Devotion

I’ve noticed something recently that has got me thinking (again).

I know of two well known teachers from the Pagan community who have recently converted to the Catholic Church. I’ve also been reading on the internet how some are upset with the lack of spiritual depth they see within the Pagan community. Where does this come from?

There are many reasons to be a Pagan in this modern age, not least of which is the companionship we find when celebrating the seasons together. We are able to do this, to gather together from all traditions. So what happens when someone wants to go deeper, much deeper. What happens if a Pagan wants to utterly devote themselves to their God or Goddess? In Christianity its accepted. There are many layers of devotion, from the Sunday Church attendee to the Monk who has turned their backs on modern life, to live in constant service. If a Pagan is called to turn their backs on modern society and devote their lives to, say, Ceridwen, how might that work for them?

Of course they can do it alone, but that is very lonely – some kind of companionship with others of like mind helps feed the soul, and is supportive. How many Pagans would think that this person had actually lost it, and gone a little loopy? If a good number of us are Pagans because we don’t want dogma and forced religious belief, what happens when that religious belief calls us, and the community has no benchmark from which to address it? How much is ‘belief’ a part of modern Paganism?

I think that is why some find themselves becoming dissatisfied, why some yearn for that depth, and discover that it can be very hard to find. I think it is there, but it is viewed with a lot of suspicion. Do we as a community need to open up to the idea of devotion? What would you do if your Pagan friend suddenly had a revelation and felt the need to utterly devote themselves to their Gods? Would you be skeptical? Might you want to keep your distance from them until they ‘got over it’? Or would you encourage them?

Inquiring minds need to know…

31 Comments

  1. LadyPoetess September 9, 2008 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    I find myself caught between feeling drawn toward utter devotion, and the lack of any acceptable way to do so. The balance I have struck is far from perfect, but it works most of the time. I am very up front about the depth of my faith, and about the fact my role as a priestess is at the top of my priorities, and I try very hard to only surround myself with people who understand – or at least accept – that. Those closest to me have to be able to let me do what I feel I need to with respect to my faith, even if they do not entirely like it, or I do not feel comfortable being in such a close relationship with them.

    I have often thought that if I were born and raised Catholic, I might not have converted to paganism – I might have been able to find the faces of my gods within that framework – and beyond that, I would have likely taken vows.

  2. paganboynuneaton September 9, 2008 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    I find that Meditation is my key and Blessings. The idea of Devoting your entire life to one Goddess/God to me would be so mundane. I’m Eclectic. I love the fact that i can call upon all for devotion and guidance. Learning, reading, watching and paying attention to others is what i find forfilling in my path.
    Pagan is not just a word? Its feeling. A Love for all. A Religion that has firm foundations….You can see it. Feel it. Eat It and devote your life to the very foundations of life itself…

    That a Pagan to me….

    Thanks Damh for the posting….Makes you think?

    Blessings
    Lee

    pbn

  3. West September 9, 2008 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    Damh –

    This is a beautiful topic, and something that I’ve considered quite often on my recent path. Like many modern Druids, I come from a varied spiritual background – Christian, Buddhist, New Age, and having recently found the Druid path, I’m deeply fond of much of the Pagan teachings as well, not the least of which is the near total lack of Dogma and the deep connection to the Earth.

    Perhaps more importantly, though, I’ve been deeply involved in a personal development organization – really more of a personal, spiritual, relationship growth community – called WarriorSage. This community has helped me grow immensely over the past few years, and I can honestly say that it has given me the skills and tools necessary to find ‘depth’ in any spiritual practice.

    I’ve grown more deep and connected to my martial arts training, my musical expression, my writing, my meditation, my ritual and ceremony – all because I have a much more intimate connection with my own personal truth, with the divine and the infinite, and a deeply, profoundly, and ACTIVELY supportive community of practitioners who challenge and encourage one another to grow through regular practice.

    I often think that one of the appeals of mass-market-religion is that it provides an immediate sense of community, an immediate set of practices and rituals and customs which create an immediate sense of ‘depth’ for the practitioner. While those of us on the outside may see the structure and rigidity of those religions as restrictive, those inside of the practices can readily find depth and connection by committing to them.

