Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox, is a still point in time, when day and night are of equal length. It is a moment to relish in the balance and then capture the light and warmth of summer to carry you through the long, dark nights ahead. Why not take a moment to create a warm welcome to your home to celebrate this special time?
September is a time of new beginnings - as we celebrate the hard work of the past few months, we can take time to reflect on our hopes and dreams and begin to move forward with them...
As someone who falls somewhere between (very) liberal Christianity, Paganism and New Age Metaphysics, I've been thinking a lot about how to introduce the Easter Story to WB.
Happy Beltane Everyone!
This past week has been one of many new beginnings for us as a family (a new home, a new nursery for Little Man, and two new jobs for me) and is the culmination of many months of preparation and waiting. It’s hard to believe that all of this was set into motion right back at the beginning of the year and is only just really coming to fruition, but I find it immeasurably satisfying to see how perfect the timing is.
Beltane is a celebration of union, of all the different parts coming together, and of the fruits of our labours beginning to come to us. It is a time of renewal, of new growth, and of preparation for the blessings yet to occur. We see this in nature, as the Wheel of the Year turns, and yet this year I also see it so very clearly in our own personal circumstances. And it feels good.
We had been hoping to make it to Glastonbury to celebrate Beltane this year, as it is 3 years since we were there with our dear friend for Little Man’s blessing. But I have to say that postponing our trip until later in the year so that we could move home and start a brand new chapter in our lives is more than worth it!
Today is a special day in particular – we hand over the keys to our old house, just as I begin my new job. How’s that for a new beginning? Having surrendered to whatever life may bring at the beginning of this year, it feels so special that life has brought us through the incredible uncertainty we faced at the beginning of this year and provided us with a beautiful fresh start at this glorious time of year.
It shouldn’t surprise me that I feel so connected to this particular time of year – after all my birthday falls in the same week as Beltane and we’ve chosen it as a special moment in our year before (for Little Man’s blessing). But what does surprise me is how much is happening this year in particular, and just how many things are really blossoming in our lives right now.
It’s not just the new house and new job either… they are external changes, but I can feel my heart changing too. Things that have remained hidden, or crushed, over the past few years are beginning to resurface and I find myself excited about embracing them once more. Like embracing spirituality, connecting with others, and celebrating these special moments in time.
And the more I open myself up to the possibilities, the more opportunities and encouragement I find. And Beltane is one such opportunity. We now live in an area where is is easier for us to connect with like-minded communities to explore our faith. We also have easier access to nature, parks, and our own little garden space with room for a veg plot! Celebrating the seasons and embracing their gifts is quite literally right on our doorstep, and we are determined to make the most of it.
For now, though, we will begin by creating our own little Beltane Fire to welcome us into our new home, and give thanks for the blessings that have already come to us. And the rest will all fall into place…
For the past ten years I have spent an awful lot of time thinking about where I fit in when it comes to faith, spirituality and indeed religion. It has been a rocky road because although I know what it is I believe, finding a name for that and thereby a way to express it has been challenging.
For many, many years I honestly believed that faith in God must equate to being a Christian. It sounds utterly naive now based on everything I have learned in the past ten years or so, but let me paint the picture. My family weren't religious. They had beliefs, but we didn't attend church or home groups or anything. My experience of religion was through school and the odd church service with Brownies, Guides or the few months I spent singing in my friend's church choir.
So when I went to university, I automatically joined the Christian Union. And that was when it all got complicated…
I found myself in a place that didn't feel right. Things that I had held dear were not only questioned but sometimes downright ridiculed and I went through a major spiritual crisis. I felt lost and alone and I didn't want anything to do with that world.
Luckily I found support online through some spiritual (New Age) forums and began to open up again. I even decided to spend my three month stay in Germany not only volunteering with the Salvation Army but also staying with a family there too. And I had a wonderful time.
Those three months did a fine job of healing a lot of the hurt I had felt and broke down my defensive barriers because they taught me that what I had experienced previously was an extreme and not the norm. I felt happy and loved during those three months and still write to some of the officers every year as I remember my time there so fondly.
