This weekend I finished reading Seeking the Mystery by Patheo’s own Christine Hoff Kraemer. It is on sale at Amazon for $0.99 through the end of the business day on Tuesday (Kindle edition), then available at $2.99 (half price) for the next week. There is also a paperback version available and the book includes activities and discussion questions for individuals and groups. I enjoyed many things about this book, particularly the succinct explanation of the potent relevance of practice in the lives of Pagans:
For Pagans, however, practice is at the center of their religious lives; shared practice, not shared belief, is what ties groups together….
…Religion becomes less about what people believe about the divine or the nature of the world, and more about how they behave.
Kraemer also writes about the role of the personal spiritual experience, another concept I identified with deeply:
The starting place for any individual Pagan’s theology is the personal spiritual experience. As Pagans, we ask ourselves: What makes me feel uplifted, connected, deeply compassionate, or ecstatically joyful? What helps me to cope with the anxieties or pressures of everyday life and present my best self to the world? When has my breath caught from an upwelling of beauty, or when have I been shaken to my core by awe? These questions help to pinpoint the foundational spiritual encounters that often arise spontaneously, yet can be easily forgotten without a practice that puts them into context. Seeking out such spiritual experiences and integrating them into a fulfilling life is a vital way that Pagans do theology.
And about the role of nature, which I identified with even more:
Pagan theologian Starhawk wrote an article titled “Religion from Nature, Not from Archaeology.” I would alter that slightly to say “Religion from Experience”— for Pagan theology is strongest when based on our collective and individual experiences, not just of nature, but also of our own bodies and minds. Though we often think of ourselves as being separate from our environment, we are an integral part of its complex organic system. The attempt to regain our connectedness with the world is the strength of contemporary Paganism, not a speculative connection to particular versions of history.
As I read Seeking the Mystery and thought about my own experiences, I recalled a potent moment with my toddler daughter early this year. I was working on a lesson centered on the Maiden for my Triple Goddess course at Ocean Seminary College. As I considered the Maiden, I realized I felt extremely disconnected from the Maiden archetype in my own life, not really giving her much thought. I acknowledged in my assignment that I connect deeply to the Mother and am maybe even too embedded in that archetype. I also noticed I can even look forward to the Crone with some degree of understanding or anticipation, I think because I have strong women around me in that stage of life and I feel I learn from watching their experiences and hearing their voices and opinions. The Maiden, however, she’s distant past. If the signature event of the Maiden stage is menarche, I do feel as if I’m starting to reclaim menstruation in my life as a “shamanic event” and as an important biological and even spiritual occurrence, rather than as a nuisance. But, the Maiden goes beyond just menarche (or being virgin), she is a feeling too. A freespiritedness. I’ve been serious for a long time. While on break from teaching over the winter, I was laughing in the kitchen and being totally silly with my family and I said to my husband, “I forgot that I’m really funny.” I think the Maiden reminds me of this.
I had the realization that what the Maiden is ready to remind me of is to have fun and to play, to remember to bring those things to the fore and not always be working/getting things done/being productive (though, those things are also often fun for me!). I’d gone to the woods to think and write and I came into the house all ready to type up my thoughts and observations for my lesson. My little almost-two-year old daughter, however, was getting out candles and setting up a ritual. She spread out a cloth and set up little goddesses and stones and candles and was tugging at me and calling to me to the light the candles. I was kind of shrugging her off and saying, “not now, honey, I need to do something first,” and suddenly I was like oh my goddess, DUH, this IS THE MAIDEN RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME and she has a plan! And, I’d come very, very close to missing it, and also, flat-out missing the whole point of what I was trying to learn from this lesson. So, my husband and I both sat with our daughter on the floor in the little altar space she had created and we all held our lit candles and spent some sacred, Maiden time together:
After getting her little ritual space set up. I’m really interested by how she sets it all up and arranges things…
This picture was taken around the Winter Solstice. I’d participated in an online winter solstice ritual offered by Global Goddess and Alaina was fascinated by lighting the candle and sitting on the floor with me. Ever since then, she is so excited to get out candles and lay out little altars on the floor. Look how pleased she is with herself
What are some ways that your integrate spiritual practices into your lives with toddlers?
Post is adapted from an older post: