Why Aren’t You Pagan Anymore?

My mom asked me that the other day. Why aren’t you pagan anymore?

And I just kinda made a noncommittal grunt in response, mostly because I have a hard time discussing my spiritual beliefs with my parents in general but also because my mom is pretty against organized religion (which includes Judaism) so although she has attempted to be supportive, she’s made her opinions on the matter pretty clear. That makes it hard to share my journey with her. However, the bigger issue in that moment was that I didn’t really know how to answer her because the answer is kind of confusing and if you’re a black and white thinker it’s actually not possible.

I’m not NOT pagan. I think my pagan/hippie/liberal leanings can coexist in harmony with my Jewish ones. But I don’t know how to explain that to anyone, really. I know most people won’t be okay with it, many people will not agree that it’s possible to be both. But here I am, being both. The biggest barrier for most people about the combination of pagan and Jewish is that Judaism makes it pretty clear that there is ONE God, capital G, who you should worship “above all others”, and people take that to mean that there’s only one god that exists and that’s the omnipotent Man Upstairs guy who is full of both wrath and mercy. And for many people who are not really acquainted with paganism(s) believe that all pagans worship and believe in many gods all equally.

The problem is, those are two misinformed assumptions about Judaism and Paganism. The more your research, the more you realize how overly-simplified and wrong those two statements are. As the saying goes, ask two Jews what Judaism is about and you’ll get three answers. Ask two pagans what paganism is about and you’ll get probably 50 answers. There are not only different movements within Judaism which have institutionalized differences in “how to be a good Jew” but within those movements you have many individuals with personal connections to their religion that differ from one another. Yes, there are plenty of Jews out there that believe in the One God, the only one out there, masculine father. But there are also Jews out there who make space for multiple faces of God, including the feminine. And others (a much smaller group, I’m sure) who worship God “above all others”, but believe in those others and have relationships with them while still following the letter of the law. And of course there are those who make a case for themselves around being both an observant Jew AND an atheist or agnostic.

Just google paganism and you get tons of sites talking about different pagan paths that vary widely not only in how they worship but WHO they worship. Paganism does not equal Wicca, with one god and one goddess, although Wicca is included under the umbrella term of paganism. Not only do they worship different gods and goddesses depending on their own path, their idea about how gods and goddesses exist also varies. Some believe in the idea that “all gods are one god”, that the many different gods we’ve come to know through research and personal experience are just different facets/personalities/manifestations of the same deity, one grand supreme being. Others, called hard polytheists, believe every deity is it’s own and that the gods and goddesses are independent of one another, and cannot be called upon interchangeably.

All this to say, religion in general isn’t black and white. And my own understanding of my spiritual path is complex, but I truly think that my beliefs taken from my pagan practice and my Jewish practice sit in harmony with one another within me. So while my rituals may have changed, and although my focus as of late has been on strengthening the rituals around Shabbat and Jewish prayer, I would not necessarily say I’m not pagan. I’m still partial to the term Jewitch, personally. That being said, there is still a lot of fear around using that term out in the real world. Being so new to Judaism, and wanting to find an accepting spiritual home, I am wary of stepping on toes or rocking the spiritual boat. I don’t want people to think I’m weird, and I certainly don’t want people to feel like I’m being blasphemous. I know in my heart I have to do this my way, regardless of what others think, but I also know that many people will want to force encourage me to do it the Right Way– the way it has always been done (whatever that means). I’m all for tradition (that’s why I love ritual so much), but I don’t want to live in a box. I want to worship how I see fit, because at the end of the day my relationship with Divinity is my own, and if I don’t worship in a way that is best for me then I’m doing myself a huge disservice, and weakening that relationship.

So…. that’s how I feel about that.

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