Before I get into the meat of the post (The Great Spiritual Crisis or How I Learned to Stop Shooting Myself in the Foot and Got My Shit Together), perhaps a brief refresher on how I got there to begin with might be in order. It’s been a long enough time that people have probably forgotten; hell, I forget myself sometimes.
I discovered Paganism in my early twenties, first through very questionable material that could be bought in bookstores, then gradually less questionable material found online. Making those first tentative steps from reading to practice, I met Hermes, who quickly claimed me for himself and went right about restructuring my life; several sudden out of nowhere changes and strings of dramatic coincidence that left me with very few doubts, and a great sense of security in that connection (kind of a rarity for me). I was a member of ADF and in the Hellenic Reconstructionist community, eventually I was sort of on the periphery of the spirit worker circle; I knew and was very friendly with a handful of individuals who were well known participants thereof, I brushed up on the edge of the wider circle as a silent lurker but most of my exposure was through a smaller group of individuals who were then all mutual friends.
During the latter half of the functional years there was a gradual shift away from the former groups and more firmly into that last; accompanying that was a shift in my religious practice. It wasn’t my calling to be a layperson or a holiday Pagan (not in my nature either – full on life consuming obsession or don’t bother, for better or worse that’s how I can be), and while I appreciate all the studying I did on ancient and modern tradition, I didn’t feel the connection with the culture that a lot of other recons seem to; it was a means to an end not an end in itself, my interest was solely with the god. Boundaries started to blur a little, things got more intense, and I found myself being pointed in an altogether new direction.
I accepted a new role with him, a new responsibility, and took vows to that effect. Once I was more open about this, but that was a long time ago and I’ve since changed my mind; for many reasons, I’ve gained a deeper respect for privacy, some details do not need to be (and maybe should not be) shared. Said vows and responsibility do not involve the community or any other individual people, so there is no pressing reason why anyone else needs to know; you’ll just have to bear with me on it, I promise not to bring it up a thousand times in teasing hints and glimpses.
I mention it because it was after those vows that everything went to shit. Like, right immediately after. In retrospect, the connection between the two is so obvious it’s painful. Not that I understood it at the time, or for a long time after.
It was an…initiation crisis? Is that the right word? The sort of breaking and remaking that happens when you let the gods in, give your life to them. I was not then (and am not yet) in any way fit to fulfill that new role; oddly (or not) it brushes up against near every weakness, trauma, social deficiency and life experience gap that I have. I was never going to naturally grow into someone who could, poof, done! No, this was always going to be necessary, and it was always going to be unpleasant – and will be unpleasant once more in the future I have no doubt, but this time at least I will understand what is happening.
It seems hopelessly naive now, but at the time I wasn’t expecting anything of the sort. Much earlier, when I recognized Hermes as a patron (to use the common phrase) I solidified it with a ritual that did involve some formal vows. I suppose I had thought it would be similar, an acknowledgment of the situation as it currently stood, and things would just continue as it had been, no fireworks let alone a mass explosion. I probably knew a little more going in than other people get to ahead of time because of the company I was keeping – though in other ways that same company left me more unprepared for the individual experience than I might’ve been had I gone in blind and took things as they came. Maybe there is no real way to be prepared?
Had someone sat me down before hand and explained what might happen in undertaking this, would it have made a difference? It’s easy to think you can handle something in theory, the reality doesn’t always turn out as you’d expect; I suspect that would’ve been the case. Though if I had known, perhaps I could’ve braced myself for the onslaught, perhaps I would’ve recognized it for what it was sooner. I do not think I needed to lose as much time to it as I did.
I made a very crucial, but likely common error, in trying to trace the problems back to the source, when I could no longer deny that there was a problem. Some of it was a matter of unfortunate timing, some of it was the environment I was in at the time, but some of it I don’t have any other excuse for. I laid the blame for it at someone else’s feet. Particular someones. Everything stemmed from my close association with them, they were poison people, their ideas were poison, their practices and standards are poison, and I got to purge it all out of my head, out of my practice, and then all will be well.
It’s easier to blame others than it is to take a good long look in the mirror. It worked out as well as such things usually do.
Wrong assumptions can have a degree of truth in them, as this one did. It was my association with them that started it, they got the ball rolling (entirely unintentional on their parts), but it was less a deliberate sabotage, or malicious neglect, more like stumbling onto a hidden landmine that set off so far away you never know what you did. If it hadn’t been them it would’ve been someone else, or something else, a light breeze would’ve done the job. I’d thought I knew myself better than I really did, I’d thought (more naivety) that I had my shit together more than I in fact actually did. My psyche was a jumbled mess of psychological scars and broken bits held together with store brand scotch tape and hope, I knew just enough how it worked to get through the basics of life, but I was adding a lot of stressers to the mix, even before giving a god free range of the place. It was going to fall apart sooner or later, with or without all this, it needed to fall apart because it wasn’t stable and wasn’t healthy.
As I said, there was some unfortunate timing involved in this. That association had come to an end in a, shall we say, less than ideal fashion. All the result of very mundane personality clashes; some friendships only come about because of the distance the internet provides, they don’t all translate into meatspace reality, some in fact go very bad very quick without that distance. Things had deteriorated by that point when the blow up occurred, enough so that it was just starting to dawn on me that there was something going on, something wrong. You can see where the mistake was made – it was not a full mistake, the connection was there, I noticed it at a time when I was mad for other reasons, and so I ran with it.
I was also encouraged to think this way, at the time and for a long time after. But this is getting a bit long as is, so I think I’ll save the other, outside factors that helped push this already unpleasant ordeal into the half decade time sink that it turned into, for another post.
I’d thought the whole situation was external, that I’d gotten lost on (lead down) the wrong path, and I needed to find my way off of it in order to get it working again, find that right path I had in fact never left (just stalled while some internal maintenance was done). And so in going off to look for something I already had in hand, I created the mess I was trying to solve and spent years lost in the storm.
Leaving the storm, and some of the reasons it was such a struggle, that will be next.