    I think what is most often lacking in pagan tradition is the structured community aspect of things. In truth, it is far more difficult for the pagan practitioner because so much of our modern tradition is ‘solo’. Yes – we celebrate the 8 festivals, and we have a strong and vibrant community – but the idea of a weekly (or even more regular) community gathering isn’t one that most pagans are fond of in my experience. So what is left? Self-discipline – something that is a huge challenge for many, particularly when you’re practicing what many consider a fringe spirituality.

    I think this may be one reason that many pagans turn back to traditional religion – built-in community, built-in structure – quite simply, it is more convenient. If more pagans were committed to regular, community-based spiritual practice, I would guess that fewer spiritual ‘defections’ would occur.

    Even so, I know in my heart that wherever we end up, we’re all, at some level, talking about the same thing. 😉

    In love and service,

    West

  4. paganboynuneaton September 9, 2008 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Well said West..
    )o(

  5. Kay September 9, 2008 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Goodness, what a massive topic to ponder !
    Paganism is a huge umbrella which allows us to celebrate our beliefs to whatever degree we wish, but I see exactly where you are coming from here. Whilst it is very liberal in that aspect, where do you turn when you want to achieve that higher level of spirituality ? Whilst it may seem mundane to some I can understand why some people might feel the need to spend time in devotion to a particular God or Goddess and I would have no problem with it. We cannot think simply in terms of what works for us so when you ask if we need to open up to the concept of Devotion, I would say that if people feel it is missing then ,yes, of course we should. The more accepted and widespread it becomes the less people will view the whole idea with the suspicion that it is currently viewed with. Also it will be safer for people to seek places of devotion out
    I think it’s great that you have asked these questions. I have always struggled with the spiritual side of things but I do see the need for some point of reference for those who feel they need to take their beliefs that one step further.
    Emmmm…..interesting stuff !

  6. serenarian September 9, 2008 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Thought-provoking stuff, Damh….

    For me, devotion in a Pagan belief system isn’t necessarily about completely devoting oneself to a particular God or Goddess. I see it as being a completely different relationship with deity than those of organised religion. As a former Christian, I lived ‘in fear’ of their God, and the relationship felt submissive and subordinate. I was this little teenage girl, who had to bow down to God else I would go to Hell.

    In Paganism it has been vastly different. I am not devoted to a God or Goddess. Where I am devoted is in working with a particular deity so that I might learn the lessons he/she has to teach me. It is personal responsibility and spiritual development that I am devoted to, and the ways in which deity can help me deepen my understanding of that. I am by no means subordinate to them; I see them as Elders and seek out their wisdom, but they are not figures that instill fear. Not even Ceridwen, when she decides to roar into my life with a severe lesson. 🙂 It is respect, and it is love, and it is reverence. But by no means is it devotion.

    This is just my experience and opinion, but to me it is the great call of the Pagan belief systems.

  7. Andy aka Spicy Cauldron September 10, 2008 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Great stuff. I’ve been longing for more in terms of spiritual teaching and discipline – a sense of order, and progress – for some time now, as have, thankfully as it turns out, a number of friends. We’ve all independently (and incredibly) come to the decision that OBOD offers us what we need–the opportunity to learn not in isolation from one another, but together, working on the bardic path initially. We will each bring our experiences of life and spiritual practice to the table, sharing and learning together.

    But often I must admit, I meet too many who seem pagan in name only – kind of like Sunday-only Christians. I’ve long held my pagan beliefs to be suffused throughout everything I do, from cooking to gardening to the choices I make on which dramas to watch on TV, to the books I read.

    Nobody has to pray all the time to be seen as spiritual, or wear what I sometimes call ‘spiritual drag’–you know, dog collars and cloaks and the like. But meshing your spiritual beliefs into daily life, putting them into practice, is very important.

    One of the most annoying things for me at Mercian Gathering (aside from the rain!) was when I found someone had just thrown an empty Pringles box on the ground. I hate litter, I am environmentally much the activist, but I really get upset at the lack of environmental consciousness evidenced in some parts of our community.

    It’s a personal bug, but an important one, that too many pagans don’t engage with ecologically important actions, such as turning away from supporting intensive farming and battery hen eggs; recycling; growing their own fruit and veg.

