The Isolated Animist: Respectful Relationships in Postmodern Individualism
As above so below, within as without, except for with other people. I've worked with others as a modern shaman since 2000, and the hardest facet of that role to impart is creating balanced relationship with All Things--especially each other--and live it in our "I" culture. It's easy to feel interrelated in trance, to idealize it in solitude, but to reach beyond the isolation of how capitalistic culture has created us and fosters us poses significant challenges. We end up living the collective experience alone. In this blog I explore new approaches to being an introverted, suburban American animist in an individualist culture, and living that connection out loud.
"Bunch of wanna-blessed-be's. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the dark ones." - Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I love that quote. It speaks to every judgment that can be made, one Pagan to another, that there is a right and wrong way to "do" Paganism, and that we all think we're better for our way. Not to mention how it characterizes non-Pagans...
I've been mostly sitting back and watching the upheaval around public Pagan figures publicly questioning their Pagan paths over the last year, starting with Star Foster, and now Teo Bishop. There may have been a Facebook status or two, though for the most part, I've been silent, taking it all in.
Public personas aside, I've been seeing a lot of Pagan-bashing within the Pagan community, of late. I've received it, as I'm sure many who remain actively engaged with the wider world audience, have.
I'd like to say it's disturbing. I'd even like to say it's in direct opposition to all the things that make the Pagan path... Pagan. Mostly, though, what's foremost in my mind is that it's familiar.
Many of us weren't born into a Pagan tradition; rather, we found one, after having been organized into a mainstream religion. And most of us who fall into that category have very clear reasons for why we left that confining spiritual path. While many don't tend a particular flavor of Paganism, we gravitate to its freer pastures, its open landscape of possibility and connection.
The freedom to do just that is what made Paganism so accessible. Why, then, would any Pagan give grief to someone seeking out a more defined path, even if that path is defined by the strictures of a different religion?
Is it that neat and tidy for some, that it all fits perfectly into a single container, never to spill across the borders of other perspectives? Maybe. Apparently. I don't think that's the rub, though. I think it's human nature to go off-road now and then, and frankly, to observe how others are faring in their adventure. Getting stuck in the mire of judging their religious choices is another thing, entirely.
As animists, we work the personal experience through the observation of and connection with all things around us, including other people. It isn't about what spiritual path we're on, or that anyone else is on. What matters is how well we're working the tenets of whatever path we choose, perhaps particularly as Pagans. How true to our spiritual convictions can we be if we're comparing ourselves to others? When we begin to personalize what everybody else is doing, how present are we in tending our own process?
Observe. Form opinions, then lay them at the altar of the ego, and move on. Ultimately it isn't about being Pagan, another spiritual path, or some threatening, unidentifiable tract between. It's about being a compassionate human.
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