People think I’m crazy for changing my religious affiliation so frequently. I’d like to point out that throughout all my explorations of spiritual traditions, I have held a core belief in Paganism/Goddess spirituality in some shape or form. Since 2000 I’ve gone from Wicca, to Celtic Reconstructionism, to Dianic Wicca, from there to Hellenism for a very short time, then to Gnostism (Pagan and Christian variations), then back to Wicca (Correlian), to CR again, and several variations of CR. My latest exploration is a rather surprising interest in the Society of Friends (liberal Quakers).
I think the reason that none of them seem to “stick” for any length of time, is either I find some major flaw in the theology or practices, or I don’t find the community for it. I think its mostly the latter. Its easy to get lost as a “solitary practitioner” of any religion. I long for group worship experience and true friendship and community. And I suppose I have too many pre-conceived ideas about what such a group should be like… I imagine families and individuals coming together with the same hopes for religious community that I have- people not only with strong feelings for Pagan/Nature spirituality, but also a sense of love being a guiding force. I guess I’ve been to too many Pagan gatherings where I encountered a very “non-wholesome” element.
Growing up in a monotheist culture, the transition to the duotheism of Wicca was easy and logical. Wicca was my first experience in Paganism and the tradition that stuck with me the longest- I was a Wiccan for about 14 years (1986-2000). The big theological leap from Wicca to CR is the leap from duotheism (the belief that there are essentially two deities- God and Goddess, and all deities are personalities or archetypes of those primary two) to true polytheism. It is easier, for me, to believe in a universal God and Goddess than it is to believe in more literal definitions of individual deities. I explored true polytheism for a while and have come up with an empty feeling for it. Perhaps I haven’t meditated on it enough, but on the other hand, I do spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation, just not in deliberate meditation. The gods, as individuals, do not speak to me.
It was somewhere back in those first 14 years as a Wiccan (innocent and unaware of the controversy of its origins), that I felt I experienced true spiritual connection and religious ecstasy of being at one with Goddess.
But this was not a specific goddess- this was the unnamed and universal Goddess of Nature. With CR, I have experienced the intellectual (and perhaps OCD) satisfaction of knowledge and tradition. It occurs to me that, as I am already a ‘solitary practitioner’, I could customize my belief system even further by combining some of the elements of modern Wiccan theology with the traditions I practice as a Celtic Reconstructionist. Other CRs really hate that kind of thing. But you know what, that’s really okay, because I have no physical CR community here. Yep, that’s right, all the other CR people I know are in that vast imaginary land called cyberspace. I do not have to tailor my beliefs to fit in with a group of people that do not share a community with me in the real world. Indeed, by beliefs may not coincide with anyone’s in my “real world” local community either.
The problems I have with the general local Pagan community are complex and varied- from differences in ritual form to differences in values and goals. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the Society of Friends seems so appealing to me right now. The lack of ritual, the waiting in communal silence, the simplicity… these seem like elements in which I may find clarity and perhaps even answers to some questions that have been playing in my head. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to become a Quaker. It just seems to be a very nourishing stage for me to be in right now. Indeed, I haven’t even been to a meeting yet- I couldn’t make myself wake up in time on Sunday. So I’m aiming for a Wednesday night meeting…