    Tesco is, in short, no place for pagans to shop at…. The environment is one area where we should be setting examples, not joining in the consumer madness with guilt-free relish. x

  8. Kay September 10, 2008 at 11:55 am - Reply

    On a personl level I agree with Andy. Our Devotion should be intergrated within our lifestyle, (an active rather than passive Devotion).However I can still see that whats right for us maybe not enough for others.
    LOL at the Tesco’s comment….Well said x

  9. magpieschest September 10, 2008 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    An interesting seed thought Damh.
    How does one immerse themselves fully into the very thing that surrounds them? With Christian belief the general statement seems to be “hold dominion over the plants and fishes” wheras the pagan is intrinsicly connected to them all and is not greater or lesser being.

    The monks that turn inwards do so within a brick building – wheras the pagan would turn to the woods and to nature.

    So to go forward is to consider our footprints – not necessarily stopping shopping in one area or one food type – but consider the impact on the world that our decisions can make.

    Whilst I was amused by the Tesco comment, we have to be mindful that not everyone has the facilities or resources to always buy as ethically as others – but if they can consider what they buy in the shop then that must be a step in the right direction.

  10. Al September 11, 2008 at 9:33 am - Reply

    with regards to the Tesco thing, some people don’t have the resources to make such choices. It isn’t about ethical living (however noble the aim), it’s about survival.

    Which leads to Damh’s point: during the iron-age/pre-christian eras, paganism wasn’t about some ethereal spiritual philiosophy, it too was a matter of survival. You damn well better make offerings for a good harvest, your life depends on it. It was a religion. Pure and simple.

    And that’s what is missing in modern paganism. People flirt about, from Christianity to buddhism to wicca to druidry to heathenism to some Egyptian thing, searching for the missing spark. Then they end up going back to Christianity because they don’t find it. Paganism is treated as spiritual philiosphy, to be dipped into and experimented with. Instead it should be treated as a religion, with all the devotion and passion and belief that is implied. All this “all gods are one god” nonsense has to stop, because they aren’t.

  11. Andy September 11, 2008 at 11:34 am - Reply

    @ Kay: I can still see that what’s right for us may not be enough for others, or right–but on the environmental stuff, I believe we have a gods-given duty to work towards sustainability, and to actively put our spiritual principles ‘out there’ in the things we do, so that of course means things like no to chemical weedkillers, no to battery eggs or cheap cruelly-produce chicken. It’s tough, there’s no doubt about it, and at times expensive–but if we don’t act conscientiously, or make allowances for those who don’t, I always think to myself, well, who will? Can we expect or even desire the secular community to take the lead, and the spiritual communities to maybe catch up some time down the line? No. We need to set examples, and often it is the case, and always has been, that exercising a conscience and spiritual responsibility requires a sacrifice.

    This is a most excellent discussion! Thanks Damh for kicking it off with your blog entry.

    @A: When you say,

    “with regards to the Tesco thing, some people don’t have the resources to make such choices. It isn’t about ethical living (however noble the aim), it’s about survival.”

    With all due respect, that’s hogwash. Our species survived thousands of years without access to cling-film-wrapped chicken with its legs cut off to hide the fact that the bones were deformed and the knees bruised by their being intensively farmed and engineered to grow faster than nature would like things to be.

    I’m living on Incapacity Benefit and have been for four years since developing a disability, before which I was a journalist earning over £30k a year. My pagan practice and beliefs, however, have grown over time, as they do for most of us hopefully, and I am able to make ethical choices on a very low budget. You do not need to shop at Tescos, nobody does. I grow my own fruit and veg – I planted four fruit trees last winter, all bought from Aldi for about £2.50 a tree – and keep hens for eggs, whose feed costs me at most £10 a month.

    It’s not hard to fend for yourself, it’s not hard to make a small amount of money go a long way, it just requires the courage, discipline, willpower and imagination that our insanely consumerist society seeks to leach out of us with every new generation entering an increasingly force-fed educational system designed no longer to educate, but to process children to go into the corporate workforce, to go on to pollute, manipulate, and profit.

