I’m not sure how the conversation started…something about an uncle who likes to proselytize. I mentioned that if he ever found out I was a Pagan, I’d be the new black sheep in the family. To which, my mother said: “You are NOT a Pagan.”
“But, I am Pagan,” I said.
“No you’re not,” she replied.
I was a taken aback. I was sure my mother knew I was Pagan. We’d had conversations about witchcraft, plant and herb magic, folk traditions.
My friends, bosses and my local metaphysical community know I’m Pagan. Although I don’t talk about my spirituality with my extended family, as most of them are pastors and deacons in their churches, I had been sure my mother understood my path. It didn’t occur to me that I hadn’t been clear. And then I thought, what if I’m not clear, myself?
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you might have noted that it is rather eclectic. My interests are fairly all-encompassing. Myth, folklore, herbalism, witchcraft, Native American culture, gardening, farmers markets, travel, Kemet, Hoodoo, kitties, camping, seasons, celebrations, movies, yoga and chickens. Theses are just a few of the things that flicker in and out of my mind, teasing me and sending me running to read more books and try new recipes and find more blogs to subscribe to.
I was diverse at birth. Wandering and having my interest peaked all over the place is in my genes. I have Ukrainian/Roma/German blood on my mother’s side where there resides a rather colourful story about my great-grandfather the con-man/gigolo. On my father’s Scottish/Welsh/English side, there were some charming sheep-thieves and pirates in the family. Oh, sorry - they called them “privateers.” (Which is just a nice name for pirates.)
I grew up spending half of my weekends running through the woods up the hill from our home and the other half of my weekends were spent in a car, just driving wherever my father felt like taking us. We were always going somewhere or doing something. There was no room for being bored.
I took an interest in growing things when I was eleven. My grandmother was living on a large piece of land with an orchard on one portion of it and a wonderful stretch of garden on the other. I started my gardening life weeding between her rows of veggies. Back-breaking work in a garden that size, but I was hooked from that moment on.
It really shouldn’t have been a surprise for me that I would visit my pastor so many years later and tell him that I just wasn’t finding god in church. In the hills, the garden, by the river and in the eyes of my nieces and the love of my dog, yes. But not at my church.
“Perhaps your church isn’t a building,” he said. And that statement changed my life.
I’m sure he didn’t mean for me to leave Christianity all together. And yet…
I left the church fairly quickly after that - ten years ago now - but it would be a couple years before I figured out where I was headed.
I think I’m still figuring it out. I use the word “Pagan” because it ties me to a certain community of belief systems that resonate with me. But the word doesn’t necessarily feel right all the time. Same with the word “witch” - it conjures a certain feeling, but to some that feeling is wisdom or comfort and to some that feeling is fear. Part of the problem is, I’ve always shunned labels. I’m having a hard time finding one that fits me now.
The word “eclectic” is a dirty word in Paganism. It’s indicative of someone who picks and chooses belief systems, gods and practices with no regard to cultural propriety. But what about those of us who have a genuine interest in many different subjects, societies and crafts? I took two years of fairly structured Wicca training and enjoyed it, but it was very difficult for me to train myself to forget the more free-flowing way I practiced, and focus on a more rigid approach. Now I’m back in the dirt and the rocks and the green and touching and tasting everything with little regard to structure.
I like the word “liminal.” It speaks of a threshold. And I feel this way. And this word feels good. But how long can you be on a threshold before you must go through it one way or the other. I’d like to be a Liminalist (which is not a word - except that I just made it one.) But again - how long could you be a Liminalist before you would have to move? You cannot always stay ‘in-between,’ can you? And yet… I’ve always felt ‘in-between.’ I think that is part of what draws people to Paganism. Feeling like they don’t quite fit in the other places. Not quite here. Or there.
So here I am, wondering how right my poor mother is. My beliefs have not changed. This is not a dark night of the soul. But I do believe a large part of her struggle today was with the word “Pagan.” And I think I may have to do something about that, because I’m struggling with it a little too. It’s an easy word to use inside our own community, but does it really paint an accurate picture of who I am and how I practice outside the coven/online groups/conventions and festivals? I don’t know.
I’ll ponder a while in this liminal space. And when it’s time to cross that threshold, I will.