Settling Into An Ever Changing Practice

It is snowing again today – an occurrence that is rare in Ireland, despite the two white winters we had in succession a few years ago. Last winter was mild, Christmas Day as mild as an Irish summer.

I am happy to see the snow. It roots me in the season, drawing a line under Midwinter. It will still be cold come February, and we might still see more snow. But it will feel like Spring, I will feel present in the changing season, now that we have fully experienced Winter.

I turn back to this blog because I feel as though something has settled in me, spiritually. My silence was not due to any lessening of dedication or fervour – I did, indeed, celebrate both Samhain and Midwinter. I have been formally observing the passing seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, for four months now.

But recently, I felt a pull back to the less naturalistic traditions that used to entice me. Although I read with a sceptical eye, although little of what I read rang really true to me, it excited me, it drew me in. It is the aesthetics of it, maybe. And I wondered for the first time if a purely naturalistic path was enough for me. Could I engage in practices that assumed a belief in the supernatural? Could I create some reasoning for it, or even suspend disbelief?

After a few weeks, I came to realise that this supernatural thinking was not for me. But that is not to say that it was meaningless. My learning about a different tradition, a different way of seeing, has influenced my practice, has led me, perhaps, to touch a part of my unconscious understanding of things that had yet to be touched on in my practice.

Until recently, I was still acknowledging something like the classical four elements – I had mostly eschewed fire, acknowledging it as the sun and energy, instead acknowledging the three states of matter on Earth. But with my new insight, I have moved past this lingering attachment to Wiccan ritual structure, and instead acknowledge powers of the Earth. They are still basically the three states of matter, but they are more symbolically and experientially meaningful to me as earth, rain/sea and wind/sky.

Similarly, I have changed my focus on life and human evolution to Ancestors. This has become a very important concept for me, as it embraces not only my human ancestors but also everything that links me back to the origins of life, back to the beginnings of the Universe. It also embraces archetypal figures; my mythological Ancestors, remembered in the form of gods. Individual gods have never been hugely important to me, and still are not, but I feel very content to have this concept included.

This shift was further bolstered by my discovery of John Halstead’s blog, The Allergic Pagan, and the concept of Jungian Paganism. It is not something that fits entirely into my practice, due to my feeling no particular need to acknowledge specific god forms, but it confirmed for me some of the vague thinking I had about Ancestors, and also opened up a lot of new ideas in me about my unconscious and its importance in my practice.

The main thing I have noticed about my practice is that it is always changing. Every time I feel happy with the observance outline, the words I repeat in ritual, something is sparked in me and a better phrase or metaphor or focus makes itself known. I expected things to change throughout this first year, but I am sometimes surprised by the extent of it.

The underlying meaning remains the same, but it becomes more meaningful to me each time.

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