As Pagans, we have a responsibility to ourselves that we might not know about yet. There’s no handbook, no bible, or even much of a history to guide us into the adventure that Modern Paganism has afforded us. I’ve walked around a good number of Pagan events in the last year and I see such brave people reaching for a dream that hasn’t begun to manifest to it’s truest potential. It might be some one getting their first tarot card reading from a Seer, or it might be a student asking about the particular properties of a gem stone for some sort of self improvement, and it also seeing our children dance around some one playing a traditional Native American drum. They jump, twist, and turn with bright smiles upon their faces, performing a sacred unknown waltz that’s been lost to us in history.
Paganism is rebuilding Herself and Her people are a direct reflection of that crazy desire for more substance to our daily lives. We’re in the infancy and we are effectively the new parents staring down into the crib at this beautiful little idea that has yet to show us it’s true marvels. We have an idea of what our ancient breathen knew although we have far less a whole picture and much more just a slither of truth. We are all clasping at that same little precious slither and whether we choose to accept it or not, we are in charge of how that dream unfolds.
I’m not special, and what I mean by that is that I was born, I struggled for a long time, I found Paganism and my life stayed as it was until I decided to own being a Pagan. I lost lovers, I felt betrayed by humanity, and I had a distrust of myself so strong that it carried over into other social relationships. I’m a mirror, a reflection of the same issues effecting every person in this modern age. I was waiting for some savior, some one to go ahead of me so I could follow and while I would have never openly admitted it, I was scared of being in control of myself.
Depression and anxiety haunted me every day of my life. The fear of what was, what could be overwhelmed me and tangled its self into every dream and fleeting thought. I felt like I was being suffocated by the universe. The choke hold was so strong that it began to affect me mentally and cause moment after moment of strife and pain. I felt so isolated, reaching out to others was just too painful and I felt as if no one could understand what I was going through. I didn’t want to be judged by others because that meant facing what I am on the inside and the outside world was enough for me to process. I locked myself inside, indulging in mental vacations and fantasies so I didn’t have to face the truth. Silence and darkness scared me and for a long time, that’s how I defined death.
Then one day, I came to a Pagan community. I was warmly accepted although what transpired next was of my own doing. While I was now suddenly surrounded by fellow Pagans who were going through similar experiences as me, I was still programmed to distrust. Instead of opening up and embracing this reality, I jumped between conversations and exchanges like a frog across a busy road. I faltered, changes my story, backtracked and then sadly, I began to avoid people to the point of re-isolating myself from society. With that decision came a special consequence, a journey to Tartarus that was personalized just for me and my situation. Now that I knew there were others like me, I couldn’t live in my own fantasies any more. Nothing I did satisfied the need to interact and connect with folks. I had a big problem, I wasn’t the same person any more and now that reality was staring me right in the eyes and evaluating my decisions.
I came back, I battled the same emotions again. I was so afraid to be judged. While life passed me by, caught in the psychic prison of my thoughts, my community began to change too. New people brought new ideas and I saw old friends struggling to keep up. What was once normal was now alien. Communities change, though. They are filled with people and the process is organic. There was no fault to it and I had to accept on some level that these changes were going to effect me. There was no distraction as the intensity of these changes began to occur and I felt isolated once again.
A moment of Satori happened one sunny day when I realized that the issue wasn’t the outside world, it was the inside world that I also inhabited. During a particularly memorable nervous break down, one that I actually allowed myself to realize was a cry for help, everything became much more clear. Tear-stained and breathing quickly, my mind raced to find answers. I was done retreating from reality, it was time to embrace it if I wanted any semblance of peace in my life. My thoughts, memories, and experiences were all tarnished by the abuse I had sustained throughout my life. I was essentially replaying old tapes over a new life and trying to gain a foothold on a craggy cliff. If I wanted things to actually change, I had to get rid of these tapes and learn how to interact with folks on a grander scale. I was done being a prisoner to my thoughts and emotions and I was ready to do something about it.
First I had to abandon this sense of always needing to be right. It was killing me in every way a toxic thought can as it creeps around reality and distorts it. Also, had to stop assuming I was special and embrace that I was just like all of the other people around me. That last thought sounds horrifying. It means I had to abandon my initial, twisted assessments of people that were formed based off of past programming and really look into them to see the commonalities and differences that were actually there. Honesty with myself had to be my number one priority and the foundation on which all things were built. I had to admit that I was wrong or in some cases, very right about certain situations. It took reliving my entire past in what seemed like a single night, shaking and gasping for air as visions of the abuse and train wreck of my life rolled forward. I began to make connections to things and understand my own motivations.
