[Welcome to our column, Talking My Path. Here, polytheists, witches, and Pagans of any tradition are invited to discuss and celebrate their spirituality in a series of five short questions. If you would like to participate, don’t hesitate to email us at email@example.com.]
ev0ke: How do you define your particular tradition or path? Does it have a specific name?
KH: I half-jokingly refer to my tradition as the “Church of Kurt — a church with one member, because if you attempt to join, I will quit.” I say half-jokingly, because there is some truth in this statement. My spiritual path has been drawn from a wide variety of sources throughout my lifetime, and because my reactions to those experiences are unique to me, my path fits me uniquely.
There’s a very strong influence from the modern Heathen path, and I feel the strongest resonance with the spirits and deities of that tradition. Nonetheless, I also draw from my earlier Pagan experiences: I feel a kinship with the Elementals — and the holidays — of Wicca, a draw to the drumming of Voodoo, a desire for the spiritual cleansing of the sweat lodge. Even my Lutheran upbringing has influenced me at times and I’ve caught myself humming tunes in ritual space which I don’t even realize at first are from hymns.
Above all else for me is a reverence for Nature. I have never felt so spiritual as when outdoors and experiencing the magic and power of the natural world. That sense drives me to care deeply about actions which I perceive as wasteful or otherwise disrespectful of natural resources, and also pushes me to find natural spaces in which to recharge my spiritual batteries.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?
KH: I tend to resonate most with the deities of the Norse pantheon, especially those recorded by Icelandic sources. I work most often with Thor, because he represents things I wish to enhance in my own life — selfless protection of the community, a strong adherence to truth and plain speaking, perseverance and an ability to laugh in the face of overwhelming odds. I also work with Hel because I have come to see her as a maternal figure — she is like the “neighborhood mom” who welcomes us all to her realm when our time among the living has reached its end. Freyja, especially in her warrior aspect, has helped me with a number of challenges, and I have learned a great deal through her in her sorceress aspect.
On a more personal level, ancestor veneration is a strong part of my path. I do not hold to the theory that only blood relatives make up the family of ancestors, as I have a strong kinship with people with whom I have connected on a deep level in this lifetime. Thus my friends who have passed through the veil and entered Hel’s realm are the ones with whom I seek counsel, and also the ones with whom I share the most coffee (or wine, or water, depending on the ancestor).
I maintain a strong kinship with the spirits of the land where I live, both those entities who are always just on the periphery of my senses and those who clearly manifest in the form of birds and mammals, trees and stones, wind and water. It was the spirits of nature who first spoke to me, who first convinced me that the sacred was always easier to find outside than within the confines of any church.
ev0ke: Among the various festivals and holy days celebrated in your tradition, which is the most important to you, and why?
KH: While they all hold meaning to me, the strongest meanings are those of the darkening part of the year, Samhain and Yule. Samhain is the festival of honoring my ancestors, even more so than the everyday honor I may pay them throughout the remainder of the year. It is the time of the thin veils, the time when I can hear them most clearly.
Yule also holds a powerful ancestral connection, but it invites both the dead and the living to come together and share food and drink, to build community, to find camaraderie and connection with one another. Celebrating for the duration of the longest night, lighting the fire at sunset and keeping vigil through to sunrise; these are important aspects. While the entire night is not spent in deep, reverent meditation, the very act of coming together and sharing the night with others of a like mind becomes a ritual act unto itself.
ev0ke: Which texts, websites, or other resources would you recommend to someone interested in your tradition?
KH: That depends on which part of my “tradition” someone might want to pursue! My personal path has been shaped by so many different influences that it would be difficult to establish a reference library that begins to cover it. When someone expresses interest in learning, “which pantheon is for me?” I recommend that they read a few good books of traditional stories and see which ones resonate. Spirituality is a journey, not a destination — take time to experience what you encounter along the way and don’t try to fit yourself into anyone else’s mold.
Likewise, in finding a spiritual path that fits, I recommend looking for a variety of groups, especially ones that hold open rituals, and seeing if any of those rituals strike any chords. Sometimes that can come together at the local level, other times it requires paying a visit to a regional festival, the nearest Pagan Pride Day festival, or a few local shops where crystals and pendulums are sold. Check out meditation classes and reiki shares. Attend local drum circles and Tarot nights. Consider that spirit can be found in many forms.
Finding a community that ‘feels’ right — even if it’s one other person, and/or even if that relationship winds up being a long distance one — can be more enriching than any amount of solitary reading. Look into larger organizations, e.g. the Troth or ADF, and see if anything that they offer appeals. Other people are wonderful resources in terms of book recommendations and related references.
ev0ke: Is there anything you would like to add, such as creative projects you are undertaking, festivals or events you will be attending, and so on?
KH: In my local area (near Syracuse, New York) I’m involved in a number of “outreach” projects to connect Pagans. I’m directly involved in the local Pagan Pride Day (PPD) festival, which regularly draws nearly 1500 people to a one day event where connections are just waiting to be made. In addition, my own Church of the Greenwood hosts our PPD festival, and also puts on monthly public meet-ups geared toward people interested in pursuing Celtic paths, Heathen paths, or general Paganism. There are also multiple local groups born on social media who have evolved to the point of face-to-face meetups.
Twenty years ago, it was challenging to find a Pagan community, and people were secretive enough that next door neighbors often didn’t know they had ‘something extra’ in common. Today, social media has exploded to the point that finding like-minded folks has grown easier in many areas. Don’t expect to step immediately into the inner sanctum and secrets of a working group, but instead be prepared to do the work necessary to become a member of such a group — even when that work seems to have nothing to do with the mysterious and metaphysical. The people who help out are always noticed and appreciated — and tend to be the same ones who are invited to learn more.