After years of having a relatively easy time finding community, I’ve struggled in the past few years to find a new home. I’m not sure what all the factors are, but I imagine they probably include baggage from the experience I had with Reclaiming and Reclaiming-like traditions, as well as experiences with reconstruction-leaning orders.
I struggle with thoughts of going back to those places of Reclaiming and Reclaiming-influenced practice because they are familiar and because they were the scene of a huge amount of personal and spiritual growth for me. I seek that growth and connection, but I’m extremely gun-shy. I ended up in a place that didn’t feel safe, in a community that felt false and shallow. Rather than being supported, I felt scrutinized and judged, and ultimately found lacking in several ways. In Paganism, there is little in the way of organization, and it can make for falling away of people like me. When I disappeared, I don’t think it ever occurred to anyone to ask why. And certainly if it did, I think there was a great deal of discomfort with some of the questions and observations I had to offer. I came to be at odds with some things that are at the heart of Reclaiming, both in theory and in practice. I realized that it had once been very much the right place for me, but that it isn’t that place any more. I guess that is what a crisis of faith feels like.
I tried retracing my steps, going backwards in an almost linear fashion, which brought me first to the reconstructionist practice that immediately preceded my deeper dive into Reclaiming. I was seeking structure, I was seeking a movement away from the fusion of psychology and theology, a movement towards theism and a belief that the gods are more than mythological metaphors. Still, the problem I had with reconstructionism remains what it has always been: I can’t jive with a practice that feels stagnant and unable to conform, change or grow, that discounts personal experience and gnosis as somehow “less than.” I toyed with this a bit while in Portland, first with a tenuous reconnection with ADF, then with Egyptian practice. Neither fits as a strict reconstructionist path. I’m not a reconstructionist. I knew this, but I guess I had to remind myself.
I stepped further back to Wicca, which, as I posted about earlier this month, feels very much like home. Yet… I find myself struggling with the thing that pushed me to reconstructionism and then to Reclaiming: a serious lack of … seriousness. The thing about Wicca is that the “public” face of it tends to feel like an alternate reality, one that doesn’t seem to value skepticism at all.
Once upon a time, I created a tradition and worked a coven with an amazing group of people. That tradition wove together the best of these three things – the ecstatic ritual-style and free-spiritedness of Reclaiming, tempered with the pursuit of both scholarly and historic gnosis of gods and traditions sought by most reconstructionists, and the structure of “old-school” Wiccan group dynamics and pedagogy. When I did this, I was able to find the right people and it was easy. Not easy as in “without effort” but easy as in “things happened smoothly and in the right order without a lot of flailing.” I was fortunate to work with witches who were much like myself in terms of values and community desires. I … haven’t had that since, and it’s been about 10 years.
So I’m back to being solitary and trying to figure out how to make that work now that I know how exponentially better it can be with like-minded people. I’m having little luck finding people in the local area (read: close enough to meet regularly). Old methods don’t work. Hell, new ones don’t seem to work either. And honestly, I’m feeling a bit like Sisyphus. I guess I’m just trying to figure out what the message is here, what the gods are trying to say. And also, I’m so frustrated with feeling like I’m starting over again with people who have NO IDEA of the work I’ve already done, and having to go over that, like some kind of weird resume review, is exhausting just to think about. And yet, I want to work with a group that at least has the same values/desires from a group. I don’t know how to reconcile the unrest that’s so deep within my soul with the desperate desire for community, ANY community, as long as they can find their way around a circle.
It’s kind of a shitty place to be.
I suspect I need to do some serious unpacking of the baggage I’m carrying, but at a loss for how to do that on my own. It’s not exactly something I can take to a therapist either, because frankly, I think it’s essentially pastoral counseling, and a person would have to have a strong understanding of the nuances of where I’ve been to help me figure out where I’m going. I know there’s more than a little of the overarching life Work I’m engaged in at play here, but it’s hard to tell where that ends, and where broken systems begin.
So I keep pushing on. The kettle that’s constantly simmering in my brain keeps simmering. I have no idea what will percolate to the surface next. I suppose I can trust that when I truly need to put things in order, the right things will happen with the right people in the right place. I’m just so impatient.