Sacred, Profane, Pagan

Normal western thinking likes to divide things up. Mind and body, male and female, and all the other kinds of dualism encourage us to perceive separateness. Part of how we define religions tends to include this separateness. We have special days, places, clothes, words. A religious rite sticks out like a sticky-out thing from the rest of life, with its costumes, formulaic declarations, unique music and so forth. Thus when we are at home we are not doing anything sacred. We have a not-sacred life where there is no place for religiosity, wonder, the numinous or any requirement to act in an overtly religious way. Two seconds of contemplating Christianity makes me feel this is not what the book religion folks were actually aiming for.

Now, let’s consider for a moment the animist perspective in which spirit permeates all things. Not a few special things, or only at the full moon, but everything, all of the time. What room does that leave to designate some things as spiritual and others as not? If nature is my goddess, and my temple, then what, pray, is outside of nature? What, by this definition, counts as not-sacred?

Let’s push that out again. If nature is sacred, and spirit is everywhere, then at what point is it reasonable to decide that I do not need to act in a religious or spiritual way? Which of my actions can be decided to have no spiritual relevance?

Being a pagan full time is a serious dedication, and for anyone moving from that dualist western perspective, it won’t happen overnight. It calls for a process of re-evaluating everything, and a conscious choice to re-enchant and seek meaning. But the aim of any pagan, I think, should be to be a pagan all the time, and in all things. As soon as we designate some time, action or space as not mattering, or not being relevant, we break the idea that everything is part of nature and nature itself is sacred. It does take time to see spirit in all things, and to hold that perception even in the traffic queue, or at work, or wherever else we feel miserable and mundane.

The recognition of spirit will change how we live and feel. It will prompt us to act differently and it will challenge us on a daily basis. There is nowhere to step back to, no place of not having to bother where we can put our feet up, shrug off responsibilities and veg out for a bit. That’s not to say there is no place to put feet up and veg out, that too can be done in a meaningful way, with respect for self, and awareness that we too are manifestations of spirit.

Once you have embraced the idea that everything matters, there is no easily going back. It’s a bit like the pills moment in The Matrix.

Once we divide the world into sacred and not-sacred, we also give ourselves the right to decide what counts and what doesn’t. Where else could that assessment possibly come from? Or do we imagine that the gods (whichever ones we believe in) aren’t interested in some spaces and don’t care what we do whilst in those?

To be a pagan, is still to be a pagan whilst watching TV, if you still feel moved to do that. Faith is not a hobby, or a role play game to indulge in at the weekend. If your faith is meaningful to you, then it is part of you and part of what you do. If you are still finding your way, that might be more aspirational, but that’s fine. Changing how you see everything is a big job, but it’s harder to do if you aren’t aiming for that total immersion and involvement. It is important to know that pagan full time is an entirely realistic goal. This is not something separate from your ‘real life’ if you are moving towards it, it will be intrinsic to your life in every way.

There is always more work to be done. There are always deeper levels of understanding to achieve. There s always more scope to perceive the numinous and be filled and moved by it. This is not a job we ever get to the end of. There is no opportunity to say ‘I am pagan enough now, I do not need to make any more effort.’

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Sacred, Profane, Pagan

  • Carol

    Very well said!! Thank you for this.

  • Fallingleaf

    Hmm … thought-provoking, much to ponder.

  • Argenta

    This is exactly why I left the Hindu-cult I was part of. In Hinduism, they go to a lot of trouble to connect everything with deity and religion (dharma) — won’t go into that here, but it has been a fascinating concept. There are even deities for what we might term the Other: those whose inclinations or life situation is outside the cultural or religious norms (if interested, check out the Mahavidyas for a completely different spin on Goddess spirituality :)). But a cult means all that was bottled for fast-consumerism in the West, and I felt all the time that the sacred was elsewhere — mainly India, of course). So, even though I still aprreciate Hindu thought immensely, at least that part I am familiar with, I feel that a local variety of paganism is a much more appropriate way to make my entire life, and activities, spiritually worthwhile. I guess this is why I also take the Celtic bit of druidry a little lightly, but that’s a whole other topic.

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