Sicut Paganus

If you have read my previous entries, then you may have wondered at a certain discrepancy in my profile here at Tribe. Despite all these previous musings on the church, God, Jesus and all that, almost every one of my friends and almost every tribe to which I belong are based in alternative, if not outrightly Pagan spirituality. If I am so concerned with Christian issues, why do I not belong to Christian tribes and have other like-minded Christian friends? I don’t have a good answer beyond the simple one that I simply do not feel at home among them. If I were to formulate my spirituality in Christian vs. Pagan terms, I would say that the framework of my faith is Christian but my day-to-day experience is Pagan — but what does that mean?

My first experiences with Christianity were very personal, and in reading the Gospels on my own I felt that I was suddenly being introduced to a story that spanned the entirety of reality and of which I was an integral part. The Bible gave me a view of the beginning, midpoint and end — but that was what it was designed to do after all — and all the rest was still to be discovered. That ‘all the rest’ is what I mean by my day-to-day experience: running naked in the woods, premonitions, visions, telepathy, sacred geometry, communication with animals, astral projection … magic … it was all the stuff in between.

Even the monotheism of Christianity didn’t sit well with me as other gods showed up in numerous places in the Bible. Two examples of many are when Michael the Archangel apologizes in the Book of Daniel for being late because he was in a fight with ‘the Prince of Persia’ and in His ten commandments God says ‘You Shall Have no other Gods before Me’. He doesn’t say that no other Gods exist, just that He is the only God for the Hebrew people. My understanding was that the world was full of gods, goddesses, nymphs ghosts, goblins, krakens, and any other innumerable entities that defied “normal” experience, but that humanity was to worship the Creator and give Him his due as the font of all things. What kind of a piss-ant God (to use the technical, theological term) would be able to create people whose vision of the world was less magical than His own?

My first, personal spiritual experiences were in the woods and spanned all forms of psychic phenomena. I remember instances during the first ten or so years of my life of clairvoyance, astral projection and animal tongues, and I had a particular relationship with our home’s ghost: the man who built our house in the late 17th/early 18th century and shared my name. I began practicing basic divination before I even knew what it was and remember feeling an intense, almost intrinsic connection to the land. This connection has persisted and I remember one occasion when, working at a stable in Florida, I was suddenly arrested by a large crow or raven (properly ravens are not found to my knowledge south of Maine) standing at my back on the fence-line at eye level just two or three feet distant. We stared into each other’s eyes for what seemed like ten minutes before it finally flew off.

My first introduction to Norse religion, as I posted earlier, was the runes and the relationship between them and the Norse divinities. I, again, felt that I had uncovered a further truth of the world and was excited beyond anything that I had previously known. This was, I think, the first time I became interested in historically based lore — an interest that has led me to my profession in academia. Since then, I have pursued anything related to the occult, only periodically wondering if my researches were in any way ‘dangerous’ to me spiritually. When I was researching the Cabbala as an undergraduate, for example, one of my professors who also happened to be Jewish saw me checking out a number of books on the subject. A mischievous glint appeared in her eye and she said to me “Ah, Cabbala! The fires in this learning can burn the soul. Rabbi must study for many years before learning this. Have fun!” I remember feeling a little shaken by this moment, but I could not keep from learning all I could. If there was any effect of this and other such episodes that warned of possible spiritual danger, it was a trepidation that has always kept me from attempting full, practical application of what I found. For all my interest, my Christianity has kept my knowledge purely theoretical and academic.

A very close friend of mine, who had been involved with the Temple of Set back East, recounted how he began to move toward Christianity — a journey that has since brought him to the Catholic confession. He was working with ancestral spirits, but had also contacted a number of … darker minds. He was subsequently plagued by consistent, malevolent visitations at night and on several occasions these transferred to other friends and family members that did not believe in what he was doing. These visitations manifested as the dark, ghostly forms of hooded figures, large birds (large as in the size of a small pony) and glowing lights. On a couple occasions, people actually were hurt physically.

Nevertheless, I have made small overtures into what I have always understood were non-Christian paths. In the nineties, I acquired a number of Wiccan books (the first was actually a mistake; I thought is was a book of poetry) and communicated with several of their authors, not without results. I always felt that something was off, though — as if there were gears grinding. I remember one particularly vivid vision that I had …

I was traveling to an island to try and see an old woman who was to teach me something very important. Reaching her house I found that she was not home. Standing in the middle of the house, not knowing what to do, I looked out a back window of the cabin to see a raven devouring itself on a picnic table: ripping chunks of flesh and tattered organs out of its broken chest. I heard the door open behind me and turned to find a tall, slender woman in her sixties or early seventies sweeping in from outside. She wore a broad-brimmed sun hat and a bright but business-like visage … and that was it. I roused.

Even now I practice with the Tarot, have begun meditations toward scrying and increasingly privilege the older, Gaelic calendar over our current Gregorian one. There is so much that I see in this life to warrant the non-Christian viewpoint, and yet I still adhere to certain key Christian praxen. Increasingly, however, I feel hampered by this, as though these praxen constitute an apathy and a hindrance to who and what I am — the fully realized manifestation of myself as understood through that previously mentioned subconscious belief. To date, I have never had what I would consider a moment worthy of conversion in either direction – thus my need for this process. No angel or demon, Holy Virgin or Sacred Crone has appeared to me. No Celtic god or goddess of old has spoken to (or through) me, so I am left here seemingly to my own devices to discern, to synthesize and ultimately to confess.

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