Some days I feel like Cassandra. I’m uttering true prophecies and they’re being ignored.
Now, that’s not an entirely fair comparison. For one thing, I don’t do prophecies. My oracular work is mostly private and shared with a few people who are doing similar work themselves. What I write about here are observations and speculations: the Otherworld is bleeding through into this world, our experiences of the Fair Folk are growing (as opposed to shrinking, which is what previous generations reported), the storm we were warned about is strengthening.
And when I write about these things, most readers affirm what I’ve written. “Yes, I’m seeing the same things.” “This explains so much.” “I’m glad somebody is talking about this – I thought it was just me.”
At an intellectual level I know that’s all I can expect. Non-theists and other skeptics don’t believe there is a Veil between the worlds, so they’re never going to accept that said Veil is shredded. And I don’t need to convince them. My Paganism is many things, but it’s not an evangelical religion. Rejecting these prophecies doesn’t mean you’ll be “left behind.” It means you’ll have to deal with what’s coming from a perspective that’s incomplete and less useful than it could be. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
Nor am I disappointed with beginners, or with Pagans who have no interest in metaphysics and the currents of magic. Our Paganism – or Paganisms, if you prefer – needs to be big enough to include people at all levels of experience and interest. If all you really want to do is celebrate the coming of Spring and cast the occasional spell to heal a sick friend, that’s perfectly acceptable. Do your thing, do it joyously, and do it well.
I’m certainly not upset with those whose Pagan passions lie elsewhere. If you think climate change means the death of humanity, of course that’s going to be your top priority – and I know many of you feel like Cassandra yourselves. If you’ve taken oaths to a deity and that service occupies all your “free” hours, of course that’s going to keep you occupied. Fulfill your obligations and we can work together where our callings intersect and overlap.
I feel like Cassandra because too often, people who I know are intelligent, well-educated, experienced Pagans ignore what’s going on in our wider world. Pagans who have studied history watch obliviously as it repeats itself. People who call themselves witches and magicians overlook the evidence that the magical climate is changing just as much as the ordinary climate. People who swore oaths to mighty Gods act as though those oaths can be ignored when they become inconvenient.
And when I point out something that makes them uncomfortable, they make weak excuses or they suggest I’m under the influence of Christian eschatology. Or they just ignore the whole thing.
You have to have a thick skin if you write in public. In my early years as a blogger I learned that all I can control is what I write – I can’t control how people read it. Still, sometimes I don’t express myself clearly. Sometimes Mercury is retrograde and readers miss the point. And sometimes I don’t know as much as I think I do and I have to learn something the hard way.
This isn’t that.
This is people who, based on their own words and their own experiences, should be full participants in observing and cataloging the changes in our religious and magical environment, figuring out what those changes mean, and trying out new ways to respond to them.
Instead, they’re ignoring the message and trying to discredit the messenger.
This isn’t real for some of you
How real is your Paganism?
I’m not asking whether or not it meets some objective standard of reality, or even if it’s internally consistent. What I’m asking is how real is your Paganism to you? How much does your Paganism matter to you?
Do you see the Gods as real persons or as names to throw around to annoy your Christian friends? Do you believe your actions in this life affect your position in the afterlife, even if that’s only how you’re remembered in this world? Does magic really cause change in accordance with will, or it is just a way to look dark and edgy?
I’m a Unitarian Universalist as well as a Pagan – I’m not going to tell you what to believe. That’s for you to decide for yourself.
I’m just going to ask if this is real to you or not.
Some of you got scared
I try not to participate in the ridicule of “love and light” Pagans. The world needs more love and light, and helping it manifest is a good and noble calling. That’s not my calling, but if that’s where your passion lies, you have my sincere blessing and hope for good fortune and good results.
The problem comes when an emphasis on love and light turns into spiritual bypassing – avoiding the difficult parts of life instead of dealing with them head on. And spiritual bypassing often turns into gaslighting – trying to convince others that their problems aren’t really real.
Life isn’t all love and light, and not every spiritual being you encounter is here to help you learn and grow. Some of them don’t give a rat’s ass about your spiritual journey. Some of them would just as soon eat you.
