A couple of months ago Mam Adar wrote a post on the religious imagination that I have been mulling over ever since, where she writes about her journey back from strict Buddhism to re-incorporating aspects of her Druid and Christian sides that she found she couldn’t leave behind.
Some of the thoughts she lays out definitely “speak to my condition”, as the Quakers say. In stepping back from formally self-identifying as a Hellenist (or anything else, at the moment), I am suddenly finding relief from several pressures that I wasn’t even consciously aware that I was feeling. First and foremost among these was a growing feeling of dissatisfaction and incompleteness in my religious life, a feeling that I think I can now trace back to a mismatched “perceptual framework.” Fundamentally, I don’t see the world through Classical eyes; my perceptual framework, my “image-ination” is, at root, basically modern, medieval(ist) and Romantic rather than classicist or even Hellenistic.
I still love and honor the Theoi (using the traditional methods of prayer, libation and offering even), and count a number of Hellenistai among the people I respect and admire on the Internet… but I just don’t fit within the framework of Hellenism proper. Rather than the ancient calendar(s) and the cycle of traditional festivals – Noumenia, Anthesteria, Lesser and Greater Dionysiai, and so on – I respond naturally to the entirely modern Wheel of the Year, and find in it an organizing principle of time that works for me.
Looking back over three years’ worth of writing on ExecutivePagan, I can see several times where I basically stated this outright without, apparently, clearly seeing what I was doing (most obviously, in those posts where I differentiated between Revival and Reconstruction).
These, then, are the stubborn symbols by which I see the world:
The Green Man. This above all – a medieval symbol of… who-knows-what, exactly, except that it was pretty certainly not meant to be what I or (I venture to say) any other modern Pagan sees in it. Shorthand for my rock-bottom belief that the physical universe is the only sure theophany, and symbol of my further belief that we humans are inescapably a part of it, and that in the recognition and embrace of that fact rests our only hope of salvation. (Riding along with Him is the Stag, but that’s another post altogether…)
The fantastic (in all senses of the word) medieval world of the Matter of Britain and of the modern fantasy I grew up on. My mental landscape is cluttered with castles, rustic-but-cozy cottages, cathedrals and walled cities, and anachronistically peopled by knights, Druids, hermits and peasants doing things skillfully with their hands. All these exist in a world of rolling green hills, forbidding craggy mountains and dark, nigh-impenetrable forests, a world where stag and hare, eagle and crow, fox and badger and other highly symbolic creatures abound. Somewhere deep inside I dream that the King does truly sleep under his hill…
The mystical conception of the world as a Song sung by an unknowable Singer. We have seen previously that music is the gateway to most spiritual experience for me, but really that just scratches the surface of how I have been shaped by the music in my life, and how deeply mystical I am about it. To a lesser extent, this mysticism extends to the other arts as well – I believe the urge to create beauty is the surest sign that we participate in the divinity of the universe, and the fact that we are blessed with the capacity to perceive the beauty in creation.
Nature, myth and beauty… there are worse ways to see the world.