Pagan

My Pagan Values: Spiritual Autonomy

Here’s one of the first things I learned when I started learning and practicing the Reclaiming tradition:

I am my own authority, rooted in community.

I’ll get to “rooted in Community” in later posts; today I’m looking at being my own spiritual authority. This doesn’t mean I’m free to run around doing whatever I want. It means that only I say how I understand the divine and how I connect to it. No one else tells me how to believe or what to do about my beliefs, not my teachers or fellow practitioners, not the tradition itself. Reclaiming, like all ecstatic Pagan traditions, values personal relationship with the sacred, which must start with a personal understanding of what the sacred is.

Lemme me tell ya: that can be terrifying. I’m a lifelong people-pleaser who struggles to decide what to have for dinner if there’s the least chance that my choice will negatively impact someone else. Believing that only I can determine my spiritual foundation is sometimes a very big ask.

On the other hand, I’ve gone the dogma route, both Christian and Pagan. I’ve been part of groups and traditions where the people in charge tried to tell the rest of us what to believe and how to practice. It doesn’t work for me. Because it’s true: only I can know how I perceive the sacred and how I best connect with it. This is why I hold spiritual autonomy as one of my central spiritual values. The ability to craft my own personal relationship with the secret, however I understand it, is a precious gift. I never want to take it for granted.

Photo by Amy Treasure via Unsplash. Image description: a person in a hooded coat walking along a dirt path through trees. Their back is to the camera, and their gaze points downward.

Pagan

My Pagan Values: Wholeness

I sometimes struggle to wrap my mind around the concept of wholeness. Yeah, I know, I chose it, but I can’t always articulate what I mean by it.

Earth is a materially closed system. Everything that was, is, and will be on this planet is made of the same stuff, endlessly broken down and reassembled in new forms. That’s one of the most incredible facts I know. We are literally our Ancestors remade–all the Ancestors, from the birth of this sacred planet forward. I love that. I honor it.

Wholeness to me also means repair. Repairing myself, repairing communities, repairing the world. True repair means first acknowledging what’s broken. No singing “We Are the World” together and then moving on like everything’s great and we’re all one now. I have to face the harms done, both by me and mine and to us. I have to learn when and how to make reparations for what I’ve done, when and how to demand accountability for what I’ve experienced, and, unfortunately, when and how to excise the parts that can’t or won’t be healed, so that what remains can be whole.

I don’t know that I’ll ever attain full wholeness in my own life, let alone in the whole world. But I have the whole world as a role model, and that inspires me to keep trying every day.

Image: Modern Kintsugi style gold repair on blue pottery bowl with orange and white flowers. Bowl and photo by artist Ruthann Hurwitz via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Pagan

My Pagan Values: Balance

For this turn of the Wheel, instead of writing about my Sabbat rituals, I’ll be writing about the eight values I chose for each Sabbat this year – the whys and wherefores; what each value means to me within the context of the holiday. I hope you enjoy!

The Chariot is my favorite Tarot card. Any deck I’m interested in, I look at that card first. If I don’t resonate with it, that deck and I won’t spend much time together. Decks that feature a bicycle are (unsurprisingly) a big hit for me, although at the moment I’m in love with the Chariot from Isabella Rotman’s This Might Hurt tarot, where the rider effortlessly balances on two motorcycles at once! Swoon! In my incredible spouse Leora’s deck-in-progress, the Resilient Tarot, I am the Chariot, riding my bike across the card with a look of sheer glee on my face. That’s how much I love the Chariot.

What does the Chariot mean to me? Balance. Getting the shit in my life into enough balance that I can bring some order to the chaos and keep moving forward. Balance between motion and rest. Between filling myself up and pouring myself out for community. Between meticulously planning my life and letting the tides of happenstance carry me.

Balance is dynamic. Staying upright on a bicycle at rest is very difficult. Even in a track stand, that seemingly motionless bike is often full of small motions that keep in in place. Balance isn’t a one-and-done state of being. It’s a constant process of awareness and adjustment.

I value that greatly in my spiritual life and practice. I strive to live in balance with Earth Itself and with All That Is. That looks different on different days, in different seasons of the year, in different seasons of my life. Nothing is static, so balance can never be static. I find a still point at the center, and then the center moves, and I must move with it.

This may, then, be a strange value to celebrate at Fall Equinox, despite the obvious association of equal night and day. After all, I can’t do anything about the balance of the equinoxes: Earth orbits; Earth tilts; we have one moment of perfect balance, and then we move on to greater darkness or greater light. But the Equinoxes do feel like moments when Earth’s journey and mine align for a day, and I want to celebrate that.

The brevity of the equinoxes also reminds me to give myself grace. If Earth Itself can’t constantly maintain balance, it’s more than okay that I can’t, either. I stop moving. The bike tips over. I fall down. Then I get up and pedal again, and I move back into balance, whatever that looks like today.

Blessed be.