...read the first in the series of My Pagan Way
How I Got the Pagan LabelWe all get labels…like them or not. Some are fairly harmless. I have never had much issue with what labels others put on me, I could really care less. To me labels are often misused and some labels carry a negative connotation.
The question, 'what religion are you?' or 'do you believe in God?' would eventually come up. For a long time I was not sure how to answer that. It took me many years finding out how to answer that question. Lucky for me, I can only remember two times. Well, really once. But I was asked if I was a Christian. I KNEW how to answer that question…."No".
I started out irreligious right from the start for I was not raised in a religion. But I was exposed to the stories of the Bible from a very early age. What I knew of Christianity was not something I could connect to. The world created in six days, Adam and Eve. The idea of a heavenly father that impregnated a human and had a son that was some hybrid was not making any sense to me. While I did have an active imagination and wanted to believe in things like fairy-godmothers and dragons, I knew better. The some of the stories in the bible where just the same thing to me. I think that the Bible belongs on the historical fiction shelf. As much as I thought about it and tried out prayer, I could not find belief in 'God'.
In my search to find my spiritual self, I grasped at things like 'mother earth' and 'father time' to personify those aspects of the bigger spiritual picture of our own realities. Deep within my soul, from an early age, I knew that there was something of great divine power 'somewhere'.
An early encounter on the playground in elementary school taught me to not express my irreligious nature and I was able to avoid any religious exposing of myself while attending a Christian school for two years.
(why a Christian school is a different story, but I can tell you it had nothing to do with religion)
It would not be until I was 19 when the guy I was dating asked if I believed in God. I hesitated to answer that. I was not sure how to answer that so I simply said 'No'. He then said, 'So you are an atheist', and to that I hesitated and said, 'No'…..What was I? I had no clue. I did not know about things like agnosticism, paganism or Wicca. I was only aware of the major world religions and other than Christianity, I was not knowledgeable as to what those religions were about. Eventually I found the catch phrase, 'spiritual but not religious'. That was my 'go to' reply from that point.
It was also when I was 19 that I was introduced to Native American spirituality. I had always admired the native people of this land. As a small child, I would root for the 'indian' in the black and white westerns. The spiritual approach of the native people was something I could connect to, everything was very nature based. And the stories! The stories where much more fun than what is found in the Bible, and there was no vengeful guy in the sky. One might equate the Great Spirit with God, as a heavenly father creator. In those ways they are alike. However, He was simply the grandfather spirit and creator of the heavens. He did not 'rule' over any thing. I never got the impression that this Creator was some sort of dictator or egomaniac. And as far as one's fate, that was in the hands of Grandmother Spider.
But, that was not a 'religion' I could be a part of. Sure I could 'participate', but with all the respect in the world, their's is one of heritage. I can borrow the personified concepts and often do.
So all into my 20's I went without any religious label. I still don't consider myself religious. I got closer to a label in my 30's upon discovering pantheism. I liked the concept of 'all is god'. However, there was also the disregarding of things like reincarnation, ghosts and psychic ability in pantheism and those where aspect of spirituality and nature that I believe in. And I just don't believe in these things blindly either. Experience has given me the proof I need, but I felt these things instinctively from a young age.
Proof is just a side-effect.
It was also in my 30's, late in the decade, that I found my own original label. It started with my I having gravitated towards the occult in my late teens, starting with astrology. But that has nothing to do with religion. When it came to religion, I had picked up pieces of all kinds of faiths, found the good in them all, tossed aside the things that where just silly. With those things and my own personal experiences, perceptions and instinctive feelings, I came up with the term, Freeform Spiritualist.
It was art and the internet of all the things that brought me to paganism, For it for sure was not the pagans I had met, but that is a different story. The thing that did it was being part of a well known handmade website. It was these pagans that were creative and artistic like me, and they were all different 'flavors' of pagans, and all shared my spiritual perspective and where just a whole lot of fun to hang out with. I had found a group of like minded people and it felt really good.
It was then that I became a Pagan.
But I still mostly use the freeform spiritualist term.