    Never mind noble. Who’s talking about noble? And when we talk of ethics, we sometimes miss the point. Growing your own food, not buying junk, not littering, recycling, going for free-range instead of intensive, avoiding genetically-modified foods and chemical additives… It all makes sense. Forget ethics for a moment. You’re suggesting that people on low incomes, their argument that they buy crap because it’s all they can afford, is valid and holds up to scrutiny. It does not. When people say such things, they are in effect tying themselves to ball-and-chain.

    It isn’t easy to be a home farmer, or to avoid this or that food item on grounds of animal cruelty or chemicals. Well, boo hoo. Life was never about easy. I’ve all the time in the world for the myths of old, but today’s new mythologies–that technology will conquer nature, that it’s okay to mass-produce, and to avidly, greedily consume–I have no time for those at all.

    I find it utterly hypocritical of pagans to drop litter five minutes after invoking the gods in ritual, or to attend pagan camps and talk the talk without walking the walk when they leave and reenter the modern world. You cannot justifiably call yourself consistent if you don’t think about the consequences of your own and others actions on the natural world.

    With global warming and dwindling resources, paganism has never been more relevant and important and vital–providing that those who call themselves pagans enter the battle enthusiastically, instead of hiding away excusing themselves and others.

    I’m all for live and let live, make your own choices, blah blah… But our world is dying. Your choices affect me, as do my choices affect yours. So yeah, if I saw you drop litter at a pagan camp, I would confront you…

    Pagans too often shy away from confrontation, preferring a softly-softly supposedly liberal approach. I’m a libertarian, and I cherish diversity, and I am a keen defender and supporter of equality for all. But the gods need us to be strong, and to do all we can to stop the world from dying. That sometimes involves activism, and never involves excuses.

    • cc December 8, 2012 at 12:36 am - Reply

      oh to have a patch of land to grow my own veg, that would be wonderful. But myself and so many in my city live in flats and trying to get an allotment is like trying to win the lottery. please do not presume that a patch of land is available to us all, or even to many. With only a tesco in walking distance, (and that was a huge bonus, now I can buy ginger and bean sprouts) many do what they can within those confins, buy free range eggs, no matter how skint we are, buy fair trade when we can. etc. I myself have seen these ‘fads’ move from the church fete to tesco availability in the last 20 years, and am thankful for it. Otherwise i would have to spend alot of time and transport to get to the other end of the city to buy such goods.

  12. Amethyst Dragon September 11, 2008 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Hmm – I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now as its an interesting question and deserves a thoughtful answer

    My personal view is that being pagan should permeate everything we think and we do – Whilst we don’t always have
    resources, ability or finances to take the best possible option – we should try and do the best we can within our personal limits – that means living as ethical a lifestyle as possible – Its still OK to have wants and desires – I’d love one day to visit New Zealand as I am a 1/4 Kiwi and I feel the need to touch the land of my Ancestors – That would involve flying – Something that is increasingly unacceptable in a post-Peak Oil, carbon aware world and generally goes against all my own lifestyle choices but it’s still a purely personal and selfish dream I hope to fulfil one day.

    On the main point’s raised in your post – my reaction is very close to serenarian – I can’t see a time where I would want to dedicate myself to a particular God or Goddess because they belong to different ages of my life, events and seasons and have different things to teach me – Thats not to say I don’t have my “favourites” – As a child of Samhain (born at the start of November) and a very strong personality – I have a close affinity to the darker and feistier aspects of the Goddess – The Lady of the Ravens in particular but she has her place and I certainly wouldn’t want her with me all the time – can you imagine the chaos!

    Thats not to say I’m not looking for a more structured spiritual life – I am and it is one reason I’ve turned to Druidry – I don’t think it offers me all the answers to all my personal questions – I don’t think anything can as its a life long journey BUT it gives me a structure and framework as well as a common identity with others who have also walked along that particular way – As someone determined not to ever follow the masses that has been the biggest surprise – I never expected to want to have a common identity with others so to find it does matter has been a shock.

    I’ve also realised lately that regular ritual is essential for the soul – As a confirmed ritual-phobe that has been the biggest shock of all – The very thing that drove me away from Christianity is one of the things that I need as a Pagan!

