Pagan Blog Project 2014: “P” is for…Pretending?
I’m sure nearly every pagan has felt the cold stirrings of panic at three in the morning when contemplating their path. I know I have. You sit there, wondering if you’re making this all up, if the gods are real, if it’s all the product of an overactive imagination and desperately wanting it to be true.
What if these are imaginary friends run amok?
What if I’m just pretending?
This is harder if you’ve ever been an atheist, or not grown up in a faith tradition. It’s easier to fall into doubts this way, in my experience; in another tradition you may have felt the divine before, but if you’re coming from atheism, you may feel like you’re just a blank slate. I’ve lit candles at my altar and cried because I wasn’t sure I could believe what I was trying to tell myself. How could I possibly unlearn twenty years of nigh-atheistic thought overnight?
Unfortunately, you can’t. Not overnight, anyway. I’ve been pagan of some flavor or another for over three full years and I still wrestle with doubts. These doubts, for me, come up more often when I’m dealing with one of my more extremely personal entities, such as the Assassin or the Wolf. How do I know I’m not just imagining all this? A usual method of discernment is if they say something or you get information otherwise from them that you never would have told yourself. Gods and spirits seem to be big fans of bucking your expectations.
Gods can be easier to deal with due to the online community; a certain deity may have a documented fondness for candy or revulsion of soda that shows up in their devotees, and they end up independently coming to certain conclusions that indicate said particular deity’s calling cards. I still question myself all the time. When it comes to deities, it can be hard; I ask myself, why me? Why would any deity want me? For crying out loud, I’m unemployed, immature, and I cry at the end of love, actually every freaking time. There are at least three billion more appealing possible devotees out there. Why would a deity pick me? I must be deluding myself.
Easy little trap to fall into, isn’t it? Far less easy to clamber out of.
When it comes to religion and deities and spirits, it’s difficult to quantify the experiences. And unfortunately, some religions receive more public validation than others depending on where you are. In the United States, you can say you pray to Jesus and doors open for you left and right; say you pray to Thor and they slam in your face. Someone who says they heard God telling them what to do is far less likely to be looked upon as “crazy” than someone saying the same about Athena. With all of that public discouragement, feeling like you’re pretending if you’re in a non-mainstream religion is not difficult at all. There’s little reinforcement from local faith communities, short of what you may be able to stumble upon on the internet.
But then sometimes you get a signal from your deity – a tingle in your shoulder blade, a sudden craving for something you usually don’t even like, the appearance of an unusual animal – and the idea that you’re pretending is suddenly as farcical as deities and spirits who care about you sounded a minute ago.