But however much that experience brought me back from a place of being hostile towards Christianity, it also left me more confused than ever. Conversations led to my realising that my beliefs weren't always that far from those of what I'll call "mainstream Christianity" for want of a better term, but I still had some major differences that I personally felt stopped me from connecting with the Christian community.
Things like "original sin", "predestination", and the concept of the "Trinity".
Oh and the fact that I practise Reiki, believe Angels are sent from God to help us all, and that every living thing has a soul that survives beyond physical death.
It didn't help that when I tried once more to connect with a Christian community online to try and figure this all out I was kicked off the forum for "saying the wrong thing". Whoops!
You'd think I would have just given up and gone my merry way in the spiritual community that seemed to have no pre-requisites, right? But there remained a part of me that missed the connection that belonging to a "real life" community brings. And this only grew once I fell pregnant with Little Man and started to think about how I would raise him.
So when TJ started suggesting we should look again for some "Pagan" groups to join I initially felt rather excited.
Except, upon reading more I began to wonder if I really was fully Pagan either. It seemed as if I was somewhere in the middle, between liberal (perhaps very liberal) Christian and loosely Pagan, not really fitting in one world or the other.
Yet the week we spent in Glastonbury earlier this year brought home just how much I miss the community spirit of togetherness. We had a wonderful time celebrating Beltane, and we held a beautiful little blessing for Little Man in the Chalice Well Gardens…
So when TJ decided he really felt like Druidry might be where he felt his heart taking him, I listened with interest as he explained how some Druids consider themselves to be Christian as well and that the two don't necessarily clash.
I don't pretend to know all that much about Druidry as that is TJ's area, not mine. But it did make me wonder just how that would work. So I looked for more information, reading bits here and there, and eventually coming across the term "Unitarian".
It wasn't a new term to me. TJand I had actually been to a Unitarian church a couple of times, but for some reason I had never fully looked into it. And the more I read the more I realised I had probably been "Unitarian" all of my life, without really knowing.
Suddenly I felt less alone. I realised that there are groups out there that will help me as I develop further in my faith and that can offer support as I do the best I can in raising Little Man to seek his own relationship with God.
And with all the other changes I've been making lately I feel much more confident and secure in sharing this with him, and with others. Whereas before I would carefully write such things as "my faith has helped me through HG" or avoiding the subject altogether, I now want to share that as it is crucial to understanding some of the things I am going through. And whereas I often used to avoid joining in with people when they discussed a topic, I feel able to take part now.
I found this amazing resource this morning answering common questions about Unitarianism and I found myself nodding along with so many parts of it. But the thing that really made my heart sing was this:
"We favour a simple and inclusive definition of the word Christian. Thus a Christian is any person who seeks to live in accord with the life and teachings of Jesus, who identifies with what is best in the Christian tradition, and who, perhaps, sees in Jesus a revelation of the God who is immanent in all people. This is the wellspring of love that permeated his nature and his ministry."
I never felt comfortable saying I was "Christian" but in actual fact I have a huge amount of love for the life that Jesus led. I want to be able to show Oscar the Bible as a part of his upbringing in a way that allows him to think about it and decide what he believes to be true in his own heart. Because I ultimately hope that Little Man will have the freedom and courage to explore various paths before choosing that which he experiences as bringing him into a closer relationship with God, however he understands God to be.
And that makes me feel glad.
As a family we can celebrate those things we all share in our beliefs and still celebrate those which are different. We can pray and read the Bible, but we can also meditate, celebrate the Wheel of the Year, plant a Sacred Grove, and be open to learning more about the faiths of others.
Oh baby boy… this is going to be such a wonderful journey for us all!
I totally understand that this post may not sit very well with some people. I am leaving comments open on this post as I am happy to discuss this with anyone who wants a mutually open conversation built on respect for differences as well as celebrating similarities. But I am not open to comments that aim only to either end in a massive theological debate in a hope to "prove me wrong" or simply undermine my own relationship with God. I have had plenty of those in the past and this isn't the time or place for it. Any such comments will be deleted. Thank you.
Okay, so this post is a biggie for me. I generally only write very vaguely about my spirituality on the blog (and other places online, and in person, to be completely honest). It's a combination of not knowing quite how to explain what it is I believe and being afraid of sharing it and gaining negative reactions and/or getting myself into theosophical debates with people who have very specific sources of information to refer to when I don't.
