Imbolc, and Building Bridges

I’ve not spent a lot of time on this blog discussing my spirituality. I guess In my opinion, each person’s spirituality is a very personal, intimate choice, and no one out there is looking for me to tell him or her what to believe. But some events that I recently became aware of have me thinking a lot about my spiritual path, about the state of public discourse regarding religion in the U.S., and about my right to practice my chosen faith in this country. I’m not very good at summing up legal fights, etc., and I am TERRIBLE at arguing a point rationally or backing myself up with facts. Sad, but true–amazing that I passed my logic course in college.  So I don’t know that I would be able to participate effectively in the conversation about Patrick McCollum and California’s “five faiths” policy. Please go read the article I linked to above, and this follow up. Then come back.

My Brigid Figure

I feel like . . . there’s so much anger and fear about religion out there right now. I don’t quite understand. Faith/religion/spirituality, isn’t it supposed to make our lives better? Isn’t it supposed to help us become better people–kinder, more loving, more at peace? Why, instead, does it seem to drive us, again and again, to wage war on each other in one way or another? I know, I know, I’m not asking any new questions–this problem is as old as society, it seems. Fighting over the “right way”, as if there’s only one color to paint your house, one way to wear your hair, one food to make you healthy, one way to approach the divine. It makes me tired. It makes me so, so, so sad.

The truth is, I don’t need  to convert anyone to my spiritual path. I don’t need to educate anyone about my particular eclectic path to god. I don’t care what faith you practice–I only care how it affects you as a person. Worship bunnies. Worship pigs. Worship your girlfriend’s tattoo, I don’t freaking care, just . . . be nice. To yourself, to me, to everyone. And let me be follow my own path, as long as I’m nice too.

But then I wonder . . . is that some kind of cop out? If more of us pagan types–and that is a big umbrella term, people, it covers a lot of diverse ground–were willing to talk with people, answer questions, really engage in a conversation, would things be different? Could we help people understand that there really is nothing to fear? Or is meanness and small mindedness so ingrained in religious dialogue at this point, there’s no fixing it? I don’t believe that. I don’t believe in “incurable”. I think everything can be healed. The problem is finding the way. And I just don’t know what that might be.

A Brigid's Cross

From sundown February 1 to sundown today, we celebrate Imbolc–a time of honoring the goddess Brigid. No coincidence that the Feast of Saint Brigid of Kildare falls on February 1 as well. Both figures share patronage of blacksmiths, poets, and healers. Both are associated with perpetual flames. There is a theory–which I think seems true–that they are, in fact, one and the same, the Saint evolved from the Goddess during Ireland’s conversion to Christianity. A day that celebrates a figure so wound up in the struggle between religious paradigms seems an appropriate day to muse on that struggle–and an appropriate day to ask how we can bridge the gaps between us. I have honored Brigid as one of my patrons for several years now. Having been raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, and eventually found my way to a pagan path, I’ve found a lot of comfort in Brigid’s survival of the war between faiths. She adapted. She made the leap, and she still brings comfort and joy to her people. In Brigid, Christianity and Irish paganism intermingle. She gives me hope.

And Imbolc is also a celebration of hope. We’re halfway between the darkest day of the year and the equinox. Spring is coming.  Soon we will have a lot of work to do–good work, planting seeds, tending our gardens. So at Imbolc we engage in purification that prepares us for the work ahead. We burn old, tired herbs in the fire, and the greens that we brought in to celebrate the winter holidays. We practice letting go, and giving away, to make room for better and brighter things.

Somehow I feel like there has to be a way for us to use the energy of this time to infuse something new into the conversation about religion. Can we let go of our need to be right? Of the idea that there IS only one “right”? Can we let go of our fear of each other? Can we let go of our anger, and make room for better things? I’m trying to let go, to make room for better listening. For more happiness, more love, more kindness. And if I can’t do that, then I hope I can at least let go of worrying about what other people are doing, that I can at least really roll with the whole “live and let live” idea. I’m not perfect here–I tend to be kind of a control freak, I tend to think I’m right about everything (sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary), I tend to want people to listen to me dammit! But I’m trying. Every day, I’m trying.

Happy Imbolc, everyone. If you can, if you wish, I’d love it if you’d join me in focusing on letting go of the ideas and habits that cause separation. Maybe light a candle and ask Brigid–or any other entity with whom you feel a rapport–to help us find a way across the chasms that divide us.

