How The pagan conversion experience is a lot like divorce

Being pagan, especially when you convert, has a lot of the same elements as divorce. You leave behind a religion that wants you to stay forever, and any shared relationships end up disputed: everything you do is wrong according to the Christian view, because it’s pagan. It’s polytheist. It puts other gods before whatshisface. That whathisface acknowledged other gods existed, are not any more or less fictional than whatshisface, opens an oft-unexplored doorway. In a manner of speaking, it’s a slip up on the part of Moses to even admit those other gods might be real. You’re looked at as a cheater, and adulterer, as evil.

Because you followed your heart and spirit.

Conversion and divorce are of course both far more complicated than the above sentence implies. There’s no way to generalize, really, ever – but you need at least a few top category labels just to have the conversation.

Why aren’t we talking about this divorce from society in the Pagan conversion experience? I don’t really care for the “there is no conversion.” This is true in sexual orientation. We may be born with certain religious proclivities, but these are not biological. This need to blend the de-politicization of gender and sexuality with religion within Paganism is understandable, but also is not applicable.  If you don’t want labels on your gender or spirituality, great, but at least in spirituality, I need them and others like me need them because it helps with the acculturation process that always happens when you convert from a dominant religion to a minority faith.

Or, as it was put to me during an intercultural communication class my senior year of college: “Culture is oxygen. No one can live without that context.” Even forming an opposition to dominant culture is allowing ourselves to be informed by it. Taking a rebel stance to dominant culture means that dominant culture is what dominates us.

In Wicca, it seems my continuous practice is a combination of loosening the holds of dominant culture – “Jesus is real” while picking and choosing what parts of dominant culture I continue to participate in – mostly, capitalism. There’s also an element of picking and choosing within Wicca, an abhorrent idea to those who believe that a faith is only sincerely practiced when taken wholesale. “I might not like the commands of Kemet,” one practitioner once said to me, “But devout faith isn’t supposed to be easy.”

No, perhaps not. My faith isn’t easy, ever.  But I think it should come from a natural place within me, where my values do not conflict with some outward religious standard of what is “right.”

This conflict of self with religion does resemble the conflict of self with an unsuitable partner. I lived with a lot of disappointment – marriage is not supposed to be easy is the message received. Yet marriage is important. Marriage makes you an adult. Marriage helps you grow up.

This is bullshit.

There is no single path to adulthood, self-acceptance or the divine.

Comments

  1. Lupa

    “Or, as it was put to me during an intercultural communication class my senior year of college: “Culture is oxygen. No one can live without that context.” Even forming an opposition to dominant culture is allowing ourselves to be informed by it. Taking a rebel stance to dominant culture means that dominant culture is what dominates us.”

    May I quote you on this with a link back to this post?

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