So I mentioned that I’d be doing a third “C” topic for the Pagan Blog Project, and here it is.
As I mentioned (I think) recently, I’ve been re-reading Judy Harrow’s Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide and, while reading it, have been reminded (again and again and again) of the “Coming Home” narrative that a chunk of Neo-Pagans use to describe the point/process of adding “Pagan” (or Heathen, or Wiccan, or whatever) to their personal identity.
And it kinda bugs me.
So I’m gonna talk about that.
The “coming home” narrative is really accurate for me. Like many people, I didn’t so much “fall off my horse on the way to Damascus” but, rather, found out there was a name for what I was already doing. At its root, the “coming home” narrative is exactly that.
What bugs me about it is the implied (or at least perceived?) idea that this makes neo-pagans special/unique/elite – unlike, I feel the story goes, those brainwashed Christians – and it ignores/dismisses the many ways that all sorts of people come to all sorts of religious paths. I know a woman who “came home” to Janism; another who took a circuitous path (through Wicca, as it happens) “home” to Judaism. I know others who essentially got picked up by a god and grabbed by the brain – a sudden, unexpected conversion-moment not unlike the ones described in Christian mythology.
I used to practice a very different religion, lost my faith in it, and went looking to see what I could find that actually matched what I did believe in. But none of that meant that I hadn’t believed something else, or viewed/framed my own beliefs through a different lens, before.
And so I call myself a convert.
There is, however, another reason why I use words like “convert” and “religious” instead of “coming home” and “spiritual”. And it’s the same reason that some folks use “spiritual” and “coming home” to distance themselves from more recognized/accepted/taken-seriously religious paths: I use it because I’m not like that!
“Spiritual” for me is… wishy washy.
It’s a term that, in my head, lands firmly in the same box as angel-inspiration cards, westernized yoga, The Secret, and alarmist dietary fad books. It doesn’t land in the box that says “connecting with the holy in ways that work for me, whether or not there’s an official term or community for them” – though it does mean that for a lot of people.
Rather, it ends up getting applied to domiant-culture people, culturally Christian (chocolate bunnies, Charlie Brown, traditional family dishes, and free days off work) but mostly secular-humanist people, who specifically don’t want a new worldview to supplant the one they’ve already got… even though the one they’ve already got isn’t giving them any kind of fulfillment, who want something to make them feel better when they’re having uncertain moments, but don’t actually want to take on the work/shock/embarrassment of actually believing in something.
Meaning that I’m pretty contemptuous of the attitudes I associate with “spiritual” and so actively distance myself from that term.
I do it because I take my religion seriously, but also because I want other people do so, too. I want the ignorant buffoons who say (actual statement) “…But everyone does Christmas” to shut their mouths before they let that nonsense out.
So I am a convert. I am religious. But “religious” isn’t always what you think it’s gonna be.
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 So many pagans – particularly those in my generation and older – come to their new creed having rejected (often angrily) the tenets of an Abrahamic religion or two, and a lot of us go through a period of “I’m not like them” that is characterised by stuff like this.