If I’m a pagan, what am I?

What is a pagan? From my view, it is someone who finds a connection between herself and the rest of the universe. Someone who sees the world as a vast continuum, filled with entities that are made of basically the same stuff, just in different recipes. And those connections are universal; deity is not a superior entity, just a larger one. One so large that it encompasses many smaller ones, and is beyond the comprehension of the smaller ones. Can a bacterium in my intestine comprehend my existence?
Unlikely.
Likewise, we as humans “know” there is Something larger, Something more, but we cannot comprehend the enormity of it. We can try. We put a face on it, we give it a personality – loving, wrathful, jealous, indifferent. We ascribe words to it. We use it as a tool – if you don’t do as this deity wants, you will be punished. If you do what it wants, you will be rewarded. Even the inability to understand this Something can be used: the Lord works in mysterious ways, it’s all part of God’s plan, we just need to trust in God’s plan.
Pagans seek to find a way to connect to that Something, tap into it. As that Something can influence us, perhaps we can influence it. So we create ritual to find ways to connect and exert our influence on it.
I see paganism as more of a philosophy than a religion. Look at all the different religions that are considered pagan. By some estimation, that’s everything that’s not part of the Abrahamaic trio. For some deity is a living thing, sometimes with one face, sometimes with many. For others it is an impersonal force, something that can be tapped like a stream of water.
Perhaps we should call it Somethingism instead.

Pondering the elements

When casting a circle, it is customary to “call” the four quarters, North, South, East and West.  Each of those quarters is associated with one of the elements.  The accepted norm for element/direction associations are:

North – earth

East – air

South – fire

West – water.

Now, as I have a very logical mind, I have a great deal of difficulty reconciling these associations with what I see as the properties of the elements and their relationship with each other.  The properties of the elements demand a re-thinking of their placement.

As it stands, earth and fire are opposite each other, and water and air oppose.  These pairings are troubling to me.  I believe the diametric opposites should be on opposing sides of the circle.

The opposite pairs, for me, are water/fire and air/earth.  These element pairs cannot occupy the same space – fire will disperse water or water will extinguish fire.  To eliminate air, the fastest moving molecular state, one need only put the sluggish molecules of a solid, earth.   Air feeds fire, as does earth in the form of solid fuel.  Water can be absorbed into earth or air.  From my point of view, these are the pairs that should oppose each other across the cast circle.

But which directions should be associated with these opposing pairs?  As I see it, water should be to the north.  Water is everywhere to the north – snow, rain, the vast Arctic Ocean.  The ice to the north is water held in stasis.  As one moves farther south towards the equator, heat increases, and water becomes scarcer.  Of course, this is not necessarily the way things are everywhere in the world; as an American living in the United States, this is how it appears to me.  Yes, it gets sweaty and sticky in parts of the south, but that is water being drawn forth by the fiery heat of the sun.  The farther south into the heat you go, the more you need to continuously replace the water in your body.  Fire, heat, sucks the water out and dissipates it.  Therefore, I would place water at the north, and fire at the south.

But what of earth and air?  While they are diametrically opposed to each other in their qualities, they are also all around us on earth.  Where there is air, there is no earth, where there is earth there is no air.  Their location is both changeable and universal.  Their location can be changeable as well.  The wind comes from the west sometimes, other times from the east.  It is always above us; earth is always below us.  If I am outdoors, I will call the west air, as the clouds generally “move” from west to east.  If the wind has changed up, and is coming from the east, I would swap the earth/air position.

I have not seen much discussion on the reasons the elements are associated with a particular direction.  It seems to be merely accepted by many Wiccans through prior teachings.  I do know my model fits in well with the Aristotelian philosophy of the elements and associations.  The directions are coupled with the seasons here; winter, cold and moist, is to the north, and summer, hot and dry, is to the south.

This model also works rather well for the color wheel.  The cool colors are to the north – perhaps green at the apex, which would put red, associated with fire and heat, a the opposite.  If blue is north, orange is south.  The slide from winter to spring would pass through purple towards red, warming up, and then autumn allows the colors to cool and moisten through the harvest of the earth.

I do not say that this is the definitive coupling of direction and element; from where I stand, however, this is the most logical placement I can see.

Everything has a beginning…

Hi.  My name is Mary, and I’m a seeker.

What am I seeking?  Knowledge.  Inspiration.  Truth.  Roots.  Whatever I can find.  Living is learning, we don’t stop doing it ’til we’re in the ground. 

A seeker asks why.  She asks who we are.  She wants to know where we come from, what we are, how we came to be who and what we are.  She looks for common roots, why we believe what we do.  Spiritually, intellectually, psychologically, we became ourselves through the lives and experiences that came before us, and those that come after will be affected by what we are now. 

My quest began when I was in high school.  I was raised Byzantine Rite Catholic, but I never accepted or believed everything I was taught.  I had asked “why” in Catechism class years earlier, and was told that we do not ask why – we just accept and believe.  That made me wonder “why” all the more, but I just didn’t voice the question.  Then my brother became Buddhist, and I realized that people could explore and discover other religions – just because I was born into a Catholic family and had been baptized didn’t mean I had to be Catholic.  I’ve been seeking the answer to “why” ever since.

I am also an older student, soon to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Journalism.  I will be a 50-year-old with a new degree, ready to change careers.  I need to practice writing,

My goal is to write an entry around once a day.  I study different religions and paths.  Crafting is one of my lifelong loves, and so I sew, crochet, knit, embroider, make my own herbal extracts, and draw.  As I learn new crafts, I will share them as much as I can. 

Please join me on my quest.