Sep 21, 2008
It's a terrible shock to look back at this year and realize that yes, my plans really did come to fruition. I quit the job I hated that was causing me so much grief, I started school, I've got two new part-time jobs to back me up, and the world is a much brighter place than it used to be.

It's strange to think this, as I'm still recovering from a broken foot, as one of my friends struggles with replacing most of her worldly possessions lost in a flood (while still unemployed) and another is fighting depression and a terrible economy in an attempt to get out of her horrible job situation; as the economy falls in on itself and the Republicans field what might be the worst possible ticket imaginable and still their poll numbers don't go down...but I'm doing okay. I can feel the rest of the world holding its breath, but I know I can weather it.

Strangely enough, I almost feel like this is a result of feeling more connected to the world, not in spite of it. It's as if by taking my place among these events, by taking some responsibility for them, they become less scary and uncontrollable. Not because I feel like I can control them, but just because I don't feel like they can control me. We're all part of the same system, pushing and pulling one another, but I've got my claws in deep enough that nothing's going to shove me out of my place in the world. Not just yet.

It's the Equinox, and things are turning over. Time to hold on tight.

Tell Me a Story

Sep 11, 2008
(This post has been brought to you by the winning entry for PanGaia's Pagan Fiction Contest. You're kidding me, right?)

If I read one more Pagan conversion story, I am going to scream. "Once upon a time I was not Pagan but I was unhappy and then I discovered Paganism and everything was WONDERFUL." Oh, the Augustinian conversion story, how I loathe you.

I'm not saying that story isn't true for the people who tell it. (I've told a similar one before, and I stand by it as my lived experience. It was indeed what happened.) But – it's like this. When I was in therapy, one of the questions on the entry form was about your religion, and I put "Pagan." The therapist asked me about it – I think her exact words were something like "Tell me about that." And I started telling her my conversion story.

I think a lot of people do this; it's a way of explaining process, making our Paganism seem less strange to cowans because we give them logical reasons for every step of the way. But I've started to wonder if it's really the best model at hand.

For one thing, it's also a hugely familiar story, particularly to the kind of people who like us least (Evangelical Christians). Now, I don't mean to say that something is bad just because Evangelical Christians do it (I for one enjoy oxygen, for example), but I do think there are some theological underpinnings to the conversion story that make it, at best, questionable for Pagans.

The key event in the conversion story is the conversion. It's the climax of the narrative structure: the narrator's dissatisfaction with the religion of their birth is the plot, the conversion is the climax, and the description of their current belief the denouement. This structure makes the religion – the Paganism – the least important part of the story, the aftermath of other, more exciting events. It's a happy ending, but how much do you care about a happy ending to a story other than that it's happy?

Conversion makes sense as a central point for a Christian, because Christianity has a focus on salvation. For Christians, the moment of conversion is a moment of grace, the point at which not only their life changes but literally their entire existence, their afterlife, the fate of their soul is determined. There's not a lot of theological unity among Pagans, but I don't know of any who consider the salvation of their soul to be a key aspect of their conversion.

Sure, the point of conversion is an important time for a Pagan too. It's a moment of self-realization and epiphany, and it often comes with an amazing sense of freedom. But most Paganisms are mystery religions; most of us have other stories of personal epiphanies that are much more meaningful to us than our conversion. Not all of them are suitable for sharing, certainly, but some of them surely are.

There's a lot of talk about Pagans genericizing themselves into meaninglessness in order to "fit in" with the mainstream. And while I'm uncomfortable with the idea of public circles that look more like church meetings than anything else, I'm even more uncomfortable with the idea that the stories we tell about ourselves don't mean anything, either.

Back to school

Sep 3, 2008
It would be that the year I finally seem to be emotionally in tune with the season change is the year that I go back to school. Most of me is winding down for the autumn and winter, and the rest of me is going, "Readings! Classes! Work! Think! AAAAH!" Wow, going back to school after two years off is harder than I thought it would be.

On the plus side, I'm now at a huge university, and working in the central library (in the reference department, no less!), so what does that mean? Oooooh, research. I am delighted to discover that we have not only a giant stash of books that seems to cover most of the CR FAQ reading list, but also delightful things such as the minutes of the Gaelic League from the late 1800s on microfilm. Which, okay, is less of Pagan interest than of general geeky interest, but my god, this collection. As soon as I get off my crutches I'm going to just go play in the stacks for an afternoon.

In the meantime, injury recovery time seems like a good time to be doing research. I've been having strangely vivid and unusual dreams lately, and I've discovered I know very little about the role of dreams in a traditional Celtic system. And now, I have the resources to help me find out...