You know why I didn’t like person A? Because I had so much in common with that person and hated myself, how could I possibly call them Sister or Brother? I felt my malice and negativity begin to wash away and my breathing became easier. My back problems, the tension and stress caused by injury and misery was getting better. My body felt like a new one and my eyes were no longer shrouded by the past. I took every situation as it was and didn’t read between the lines. I found out why I was attracted to some people and put off by others. Letting go of past anger to cherish the moment was one of the healthiest things I ever did for myself. I didn’t have to be playing a part in a play and could for once live the way I wanted to live. Once I began the process of conquering my own mind and emotions, the walls of the prison began to shake and crumble.
The Buddha was always an inspiration of mine. The idea of a world full of suffering and escaping such a mess was bliss. Finding that I was not alone, isolated, or even remotely special freed me from the bonds and expectations that society placed on me and what I did to myself. I discovered that real escape from suffering is acknowledging it in others and doing all that I could to be there for that person. It didn’t mean putting up with crap, doing anything unhealthy, or allowing abuse to happen. It meant calling it out in such a way that the person who was acting inappropriately could actually understand what was being told to them instead of blindly attacking them for their actions. It meant actually owning being a healer instead of some one who clings to old beliefs for no real reason. Being accountable for the mistakes, the victories, and all the actions that entangled me with others became my new focus.
I learned to love enemies and understand their motivations. Instead of seeing people as good or bad, I learned to see them as they are and not superimpose an image of some one else from my past over them. It made for deeper, more meaningful relationships and in some cases, very unbreakable bonds that transcend this life. I started to laugh at myself as I stumbled through the overgrown jungle of society. I still made mistakes yet I didn’t fear judgement. Judgement gave me absolution and a way to change the things about myself that I didn’t like. I learned that evolution was not just a word in a text book or a controversy between religious systems. True evolution is a living process that is occurring right now, inside of each of us.
I’m not asking the Pagan community to change over night or to disparage itself. I see people who want to be healers and yet harbor that same distrust of each other that we all share. That doesn’t make them “bad” it just tells us where we are right now. Communities falling apart and fighting over things that won’t matter in five years is a direct reflection of our personal lives and relationships with each other. We are not victims or those waiting for a Savior to come and save us. In a sacred Circle, I also see individuals who have such power and though they are trapped in a prison, they possess all the tools they need to escape. It’s going to require a different focus. It’s not about how person A worships Osiris, it’s about banding together so we can learn and understand together. We are all equally stumbling, gasping for breath, and trying to find a slither of truth for ourselves.
Here’s what I’m asking you, Paganism. Can you finally own the fact that you have the ability to fix yourself? It might be a twisting path, a straight walk into oblivion, or a messy train wreck, yet would you at least acknowledge that you can do this for yourself? There’s no payment plan, no special offer, no Magick Shaman more powerful than you in this universe and you can change things and ideas. Stop rolling over is all I’m asking and reach down and do what’s right for you. Let your voice rise up and also let your heart open up so you can actually hear what’s being said by your fellow Witches and Pagans. I expect better from myself, and as the saying goes, “As Above, So Below,” which means, for those of you that don’t know, that the inner world changes the outer world. That’s a very simple explanation and it’s saying that we have so much in-fighting, people feeling helpless, and isolation in HUGE events and intentional Communities. What are we trying to accomplish that we can’t do for ourselves?
We can do it. We can rise up together. There’s no single individual in this cause that’s more important than the Brother or Sister standing beside them. Like Magick, this is a group effort and the more people that have the same visualization will manifest a dream that we can all call the Vision of Paganism. Don’t forgive and forget. Forgive and learn. You don’t have to accept your lot in life, your caste, or your circumstances. Don’t do it for the other person, do it for yourself so that you can move forward. We’re bound to have interactions that go less than perfect, and it’s up to us individually to take what we can from these episodes and move forward together. It isn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows, yet we can make the best of it if we’re together. I know we can do this because I’ve seen the spark in the eyes of my Tribe, which is comprised of funny notions like Pagan Standard Time, herding cats, and others who are exceptions to the rule. It’s time to break out of this prison of our thoughts together and head towards a freedom we have never known in our lifetimes!