Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.

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The catch 22 of Pagan festivals

It's the festival season and I just spent the weekend at Castlefest. Castlefest is not, exactly, a Pagan festival but it was--and probably still is, although they're fading to the background--the festival Pagans flocked to. There is a Pagan corner of the festival terrain, a wicker burning of which the Pagan gang is in charge and many Pagan supplies can be bought there. Incense, clothing, tools, you name it. Even statues of some Pagan Gods. It sounds like Pagan heaven and in a way it is. Yet, I don't feel at home there.

I wrote yesterday that the biggest difference between me and any other Pagan there, seems to be in our views about Deity and how to approach Them. As I said then, any Recon tradition forces you to actually believe in the Gods, not as just handy tools to get your own needs fulfilled. Cara Schulz, in the very post I went off on before, but explained why later, recognizes that very problem:

"I live in a catch-22. I love going to Pagan festivals and gatherings as I love the people there and greatly enjoy the general vibe. I highly recommend them and I have a great time when ever I attend a community event or Pagan festival or Con. Yet when I attend these types of gatherings, that is when I feel the least like part of the Pagan community. I attend the workshops, the rituals, and listen to the conversations and I have almost nothing in common with any of it. I can’t relate. Casting a circle has as much in common with my religion as walking the Stations of the Cross. We have no common connection. The lovely maiden Hekate I worship that grants our family prosperity little resembles the Crone Hekate that many neo-Pagans work with for magic. The very things that should draw me closer to the Pagan community are the very things that tell me I may not belong."

Schulz describes exactly my thoughts on the situation. Walking around a Pagan festival makes me realize how much I have removed myself from the Pagan banner. This change happened long before my actual progression into Hellenismos. It happened when I couldn't get through a ritual without shutting down my mind about the Christian elements, it happened when I tried to strike up meaningful communication with Pagans about their practice and found no link at all, it happened when I felt myself getting annoyed at the casual 'use' of the Gods so prevalent in some Witchcraft Traditions.

Lauren DeVoe, fellow PaganSquare blogger, coincidentally picked a related topic to blog about today. In her post 'Approaching Deity', she talks about the vows we make to Deity and the ease with which some break those vows when they no longer fit comfortably in the (religious) life they had envisioned for themselves. When things get dark and scary and demanding--a clear sign you may have gotten in over your head--it's easy to try and get out. But you can't. Because these are Gods and Goddesses and although you might not have actually believed They existed, They have taken an interest in your life, just like you asked for.

In my life, I have only broken a single vow to a Goddess; I parted ways with blessed Brighid. It took me a year to do so and I cried, felt guilty, and would only accept this break to be happening when Brighid herself gave me some very clear signs. I was released, in love, at a point in my life where we both realized we could not be there for each other anymore. And it hurt. It hurt more than almost anything else has in my life. I can still feel that hollow space where Brighid's presence used to be, but it still feels right to have done what I did and, at the risk of hubris, I feel Brighid still mothers over me from afar.

Sometimes, the general response I feel from the Pagan community when I express my devotion to Deity, is a raised eyebrow and the feeling I'm taking this whole 'deity thing' too seriously. It's exactly that feeling that intensifies when I go to a Pagan festival; I feel like an outsider because I can't relate to the worldview and view on Deity. I don't care about meditations to 'discover the Goddess in you' or a workshop spell pouches making. They are wonderful for a good few other Pagan Traditions and I like watching people enjoy themselves with these activities. Watching them come out of meditation invigorated and strengthened is a glorious sight to behold. But it does nothing for me. It never really has, although I tried really, really hard in the past.

I will still go to Pagan festivals, and next year, I will go to Castlefest again. I'll go for the atmosphere and the friends who I can hang with there. But I won't hunt the shops in the hopes of finding anything Hellenic, I won't hang around the Pagan part of the festival in the hopes of finding anything to relate to. I'll listen to the music I never listen to, I'll hunt for food I like and gawk at the outfits. I'll try not to feel alone. And I'll enjoy it, just like I did this year, when I focus on my friends and leave my Pagan soul at the entrance gates.

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Elani Temperance is a twenty-seven year old woman, who lives with her partner in The Netherlands. She has been Pagan for a little over twelve years and has explored Neo-Wicca, Technopaganism, Hedge Witchery and Eclectic Religious Witchcraft before progressing to Hellenismos. Although her home practice is fully Hellenic, she has an online Neo-Pagan magazine called 'Little Witch magazine' (www.littlewitchmagazine.com) in which she and several co-writers try to cover the whole gamut of Neo-Paganism. Baring the Aegis is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BaringTheAegis

Comments

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Wednesday, 08 August 2012

    You are articulating the experience of many Pagans, I believe; I count myself as one of them. I recognize that festival culture is amazing and transformative for many, but I'm just not one of them. I usually spend most of any festival I've ever attended out in the woods alone or with my DH, enjoying nature.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Wednesday, 08 August 2012

    Thanks for this. I walk in a couple of worlds, one of which is interfaith. I am always surprised (and, to be honest, disdainful) when people treat the Divines as Jungian concepts and nothing more. I have too often felt like the most "primitive" person in the place when I talk about my work and service--even when I talk about my daily practice. Everyone from liberal Christians to UUs have done a literal double-take when I speak of the Divines "as if they were really there". I call it my Papua New Guinea moment--when everyone realizes that I really don't believe they way they do, not in any real sense. Thanks!

  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson Tuesday, 14 August 2012

    I enjoyed this post, Elani. Although I have never been to a "Pagan festival" I have been to numerous Pagan events, open circles, PPDs, discussion groups, and the like. I have always felt like the alien in the bunch. And it only gets even more awkward when good people try to involve me in a circle, thinking that they can take a couple of elements of my religious practices and patch them into an eclectic circle. I'm sort-of ok in discussion groups, but I have begun to eschew rituals. I've stopped calling myself "Pagan" and focus on "polytheist" for many reasons. And I've found out I have more in common with Chinese reverence for the ancestors than I perhaps do with Wicca. Like Byron, I, too, have had those "Papua New Guinea" moments.

    Facebook status: it's complicated.

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