A chance conversation at my knitting group recently -- one of the members trying to figure out how I knew some folks (not knitters) that we have in common on social media -- the subject of gaming and a conclusion of that being the commonality caused me to correct the assumption. No, not gaming... though I do know a lot of folks who play, I am not part of that community. The commonality, I said, is Paganism, which brought a bit of a puzzled look. Since I do not regularly attend events in Bangor, neither the quarter and cross-quarter rituals held at the UU church, nor the moon cycle events at the Temple of the Feminine Divine, I am not associated with that brand of spirituality.
This got me to thinking about why I do not travel to these events regularly (I have never, actually, been to the Temple though I have attended several rituals at the UU's facility since 2008) and exactly how it is that I do my Pagan thing.
First off, while I DO drive and DO have (usually, at least) a running vehicle at my disposal, I do not LIKE being in town. Bangor is not bad as towns go, but I have spent lots of time in towns over my life and really would prefer never to have to go there. Town folks just seem to have different priorities, a different sense of time, not to mention the fact that towns are filled with people and cars and such.
I also have a very busy, crowded life here on the farm and time is always at a premium. When I was working in town (mostly mornings and usually early mornings at that) the last thing I really wanted to do was hang around for hours (usually with nothing productive to do) until evening came and it was time for a scheduled event. Town folk don't usually think about the fact that a 2 hour event that may require 15 minutes travel time for them turns into close to a 4 hour event when you count travel from an outlying town. The timing likely pushes supper time early and/or bed time late which not only affects the attendee, but also the rest of the family if they are not involved.
There is also the fact that I work with very specific Deities, who have some very specific ideas about how their followers need to live. I know many Pagans are actually quite satisfied with rituals that invoke an unnamed God and Goddess; many others are not even actually Deists, but more follow the lines of animism or other related paths, which they are welcome to do. However, generic ritual format, especially for "seasonal" rituals, when the season being celebrated or welcomed is weeks from its actual appearance in the Northlands, really does nothing for me. And, more importantly, nothing for my relationship with my Gods.
Frigga would much prefer that I be honoring her by cleaning my stove than by chanting in a circle. Mani (moon) and Sunna (sun) are not even viewed in my practice as having the same gender identification as is accepted in most Pagan circles. And while my practices are in a Northern Tradition, I am not of an Asatru community either, nor am I looking for one. There is too large an element of UPG in my practice (not surprising considering that the beginnings of my journey involved nothing more than inspiration -- or direct communication if you will -- from the Elements, celestial bodies and various Gods and Goddesses.) I began my journey, as I continue it, solitarily and based in my home and on my land. Have there been other people, books, etc. from which I have learned along the way? Yes, there have.. starting with a philosophical conversation with a young friend in which I first heard the word "pagan" applied to what I thought, believed and did. Have those people, books, etc been at the core of my practice or learning? No, never.
I "Pagan" by what I do, day in and day out, it's a "chop wood, carry water" kind of thing I guess. My Gods guide my mind and my hands as I tend my flocks and fields. I honor them as I harvest and preserve, as I spin and knit and weave and sew. Blood sacrifice? ...every time a fowl goes to "freezer camp," yes. Offerings to the spirits of the land? With every bucket to the compost, yes; with every "first harvest" pick of fruit or vegetable held aloft, the call of "Hail! and Thanks Be!" most definitely. With every Friday's Needfire and time of communing with Frigga, and fire at the dark and full moons (wind willing!) I honor the incremental turn of the earth, and the Powers That Be that guide us and I give thanks. With every dawn's greeting "Hail to the sun..." and "penny dance" abundance ritual that follows "From the Gods to the earth to us, from us to the Gods, that there might be much for many."
There are, I think, as many ways to "Pagan" as there are to "Christian" (and possibly to do other paths, though those are the two with which I am most familiar.) I was raised as what I call a "Christmas and Easter Christian." We regularly attended church at those times. Sometimes more often and my mom taught Sunday School for a while, but as I grew up, I learned that the church in which I was raised was a compromise for my folks and mostly they joined because it was socially required to be associated with a denomination. There was no prayer, typically, in our home; the Bible was not read regularly. There was no religious paraphernalia nor icons about. I know other Christians for whom Sunday attendance was mandatory, but little else was involved and even the ethics of following that path were ignored regularly. And I know still others for whom daily prayer, study and Christian ethics of charity and compassion take the forefront of their practice.
I am equally sure that there are Pagans for whom attendance at regular rituals is all that is required. I am also sure that there are many who include daily practice along with public or private group ritual.
Do I think, sometimes, that it would be nice to have a friendly Pagan neighbor just down the street, who might drop by and join me on a Friday night if s/he heard the drum or saw the flicker of my fire? Occasionally, yea, I do. But mostly I do like being alone, far from the madding crowd: the witchey crone surrounded by fields and fowl.