What Is Paganism?
Defining the Incomprehensible
For a while now, I’ve been wanting to create resources for those who are working their way towards recovery from mental illness & trauma through the lens of spirituality. Paganism is rather an enigma when trying to capture it’s full essence into words. You’ll find books & other materials describing Paganism as “nature-based,” although I have known my fair share of urban practitioners. You might read about Pagans defined as “polytheistic” or believing in more than one deity. I’ve also met folks who prefer not to work with or believe in deities. You’ll often hear from the main-stream monotheistic religions, Paganism is “anything that isn’t Christian.”
Lumping Paganism in with Hinduism or Islam is not an accurate statement.
So how do we discern what is innately Pagan and what is not? Paganism remains a spiritual path without a single definition. This causes a lot of challenges when Pagans choose to work together because everyone has a different idea of what “it should be.”
I choose to think of this as the perfect arena for a person who is working through their healing because there is no strict religious dogma to follow or the practice of shunning. It can be a little confusing to navigate the various passages of different traditions which identify as Pagan, however, it is not insurmountable.
You may be overwhelmed by new information as you traverse this path. That’s alright. Take your time and experience what works for you. Don’t be Afraid to reach out for support!
Paganism Can Be a Valuable Tool for Survivors
I came to Paganism when I was 13 years old. As a child, I had experienced more trauma than anyone should face in a single lifetime. Paganism became an anchor for me in a choppy sea of abuse and neglect. The more I immersed myself in Pagan culture and read about the ancients, the more I realized there was no savior coming to save me. I had to face my reality head on or I wasn’t going to be functional. I made a lot of mistakes, however, what I owe Paganism is the structure it provided me to find my own way.
I was raised a Catholic and explored many forms of Christian spirituality before turning away completely. I found topics such as mental illness and PTSD were virtually ignored in the monotheistic religions. It was a combination of “God will save you, put all your trust in Him,” “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle,” or “Buck up, don’t dwell on the past.” I couldn’t disagree more with this view on trauma. The Universe certainly can give us more than we can handle and people do crack under the extremes of pressure. If the former was true, why would folks commit suicide or countless families experience generational trauma?
Paganism, and more specifically Witchcraft gave me the ability to create a proactive plan against the many difficulties which presented themselves in my life. I stumbled, I fell, & the belief in my very real ancestors got me to get back up again. I was also inspired by many Pagan authors and teachers who kept urging me to fight. Finally finding a Pagan church with other like-minded individuals and being held accountable for my day-to-day actions empowered me to cause real change in my life.
If you’re like me and struggling to recover – I can tell you the path isn’t easy. There’s going to be a lot of crying, gnashing of teeth, and all out mental war. There will be days you wish you had never started this journey, however, the reward is going to be greater than you can ever imagine. You’re going to be facing your biggest opponent and it isn’t Satan – it’s you. You can do it and you can come out of the fight victorious if it is your will. You don’t need to give this pain to some invisible God or pray. You have to face it like a warrior. That’s being a Pagan and a survivor!
Exercise: A New Identity
Healing can be self-guided.
Here’s an exercise I would like you to consider. I’d like you to invest in a journal. This journal will be used frequently if you enjoy this website. If you’re considering this journey, I want you to write about the most ideal version of yourself within Paganism. Maybe you see yourself as a master herbalist. Maybe you want to be a member of our clergy and help others? Would you like to dedicate yourself to the Goddess Isis or would you like to excel at Tarot and divination? There are no wrong answers here. No one except you is going to be judging this and you certainly don’t need to share this information with anyone.
After you’ve painted this picture with words (or maybe you can draw this person) I want you to write how you think you’ll attain this goal. Just 1-3 small habits you could do daily to work towards this awesome new vision of you.
Here’s mine to use as an example:
I see myself as a Priestess in the Pagan community. I will contribute to Paganism through writing, volunteering, & ritual. I will be open about my mental health journey with others to serve as some form of inspiration. I will be an example of how a determined person can break the bonds of generational trauma and blossom into a functional human being. I will also educate myself in various forms of folk magick, with a particular focus on American Folk Magick. I will show others how to manifest results with Magick which are undeniable.
I will manifest this vision for myself by practicing the following habits.
- I will write something every day even if it’s just a little blurb so my mind can be trained to openly share my experiences without shame.
- I will volunteer my services to my church as needed.
- I will meditate on my previous trauma and create plans for myself to face each battle.
- I will practice Magick every day, even if it’s just a small cleansing.
- I will read about American Folk Magick once a week to further my education.
The exercise may not seem like much, however it was the vehicle which enabled me to successfully transform myself from the person I was at 13 into the adult I am today. My mental and spiritual well-being are still an ongoing project. There are many more practices and facets of Paganism which folks can find beneficial to their healing journey. As you continue to read through this site, I will share all I have learned and provide more resources for your consideration.