Labyrinth

I walked my first labyrinth yesterday. Or, at least, the first since I became pagan. Cannot remember if I ever walked one when I was younger, but I rather doubt it. It’s not something my Christian upbringing would’ve understood.

What “labyrinth” means has changed a little through the ages. Modern borrowing have also confused the meaning, although oddly this seems to be abating at the moment. The term usually now means a unicursal maze, that is, a design with just one path. Most mazes are multicursal, meaning there are branching paths. I feel the distinction has gotten more widespread in the last decade or two, even though the word “labyrinthine” still means “maze-like” rather than referring to the simple design of a labyrinth.

What a labyrinth means to pagans is that it is a contemplation path. Whilst in the labyrinth, it is difficult to see the larger picture. Instead you must focus on what is in front of you. In other words, the point of a labyrinth is that is a journey, not a destination. It is for this reason it is usually in a quiet place and either behind curated access or clearly signposted that people must be respectful of others. The labyrinth I went to is in a quiet part of Sydney’s Centennial Park and is built to one of the familiar medieval designs.

But if you don’t know the area, it can be tricky to get to, even when driving.

I did not drive. Although my intention was to walk the labyrinth, without quite realizing it, I made it a journey to get to it, too. Thus a train journey and then a bus journey, and then some considerable walking both to and from the labyrinth. Centennial Park is big – a little more than half the size of Central Park in New York and slightly larger than Hyde Park in London, although a quite different shape to either of them. Unfortunately, unlike either of them it isn’t surrounded by train stations, requiring either quite a walk to the park, never mind the need to walk inside it, or a bus ride to one of the many gates.

Once there, of course, there was little choice but to walk inside the park. Not having been to Centennial Park for many years, it was an interesting journey in mild exploration. Including the meandering boardwalk through a swamp which also houses a largish bat colony.

In some ways, that meandering walk was the real labyrinth journey for me, as was the walk back out of the park to a bus-stop.

 

 

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Forward only

I went to a church service today; first time in rather a while. But it was the baptism of my sister’s twins, and I was asked to attend. Not going to deny my sister that! But there were so many things that reminded me why I don’t go anymore.

I’d been to this church before. It’s the closest thing I have to a regular church mostly because I attend when family needs happen and my parents and sister both go there. But I can’t call myself a Christian anymore – I haven’t for some years. Or, at least, I can’t call myself the sort of Christian they would recognise. And I was re-discovering this all over again.

Principle amongst these were the sentiments in the songs and the vaguely liturgical congregational declaration near the end of the service. I can’t claim to “have my sins washed away” because I no longer believe in the church’s idea of sin. Likewise, I can’t say that Yahweh is my god (although Christians rarely call him that) because I connect with other deities or spirits. But the sermon this morning was in Zechariah and it was actually worth listening to.

The book of Zechariah is one of the least known and least understood books of the Christian Bible. It is a mix of prophetic works written some little time after the major return of the exiled Jews back to Jerusalem when they sought to rebuild the temple. We don’t know much about the writer, but what makes it interesting is that it comes from a time where Judaism was being formed into a recognisably monotheistic religion.

The Old Testament book of Zechariah has a somewhat special place for me. It was during a Bible study studying Zechariah that I had my first distinct message to go look outside what the church would teach. In a lot of ways, this is the opposite of what the writer was trying to do.

But I can’t go back. As much as I miss the community and all the other trappings of being in a church, I don’t believe the same way anymore. I just don’t.

 

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The left hand of masculinity

Maleness. Masculinity. Being a man.

These are concepts I’ve been aware of and have worked with one way or another for all of my adult life. And much of my childhood, too. What it means to be male is trumpeted to all and sundry pretty much all the time. And Evangelical Christianity (the kind with a noticeable hint of fundamentalism) thinks it is strong on defining masculine roles, too. And I am biologically male.

But sex is not entirely what is between your legs. There is an awfully large component of one’s sex nestling between your ears, too. This is the sort of comment that comes up in conversations about trans-gender people. The sort of people who come to the conclusion that the sex of their body is at odds with the sex of themselves. That naturally leads to the next step which is that sexuality is not binary (i.e. male or female) but on a spectrum and often with some fluidity. I have friends who are most not “one or the other” but instead seem to occupy a range on that spectrum.