TJ bought me a book called "Pagan Parenting" for Christmas and there is a section within it that sums this up very nicely:
"[…]This raises the question of whether to be totally honest or to pretend to be like everyone else. It is a question faced daily by anyone on the fringes of the majority […] Children growing up with metaphysical beliefs will often not share this side of themselves with mainstream friends for fear of rejection and ridicule.[…] A large part of one's public profile is deciding what should be encompassed within that role. For most followers of mainstream religions, this is not even a question that comes to mind. Unless the individual is extremely devout, religion is not often a part of their public persona. They neither hide it nor broadcast it. It is like skin color, hair color or anything else that is an integral part of who we are without needing to think about it."
In many ways I'm like the child mentioned in that. I have an instinctual urge to be honest and open about who I am and what I believe, but there is that fear of ridicule or rejection. And if I feel that myself, it is only to be expected that Little Man will pick up on this and learn by my example how to fear these things too.
So being honest, first to myself and then to others, is essential if I truly want Little Man to grow up knowing it is perfectly okay for him to explore his own spirituality and choose his own path. I can't tell him to do one thing when I am doing something opposite myself.
TJ is much better at living his spirituality than I am. He likes ritual and "being a part of something" and it was his idea to dress up for Beltane when we were in Glastonbury this year (in fact he bought the dress for me because I was taking my own sweet time to decide on something!)
But I don't really like ritual. I feel embarrassed when doing it, and personally find it takes my mind and heart away from the matter at hand. I love the idea of it and know it works well for so many people, but I'm just not very good at it.
So whereas TJ finds quite a lot of help and ideas in various Pagan sources, I continue to find myself falling somewhere just on the outside, not quite sure of where I belong. There is no uncertainty in what it is I believe, that's a mistake people sometimes make when I say this. I know quite strongly what is essential to me and those things that I haven't quite figured out yet, well that's what life is for, right? But expressing it and living it is another matter.
You may wonder why I feel this need to be open about it all. Surely the quotation I used at the beginning of the post points out that a lot of people do keep their spiritual and public lives separate. The problem for me is that although I can quite happily keep them separate for the most part, there are times when my spirituality is essential for explaining my outlook on life and how I get through certain things.
For instance, before we started trying to conceive I had come to a certain "peace" with the thought that if we were "meant" to have our own child we would but if not it meant that there was a different path for us to follow. This "peace" wasn't easy and of course my heart desperately wanted to experience carrying my own child. We were incredibly lucky to have that opportunity, but the hell of a HG pregnancy (further complicated by Obstetric Cholestasis) means that there were times when I truly wondered what I was meant to "learn" from this and what it meant for our future. I still don't know the answers to those questions, but my spirituality still helps me by reassuring me that even if I don't know the answer, someone (or something) does!
And so this reassurance is something that I want to share with Little Man. I want him to know that even when he feels at his most vulnerable and most alone, there is someone he can turn to. I want him to see beyond what is obvious and look to the deeper meaning behind things, to see the connection between all life and all living things so that respecting nature and our environment and other people is more than just something he is "expected" to do.
I want him to understand that mummy and daddy do certain things for a reason. That we choose to use cloth nappies, try and eat healthy, locally grown foods when we can, and want to do all we can for those around us because that is our way of honouring the life we have been given and the life all around us.
And the only way I can do this, truly do it, is to live it. Which means stepping out from the fear of rejection and ridicule and being true to myself and my spirituality. And this also means honouring and sharing TJ's own individual spirituality (which is different to my own) and in turn honouring Little Man's too.
But how do you do this without risking that same rejection and ridicule for your child? What if something I do, some choice I make or some post I write on here has a negative reaction that comes back to Little Man? Judgement waits around every corner and although I believe in being as open and honest as you can be, I do know that sometimes holding back is a good thing.
Where is the balance? How much of yourself do you share, to avoid confusion and to have trusting relationships with others based on honesty and truth? It's such a difficult thing to know and if I was scared about it before, I'm even more scared about it now that my actions could negatively affect Little Man. Without a "mainstream" understanding and image to guide and support us, where do we start?
I don't know if I'll ever know the answer, but I do know that it is an important question to ask!