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Friday, June 8, 2012

Dark Night of the Soul

  It would be accurate to say that I am having a dark night of the soul period right now, as I understand the concept. I have been increasingly questioning whether reconstruction is the right thing for me and my place within the larger spiritual communities I have chosen. While I can't imagine my life not being based on a reconstructionist methodology I also realize that my main focus is and always has been actual practice, in a way that sets me at odds with my community sometimes. When in doubt I would rather act without any evidence to back my actions up than not to act at all. And I struggle with constantly feeling like what I do isn't "right" enough, a feeling that has put me in a place where I would almost rather not do anything at all than feel like what I am doing is wrong. Perhaps you can see how antithetical that feeling is to my own natural inclinations.
  My connection to the deities and spirits I honor hasn't lessened but I am in a place now where I feel like I am getting nothing out of the ritual itself. It feels empty and forced. I can remember when I first began on my spiritual path how much joy there was in ritual, not only a feeling of connection to the deities but of celebration. I fear that I have gotten so used to listening to my head that I have totally lost my heart.
   After some deep soul searching I came to several realizations. My approach to religion will always be reconstructionist in nature because I am just the sort of person who wants to know not just the how but also the why. I question and seek sources and love to puzzle out what is genuine and what is false. I also realize that I am an innovator and that I like spontaeous, organic ritual, even when it doesn't conform to the historic standard. I like structure and flow that is grounded in solid methods but I also need to feel free to express my own unique take on things. I realized that I felt like a bad heathen for not getting to any heathen events, and that I was being unfair to myself by letting other people's emphasis on the value of community participation influence me. Neopagan is not a dirty word, nor should I avoid doing what makes me happy because I worry about what other people will say. Witchcraft isn't a dirty word either, and it is an integral part of who I am. Too much of my spiritual life has become about outside approval and validation, instead of genuine experential connection.
   Most importantly, I think, I realized that I was feeling too scattered because I had fallen into such a rigidly seperated approach to religion - heathen in box a, CR in box b, witch in box c. I didn't feel like a whole person anymore, but rather as if I had different lives in different contexts. Perhaps, ultimately, the source of my own unhappiness was myself, as a sought something that I would never find.
   All of this insight was great, but beginnig to understand what the problems were didn't actually change anything. I sat down and looked at what used to give me the sense of joy in religion that I was missing and at what core concept, if any, ran through all the diverse threads of my spiritual life and came to two conclusions: I wished I could go back to being 11 again and following eclectic Wicca and the one common denominator was my identity as a witch. Now of course I can't actually go back to being a preteen, but I can try going back to neopagan Wicca and seeing how that feels. Perhaps it will be like trying on outgrown clothes. Or perhaps it will rekindle that spark I have lost. I don't know, but the only way to find out is to try it and see where it takes me. Maybe I will realize very quickly that I need the diversity and division. Maybe I will find a more holistic feeling. It's an experiment, a risk, but I'm going to give it a try.
  My commitment to my local community hasn't changed -those gloriously eclectic neopagans - I will still serve as I always have. I will still be me. The gods I am devoted to are still with me, and I am not letting go of them or of my connection to the daoine sidhe or my ancestors, so this won't be exactly like it was before. It will be different, just like I am different than I was 22 years ago. It will be an adventure.


  1. Ah, words and identities. Just do what you need to do, and don't worry what other people define "reconstruction" as. Also, I would say that you shouldn't think of yourself as "a Reconstructionist". Using a method as an identity is full of problems. I know that I'm a broken record on that point, but it is and continues to be the single biggest sticking point in pagan/polytheist religion, resulting in exactly the situation in which you find yourself over and over again.

    1. Erm. Let me rephrase that final sentence a bit: "resulting, over and over again, in exactly the sort of situation in which you find yourself."

    2. you are right of course - on all the points you mention. I suppose I had to come to understand this the hard way. I have a difficult time not labeling what I do and yet labels never really fit me properly. Perhaps my next step will be to learn to let go of them entirely and

  2. Thank you for writing this.

    I've just joined a traditional witchcraft training coven, the first coven of any sort I've ever belonged to. For too long, I've shoved that part of my path into the background for many of the same reasons. I'm happier and more excited about things than I've been in years.

    I belong to CR email list and watch these conversations about citing sources and whether or not something was done a certain way and whether someones UPG has validity or not. It's depressing because I get the sneaking suspicion that most people become frozen with fear of not doing the right thing and end up doing nothing at all.

    Good luck on your journey, I look forward to hearing about it.

    1. thank you - and good luck to you as well as you explore traditional witchcraft : )