Celebrating Alone

Since surgery I’ve really lapsed on my observing of Shabbat (I hope the Divine will forgive me, I was recovering from surgery after all). Now that I’m on solid foods I’m thinking about starting back up again tonight. One of the things I’ve been struggling with as far as observing Jewish holidays is not having anyone to celebrate with. Judaism isn’t really made for solitary practitioners, I mean there are some prayers you’re not even supposed to say without at least 10 people. So it can feel especially isolating when you’re trying to celebrate on your own, especially when you’re a newbie like me and have no one knowledgeable to walk you through it. However, I don’t want that to stop me from at least trying to make it work (baby steps, ya know?) so here I am, back at it again.

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Words to live by.

Since I still can’t eat bread or drink alcohol I’m probably going to skip the challah tonight and drink grape juice instead of wine. After eating my little baby meal, I’ll get settled in with some of my new books (see my next post for a rundown of the haul I got in Berkeley last week) and try to accomplish my Shabbat challenge for the week: I won’t use my phone the whole night. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s incredibly hard for me to unplug. I’m constantly on my phone using time-wasting apps. Shabbat has quite a few restrictions, and I’m not looking to tackle them all at once because that’s just setting myself up for failure, but I do want to eventually get to a place where I’m pretty observant most of the time. I don’t want to half-ass it, okay?

Interfaith Struggles

My conversation with my wife the other day, talking about Hanukkah:

Me: Speaking of Hanukkah, usually each person in the family gets their own menorah. I know you’re not interested in Judaism as a participant, but would you like a menorah?

Her: I don’t need a menorah, love.

Me: Well, it’s not a matter of NEEDING one. I’m just asking if you want one.

Her: I don’t want one.

Me: *instant depression*

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I know, I shouldn’t have asked because I KNEW the answer, and I don’t want to force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do so I didn’t force the issue. I just let it go. But honestly I was sad about it. It’s really hard for me because I so badly want her to participate with me– because I need someone close to me who can do this with me so I don’t feel so alone in it. It’s hard being the only one in my house lighting candles for Hanukkah, or Shabbat, or whatever it is I’m doing. It’s one of the major reasons why I haven’t been able to get myself out there and find a congregation. I’ve been too scared to go on my own. I want someone close to me to be by my side as I do it. Also, holidays should be spent with family, and I end up spending all of my holidays alone. And I hate it sometimes! I love my wife, and there are many benefits to an interfaith marriage, but sometimes I find myself upset that she doesn’t want to share religious traditions with me. She wants no part in any religious or spiritual activity, even the fun ones. Not only does it make me sad, it leaves me confused– because I’ve grown up in religious environments (and loved it), so I’m sitting here like WHY ISN’T THIS STUFF YOUR FAVORITE?! Followed by HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU DON’T LIKE IT IF YOU’VE NEVER TRIED IT?!

I need to find a space to do this with other people. Solitary ritual has its place, but I’m human. I’m a social being, and I just know I’m meant to do (most) ritual with other people. It’s how you create and maintain a spiritual community, and it’s a really meaningful and powerful way to commune with the divine. I’ll find my place one day, hopefully soon.

Battling/Loving Christmas

Alright, it’s officially mid November now. Samhain has come and gone (and it turned out differently than I thought it would). Now we’re balls deep into the “Holiday Season”. Now, I know what you’re thinking: it’s not even thanksgiving yet, how can we be “balls deep”? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all around us Christmas is basically punching us in the face with its cheer. Starbucks Christmas cups are already in circulation, some of the stores I frequent have had Christmas decorations out since OCTOBER (wtf, too soon), and I’ve already seen like 5 stories about the War on Christmas 2015. The holiday season is happening now people, we’re in it RIGHT NOW.

So, what’s a pagan/jewish-ish girl to do? How am I navigating what some might call a hostile takeover of the winter months by a fat man in a red pantsuit?

I’m eating it up, y’all. EATING. IT UP. Continue reading

Being Jewish-ish

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Me in another life.

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker today about Judaism. It all started with Yiddish, and somehow I ended up talking about brisket, which naturally led to me talking about keeping kosher and what that entails, and then Shabbat and all of its rules and customs, and then the bible. My coworker looked at me and said, “You seem to know a lot about being Judaism. Are you Jewish?”

I was surprised at how badly I wanted to be able to say yes, absolutely, no hesitation. Because honestly, I still feel a connection to Judaism– I spent a lot of time learning about it, trying to immerse myself in the religion and culture, and I liked it. Even now, I still subscribe to many Jewish blogs and websites (and yes, I read the articles). I still have my Shabbat candles, I still recite the blessings in my head, even if I am too scared to say them out loud– I guess because I would feel like a fraud for doing so, since I’m so obviously pagan. But I still feel a connection to it and in some ways I feel like it’s now part of me, no matter what I do. Maybe I have ancestors who were Jewish, maybe I’m feeling a historical/familial connection. there are parts of Judaism that just feel right, make sense to me on a spiritual level that I don’t really know how to explain it without sounding stupid.

