The Convergent Diverging Path

*This week’s epic post title courtesy of my friendly gentleman.*

This past weekend my husband and I were out drinking cocktails with a friend of his and her boyfriend. ┬áThis friend of his and I have a lot in common–we both have very long hair that we’re attached to, we both love dancing (though in different styles), we’re both pagans. We keep finding more and more things we hare in common. Apparently my gent has a pretty specific type in the women he chooses to spend his time with!

It was my first time meeting her boyfriend. I liked him a lot. He revealed that he also considers himself pagan when we were out for some cocktails. That left my husband as the odd man out for once! The conversation from there turned very interesting about all of our pasts and what brought us to paganism and how we are pagan. None of us had a good time with the Christianity of our childhoods, but the way the three of us came to paganism and how we treat it has given me a lot of room for thought the past few days.

I’ve discussed quite a bit about me on this blog, but the short story is that I read a whole lot on the internet and consider myself very religious. My husband’s friend came to paganism through Australia, where she went on a long journey years ago and was introduced to the rituals of the aborigines there. Her paganism now manifests mostly through talking to the moon and, occasionally, going on meditation retreats. Her boyfriend just sort of vaguely considers himself pagan, but doesn’t really know what it means to him.

Our conversations were quite fascinating, but I won’t go into it too much out of respect for their privacy. But I think it’s interesting in a way how the three of us almost show three different veins or impulses of modern paganism.

Traditions and People

Her’s is so much more directly related to other people than mine, and comes out of a respect and experience with mesopagans who grew up with their traditions. Her experience with paganism is so closely tied to the experience of other pagans in the world and what they have personally taught her and shown her.

Academic and Solitary

Mine is so academic, comparatively, and solitary. Even though I go to the druid grove rituals (and am going this weekend), my faith is more or less rooted in my brain, my desire to integrate my academic interests with my dancing and my belief in the importance of the body and the beauty of nature. My faith has never been fundamentally related to other people, though I do hope I can someday establish a sort of religious community where I can place roots with other people and learn rituals from them. But we are all converts and none of us have been raised with traditions.

Not Christian

Her boyfriend was very eloquent about his non-Christianness, but less clear on his paganness. But the point is that he had a lot of reasons he didn’t like Christianity, why he thought it was, in its current forms, dangerous to society, and it reminded me in how many ways the resurgence of paganism is, ultimately, a reject and reaction against the society we were raised in. All three of us (and my husband, in many ways even though he chooses to remain Christian) have found Christianity lacking and looked for fulfilment elsewhere.

There was an excellent post up on The Archdruid Report this week about how there seems to be a new religious sensibility reaching critical mass–that what doctrines you actually believe are less important than reveling in the beauty of nature. I had such a wonderful time having dinner with other pagans even though we don’t ultimately believe the same things. It was so nice to spend time with people who are articulately engaging with the flow of ideas toward this new sensibility, and who reflect some of its benefits. We do not believe in the same deities or theologies, but we can come together and discuss how we think our sensibility is a better reflection of the world before us. And, since we all consider ourselves pagan, we can do so without the discomfort that often comes from using the name of our religion, that makes us feel less able to articulately describe our viewpoints with other non-pagans.

On the Uniqueness of Place

Granite mine S Last weekend was my 10th anniversary with my husband.

That’s confusing. Let me rephrase. We started dating ten years ago, when I was sixteen. We celebrated by going to Vermont to relax and enjoy nature. We had a great time. But we didn’t really take any photos. In fact, the only photos we did take were on a tour of a granite mine we went on.

But we went canoeing in the river and woke up to a view of a mountain. We climbed trees and went ziplining. We drove on the back roads in the forest and looked out for moose. We saw a deer. It was so relaxing.

And yet, at the same time, it wasn’t what I expected. I thought we would go off into the mountains and the forest I would feel the way I felt when I was in college living in the Hudson Valley, where the land spoke to me any time I looked around. Where every view of a mountaintop or valley took my breath away.

Vermont was beautiful, with forests so thick you couldn’t see into them from the roads. With steep mountains that were close together and the land looked folded. Where the towns were so small and beautiful and the food was local and delicious. So delicious and wholesome that one of our meals literally left me feeling prayerful at the end.

But it wasn’t what I expected, and this land was not my own. On the way home, we ended up crossing the Hudson River and seeing the Catskills in the distance, and my heart skipped a beat. This was my home, not Vermont. But it surprised me that even though they are pretty close, geographically, these places are not the same. The mountains in the Catskills are taller and wider and piney-er. There, the land rushes out to greet me, as if it’s catching a glimpse of a long lost friend just as I am.

It didn’t help that it may be the last time I see those mountains. I’ll be moving even farther away from them soon, to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I will have to learn the land anew. Philadelphia and I have not become close in my years here, especially compared with the longing I feel for Duchess County. Here I am religious in spite of the land and my connection to it rather than because of it. That land, the land that introduced me to the gods, is no other land in the world, and I fear that I will never again live anywhere I love as deeply as that land. I feel a loss for it, for my distance from it.

Any time I come back to Philadelphia from time away, I feel sad when I get back to the city limits. This city is so dirty and decaying and sad and natureless that I just don’t feel a connection here. I truly hope that my new home makes me feel more like the Catskills than this.

It is odd to me, that a twenty minute drive through that region had more impact on me than the entire vacation. But that’s what love does, isn’t it? It meets us when we least expect it, wraps us up in that feeling of connection, and leaves us feeling rather transformed.