I have been a Pagan since 1985, when I realised that the various philosophical perspectives I had cobbled together for myself could be described as Pagan. This was a bit scary at the time, because I thought I was the only Pagan in existence; this was pre-internet and before I met other Pagans.
The philosophy I had patched together for myself was this. I had decided that there was no external deity outside the universe, controlling it – how could there be when there was so much wrong with the world? I had decided that sexuality and the body are sacred. I had realised that Nature is full of divinity. And I had realised that if the world is going to get any better, it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the work ourselves, not wait for some deity or deities to do it for us.
These realisations have formed the basis of my Paganism ever since. My emphases have shifted and changed from time to time, but these are my core values. I realised that the label “Pagan” best described my philosophy because I had read Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling. It’s still one of my favourite books.
I also believe that we are not here to serve deities; we are here to work with them as allies to make the world a better place (for all its denizens, human and non-human). The deities need our finite, time-bound and local perspectives as much as we need their infinite, eternal and non-local perspectives.
In 1991, I became a Wiccan, and in 2007, I also joined the Unitarians. However, I have realised that it is too hard to follow two paths and do them both justice. I can only be fully part of one sangha (spiritual community), in one dharma (model of how the universe works), and in one tribe. Wicca is my dharma, my sangha, my tribe. I have learnt much of value from Unitarianism and will always value it. But I need the wildness and eros of Wiccan spirituality; it’s in my soul.
One of the reasons I looked elsewhere was the way in which much of the Pagan community is fixated on a binary gender model; a model into which I do not fit, and which makes me profoundly uncomfortable. The Pagan community is certainly not homophobic, but it can be decidedly heterocentric at times. However, this does seem to be changing – albeit with the slowness of glaciers.
I also affirm the idea that all religions are looking at the same underlying phenomenon from different perspectives; and that includes Christianity. There is much that we can learn from Christian spirituality, even though we reject most of the theology. There are plenty of heretical and mystical ideas that have come out of that tradition which are worth investigating. Many Christians are now interested in these ideas, and in Pagan ideas too. It’s time for dialogue, not flinging stereotypes at each other.
My approach to Wicca (and that of many other Wiccans in the UK) is experimental and fluid. I think that every witch should build up their own Book of Shadows, not regard the text inherited from Gerald Gardner as some kind of holy writ. Wicca is not a religion of the book, and should not become one. Our “holy book” is Nature, not the Book of Shadows. I have other “heretical” ideas about Wicca, which will probably appear in subsequent posts.
And finally, I think that the basis of theology is relationships – our relationships with each other and the world around us.