    Would I be accepting of someone who did wish to take their devotion to the next level – If I’m being totally honest – I’m not sure I would as I just don’t understand it – It doesn’t have the harmony and balance one associates with modern Neo-Paganism in any of its forms – If you want a jealous God – Abrahamic faiths have one already

  13. Amethyst Dragon September 11, 2008 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    @Andy – Totally agree – Whether its defending the Long Man of Wilmington from defacement by trashy reality TV or campaigning alongside Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to get Tesco to stop selling those poor chickens raised in disgusting conditions – It is up to us as Pagans to be out there setting the good example – If not us who ?

  14. Al September 11, 2008 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    Strikes me as bizarre that a topic asking “what’s wrong with paganism?” ends up being “what’s wrong with supermarkets?”. I agree, we (as a species) are going to have to make big sacrifices in the time ahead, and we should all being doing it, no matter to what degree. But that isn’t what is being asked here, that’s another topic entirely.

  15. Amethyst Dragon September 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I don’t think it is bizarre but highly relevant – I think the question being asked was about devotion and how that devotion is expressed in Paganism and whether those who wish to take devotion to another level are regarded as frankly “nuts” within the wider Pagan community

    My devotion permeates all aspects of my life – so to separate it out is a very difficult task to undertake and so examples are needed to explain a point of view

    I don’t understand the idea that isolating yourself from life to devote yourself to the Goddess or God somehow brings you closer to the divine for one of the core tenants of Paganism as I understand it is that the divine is everywhere and part of us all the time – Taking time out to listen a little harder within ritual is one thing – shutting yourself off from the very thing you are trying to get near is something else.

  16. Gwehydd September 11, 2008 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    A thoughtful and insightful post, Damh. It resonates very strongly with my experience.

    I’m now what I call ‘post-pagan’. I’m not turning my back on paganism, but realising that it can’t support me at the depth and level of immersion I need to go to. Nor can it teach me any more about the spiritual landscape I find myself an integral part of: it seemingly has no knowledge or even recognition of the type of path I and others are walking. This isn’t a criticism of paganism as such, maybe just a recognition that paganism is yet still young.

    So, yes, I now do it alone. Lonely? Well, sometmes I suppose. I find it more tiring than I would like, mainly because there’s no-one else to share my experiences with in the ‘pagan’ world – no soul food for the human, social part of me. As a result, I find myself turning to religious folk and sources outside of paganism – hindus, taoists, buddhists, quakers. Pagans *do* seem to regard me as “a little loopy”, that I’m “doing it wrong”, or that my path isn’t pagan, or is invalid in some way. I’ve certainly never experienced encouragement from a pagan when I’ve described either my experiences or my path, quite the opposite in fact. I have, however, experienced a lot of encouragement and support from folk of other faiths.

    I guess I’m bordering on the ‘monastic’ or the ‘sannyasa’ – in other words, extremely devotional. However, my paganism informs me that renunciation and transcendence aren’t the way to go, but rather a complete immersion – ‘being-with’ rather than ‘going-beyond’. My mysticism, my experience of my gods, has little to do with transcendence and everything to do with immanence. The only tools I’ve found to assist me to ‘go deeper’ with this have been the teachings and spiritual practices of Bhakti, Jñāna and Karma yoga, even if they do require a lot of adaptation to my pagan sensibilities. Subsequently, my relationship with my very British god(s) has become immeasurably deeper and more profoundly immediate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that devotional practice should be imported willy-nilly into paganism from other religions, but maybe paganism should be starting to developing its own devotional paths founded on pagan beliefs and pathways.

    That yearning to ‘go deeper’ isn’t there for everyone, nor is it necessary for everyone. It’s most certainly not a ‘preferred’ or better path than anybody else’s. In all the world’s religions, though, the individual seeker is supported when they *do* have that need, that yearning. Sadly, that support or acknowledgement just isn’t currently there within paganism. Maybe, though, the acknowledgement of the need for this type of devotional path is an indication that paganism is maturing?

  17. West September 11, 2008 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    @Al – I don’t see it as bizarre at all. For me, spirituality and religion are utterly worthless if they in any way forget that the means by which we worship and are devotional to our (G)god(s) is through THE BODY. We are here in human form for a reason, and everything we do comes through this body. What possible good can we make in any kind of Otherworld or Afterlife if we can’t even make good this life that we’re given in this moment?

