Monday, December 5, 2011

Pagan in a Strange Land

I have to face the fact that I'm a mutt, as I think many Americans are. I don't call myself "European American" or "German American" or any of the numerous countries that are in my family history. Frankly, my recent genealogical research has revealed so many cultural origins that I really can't lay claim to any of them.

By percentage, I'm probably more German than anything else. And yet there is some part of me that doesn't feel appropriate when I try to immerse myself in the Asatru religious variants. Something just didn't feel like it clicked, probably because I've never even visited Germany.  I felt the same thing when I studied British traditional witchcraft. The names sounded foreign and there was a cultural flavor that felt slightly foreign. So, do I call myself a witch, a druid, a shaman, a hoodoo, or do I just not bother with labels and worry about doing my own thing?

Recently, as I was considering the state of my being on this front, I began the following speculation. What if the Gaia/Great Spirit resonates around the globe with different flavors, like the different sounds from a drum head? You beat the drum near the edge, you get one tone; you beat it one inch closer to the center and the tone is slightly different. So it occurs to me that the spirituality of man may be different in each area of the world because the Spirit that inspires religiosity resonates differently in each part of the world. That would mean that religion would be spiritualy influenced by geography. Certainly this is true in the physical (for example, snowy areas would influence different pagan myths than tropical areas). But what if religion went deeper than just observing the natural world -- deep enough to be a blooming of the Great Spirit itself?

All this thinking that region may inspire religion at the spiritual level, rather than just through physical stimuli, has caused me to once again wonder how religion would look if there was no culture at all. How would I worship if I had zero cultural bias? I had to make some decisions about my beliefs at their very foundation.

My first belief of which I'm sure is that I am drawn to wonder at and respect the natural world. No matter what they may be, the cycles and drama of the natural world (known and unknown) makes me feel the presence of the divine.

Secondly, I'm sure that I believe that nature itself (and therefore myself) is a manifestation of this divine presence and I'm able to directly interact with the divine presence through an interaction with nature and my own energies.

I believe that there are energies and levels of consciousness about which we understand little, but nonetheless can be employed to produce change or knowledge.

Lastly, I believe that the study and understanding of nature (and therefore myself and others) allows me to deepen my understanding of and relationship with this divinity.

Since I was born, raised, and still live in America, I could potentially operate under the premise that a particular resonance of the Great Spirit is calling me to investigate the paganism that was indigenous to America, in particular the American southeast. Unfortunately, that's a broad order.

Not being racially Native American, many would say I have no rights or claims to Native American spirituality. Some critics would likely accuse me of the misappropriation of culture if I did claim it. But it does give me some direction when considering where to go to find pagan lessons that will advance my spiritual growth. Since my genetics are Celto-Germanic and my body is a product of America, I could integrate the native shaman and Druidic principles.

I may simply have to do some dodging of the labels that so many pagans want to use.