisdom and folly : say, these make no God, —
What is it else that rules outside man’s self?”