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.

Flowers and Fun Time

This year is going by so fast! It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating the winter holidays and now we’re like two weeks away from Beltane, and Passover starts this Friday! I feel like we’re only moments away from summer, which will hopefully mean some beach time and swimming for me. I figure it’s a good time for a spiritual update because I feel like I’ve really been focusing on my wls journey on here and although it is a big part of my life right now, I created this space to talk about my spiritual life so I want to kinda get back to that. Continue reading

I’m Always Seeking a Spiritual Home

I’m kind of getting used to being in this sort of spiritual no man’s land, Interfaith-Tree1where I’m looking for a place to lay my head but it seems like everywhere I look is just this great expanse of emptiness. That could be an exaggeration. But honestly, I keep thinking the answer is out there just beyond my sight line, so close. Is there a spiritual home that exists in the world that fits all of my needs? I love paganism, and I love Judaism, and I even love Christianity a bit (but more in a nostalgic kind of way), but they don’t completely meet my needs. Are they even supposed to? It seems pretty selfish of me to ask something to meet my every need.

Judaism has structure and longstanding traditions and customs. I love that. I love, to a certain extent, having the roadmap sorta written for me. That’s not to say that there’s no wiggle room, but it in some ways makes it easier to be observant. The instructions are relatively clear! Although I say that knowing that I actually only know a very, very small part of the traditions and customs of Judaism, and some of them are quite complicated (and in an entirely new language for me). Every ritual is on paper somewhere, and discussed by scholars ad nauseum. Jews are not messing around, they take ritual pretty seriously and I really appreciate that. Paganism doesn’t have that kind of structure, at least not what I’ve experienced so far. There are rituals written down, but there are so many for one simple event! Look up “Winter Solstice ritual” in google and you’ll get probably 20 different rituals to choose from. Which one is best? How do you weed through all the flowery bullshit and get to some meaningful ritual that meets your needs (in my case, can be done solitary, without a whole lot of tools, and doesn’t involve a bonfire)? Continue reading

Apples and Pomegranates

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve changed the name of this blog.

I first called this blog the Seeking Place. I thought it was a nice name because I’m seeking answers to my faith questions, I’m seeking a place that I can call my spiritual home. And although that still holds true, I have expressed many times here that I feel I have my feet placed in two homes– one being Paganism, and the other being Judaism. I chose a new blog title to reflect that.

DSC06823 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 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

31 Days of Paganism– Day 6

How do you like to worship?

I worship mainly through prayer, I suppose. I’m real big on prayers of thanksgiving, basically showing my gratitude to the Divine for a pretty good life. I have a great job, clothes on my back, a home to rest my head, and food to eat everyday. I have great friends and family who support me and believe in me. And my wife….. she is truly a gift from above (not sure how I got so lucky!). Really, I consider any conversation to the Divine as prayer, but I’m sure others would disagree. I also have an altar set up (so far it’s pretty lackluster since I’m not able to afford everything I would like to have on said altar, but it is functional!), and I use that as my space for ritual work. Again, my ritual work is very simple and is mostly prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. I try to turn off anything that is distracting, and light a candle to focus my energy. Ritual time is for me and the Holy Ones, without distractions, so I try to create an environment of quiet. That’s surprisingly hard to do– I live close to an airport, so there’s a lot of airplane noise around the neighborhood. But I think I should get an A for effort, right?

I’ll talk more about prayer later this month (there’s another question about it in this series, so I don’t want to give too much away), but I will say that I use prayer in formal and informal settings, pretty much anytime and anywhere I feel the need to do so.

I always imagine myself doing grand, formal ritual (like at night, under the moon, with people in cloaks and “the grandest of wordsmithing” to cast a circle and call the four corners and it would be beautiful and tears would run down my face because of the intense moment I shared with the Divine. But yeah, that never happens (not that it will never happen, I still have hope). But I try to at least try to make a habit of doing some kind of ritual at home, even if it means lighting a candle and saying a prayer. I would love to perhaps meet with a group for Sabbats and Esbats, but that is a whole other conversation, for another day.