This is a piece about my wonderful journey in drawing my Christian background together with what might be termed Pagan or New Age. In my eyes, Pagan represents an ancient Celtic tradition connected to the land, and New Age is the label we have stuck on its re-emergence. I rarely like to use terminology in this sense, as I don’t find it comprehensive enough and can easily trigger preconceptions. However, for the sake of this illustration I think it serves well. And definitely has a certain flavour to it!
What exactly is Pagan or Celtic? I think due to age-old judgements of miss-guided wizards and witches, bizarre ceremonies and a fear of evil, some of us grow up believing that anything pertaining to this old tradition is inherently bad.
Before continuing I think it helpful to point out what a terminology does: it is a label. It is a box. We put things in this container; our immediate reactions, what we like or dislike, facts and fiction…truly our reality is woven together story upon story. What we like to say as fact is not always so, and often relies on an idea, a hypothesis as in scientific experimentation. This is not unlike the creation of a story-line. A hypothesis is what we hope to see, or intend to measure. When we separate science from creative arts and place one in a sterile lab, and the other in a colourful studio, we give rise to the notion that these are worlds apart. We surround scientific studies with the aura of proof, tangibility, and truth. Whilst we consider artistic professionals to be fluffy, in a dream world or unrealistic. What we fail to remember is that whilst our bodies are physical matter, identifiable and precise, our lives are comprised of endless stories, experiences. We are not clear cut, none of us. We simply are not merely a concoction of our cells, but the relationship between them and our environment (see the science of Epigenetics for further research). And a consequence of this are our experiences. And, these memories are imprinted on our unique minds, formed by ancestral DNA, cultural and environmental conditioning, past-experiences… each of our lenses are so individual. Hence, when we approach the apparatus with our straightforward and unbiased hypothesis, we assume the procedure to be separate from personal opinion. We strive for a plethora of foundational truths, upon which we can build our civilisation. Yet we forget that the way each of us interact with these will vary either slightly or significantly from one another (this is a theory in Quantum Physics; how matter is relational to the observer).
In the past this variety of outcomes has caused us much frustration, particularly in the era of global domination through war. Take the Roman Empire for example, the British Empire (yes), the various localised European onslaughts, and of course Nazism. Such agendas aimed to monopolise foreign landmasses, command alternative cultures, and control freedom of speech and beliefs. Is this because the existence of a living ecosystem of endless ways of life posed a threat? Does the multiplicity and variance about ourselves instil us with fear? I would say it definitely does when the greedy ego is at large. The beasts of our subconscious, in their full form as horrific dictators and world rulers. On another line of thought, the variability limits our capacity to control. And like we can all relate to: what happens when we feel we have too many things to do, and everything seems to be rushing and changing around us? We get stressed. Why? Because we can’t ‘control’ everything. When reality is perceived through stories, as well as data, we allow for an openness towards unpredictability and emotion. We thought our facts and figures were as far as can be from creative imagination, but in doing this we ignored the interplay of our own mind. Reawakening to the thread of narrative reminds us that we cannot entirely control the process of evolution as we might like to. The problem being: we are never entirely separate from it. We are ‘it’. And so, returning at long last to my original proposition. Let us not try to separate one ‘way’ or definition from another too much. Whilst holding in balance: may we not seek to dominate one ideology over another. There is a beautiful distinction between one aspect and another, but together they are relational and mutually supportive. The organism pertains to equality, not hierarchy. We have been scared of this.
Towards an Ecosystem of Diverse Life… If we hold the above in thought, and consider how our setbacks against one another come from creating distance, clinical assessments, and hierarchical views, then we can begin to disentangle the toxic web of conflict: an age old war of religions and powers. It is natural to consider the ancient practices of Druidic thought, where the Earth is perceived as Mother, and provider of all. We need to re-assess why and how our doctrine of Christianity (and the State) generally seems to have stamped over and tried to erode these unique cultures. In religion it is easy to access peoples’ minds by informing them that a certain practice or belief is evil. Rather than allowing individuals to meander the path of life themselves, there seems to have been a direct line of power through fear tactics. This is more obvious a few hundred years ago, but still present, sometimes subtly, today in underlying beliefs. We can see this in the way we treat our Environment: it is not sacred to us, as our forefathers and -mothers, but something to wield our power over. If one looks towards indigenous tribal communities across the world, there are some incredibly beautiful ways of life which honour the sanctity of the Earth, Water, Wildlife, Sacred Sites, in such a way that deep profound connection can arise between people and earth, and an intimate ecological relationship is forged where the land is truly shepherded by a loving friend. This, for me, is the central truth of Paganism, of Celtic or Druid cultures, similar to Shamanism in other nations, and honoured by the umbrella ‘New Age’ term, and Environmentalist movements…
But, essentially, it is not truly about the name we give to a practice or culture, though that is important. Or perhaps more poignantly: the aim is not to become a herald for a ‘one way only’ ideology, but to mature and perceive the interconnected pattern of life, the diversity of our biological state and community we find ourselves in.
Christianity is founded from these ancient traditions, it is not as black and white as we have been told. The central message of Jesus blossoms, but there are other voices with influential echoes, those of powerful people after money, seats of privilege…who no doubt had a seat at a committee such as the Nicene Council. This is to suggest that maybe not everything provided in the Bible is as pure as we thought…though still can be profoundly supportive and Divine. Yet, like everything in our world, especially politics where Christianity was heavily involved, we know that we should assess and evaluate for ourselves, and not be led blindly as sheep…ironically. The Divine in us speaks, and we all hold this spark. It is not just in the Bible, or Christianity, where God left his, or her patterns for Life. Nor is it just through Celtic, New Age culture, Jewish, or any other. But it is through All and in All. Why, how? Because of our inherent connection to the Earth, the Cosmos, the connection to God is quite simple really. We simply Be, we purely Act. We find our identity and community in the shared livelihoods among our families and societies – rooted in the earth, which (in the West) ancient traditions honoured more than we do today, we find our harmony with one another, because nature and living creatures teach us this. We reflect on the cycles of life and death, and we return to our human innocence. This is natural, real, and the container for all our adventures in life. If we can re-create this tender and strong foundation, then perhaps we can enjoy harmonious dialogue between diverse ideas, as opposed to conflict, and finally heal the wound created on our land when power conquests sought to pillage and destroy indigenous cultures rooted here, the British Isles. This, I believe, is at the heart of our society and politics today, an era of hierarchical capitalism, where the commoners (us) cry out for common sense, for equality and wholesome communities.
We all have the power within us: we hold our history, our life’s story and our future’s foretelling. We can read this for ourselves, and write the verses we long to sing…
My story this far illuminates a pattern of evolution, a strand of Divine interweaving. We all have this within us, we are the characters in each other’s tales. We journey and weave our narrative together, here on this beautiful planet, in chorus with the great Multiverse. And so it is.
With great Love, Emeline