Blogging the Spirit: I don’t have a Name for God…Why I call myself a Pagan

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In Wildness is the preservation of the world. Thoreau

 

I say the word God. I thank God. I get mad at God. I question God.

But I don’t have an image of what or to whom I am talking. No image forms in my mind’s eye. I don’t see Jesus or an old bearded man. I don’t see a God or Goddess. God, for me, is an experience or a feeling of connection to the generative force in the Universe. It’s that present something that continually creates and moves forward all life.

Growing up in an interfaith secular home meant holidays were celebrated in their commercial forms: the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Hanukkah gelt. God didn’t enter into it. As a young adult, I tried to understand or reconcile my multifaith background through rites and rituals, through behaviors so that I might “feel Him.” I was mystified by others in pews and classrooms who totally got this, felt this and for whom through all the tenets and dogma, God was real. I wanted that, too. I wanted that so much I lied to them and myself hoping that the saying, “fake it till you make it” might actually work.img_5320

But the moment I stepped on a trail or looked up into a blue cloudless sky at a hawk soaring elegantly on thermals or noticed the scent of pine—God made sense to me.

I fought this desire to find God in Nature for a long time. It seemed trite, “I find God in Nature!” I wasn’t a hippie or a mountain man. I was just a gal in the city who couldn’t seem to get God the way my peers did.

For several years after discovering Wicca and other Pagan paths, I joined groups still trying hard to feel what other folks were feeling, this time about Gods, moon phases, the seasons and what was expressed in the holidays of the Wiccan year. I loved the ceremonies marking the equinoxes and solstices and the celebrations of the full moon. But finding a pantheon eluded me and the philosophies seemed complicated. Maybe I was just too lazy to commit to the beliefs of any religion if all I needed in order to find and experience God was to lie on a boulder in the sun with a lizard.

What do you call this?

But this idea that what I am experiencing is God, still doesn’t feel right. I don’t know what I am participating in if I don’t feel it’s the God of Judeo-Christianity or the Gods of the Witches. My experiences in Nature sunning myself on a boulder on a mountain in the San Gabriel’s with a lizard as a companion seem bigger than religion and God as I understand them. Turning my head, eye to eye with Lizzy basking together in the heat of the day is a connection that is so profound to me and greater than a similar experience with a human being. It is two very different species meeting and having the same experience with the life-giving rays of the sun. The word God feels too small here and religion doesn’t have room for this. Except, it should….

We are “starstuff”

cosmosI am old enough to remember Carl Sagan, the American astronomer, scientist, author and miniseries star. When “Cosmos” came out most people I knew were riveted. No one had ever explained the universe and the night sky to regular folks in lay terms before. Sagan was personable, easy to understand, not patronizing and above all made us feel closer to the sky, as if it was part of our neighborhood.

One of his most famous concepts had a big effect, “we are starstuff.” We are part of the beginning of the Universe when it exploded into bits, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” Further, he said, “if you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” And that means when we look up into the night sky we see our relatives.

The Genesis account of Creation is, to me, right there with it. God as the Big Bang calling all Creation into being, breathing life into the first human means we are all related as well. In both cases we were created/have a Creator who connects us past, present, future. Whether we look across the sky to the bounty of stars or across a room full of people we are looking at our cousins, because all life is the incarnation of our Creator. Therefore, it is not a stretch or a fantasy to feel connected to God in Nature any less than we do with blood relatives.

From starstuff we get mountains, the sea, trees and bugs and coyotes; we get the planet Jupiter, a kitten and Grandma Sadie. When we bask in the healing rays of the sun oimg_4741 - copyr watch the tides forming from the pull of the moon we feel our kin. Genesis gives us this same connection. We are not separate to do with the Earth as we please without repercussions. Modern Pagans get it. Indigenous peoples get it. This perspective is fundamental to the way we treat our non-human relatives, including this planet, so it is ironic that the Judeo-Christian establishment condemns this as Nature-worship, as if worshiping, loving, respecting, seeing Nature as holy and sacred should be considered blasphemy!

Being Pagan gives me a perspective of myself in the Universe that traditional religions are blind to. They have turned animals, plants and the land of the Garden into resources; they have turned them into something to USE, instead of seeing them existing for their OWN sakes. But….it IS in their holy books to see Nature as sacred. And when that happens it will heal the rupture that separates ‘man’ from Creation. Then the land, the animals, the very air will breathe, literally, a sigh of relief.

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This is a very personal post. I am sharing these thoughts, because if you follow me on my Instagram and other social media I often post poems and quotations with my photos that describe or evoke my relationship with the natural world. As a book blogger, obviously words move me. When reading the classics I am sometimes stuck on a beautiful phrase that stays with me. So too in the way poets and other writers capture a feeling that describes Nature and helps me to feel connected. These are meaningful moments for me and so I share….

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Blogging the Spirit on the First Sunday of the Month

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What inspires your connection to God/The Gods/Soul/The Universe/The Big Cheese?

On the first Sunday of the month a call for bloggers of any religious/spiritual tradition or none to share a poem, some thoughts, a piece of music, a photo, something in your liturgy that reflects this relationship. The information is here.
You can put the link to your post in the comments below. #BloggingtheSpirit in social media.

