Today is May Day, which in pre-Christian Northern Europe (and beyond) was celebrated as Beltane – one of the most festive and holy days of the year.
I find Paganism and Wiccanism (is that a word?) very appealing in many ways. For one thing I am fascinated by the ways in which our lives are shaped by ancient traditions, rituals and stories in a multitude of ways that we are not even aware of, and rarely think about (except for historians – they think about that stuff all the time – which is very cool).
For another, something about the narrative of a female-focused (or in some iterations a religion that at least did not view women as the lesser, weaker, or inferior “sex”) religious tradition that was brutally suppressed and supplanted by a male-dominated one, rings true to me on a deep, almost bodily level. I sense resonances of this “truth” everywhere, in my daily life as a mother, wife, daughter and friend, in my complex and often contradictory relationship with nature, history, and capitalism, and perhaps most problematically, but also the most suggestively, within my academic life (for who is Donna Haraway if not a pagan-marxist-feminist-scientist-truthsayer subverting the dominant system from within – she speaks the “truth” to power in order to reveal and expose those who claim that power is truth).
I understand that it is the nature of oppression and suppression that much of the “original” practice of paganism has been lost (although it was undoubtably diverse to begin with – encompassing many different traditions and beliefs) and that as a consequence much if not all of the tradition has been recreated by its contemporary believers and devotees. And that is as it should be and that is how it is with all religions – they are living things that both shape and are shaped by societies. But I do find much of contemporary Wiccanism and Paganism off-putting. It isn’t even the deeper philosophical and psychological debates that I might have with the practice of “magick” (and that is a topic that I need to explore more deeply within myself before ever even attempting to post about it). It is, I’m ashamed to say it, more about the aesthetic – the fantasy novel, flowing hair, wild woman of the wolves, aesthetic of it all that I can’t truck with.
Isn’t that terrible? But I can’t deny it – the iconography of the whole “witches” thing just isn’t me. I see the appeal and I’m not dumping on those who love and embrace it, but just as I will never be a gortex-wearing kayaking, mountain, outdoorsy person (although I love the outdoors – in my own way), I will never be a embrace the “goddess within” kind of gal. And I am of two minds on this shameful secret. On the one hand, I wonder if my aversion might point to some part of my psyche that I’ve sealed off from myself – in my self-identification as a “serious” scholar – in other words, has the inner-critic taken over? On the other hand, part of me just says who gives a f*ck? After all, it’s my spiritual path. And like I said, I have no problem with those who find meaning and beauty in that universe. Plus I truly believe that our lives are more than our intellectual minds – symbolism is important – and if something does not resonate with us on an aesthetic level it is not touching our spiritual self.
But I do want to renew and explore, in a meaningful way, my spiritual connection to the earth, to history, and to the cycle of life and I also want to share the wonders of ritual and celebrations – of holidays and the seasons – with Buddy. And while I will continue to celebrate Christmas because I love it deeply and it is a part of who I am and where I come from, I am intrigued and drawn to the idea of going “back” to the roots of many of the seasonal holidays that we still celebrate – and the Pagan “Wheel of the Year” seems like an excellent place to begin.
So this weekend, I will be doing something with Buddy that I did with my mother as a child, we will be making simple May Baskets and picking wild flowers and leaving them on the doorsteps of our neighbors. And perhaps SG and I will find another, more grown-up appropriate way, to celebrate Beltane as well!
In thinking about this topic I tried to find a few links to ubran-modern Wicca and Paganism. I haven’t had a chance to explore further, but here are a few of the many interesting and promising links that I have found:
Ah… and there are many many more. Obviously an area that deserves further study!