    Why should it be strange then to consider how our worship, our spirituality manifests in utterly everything we do? If any spirituality is to be of value, it must be brought into the world through thought and deed. That includes making conscious decisions about where and how we shop and what we eat.

    Trying to keep religion and spirit in the realm of the mind defeats the purpose for me. Make this life the best it can be, for self and other, so that I know that on the day I know, I have given all I have to give, I have loved fully, I have made a difference…

  18. Andy September 11, 2008 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    @ Al – Again, with respect, you singularly fail to address the points made not only by myself, but the likes of Amethyst Dragon and West, instead preferring to sideswipe by asking how a discussion about “what’s wrong with paganism?” ends up being “what’s wrong with supermarkets?”.

    We’re not talking about what’s wrong with supermarkets.

    The convenience they offer at the expense of ethical behaviours, the avid consumerism they help to cultivate, is only one part of the Big Problem. Banks, politicians, Big Oil, all have their part to play in the ruination of this planet. But our challenge is to face down all the demons, not pick and choose those we fight on the basis, say, of not wanting to relinquish our cheap chicken or plastic bags but feeling ‘comfortable’ about making token gestures that ultimately are drops in the ocean.

    Pagans can be too darned tolerant but while generally peaceable and accepting of different opinions on most things, I am completely intolerant, as I progress on my path, of those pagans who happily endorse or take part in the rape of the Earth, only to then dance round a camp fire thanking the gods for the trees and birds. It does not add up, and pagan practice of all kinds calls upon us to engage with the world conscientiously, whether as teachers or hermits or anything else.

    We MUST be the example, we SHOULD want to be in the driving seat of change, ready to provide leadership and experience of real living come the time many pagans now refer to as the Great Turning – that is, the end of fossil fuels and our unsustainable lifestyles. People will need to know how they can live without plastics, fast food, TV for entertainment – surely pagans can, if living deeply spiritual lives that involve real care for the Earth, bring the answers to the table.

    Damh is to be commended for starting the topic, from which nobody has deviated at all, which is all about pagans going deeper, being more than surface, and how we respond to what I personally perceive as a growing call for action matching statements. The society we live in does not go deep. Spirituality of all kinds is seen as quaint, foolish and anachronistic – or, in the case of Islam, to be feared and maligned. This civilisation has become completely materialistic and totally abusive of not only the planet, Her very soul, but its inhabitants as well. If people of Spirit do not rush to her aid now, then please tell me – who the heck will? Can we expect the Paris Hiltons and Big Brother contestants, the bankers and the politicians of this world to grow a conscience?

    And shouldn’t we expect a conscience as standard fit for those calling themselves pagans, even if as likely it involves sacrifice? We burn John Barleycorn in celebration and honouring every year–we should not be scared of ending up with a few burns ourselves for doing the right thing.

    There are pagan healers and artists, all with their part to play. But what we need right now is more pagans willing to call themselves warriors, to battle against the forces that would see the world burn. What we don’t need is misplaced woolly liberalism, and supposed spirituality with little depth and absolutely no impact or, worse, negative impact on the planet.

  19. Kay September 11, 2008 at 8:08 pm - Reply

    Goodness Dan Lombard ! You’re not afraid to open a can of worms are you !
    Andy- With regards to the “what might be right for us ” comment, I meant in terms of the pagan community fulfilling spiritual needs. Just because we don’t understand why someone might feel the need to spend time in devotion doesn’t help that person achieve a greater fulfilment. It’s all very well stating how we interpret the devine and how we achieve fulfilment, but as Damh says, what happens to those who feel they need a greater depth, and there is nowhere for them to accomplish this.
    ( and sorry folks, I still think Andys comment would make a great slogan for a T-shirt: enough already!)

  20. Andy September 11, 2008 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Hahaha! Yes, Kay, it would – I might print one myself, actually. 🙂

  21. Andy September 11, 2008 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    I wanted to add, partly in response to Kay’s last point, that my personal experience of paganism in the UK has revealed to me over time that there is little opportunity for regular meetups unless large numbers of people ‘cluster’ around a given city or town. Where I live in North Yorkshire, there’s naff all unless I head into Leeds. Actually, my closest pagan friends live many miles away on the Lancashire coast.

