I don't know that I have any followers any more; it's been a long time since this blog has been regular enough to have followers. But it works better for me if I pretend I have an audience. So, probably-nonexistant audience: you may have noticed that I haven't posted any updates on my Dedicant's Path work for a while now. To be honest, I'm struggling. This Proto-Indo-European stuff is interesting, but it's not doing it for me.
I joined ADF because I felt out of touch with my religion and I needed some structure to get me back into it; it's done that admirably. It's also reminded me of why I gave up on organized Paganism for so long - the infighting, the inability to manage an organization, the arbitrary adherence to certain sets of rules and complete ignorance of other ones. But today I read through the Gaol Naofa documents, and while I feel more closely aligned with them, there are still some things I cling to that exclude me from membership in a strict reconstructionist organization. Carving out my own path is exhausting, but more and more it seems like it's my only choice.
Here's my problem: I want to live in the religion that would have existed if it had lasted up to the present day. I don't venerate history or tradition and I don't believe that my ancestors had it all figured out. I don't want to live and worship as though I were an Iron Age Irishwoman; I want there to have been Pagan Irish for all of history, growing and changing and flourishing in the world that exists. I want to be Pagan and also me - part Irish, part Scottish, part English, part German, part Dutch, part who-knows-what. American, and also worshiping the gods of my Irish ancestors, because those are the gods who speak to me.
But I just can't with mainstream neopaganism, with the pseudo-shamanism and the appropriation of Native cultures and the generalized woo and positive-thinking bullshit and the exploitative nonsense that goes on there. (Never mind the utter and painful ignorance of history.) I don't think Paganism is actually going to be a multicultural thing, just because Native people are fighting a very different battle (although I think Black Americans interested in their ancestral religions might have interesting things to talk about with white European-descended American Pagans), but I don't want it to be toxic. My solution for that has been to cut myself off from the toxic parts of the culture, but that's so much of it that I'm left with only a very few offshoots, and most of those don't want anything to do with me if I'm interested in both Irish Gaelic Paganism and the long history of folk magic and folk traditions that grew into the modern Pagan movement. So I'm left alone, until I get too lonely and isolated to stand it, and then I dive back in and the whole messy cycle starts all over again.
Like all life, I suppose.
This is really a problem of form. My relationship with the Gods, when I am able to cut through all the mess and anxiety and do ritual or meditate and reach the Otherworld somehow, is fine. I've even had some revelations through my work with the ADF materials: good ones, that will see me through a lot in the future. But I've always believed that my Paganism is a religion of praxis, more about what I do than what I believe, so form matters. Finding the right form matters.
I'm just starting to think that how I feel matters, too. Right now I feel torn, rent and bleeding, like an animal caught in a trap. I can imagine what kind of work I'll have to do to get myself out of it, and that's terrifying. But I also feel like I'm coming to chew-off-my-own-leg-or-starve, and that maybe it's time to cowboy up and dive right into the hole in the middle of my life. I'm six months on new antidepressants, now; I'm less mentally ill than I have been in years. It hasn't solved anything. It's just made it clear what I actually need to do to solve things.