I have always played the roll of an outcast. It was something that I felt I needed to be. I was different from others from the moment I can remember. I recall feeling left out and alone with my father’s side of the family. I remember feeling likewise with my mother’s side of the family, but for wholly different reasons. (On my dad’s side, I think the feelings stemmed from the knowledge that I wasn’t blood of their blood. And with my mother’s side, it’s mostly to do with the fact that my little brother and I were the youngest of the cousins, with everyone being old enough to babysit us by the time we came along.) I remember feeling that way when it came to school friends, as well. I had maybe one or two real friends that I could count on and talk to: a childhood friend and BFTX are the notable exception to my outcast feelings from my youth. This feeling has persisted through the years and I’ve watched it enter into my spiritual practice as well: the desire to belong, but always feeling like I belonged on the fringes.
When I first started exploring paganism, I really thought I would never belong to a group of anything. The reason being, quite clearly, that living in a southern state can make it a good deal harder to network for that kind of thing. It was a good, reasonable answer as to why I would never truly “belong.” But, it was compounded by the rude sentiments I experienced when asking questions on a forum once. It was compounded with the intense belief that I would never truly belong somewhere as a person based upon my previous experience with being a social pariah. It was all lumped up and rolled up into a single aspect of myself: I am an outcast. I will never belong.
When I joined my first coven, I felt like I was soaring on the wind. I felt as though I had grown wings only without the digestion of Red Bull. (Thankfully, there, since I cannot abide the smell of any of those energy drinks. They make me utterly nauseated.) It was intoxicating, holding the knowledge that I would finally belong in some hemisphere, as small as it was. As I’ve mentioned before, it was a three person coven. In fact, we should probably downgrade the name to something more along the lines of a triad, but coven worked for me. I was belonging to a group of people, small though it was, and that was all that mattered. I had two people who were willing to teach me. I had two people who were willing to show me the ropes. And it was so fun and exciting to finally fucking BELONG somewhere. I had a place to run if things got bad. I had friends that supported my decisions, in a spiritual, magical, emotional, mental, and physical sense. They were there for me and it was so fucking fantastic. It was like being drunk or being high. I had the intense sense of elation and joy. It was everything.
But things fragmented because the EM went insane. (Really. There is no other word to describe her towards the end of our partnership.) The group that I had so gratefully and happily entered into was broken up. Sure, I still had the Sister. She and I were going to walk side-by-side on this path together. We had one another. But, it wasn’t the same. The intense emotions of having finally belonged to something, to someone, to somewhere were gone. I had my best friend and I had people who loved me, but it wasn’t the same. The group was gone and the security I had crafted about myself because of it was gone. I felt like an outcast again. I’m sure the Sister felt likewise. I mean, after all, she and the EM had been friends for longer than the Sister and I. They had crafted their own little coven of two long before I showed up on the scene. And yet, things deteriorated so badly that the Sister cannot actually speak to the EM any longer. My little spiritual bliss with belonging somewhere was completely over.
As recompense, I went searching. I needed a home place, a home base. The desire to belong was still fairly strong within me. I wanted to be somewhere so badly that I didn’t care what I had to do to get there. I found the forum I’ve since cut ties with. I found that place and I was singing again. It wasn’t the same in the sense that I had a physical group with two women nearby. But, it was a place that I could go to and talk to. I could ask questions and get answers (sometimes). I had friends from varying different belief systems and magical castes that were talking to me. I had a whole place, thousands strong, to bring me to where I needed to be. And while I would probably never meet a single one of them… And while I would probably never hold their hands or chant… And while I would probably never, ever end up working spells with any of them… I had a place to go that said it would be a home of sorts. And the ache within me began to fade. I wasn’t an outcast any longer because I belonged again.
The thing is that after time, I began to feel like I belonged on the fringes again. I would go through phases with the forum. I would be there on a daily basis (even two, three, or four times a day, sometimes) and then, I would fall backward. I would see something or watching an event unfold, and I would pull away. Some of it had to do with my Fallow Times. Why in the world would I want to be reminded of a spiritual path that was on hold? Other times, it was because of words exchanged (not fights) that I didn’t quite agree with or left me mulling things over. Still other times, it was due to how people responded to others. And yet again, there was always the untold belief that while I thought I was pretty integral and important or maybe, not so much that inasmuch that I was busy belonging that… it was all just a mirage. Sure, I really was a part of this Internet community and I commented and I participated in nightly rituals (remembering lost members, for example) and I offered prayers of energy for others and I gave readings for others and I spent time there. But, I always had that little niggling doubt that I didn’t really belong there.
I have, as I said, cut ties there. And I’m beginning to realize a lot of things about all of this.
I let my… desire to belong somewhere overwhelm my spiritual practice. I’ve always been so intent on finding the right home for myself, somewhere where I could cry and unleash and where I could laugh and joke, that I took that as part of my pagan lifestyle. It really has nothing to do with one or the other. Ask any other solitary out there: Would it be nice to belong somewhere? Sure. Is it integral? No. And I think this whole thing was a bit of a learning point, perhaps from the gods or the spirits or just for myself, that I don’t need somewhere to belong and be a pagan and be comfortable in my own skin. While I would like all of that, it’s ephemeral. It’s not important. It has absolutely no bearing on what I say, what I practice, where I am, how I identify, what I teach my son, how I learn spells, when I say a prayer… It has absolutely nothing to do with it, whatsoever. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being a vagabond that I let it overwhelm the whole fucking thing: I am a pagan. I am crafting a personal practice. And being in a single place isn’t necessary to either of those things.
Besides, THIS is my place.
This blog is my place. This is where I go when I need to let it out. If I don’t let it out here, then I let it out at my more personal blog of DON’T PANIC. And while I like the fact that I have a bunch of people who subscribe to my blog (and hopefully read it), I don’t need it to be who I am or to practice what I do. Sure, it’s nice. It rubs my ego just the right way. But, I don’t need it. And I don’t want it if I really believe that I do need it. I live on the fringes. I say and do things that piss others off. I believe things that others don’t. I worship in a way that others would find odd. And I live in a place where I should be comfortable with who I am and what I do, though I think some time may come before that truly happens. It shouldn’t matter what type of community or fellowship that I may or may not belong to because, inherently, I am who I am. So, therefore, what I wear, what I say, what I do aren’t important to anyone but myself.
So, really, fellowship? Community? It’s nice to have people agree. It’s nice to see what other people think. It’s nice to hear other ideas. But, I will do, say, believe, think, dress, breathe however the fuck I want to. And I don’t need anyone, but me, to pat me on the back.
But, you know… I’ll take pats on the back anyway. :)