    I had experience of the Reclaiming/Feri community when I lived in London, and while there are those adhering to that across the UK, most everything takes place in or around London, sometimes Glastonbury for one-off events. I don’t think they’d even consider heading further north, or further south for that matter. And for most of the UK it’s moots on offer, which are often boozy affairs in pubs.

    Christians and Muslims have their churches and mosques which act as spiritual AND community centres. We usually practice our devotions at home, and I freely admit that can get a little lonely at times. Some cherish being solitaries, I don’t – I like being around people!

    Like Amethyst Dragon I am drawn now to Druidism because I have a need to belong, to draw strength from communion with others, and to bring my own strengths to the sharing cauldron.

    I believe one way forward would be to continue to recognise the importance of, say, Glastonbury but to begin building a framework by which people across the UK could easily access and build pagan communities.

    The Internet is, of course, a great way to connect but it is no substitute for real people. x

  22. Kay September 11, 2008 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Picking up on this thought. Does anyone know of anywhere out there where pagans can go into “retreat” ? I believe this concept is used within other religions when it’s followers feel they need to attain greater spritual awareness. Wouldn’t it be great to go and spend a few days/weeks, in a forest somewhere, with like minded people ? Now, has anyone got a teppe and a bit of woodland going spare ?

  23. Kay September 12, 2008 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    West – how beautiful and wise your recent comments regarding this subject are. Thankyou very much for that, it has really made me think, Bless you. X

  24. West September 12, 2008 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Thank you, Kay. I realized that I misplaced a word in my last sentence – it should have read:

    Make this life the best it can be, for self and other, so that I know that on the day I die, I have given all I have to give, I have loved fully, I have made a difference…

  25. magpieschest September 12, 2008 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    @ Andy, You have made some good points. It is perhaps a shame that there isn’t the groups out there – although the Pagan Federation amongst others have enabled such things to occur. The challenge (as groups such as PEBBLE have found out) is that because there is no scripture, no single point of reference, that my voice is slightly different to your voice, and that whilst in the main we can agree on most things there will be one or two things that (say) my pagan beliefs may differ from yours – unlike the mosque or the church where the Imam/vicar will define what they believe – which the congregation will then agree to… they certainly wouldn’t stand up and contradict!

    I will admit however, that I have – and will be – guilty of using some of the tools and equipment which will, in the end, bring about the end of the world (example: we are all using the internet with servers running 24×7 (plus backup servers, generators, cooling, UPS batteries etc etc) to communicate right now). Yes, I have stood and thanked the gods for the blessings and gifts that they have bestowed upon me… but right now I know that I’m not the angel that I may want to be in the future. I have my flaws. But I would suggest that unlike some of my other fellow men, I at least recognise this failing and endeavour to correct where I can… unlike some of my fellow men.

    I also liked West’s last comment – and I would support that with the additional comment that I would hope that I have also made a positive difference to someone else’s life too.

    Bright Blessings!
    Frog@ Magpieschest

  26. damhbard September 15, 2008 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Wow, thank you for all of your comments. I’ve just got back from our Anderida Gorsedd Autumn camp and have been reading your words.

    I think it is the ‘acceptance’, even encouragement, of a deeper devotion that I would like to see. To me this acknowledges that, to Pagans, there really are other realities, that there really are Gods, Spirits, that Magic is all around us, and that it really is possible to have a true and deep relationship with all of that.

    I love Pagans, and I love our community. I don’t think there is anything ‘wrong’ with it. I don’t see this as an either/or situation – I love the diversity we share. I see this as just adding to what we already have.

    The last thing I’d want to see are Pagan Prophets who have “seen the Light-ah!” (or Dark-ah! depending on which Deity has called their name 🙂 ) wandering around, preaching their newly discovered One True Way. But I equally would like to see more acceptance that this devotion has validity within our community.

    Maybe it is because our Path, although rooted in our ancient past, is still young, and maybe this is just a symptom of something growing and developing. It’s going to be interesting to see where it goes.

  27. Otho September 24, 2008 at 12:59 am - Reply

    On the point of ‘no reference’ for pagans, there are some excellent ideas on the net at the moment.