I thought I’d come to terms with my sexuality. But a few things in recent weeks has made me realize that’s subtly wrong: I’ve come to terms with exploring whatever my sexuality is. This was a part of my deconstruction and recovery from a failed marriage and it had to be part of that process partly because sexually-defined roles were one of the issues in that. It also has to be part of any deconstruction because sexuality is not something you can put on a high shelf in the back of the wardrobe: it is a part of who you and how you react to the world.

I feel like I’m circling the topic a bit. I have all the right bits to be male. I present as male. I identify as male. I am attracted to females and only the female form “does it” for me. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. I also subscribe to a number of behaviours that are typically male. I like cars and can do work on my own. I am a bit of a handyman, capable of hanging a door or installing a dishwasher. But I also have some qualities that some would say are less than male. I don’t follow sports (at all). I don’t like beer. My favourite movies are often not the super-action “things exploding” movies. The songs I love are often the ones with complex emotional messages. I am confident in a kitchen. And also around a sewing machine.

I can see myself in the not too distant future possibly making cosplay costumes of some sort, hopefully for myself. At the moment, I love looking at cosplay. Most of the best cosplayers and costumes are women, for a start. There seems to be so much more variety for girls than guys, in both concepts and in practice. The whole “kawaii” thing is pretty big – but doing “kawaii” for a guy is really hard. This is one reason my fluffy cat ears are blue (or purple).

But there’s a part of me that identifies as female. My PS Home avatar was female – strongly female. It took a couple of years, but over time as I refined her and her clothing, I realized she was a version of me that I actually wanted to be. That’s what I miss most about PS Home (Sony shut it down about 18 months ago). So I see ladies dressing up in cosplay and I so wish I could dress like that. Except I’m simply the wrong body shape.

This does not feel to me like simple gender disphoria. Nearest I can describe it is that I am so attracted to the other sex that I want to be one. But that’s not completely correct, either. I remember times when a child playing dress up as a girl. But I never wanted to not be a boy, either. Or at least, I don’t remember wanting to not be a boy anymore. I see stories now-a-days of little boys who like sparkly skirts or dress-up as Elsa or love dolls over toy cars. I could’ve been like that. Maybe I still am. Skirts can be pretty easy to sew.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I am.

 

 

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Re-journalling

I’m bad at journalling. This is the modern term for what used to be called “keeping a diary”. No, not the sort that records future appointments, the sort that records how you were thinking about the day.

This blog started out as a kind of journal. I still use it to go back and see what I thought worth posting about it. But it’s not an every day kind of thing. And I have somehow acquired a readership, which was not what I set out to do and, yes, it colours my choices about what I post about.

I’m not terribly far into the course on Druidry, but progress is steady. More-or-less. The fact that I get a packet of four lessons roughly every four weeks keeps a subtle pressure on to keep going forward. And I seem to be staying a consistent two lessons behind. The one I’ve been trying to find time to do for a week says in the opening that if I haven’t been journalling yet, now is the time to start!

Well, then.

 

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Synchronous Ideation

Ever get the idea that the universe is trying to get your attention? Reminds of a recent ad on TV where the guy is driving a car through or around obstacles whilst those manning the barricades or chasing after him are trying to get his attention. He’s obviously dreaming. But what if this happens in real life?

People sometimes talk about “synchronicity”. This is where totally unrelated events occur within a short time of each other but appear to have the same meaning. The actual term was coined by Carl Jung. Christians usually say that “God is sending me a message”. Pagans will say a variety of different phrases, but the core meaning is almost the same. And whether it is truly is an external influence or not, somehow we are seeing the same pattern and same meaning. Something is trying to get our attention: even if it’s just our subconscious.

