The Wheel turns. What a lovely Winter Solstice it was, filled with music and glogg, reading and quiet, sacred time. I normally begin my musical journey downward around the beginning of September, first surrounding myself with the songs of Samhain, then slowly descending into the darkness of the Solstice night. The melodies feed me, my soul hungry for lonesome sounds, pulling me downward to the very bottom of my being. Like Persephone making her way to the Underworld over and over again, my path is well worn, familiar, and in a certain sense very comforting.
The difference this year is the lingering. I normally love to linger within the music. I play it well into the rest of winter. It is almost like Solstice does not end for me until Imbolc arrives. But the morning following Winter Solstice, upon awakening to a day just barely longer than the day before, my thoughts were not of lingering, but climbing, reaching, working toward what lies ahead. I was full of energy and announced to the horses that there is now nowhere to go but up! Up, toward the opening of the cave, toward hope, renewal and all that will feed us until the next time we find ourselves at the top of those long and winding stairs that will draw us into the earth…
I’m not sure why my feeling is so different. Maybe it is a sense of urgency for everything that I hope to accomplish this spring and summer? Maybe it is that I’m closer to myself now that my soul has somewhat returned? Maybe it is that 2016 was an awful year (except for finding this farm) full of angst and stress and SO MANY trials and tests? I’m ready to put it this year to rest for certain. Maybe it is that damn ticker app on my phone that keeps announcing to me how many days until daylight savings time starts? (lol).
Whatever the reason there is a marked difference in my Solstice journey. I remind myself that the period between Solstic and Imbolc is the hardest time for me emotionally. It always has been a struggle to stay focused and not fall backwards, tumbling down the staircase to land in the mire of hopelessness that winter seems to throw at me. As I climb I can always feel the ice covered hands of it, the breath on my neck, one step behind me like a willowy, windswept beast waiting for just the right moment to wrap me in arms of cold, cold darkness and carry me back down with it. Post Solstice Winter is as lonely as the season of my soul. It wants companionship. It lives off of worry and strife, feeds off of hopelessness and self-loathing.
But, I cannot linger with you this my friend, my enemy, my very, very familiar companion. I have to do my best to climb. I must go faster than I have before, be strong against your pull and care for my wounded soul that is still trying to heal herself. I will have to brace against your power, your cold comfort, your sweet, sleepy breath against my cheek. I am climbing this staircase and pushing my grief and madness aside as I go. I will not turn around for you. I cannot come back down right now. Wait for me though, as the leaves turn and flutter once more. I will not leave you in the darkness forever. Rest and wait for me. I promise to return.
Wheeeewwwww… After a very sad and difficult writing stint last week, I’m feeling like a little love and light is in order. Or at least a look outside myself (not exactly but in the sense of having to do with a bigger picture) to something else I’ve been meaning to tackle. Religion. LOL. Yes, a less heavy subject than self-loathing for me.
Now, I should say - not religion in the sense of let's all go to church on a weekly basis or even religion in the sense of following this particular religion or that other religion or identifying with a religion per say. I'm talking about a personal relationship with the spirit of the Universe, whatever one considers that to be and whether that relationship includes gods, or an afterworld, or reincarnation, or any number of other things for that matter.
For instance, I consider myself a "magical creature", but can magic be secular? The definition of secular spirituality from everyone’s favorite (and possibly the original fake news source) Wikipedia: Secular spirituality refers to the adherence to a spiritual philosophy without the avocation of a religious framework. Secular spirituality emphasizes the personal development of the individual, rather than a relationship with the divine.
Not really close. Because, I’m talking about something deeper. When you Google secular spirituality you get a ton of hits and opinions. But, like everything else that we find in meaningful conversation and contemplation, there are no concrete answers. These are the discussions that we have in dark corners of cozy pubs late into the night, around campfires in the wilderness, with newfound members of the same tribe of thinkers and questioners. The kinds of conversations that allow us to see into the souls of those we are talking to and realize that they are kindred spirits, wandering as we are, navigating to somehow get through this thing called life (yes that is a Prince reference). Prince is one of my all-time favorite philosophers, spiritual yet not necessarily religious, male/female/neither, questioning yet knowing creatures of all time.
Author Roger Housden, Keeping the Faith Without a Religion, has several articles and the noted book relating to the question. I even came across an article in Teen Vogue (BTW I can’t even believe there is Teen Vogue – kack…) of all places, so the conversation is there, in many forms and places. And as Housden points out, has been theorized by philosophers for centuries in one way or another.