I continue to feel like I’m caught between two worlds– paganism and Judaism– and I have no idea how to reconcile the two. I just want to be able to be spiritual in a way that feels right to me. I don’t know. Rosh Hashanah ended last night, and I was sad that I didn’t get to celebrate as a Jew, with other Jewish people. I’m sad that I can’t celebrate Yom Kippur and Mabon at the same time (they’re seriously on the same day this year). I refuse to let go of my hanukkiyah, and I think I’ll probably still light candles for Hanukkah even though I don’t have to do so. I don’t want to let go of Judaism. It’s so beautiful. And so is Paganism. Honestly, I don’t know what to do, and I wish I had a teacher to guide me, to tell me what my options are.

I told my coworker that I am Jewish-ish. Jew Adjacent. I wanted to say honorary Jew, but that feels like a title that should be given to me, not taken by me. I don’t feel like a regular gentile, but I’m not a confirmed Jew. I’m somewhere in between.

31 Days of Paganism– Day 9

How do you navigate interfaith relationships?

I have many interfaith relationships. I’m not just talking about my marriage, but also my friendships. I don’t really know any other self-identified pagans, although I do know a few people who incorporate earth-based spiritual practices into their own paths and call themselves whatever they damn well please because I don’t get to tell them who they are. I used to be part of an interfaith group at Mills that included some pagans, and I’ve been to two Beltane celebrations there, but I don’t really know anyone on a personal level. Most of my family would identify as christian, and many of them go to church on a regular or semi-regular basis– some of my family are quite devout and can be really conservative which puts me in an uncomfortable spot. And not just as a pagan, but as a queer woman. So yeah, sometimes Thanksgiving dinners are a bit uncomfortable.SIC-LOGO

I try to not step on too many toes. Familial harmony is sometimes more important to me than being a flamboyant pagan. I also really believe in interfaith work, so I don’t get uncomfortable around other people’s traditions or practices most of the time– I’m not a fan of any isms, so as long as we stay clear of those I’m fine with whatever. So being open is my approach to my interfaith relationships. Another thing is using my past as an advantage. I was raised in a Christian household, and I still remember many of the traditions, rules, and teachings of my childhood so I can relate with people who practice them, if that makes sense. And honestly, my history with Christianity shapes the way I approach paganism and how I choose to worship, so it’s no surprise that I can still relate to Christians. I didn’t leave Christianity on bad terms, so unlike some who experienced a lot of  trauma because of the church I don’t feel any animosity or anger towards it. I choose to remember how it helped me rather than how it hindered me, and I especially keep that in mind in my interfaith relationships.  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 8

Do/will you teach your children paganism?

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Interfaith Shelf!

This question is important because I know a lot of pagans are vehemently against raising their own children in ANY religious practice, preferring that they choose their own path if that’s what they desire. I understand the ethics behind that. Many (but not all) pagans have experienced the pain and frustration around being forced to practice what you may not believe in, and everyone deserves a chance to explore their own spirituality, ask questions, and think critically about religion and theology. I agree with that. On the other hand, I do have a desire to teach my children what I’ve learned and to live a spiritual life with them I would find it really strange to be a committed pagan, and do ritual and celebrate Sabbats without my family. I want to be able to pass down my knowledge to my children, but also share spiritual experiences with them.  Continue reading

31 Days of Paganism– Day 7

How do your friends and family feel about you practicing paganism?

My friends and family are mostly okay with me being pagan. Actually, most of them probably don’t even know that I am pagan unless they read this blog. It’s not that I’m “in the broom closet” or anything, it’s that spirituality and religion are things we don’t often talk about, so it’s never really come up. My mother’s side of the family is Catholic, although my mother is not– in fact, I don’t think she identifies as a Christian at all. She does, however, believe in god in the sense that she believes in a higher power and she is a a proponent for prayer. Any time I’m having a hard time with something, you can bet her advice is to pray about it (or stop caring so much about what people think, that’s a big one). That’s not to say that she thinks prayer is the answer to everything! She really sees prayer as a way to lift the burden of worry and anxiety, and get yourself to a place of action. Give your fears to god, so your mind is clear enough to do something about whatever is plaguing you. That’s an idea I can get behind. Anyway, the whole point of that paragraph was to say that even if she isn’t a Christian she is certainly Christian-like, and many of her values stem from that tradition and history. However, my mom is pretty liberal and even if she doesn’t understand paganism, she certainly isn’t afraid of it and I don’t think she believes that I’m some kind of devil worshiper or anything like that. So I suppose that’s good. Continue reading