When you think of Pagans, do you think about a lot of weirdos dancing naked around a fire?
Okay, well there is some of that, but, those ‘weirdos’ are some of the wisest, nicest people I have ever met. In terms of definition, a Pagan is a person who does not believe in the God of the Bible. Christians often use the term to describe anyone who does not believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. This definition would include Jews and Muslims, as well. Generally, however, a Pagan believes in a polytheistic and/or agnostic religious purview. Under this broad umbrella, we must then include Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Wicca and even the Catholic worship of Saints seems to fall into a Pagan grey area for me personally.
Back to the naked dancing people. In my younger days, when I was looking for meaning and my place and purpose in the world, I was drawn to Paganism. It was less about worshipping Isis or Zeus or trees than it was about thinking of my Divine Creator as a Mother as opposed to a Heavenly Father. Women give birth, women create and generally men destroy. So, seeing God as a man was simply not logical for me. I went on a lot of “retreats”. Some had a foundation in meditation, some were Native American sweat lodge weekends (tough as hell, by the way) and some were your basic witch and wizard naked drum circle vibe. Trust me when I tell you it’s not nearly the erotic experience you might imagine or that you’ve seen in movies. These kind, gentle people tend to focus on inward beauty. It’s not a gym culture, if you get what I’m throwin’ down.
Ultimately, I found it difficult to identify with any particular group. As with any religion, there was a lot of studying, hierarchical positioning, memorizing and ceremony that I never felt particularly comfortable with. I finally came to understand that my relationship to whatever created me (and the universe) was private and my connection to it unique. I wasn’t comfortable sharing this experience, because every time I tried to explain it, it felt less sacred once the words were out in the world.
However, I did take one lasting practice away from all of this searching. I loved the idea of honouring the seasons as my ancestors did. When I say ancestors, I mean mine and yours. Anthropologically speaking, our ancestors believed in many Gods and Goddesses, praying to specific ones when they had specific needs. Moreover, there was a reverence to the changing seasons. Not only did the change of seasons represent an almost magical transformation of the landscape around them, but to ignore these shifts in climate would put our forefathers and mothers in peril. There was a time for planting, a time for cultivating, a time for harvesting and a time for preserving these foods to last throughout the dead of winter. Religions came and went, but the seasons would and will always change, one to the next. Celebrating this shift not only connects us to our history but also reminds us that change is inevitable even when things are going great and thankfully when things are going not so great.
A couple of days ago, we had the Summer Solstice. Yay! First day of summer, longest day of the year. Even if you didn’t celebrate it on that exact day, you can still honor the season. Spend some time outside. Be mindful of the change you feel in the air. Barbecue. Have a Margarita, chilled white wine or sweet tea. Summer is all about things luscious, ripe, sensuous and full. Eating big strawberries, walking around barefoot in the grass, swimming, collecting heady flowers like tuberoses and jasmine to put in a vase by your bed, listening to the insects at night, putting away your heavy sweaters and boots to make room for sandals and linen wraps, decorating your couch with bright throw pillows, taking the heavy blanket off your bed, opening up the windows and doors to let in the light and the breeze. These are all activities that can connect you to the season.
Don’t let it go by unnoticed. Don’t just take it for granted that summer is finally here. Be mindful of how great it feels to be warm and to go out without layers of clothes. Not to mention how blissfully long each day lasts! Remember how dark winter is? Full blown night time at 4pm can be so depressing. Maybe you don’t want to dance naked around a drum circle with a bunch of Pagans (me neither) but you can honor the season none the less, by recognizing that it has come and doing something, even if it’s one thing that you can only do in summer.
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