So its been about a month since I decided to re-assess my spiritual framework and chose to, basically, discard everything and start over at the beginning in order to find what really works for me. It was harder than I expected to let go of decades of built up practice, but there was also something oddly cathartic about it. It's been an interesting experience so far, filled with insight and frustration.
Part of why I made this decision was that I didn't feel happy with my religious practice anymore, feeling rather that it had become a series of empty actions. I felt that in some areas of religious practice, especially heathen, I had developed a neurotic fear of doing it wrong that was interfering with my ability to genuinely connect to the Powers I was worshipping. I also was feeling a lot of frustration with my communities, for a variety of reasons, that made me feel like an outsider. Whether this was reality or my own perception it created a feeling of alienation. The combination made me feel very inadequate and made ritual something I dreaded instead of looked forward to. So I stopped all the religious practices (although not the devotional or magical practices) and went back to where I began.
There have been many frustrating aspects of this experience so far, one of which was realizing that some things can't be regained once they are outgrown. Can I really be an eclectic Wiccan? Honestly, I don't know. Wicca is a specific religion with its own cosmology, theology, and rituals. They are beautiful, fulfilling beliefs and in some ways they do overlap with my own but I had to revisit that to see the ways they don't fit. I have been a polytheist for too long to embrace a view of deity as aspects of a single power. Although my own view is in itself a bit vague (is Odin also Wotan? Is Lugh, Llew? etc.,) trying to view deity as a single being that emanates as two gendered beings, that in turn manifest as a multitude of deities has been very difficult. I am just too used to the individual personalities to revert to this other view. I have struggled with the ceremony and detail of Wiccan ritual, which is so much more involved and time-consuming than heathen or CR approaches.
Now it's true that, in most ways, you can't go back. I'm not an 11 year old anymore and I can't recapture the innocent belief and uncritical wonder I felt back then. However going back helped me to remember some of the simple things that meant a lot to me but where lost along the way. I love singing during ritual for example and I like a religion that not only allows but normally includes magical practice, something that is lacking in heathenry and CR. I also like the sense of freedom and inclusiveness of eclectic Wicca. On the other hand the past month has also made me realize that I like heathenry's emphasis on community and personal responsibility, as well as CR's emphasis on research and facts. It is also clear to me that my gods are *my* gods, and even with the freedom to wander I chose to stick with the Powers I've built up connections to over the years.
Probably the biggest thing I've realized so far is that certain things are key aspects of my own practice. The faeries/vaettir and ancestors are pivotal to my system of belief and ritual in a way that transcends any individual religious practice. The gods I worship are who they are, specific individual deities that I am devoted to or otherwise have built relationships with. In the same way whether I call it seidhr, cunning craft, hedgecraft or witchcraft - the actual practice of folk magic - is a cornerstone of what I do. I am a religious witch, and my pagan faith is inseparable, for me, from my magical practice. Perhaps that is why I struggled so much to feel comfortable in faiths that acknowledge a lesser role for magic or see it as separate (and not always equal). I am not a good heathen because most heathens see magic as superfluous, while to me it is essential. I am not a good CR because most CR's see magic as incidental or cerebral, while to me it is a visceral thing like breathing. And perhaps I am not a good Wiccan because I delve into things that most Wiccans seem to avoid (coughhexingcough) and I struggle with the cosmology. Ironic that I can reconcile Norse and Irish cosmology, but struggle with Wiccan views...
I miss heathenry. I miss the feeling of camaraderie, the simple approach to worship, the stability of the belief system. The cohesiveness. I may, eventually, after giving this current attempt more time, go back to Gaelic Heathenry or otherwise look at ways to comfortably incorporate what works for me and what I miss into one path....or I may find with more time that this current effort begins to gel better and feel less...artificial. I am still working through so many echos of past practice that adjusting is harder than I expected, and I want to give this a totally fair shot so that if I choose to walk away again I will know that I did so because it really wasn't working and not because I didn't try.
So after a month where does this leave me? Still questioning and still working out what is important to me and what is artificial window dressing added in to please the public....and still making magic.