Lent began on Wednesday the 22d. I said the Daily Office but did not attend any services. (I was amused and appalled that a local Episcopal church, my own denomination, described their service as “Ashing & Holy Communion”. I thought the heirs of Cranmer and Hooker could do better than that.) Will I engage in acts of fasting and self-denial? Probably not, although I may say the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross privately. Years ago I read in a Roman Catholic publication that the Lenten fast grew out of the conditions of pre-industrial living: Before factory farming and refrigeration, the winter stores of food that made the Yuletide so jolly were nearly exhausted by February, and new foods were not yet available. Beginning in early February (Imbolc/Candlemas), milk, butter, and cheese became available thanks to the birth of lambs; as the days got longer, chickens began to lay again. (Perhaps that’s why eggs are associated with the Spring Equinox–chickens would be laying reliably by then, if not sooner.)
Am I a Christian? I don’t know. I believe that Jesus was an incarnation of divinity and a great teacher, perhaps the most important teacher of the Western traditions. I don’t think he was the sole embodiment of divinity, but rather a model for what all human persons are capable of. I could say I believe in him, but I don’t really have much of a relationship with him. I have much more of a relationship with Julian of Norwich, whose writings I have studied in more depth and with more devotion than I have given any book of the Christian Scriptures.
Am I a Pagan, then? Again, I don’t know. I think many gods exist; I think many spirits or wights, beings neither human nor divine, angel nor devil, exist. I think some of them are benevolently interested in humankind, a few are actively hostile to us, and many are basically indifferent. But I don’t have much of a relationship with any non-Christian deity, either. I have gained strength and benefit from the practice of Tara and Medicine Buddha in Tibetan Buddhist contexts. I definitely have a relationship with birds, all birds, not just my own companions; anywhere I go, birds seem to recognize me, to know that I am a safe human, to come near to me. On the other hand, I have actually tried to cultivate relationships with some Celtic deities who seemed interested in me, and that situation seems to have resulted in FAIL all round.
Am I a Buddhist? No, as much as I admire Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, as much as I have learned from studying and practicing it. Perhaps Dion Fortune and her successors were right in saying Eastern methods are not for Western methods. Perhaps I just had too many years of Western religion and magic behind me, too many patterns formed, before I discovered Buddhism; I might be a thorough-going Buddhist if I’d made contact with it in my early twenties.
Am I a Druid, even? Probably not. I’m feeling like I’ve made repeated efforts, alone and as part of a group, to connect with Druidry, with the traditions of Arthur and Merlin and Taliesin, with faery lore, with bardic lore, with the Druid Revival and with more Reconstructionist systems, all to no avail. I’ve been banging my head against a wall, or possibly knocking at a door that just won’t open, and I’m exhausted by it. I want a holiday from all things Druidic and Celtic and Arthurian, except possibly Celtic music and episodes of the BBC’s Merlin.
What am I? I’m a married woman; a writer; a library paraprofessional; a singer, or former singer, specifically a chorister; and… a magician? a mage? an Adept of the New Hermetics? I trained with Jason Augustus Newcomb in the original New Hermetics course, in 2005-2006, and have completed all levels through Advanced Adept (equivalent to the Golden Dawn’s Adeptus Major). I have the certificates and the Rose Cross lamen to prove it. And for the last year, I’ve been trying to get my act together and undertake Jason’s revised version of the course.
I think about saying, “I’m a Hermeticist… I’m a Hermetic magician…” and the words just don’t want to come out of my mouth. I think about saying, “I’m a magician–” and my brain adds, “–not a priestess!” and follows it up with Bones McCoy growling, “I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!” (I believe that episode, “Devil in the Dark“, was the first appearance of the Great McCoy Disclaimer, which has since been echoed by every other Starfleet doctor.)
Here are a few things I’m certain of:
- I’m interested in religious and magical traditions and what I can learn from them, even if I never identify with or practice them. This has been true of me since I was a child and read the grown-up books on comparative religion.
- The New Hermetics has worked better for me as a spiritual practice than pretty much anything else I’ve ever tried.
- I am convinced of the rightness of the Mahayana Buddhist approach: To seek the fullest possible personal freedom and self-development in order to help other beings achieve the same thing. I cannot be genuinely free and genuinely happy while others are trapped and miserable; helping others is an essential part of my own fulfillment. Helping others may not look like anything more than doing my library job, keeping this blog, and helping individuals as opportunity arises, but it is still part of the Great Work.
So I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to reflect… whatever I’ve changed into.