And to my friends who find the idea of paganism, or any other religion, threatening or frightening or just weird–how can I help? What can I share with you, to help you understand my path? I promise, if you ask me a question from a genuine desire to understand, I will do whatever I can to give you an answer–even if I have to ask someone else.

Let’s talk.

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8 thoughts on “Imbolc, and Building Bridges

    1. Good point Kathy, and another thing I’ve been thinking on–that during times that are all about releasing and clearing, we need to remember “giving away” as part of the process. A much more fun, happy part.

  1. I’m upside down on this cos it’s coming into autumn here (though not for a while yet – so not quite opposite). I did love Imbolc in the UK – the snowdrops (Brigid’s flower) and the first signs of spring.

    In my view we should all just be ourselves and let others see how we are. That is the best way of educating others into our beliefs – gently and with love. ‘Handsome is as handsome does’. When someone actually asks – then they are willing to listen.

    1. Yep, it’s that “gently and with love” part that gives so many of us so much trouble! Something I know I still sometimes struggle with; the snarky response is so much easier in the immediate moment. But the reverberations aren’t so great.

      It’s definitely true that our actions are what speak loudest. And that a little kindness speaks volumes.

  2. Great post! I don’t know why people think that if their religion is right, everyone else’s is wrong. Black and white thinking I guess; either/or but not both. I say all of the above!

    1. It’s EASIER, I think, to have that kind of dualistic thinking. It gives you nice tidy handles to put on things. But life is not nice and tidy and certainly not black and white. It’s messy and colorful and that’s really beautiful, if we can learn to appreciate it. But it’s also scary because that means that there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of questions with no right answer. I wonder why we want definitive answers so much? One of those questions without answers! HA!

      I think I just engaged in some seriously circular thinking . . . and I’m not sure what my point is anymore.

  3. Michelle, what beautiful and painful thoughts. I, too, hate how almost every war ever waged has been in the name of religion. Seriously, you would think by now we would have learned that what we hold dear is not always what others find inspiring.

    I am a bit of an anomoly in the whole religion thing. While I was baptized as a Methodist at six years old, religion meant nothing in my family. When I began dating my DH and attending church with him, my mom would ignore me for the entire day–every Sunday. I am strong in my faith as a Missouri Synod Lutheran (staunch by most standards), but it is faith I hold dear, not the trappings of religious betterment. I have lived too much in too many different places to belive I am better than anyone for any reason.

    I can’t stand prejudice and persectution. My faith is no more important or right than my little sister’s (Wiccan) or brother’s (dabbles in Buddhism) or any one else who has hope and faith and love and inspiration–no matter what title it is given. My sins are no less damaging than someone else’s–even though organized religion tends to prioritize.

    Some of the most amazing people I know don’t go to church, while avid church goers can sometimes be the worst hypocrits.

    My motto: It is between each one of us and God. I have no right to judge or interpret anyone else’s spiritualism. I certainly would never tell anyone their beliefs are wrong. It is my job to be the best person I can and treat others how I would want to be treated. Causing pain in the name of religion seems to be in direct contrast to that.

    On the other hand, I am not afraid to say I am a Christian. If any one asked, I would be honest and open about my faith. Yet I try to be mindful that others don’t always believe the same. I can educate, but I can’t choose. Nor should I ever force.

    I pray that someday, we can all learn to love and accept everyone for who they are. Your openness is refreshing and I hope people find some value in reading your thoughtful post. Maybe bring us one step further along the path of togetherness and one step farther away from hatred and fear.

    Hugs~

    1. Cat, I for one am GLAD that you’re open about sharing your faith, because you remind me that most Christians are good people who are just living their lives and doing what’s right for them. It’s unfortunate how many people who claim the label of Christianity in the public arena use their religion as justification for all kinds of awful. The world needs nice Christians to remind us that the ones spreading hate are NOT the norm, are NOT true representatives of Christ’s message. You’re a much better poster child for the faith! I’m sure that’s EXACTLY the role you see yourself in too. 😛

      In all seriousness though, I so appreciate your kindness and open heartedness and willingness to engage in thoughtful dialogue on the difficult subjects. Thanks for being your good egg self.

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