I know more than a few Pagans who got a taste of the scarier elements of the spiritual world and reacted badly. A few of them ran into malicious spirits, some encountered a deity in Their power and might, and some simply experienced the ordinary but harsh realities of life. And so they decided to run as far away as they could.
Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick said “reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” If you want to spiritually bypass yourself, that’s your business. But what you saw or heard or felt didn’t go away just because you stuck your head in the sand.
Now, do you want to keep trying to rationalize it all away, or do you want to deal with the reality of your experiences?
Some of you are ignoring your oaths
Oaths are serious matters, not to be made lightly. Some people think we shouldn’t make oaths, but when done properly, oaths build a foundation of confidence and stability. But oaths – all oaths – are meant to be kept, with no exceptions.
An oath to a deity – or to another spiritual person, to another human, or to a human institution – isn’t a loose commitment. It’s not “I’ll do it, if I feel like it, and if I don’t get a better offer.” It’s not even a marriage. Wedding vows are oaths, but if a marriage goes badly there are clear procedures for ending it. There is no divorce court for the Gods.
Some of you made promises and you’re not keeping them.
You have your reasons, and maybe they’re acceptable. Our Gods are not the God of the Old Testament, just waiting to smite us for the slightest slip-up. Sometimes They cut us some slack, knowing we need to deal with this obligation or that condition before we can devote our full attention to Them. Sometimes They accept that you’re not going to do what you said you’d do and They move on.
And sometimes They want what They were promised and They want it now.
I see too many people who made oaths they’re not keeping, and so they ignore or reject anything that reminds of them of their commitment.
Including the observations and theories of inconvenient Druids.
Some of you are having to rethink things you don’t want to question
Spiritual experiences will force you to question everything you thought was true. Sometimes that’s refreshing, as when you realize that what you were taught in Sunday School ain’t necessarily so. Other times, though, questioning what you always thought was true is so troubling you don’t want to do it. Things like…
Deep down all religions aren’t the same.
Electing the “right” candidate isn’t going to solve all our problems.
Perpetual growth is not only a myth, it’s both impossible and undesirable.
Materialism is an assumption made by scientists, not a finding of science.
And perhaps the most difficult of all: life isn’t all about us, as individuals, as nations, or even as a species.
When you pay attention to what’s going on in this world, in the Otherworld, and in their intersection, these and other hard truths begin to become apparent.
As anyone who’s ever debated politics knows, when you present most people with evidence that what they believe is false they deny the evidence and double down on what they’ve always believed. The urge to feel like we’ve always been right is greater than the desire to actually be right.
And so we ignore people who challenge our ways of thinking.
If this is you
I don’t want you or anyone else to believe something just because I say it’s true. If you genuinely think I’m wrong, make your case. My desire to know is far greater than my desire to be seen as some sort of infallible authority… which I’m not, and don’t want to be.
But I would be lying if I said that it doesn’t bother me when intelligent and well-educated Pagans ignore what I have to say because it’s frightening or because it’s inconvenient.
You don’t owe me anything, and if you decide to reject or ignore what I see coming, that’s your right and your choice.
Just make sure it’s a conscious choice, and not one made out of fear of something you wish would go away.
If this isn’t you
If you’re seeing the same things I’m seeing – to a greater or lesser extent – and you’re dealing with them as best you can, you’re who I’m writing this post for. Your confirmations and corroborations remind me that I’m not Cassandra, no matter how I may feel. I thank you for that.
But if I’m seeing rejections and denials then so are you. We’re used to it from the mainstream culture, but we expect better from our fellow Pagans. And when we don’t get better responses we start to doubt ourselves. Not in a healthy “let’s examine this carefully” way, but in a gaslighting “maybe I didn’t really see what I know I saw” way.
That’s not helpful for me and it’s not helpful for you, especially when our world is changing at a pace never before seen in the history of humanity.
So let’s continue to share our observations and analyses of Otherworldly experiences. Let’s continue forming hypotheses about what’s going on and experimenting with different ways to respond. Let’s talk about what works, what doesn’t, and what it all means.
When we start to feel like no one believes us we can compare notes and understand we’re all in this together. And we can remember one final thing, something that’s very, very important.
Cassandra was right.