    My favourite is this…

    Those of us working in the same sphere could group together our separate insights. If we collate only those points we have all found to be true while working alone, we would create a shared knowledge independently confirmed by our peers.

    Worth a thought.

  28. Ninevah September 30, 2008 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    I would like to say that I am also someone who yearns to meet other pagans who want to ‘go deep.’ Every book I read seems to reiterate the blooming 8fold wheel of the year, how to call the quarters, basic meditation aids and other stuff. I’m longing to talk to people about the mind-blowing stuff we get from our way of looking at the world, our experiences in deep meditation, our conversations with the gods/spirit whatever.
    Perhaps it is because we are really a young spirituality (claims of ancient lineage not withstanding) that is, we are re-writing the book of druidry with every new person who walks this path, because of the fiercely personal nature of the quest.
    If I was still a Buddhist I think I’d like to have taken vows. What can I do as a follower of druidry? Crikey, I can’t even seem to meet other pagans except through forums and stuff.
    But there is one thing I would love to do tho’ I am not sure how to go about it. I’d like to buy a parcel of land and plant a grove for people to come to. I’d have a small house for guardians of the grove to live in and another building for people to come to visit on retreat. It would be an open space, open to everyone who wanted or needed to come and also would be FREE, a thing sadly lacking it seems in paganism, where everyone seems to be trying to make a buck (have you been to Glastonbury?!) The Grove could also have a garden attached for growing food and compost bins like holy altars. Maybe the Grove guardians would work on a rota, maybe they would be able to dedicate themselves to the space for years at a time.
    Well that is my dream, a monastary for free, feral pagans, no dogma, no rules, just peace.

  29. Bruce October 3, 2008 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    If you go too deep in religion, then whose truth are you following? The truth that the person translating the mabinogi had, the truth the bishop says, the truth the pope says, the truth that your guru teaches.

    It is quite possible that religion is in it’s nature shallow, but that the pomp and ceremony around it gives an impression of going very deep. When you look at nature you see that things whilst incredibly complicated on the surface are terribly simple underneath. Is there really that much to learn, is it all saying the same simple things? Do we need to create false complexity to create depth in order to understand the simple nature of life?

    Believing whatever you like, is not the easy path, it is questionable, you have doubts. Catholicism is easier that Paganism, everything is black and white, you know where you stand.

    For me, the joy of a Pagan path is the twists, turns, surprises and disappointments of the journey, the confusions of the Mystery…and the simplicity of the solution.

    I wonder if the joy of a Catholic path, might be in arriving, getting to God, achieving salvation, being absolved and having arrived at the goal. The clarity of the certainty.

    The problem with the Catholic nirvana is that you have to suspend disbelief, you can not doubt your faith, the moment you do, it could all be a delusion.

  30. Andy October 7, 2008 at 7:57 am - Reply

    No, you can’t doubt the Pope and the Vatican, I think–you can have a ‘dark night of the soul’ whatever your beliefs, bringing them into question, turning them to see them in different lights and situations. Roman Catholicism has no time for me and my kind, but it does change, always has, okay, sadly not for the better from my perspective a lot of the time, but it does change. It perhaps changes and diversifies less readily than Paganism because we have no central authority other than our own hearts, minds and intuitiveness, we aren’t bound by structures other than those we choose.

    I had experience of evangelical Christianity when I was much younger, and one thing I’m grateful I learned was the folly for the self of bashing other religious and spiritual belief systems. I could have become a real Christian hater, given what I went through–but I didn’t, though I understand when I meet others who have ended up that way, that it is a response to pain and suffering. Hate usually is. I have a friend who is a devout Catholic, and she does not agree with everything the Pope says. If she did, she and I could not be friends–not by my say, but by the fact that her religion decrees the core of my being as something to be denied, and crushed.

    I think it’s actually fine to be an enthusiast for one’s beliefs, as opposed to an evangelist–but then, what is proudly declaring one’s own Pagan beliefs to others as working for yourself, other than evangelising? I’m not entirely sure where the distinction lies between enthusiasm and evangelising–perhaps it is that with the first we simply endorse to others, while with the second we tell them they are wrong and we are right, and there is no room for that to be discussed openly and with love? x

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