And I have just had such an event:

  1. I’ve been working through a book called “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What Is Was“. This is a book about finding what your passion is – what you truly want to do in life. And then how to go about actually doing. I’m currently still fairly early in the book, trying to learn how to find out my internal blocks.
  2. I’ve been working my way through a course in Druidry. Again, I’m still fairly early in this, but the next lesson I opened is called “Asking Questions Of Your Life”. And before I started reading it, a phrase some paragraphs down jumped out at me: “What is it stopping you from fulfilling your desires?
  3. And perhaps both the smallest and largest of all. Faffing about on Youtube this evening, one of the recommended songs was a K-pop song I love, “Dream Candy” by April (although it’s called just “Dreaming” in Korean). But this time, it was from the other official channel: the one that includes English subtitles. I’d read the translation before, but too many months ago. Unlike most pop songs, Dream Candy isn’t about finding love. No, it’s an encouragement to follow your dreams.

What do I truly dream? There are lots of little things I enjoy in life and they are valuable precisely because I am honest with myself. After all, one of my life mantras is “Embrace what makes you happy”.

Now I’m finding that things are circling for me to not just accept the little things that make me happy, but to dig deep down inside, behind the unconscious roadblocks, to find the big things that make me happy. The big yearnings that make my soul and heart sing.

 

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Easter, once removed

When you’re a Christian (or church-goer), the Easter weekend is the pinnacle of the Christian church calendar. The events depicted in the story of this particular weekend is the reason for the whole of Christianity. More or less.

When you’re not a Christian, it is just a long weekend. And a full moon, if you’re that way inclined.

If you are no longer Christian, the Easter weekend is a time of mixed emotions. I do still remember what worshipping could be like as a Christian on these days. I always found it difficult to recreate the impact and emotion each year, largely because it is every year. And it kind of ruins the sense of theatre on Good Friday when you know that everyone knows how the third act (Easter Sunday) plays out.

 

This is also the second year that Easter has snuck up on me. When you’re a regular church attender, the date of the next Easter is readily known for months in advance. But the church calendar is, with just one exception, not linked to the moon cycle at all. That one exception is Easter, because the date for it is based on how the Jewish Passover is calculated and that’s also based on the moon cycles. However paying attention to the moon once a year does not infer awareness. Mapping out a year’s worth of Full Moons, and attending circles once a month for several years is what conveys awareness.

The other thing about being ex-Christian at Easter and being active on social media is the number of memes and articles about Easter that come up. Skip over them and move on, you say? Even just skipping over them can be enough for them to annoy me.

 

 

 

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Sacred words

Something that I noticed would come up from time-to-time in the Church groups I used to a part of was the number of Bibles we often had. Middle-class church-going Westerners frequently have several. Some people buy a new Bible once every few years. Others buy one when the current one starts falling apart (it happens). Or the church changes its standard translation. Or the print is getting a bit small now.

Christians in the West are not taught to take care of their physical Bible, either. I’m guessing this is largely because it’s so easy to just buy another. Not like Muslims are taught to treasure their Koran (and how many have lovingly hand-made covers). I was particularly struck by this fact some years ago. A family from our church had moved to Turkey to do mission work. At this point they were back for a few weeks, providing some updates and taking a break. One of the things they told us was that they saw Muslims do not put their Koran on the floor.

It is a respect thing. I mean, why would you normally put a book on the floor? I only do at home if I’ve literally got nowhere else to put it, and even then, it’s going to be limited to my bedroom and maybe the armchair where I read.

But Church-goers put their Bible on the floor in church all the time.

I decided at that point I wasn’t going to do that anymore.

That was a good ten years ago. To my knowledge, I often stopped myself putting my Bible on the floor, particularly in the first few months. Now-a-days, of course, I often don’t even know where my Bibles are. Even if I did read it regularly (which I don’t), I have access to hundreds of translations via my Smartphone. And that almost never gets left on the floor, either!

Being Pagan is quite different. For me personally, the closest I get to a sacred book is a personal Book Of Shadows. And for me, part of that is on my laptop computer, and another is a bag full of loose-leaf material. Morever, it’s just not sacred like a Bible would be sacred. Still, I take care of the items I hold special. I try to not leave them on the floor for no good reason, for instance.

 

 

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