Upon discovering Paganism existed I was smack dab in the upsurge of Wicca as a movement (and the internet as a communication device) and I jumped toward this new found experience with a full embrace. As I crafted my magical life, there were things that made sense to me and things that did not. I actually almost gave up the idea of magic at one point because I could not marry the things that did not work for me in Wicca to the things that everyone said were essential. I enjoyed the ritualized aspects in general. But I did not identify with the Goddess and her triple nature.
Paige, at the Fat Feminist Witch podcast has a heartfelt and wonderful episode on this subject, which is one of the things that got me thinking about it again. I feel like there are many women that have had a difficult time with their spirituality and trying to reconcile their lack of identification with the Goddess and her forms. For some time, I simply turned to the God, or I would still ask of Artemis in ritual and prayer because she was as close to the Goddess as I desired to be. I identified with her aspect in my mind’s eye of myself (as one can tell from some of my other journeys into the depths of my soul I never desired to be a “woman”, or a mother, or anything really that defined a "traditional" female) and it was she that initially called to me during spiritual meditation in those early days of Wicca. The God made me feel wild and free and of the woods. He was earth and bones and everything that I held fast to when I was unsure and needed to be strong, yet I was still fascinated with the moon and the darkness that it was said the Goddess held sacred.
In my early days, it was all very confusing to me and rather than give up my new found spiritual side I sort of began to make my own religion. Quietly of course, even Pagans can get all up in arms when a girl decides to forge her own path. I just did what felt right. I started collecting animal bones when I’d come across them in the woods because I felt they were powerful. I became a worshiper of the earth and the Universe because in them I saw magic. At some point it began occurring to me that there were no gods and goddesses. Just like there was no Christian god, we were alone in this journey. I wondered if I were an atheist afterall? I blogged about this at one point and I talked to people that had the same questions. They were hard to find though because no one knows what I am in person. Well, most of my family and friends think I AM an atheist actually and that’s fine with me. It honestly brings up fewer questions than would formulate should I try to explain…
I’m not sure there is anything after this. At least in the sense that we want there to be. I’m not sure that there is a rainbow bridge or a Summerland. I lean heavily toward a certainty that there is not, yet I find the Universe to be so damned magical in and of itself and I have experienced what people consider the "supernatural" at more than one point in my life. I try to factor in the magic of transformation in another sense. We die and are consumed by the earth. We become a part of it and therefore a part of the Universe. Eventually we are once again stardust. THAT must be magic, right?
Velma Nightshade and I had this discussion once and she said that she simply believed there is more. That it is not just that transformation in another sense. Interestingly enough I was with her (and several other friends) during one of the meditative experiences (led by the late Peter Paddon) in which I felt - DAMN, there IS something, I KNOW there is! In the present day I think I have turned some corner of the same belief because I’m closer to nature again. I live within its power daily. My life is somewhat dependent upon it. For instance, I now have to conserve water because I have my own water source. I have to worry about how much it rains/snows/the temperature because I’m caring for animals that also need that water and need to be cared for in different ways depending on what nature deals us. I can see the stars SO clearly. I can hear….everything it seems. The fields and woods and swamp are teaming with life and it is in my ears loud and clear every single day. I’m outside. A LOT. So, I experience things that I have always felt hold magic on a daily basis. So, if indeed there IS more, WHAT is it? What is it to me and does it even matter? And even though I tend to agree there is more that doesn’t discount the possibility in my head that whatever it is might still not mean that it is anything that I’ve been taught or led to believe or read or hoped or imagined. Am I just an eternal doubter? A skeptic of everything?
I go on about my business doing what feels right but I can't explain it to anyone. I still assign gender to certain things in spirituality even though the traditional Wiccan gender roles that I was taught did not end up making sense to me. I talk a lot to the moon here on the farm. I think it is because you can see her so clearly most nights, looking down upon fields and my own small spirit. I am at the barn after dark on most nights, even in the summer, and upon walking to the house I will tell her hello and thank her for lighting my way. I still request of Artemis to protect animals and I still kneel to Hern in the woods. I don’t feel as if these are things that I should let go of even though on the other hand I say that I don’t really believe in gods and goddesses. They are manifestations of spirit to me and that spirit can be secular and still be named. Can’t it?
I also have come to recognize that despite my inability to embrace the Goddess in all her forms I mother many things and am now the keeper of a hearth by the very nature of my life’s work. Still, this does not mean to me that gender assignment in spirituality works for me anymore than not secularizing spirituality does.
It all becomes extremely confusing and I dare not attempt to explain it to anyone. At least anyone that I speak to on a regular basis in my outside voice. So I write about it and I contemplate it and I share it with you guys on the off chance that anyone else has the same thoughts, struggles, has wandered the same paths at some point or is on them now, possibly hopelessly lost but fascinated with the journey.