The other day, I had an interesting discussion with Brenton Dickieson about the shape of the spiritual life.
I said, if I was to attribute a shape to my spirituality, it would be a tree, connecting spirit and matter, the heavens and the Earth, the human and the divine. If you think about the shape of a tree, its roots mirror its branches.
The other thing that’s amazing about trees is that they bend with the wind, and fit themselves into their surroundings.
There are even different types of tree for different types of Pagans. Hawthorns for witches, oaks for Druids, ash trees for Heathens, willows and birches and yews, and many more. (Obviously you can have a favourite tree that’s different from the one that is most closely associated with your tradition.) I also liked the fact that AtheoPagans have recently selected a tree as their symbol.
The ancient Sumerians had the symbol of the Moon Tree, a beautiful twining tree with the Moon in its branches.
I also read somewhere (I think it was in The Inner Reaches of Outer Space by Joseph Campbell) that in one of the Hindu traditions, the heart chakra is sometimes visualised as having an altar with a jewelled tree, where the deity who is special to the individual is worshipped. I like this image very much.
Paganism is of the Earth, earthy. It celebrates being alive, embodied, and partaking of the pleasures of the body. (Not that other religions don’t regard these as sacramental, but they do tend to circumscribe when and with whom you can do them.)
Paganism celebrates consensual sex, regardless of the gender and number of participants. (That isn’t a new development, by the way: for example, the ancient Celts counted descent and inheritance through the female line, neatly circumventing the problem of paternity.)
So we have our roots in the Earth, and we have our branches among the stars – reaching out towards the wonders of Nature, the spirit world, the preternatural, the future, the universe (whatever occupies the role of transcendence in our spirituality, since not all Pagans believe in spirits and deities). There are even trees planted from seeds that have been into space.
We celebrate both our local, finite, time-bound, and embodied natures, and the world around us, including the non-local, infinite, timeless, and numinous. Halfway between the animals and the angels.
What is the shape of your spirituality?
If you enjoyed this post, you might like my new book, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft.