Thursday, August 4, 2011

On being a misfit Pagan

Misfits, by definition, don't fit in.  That's not an unusual thing in the pagan community, most of us are misfits in one form or another.  It's our acceptance of our differences that usually brings us together in harmony, each singing a different note in the song.

But in terms of religious background and worldview - I totally don't fit.  I know there are others like me, I just don't really know that many.

The biggest difference between me and a lot of pagans?  I was never Christian.  Or Jewish, or Catholic, or any other form of organized religion.  Wicca is my first and only religion.  So I didn't grow up praying, quoting the Bible, or saying grace at the dinner table.  The closest to "religious" my family got, was the annual tradition of the Family Christmas Eve, where we'd have a potluck and sing Christmas Carols with as many of us as could make it.  We had a great time, and everyone got along, no one fought or got drunk and obnoxious.  It was loving, and full of laughter, and you went home with your heart full of light.

So, unlike a lot of pagans - I don't hate organized religion.  I think probably it's because I didn't leave it, so I had no previous feelings about it perhaps?  But a lot of things about organized religion do confuse me because of my lack of personal experience with it.

When I was searching for a spiritual "home", I already knew I was gay.  I hadn't quite admitted it yet, but I knew.  And I already knew I had some innate psychic gifts and had been exploring them.  Every religious person I spoke to told me that I needed to be "saved" somehow, and that gays were children of the devil, and that anyone who had any vestige of psychic ability was cavorting with demons - Christian, Catholic, Mormon - they all sang the same song.  I stopped looking at churches after they told me that, and then discovered Wicca in 1984 when my family already knew I was gay and still loved me.

In Wicca, and the greater pagan community, what I found was laughter at life's little ironies, acceptance of a wide variety of people, and lots of hugs.  People who were viewed as spiritual leaders in the community were warm and friendly, and not at all impressed with themselves - making sure to remind people that they were human with flaws just like anyone else.  And at last, I met someone who told me that my gifts were perfectly normal, and taught me how to focus and keep from dropping into someone's head unexpectedly, and to defend myself from the intensity of feeling someone else's emotions.

Of course, we have our share of colorful characters in the pagan community.  I think that's just a normal part of the human experience.  Some churches have folks who are over-zealous and wildly passionate about their faith, and we have pagans who clank with jewelry when they walk around in their tie-dyed caftans.  Different expressions of the same traits, I think.  In the gay community we have drag queens and leather daddies, it's all just different forms of self-expression through costuming, no matter what the environment.

Personally, I have tattoos and longish hair.  I don't wear jewelry anymore, and I don't anoint myself with patchouli oil.  I'm a "blender" - I can pass in public for "average" and not really stand out in a crowd, and that's comfortable for me.  So I guess I fit in with all the other misfits of the world, just quietly going along and living my life.

In the long run, none of it really matters as long as we're happy, healthy, and laughing - right?