 

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11 thoughts on “Blogging the Spirit: I don’t have a Name for God…Why I call myself a Pagan

  1. I, too, thank you for this post, Laurie. The struggles are there within us, but so few of us recognize, accept, and then make use of them to connect to who and what surrounds us. Two songs and one book/author that help me understand this struggle: the songs are ‘Mighty Trucks of Midnight’ by Bruce Cockburn and ‘Your Life is Not Your Own’, by Robert Een; the book is ‘Wild Places’, by Robert Macfarlane. I know suggestions start to get tiresome, but find Macfarlane on Instagram (robgmacfarlane) — I think his work fits in well with your thoughts here. And always the struggle continues.

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  2. I can go along with much of what you say, Laurie.
    I am big on ancestry and family history, and like to make connections. For example I wear a St. Brigid cross made from marble in Connemara where Galway ancestors of mine come from. I sometimes walk the old industrial streets of Ancoats in Manchester where generations of my relatives before me lived, worked and died.
    This filters through to my spiritual life too. Outdoors, being in nature has the same affect on me that you describe. But it also ties in with what is now termed Celtic Christianity -the practice of the indigenous church of these islands in British Christianity’s early days. They followed two ‘books’, one of scripture and one of nature. And I feel more connected to the Saints that walked these lands than those who walked in Israel and elsewhere. Aidan, Cuthbert, Patrick, etc.
    Going right back to the cusp of the pagan and Christian faiths intermingling. Think it was Columba (though may be wrong) who said “Christ is my Druid.”
    But yes there’s no right or wrong way in how we experience and practice the spiritual in life.
    I’ve never read Sagan, though you reminded me of the closing lines of a poem in my collection Heading North, if you allow me to quote myself! 😂

    The clouds are corpulent
    devourers of vision,

    insisting limitation
    to the ardent eye.

    Their indolent drift
    denies the heavens
    in their profundity.

    I am clay,
    made of stardust;
    made of stars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do believe knowing who and what our ancestors were can be part of our own spiritual journey. I have felt that about you when you write about your own. Your narratives are deep and poetic, so even a reader is touched!

      And when you don’t know where your ancestors are from, that too, can prompt a journey.

      Your poem is perfect. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Laurie, I recommend the book Lord of the Elements by Bastiaan Baan if you’d like to read about how finding the sacred in nature is actually a vital part of Christianity – he shows how we need to affirm our connection with the kingdoms of nature, and take that connection to a new level through the spiritual activity only we humans can contribute.

    Out of my own thoughts, I also find the word “God” is not always enough to express my experience. And it is an experience, a relationship, that is far more than any fixed idea or dogma or intellectually confining term.

    Words are tricky; they want to point the way toward something we can understand in common, but they can also form walls that prevent understanding. To recover and live within the original creative activity behind the words is our challenge today I think. We need a new language! And observing the creative activity in nature, its wondrous beauty and wisdom and ingenuity, can help us there.

    Wherever we find life and growth and healing, there is God as far as I am concerned. If you can recognize health, you know the divine work in the world. Terminology ceases to matter when we can agree on that.

    Thanks as usual for sharing your thoughts! I always enjoy hearing about your spiritual journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Lory, I remember being interested in that book when you blogged about it. I tried to find it at my normal spots, but couldn’t. I’ll have to dig deeper, so thanks for reminding me of it.

      In terms of language, I think one of the worst translations in the book of Genesis is the one which calls ‘man’ to have *dominion* over Creation. As a concept, dominion has given people license to wreak selfish havoc on all aspects of the planet. And now that concept has become political….

      Thank you for your encouragement and support as I journey through all this ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Outstanding post. You touch upon all sorts of fascinating and thought provoking ideas.

    I am also a big fan of Carl Sagan and I also was moved by the original Cosmos for the same reasons that you were. To this day I still admire Sagan. My parents were Catholics. I guess that you can say that I am a secular humanist but I am also in awe of nature and I understand the connections that you wrote about. We are indeed Star Stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sagan stopped us in our tracks. One of the best champions of science and lover of the Universe ever! He brought the technical information down to the common level without sacrificing the majesty of it. From him I learned that science and spirituality are on the same side of a coin.

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Like

  5. Thank you for this personal, insightful, honest and thought-provoking post Laurie. I’m sure you are summing up a lot of folks’ thoughts about God, Spirit, Nature etc. I am totally with you on a lot of points. I discovered the beauty of Nature as a young boy and the joy of my spirit connecting with Nature. Then in my late teens organized religion came along which as you say, frowns on such beliefs. It’s only in recent years that I have been moving back to more Spirit-based, Nature-based forms of worship – and experiencing great freedom and joy as a result. I too find it hurtful that “Nature as holy and sacred should be considered blasphemy.” Best wishes for your/our continuing and exciting journey of discovery!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Denzil, You do such a great job with your blog that when I look at your posts on walks and trips and such in Belgium, I see all the nature I would love to experience!

      I am so glad you are finding your path and that it is meaningful to you. That’s what it’s all about. And thanks for the good wishes of discovery!

      Liked by 1 person

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