Think back to a time when you were surrounded by nature, all by yourself. Maybe you were in the hush of the forest, or gazing at a rolling, roaring tide, or simply out in your yard, staring up at the moon and stars. Place yourself right back in that moment. Really dial into that memory. What did you see? Smell? Hear? Feel?
Dial in further to your internal experience. Was it peacefulness? Wonder? Awe? Now, dial yet further, a little closer to the edges of your own consciousness, where there's less thinking and more pure awareness. What was happening in your mind? Did you truly feel alone, in total isolation, or did you sense an awareness of something else also present—an intelligence, or an emotional presence... an intangible energy or entity there with you? Something that seemed to flow in you, through you, around you? Something anciently familiar? Ask yourself again: Were you truly alone? Or did you have the experience of "un-aloneness?"
That feeling of "un-aloneness" is the divine energetic life force of our living planet Earth, as well as the vast universe surrounding it, and the vast inner universe of your own spirit, as well as that of every living thing. One way to develop a keener awareness of this energy, and learn to channel it to change and shape your life, is by exploring the vast and varied world of Paganism. There are only two prerequisites. One, being open to new ways of looking at life—the way to having an experience is simply to be open to having the experience. The second? Curiosity. Specifically, a curiosity about the ebbing and flowing energies of the natural world and the cosmos.
At its basic core, a Pagan life is connected to, and congruent with, the rhythms of nature, the seasons, and the cosmos. For many Pagans, a spiritual relationship with divinity is central. How you define that divinity is your own personal choice. There are many different Pagan paths and traditions, each with a wide variety of beliefs, approaches, and practices. Unlike many traditional spiritual or religious paths, Paganism doesn't have a centralized authority to declare the correct way to do things, or how to be. You are your own authority figure, and make your own decisions about what to believe, how to practice your spirituality, and how to interact responsibly and ethically with others, the environment, and the divine. The only "right" way for practicing your Pagan spirituality is the one that feels right and natural to you.
So, are you curious? Pagan curious? Here are ten clues that may be pointing you toward the Pagan path. It's not a comprehensive list, and is drawn from my own personal experience. These are the things that led me to the garden gate of the Pagan world.
- A deep, persistent longing. You yearn for something you can't quite define. You searching for it endlessly, but don't really even know what "it" is. But you keep looking anyway. It feels like wanting to go home, but it's not any home you can remember... it's a spiritual homesickness. It's your own DNA yearning for the environment within which it evolved: the natural world. Our DNA is passed intact, not diluted, from generation to generation, which means your DNA is literally tens of thousands of years old. That DNA, which governs all our senses and instincts, is satisfied by the relative silence and tranquility of natural sounds and the rhythms of the natural world, as opposed to the jarring, jangling bombardment of sensory input we withstand every moment of every day. Modern life is unsettling to your DNA, which doesn't recognize this relentless cacophony as "normal." It's repelled by it. The result? Stress. Your DNA immediately recognizes the natural world as "home," and longs to return there, where it can exhale. But it doesn't have words to communicate this, only an urgency to find "it."
- A natural affinity to living things. You don't simply "have" pets. They aren't possessions. They're unique, spiritual, wise creatures. When you look into your pet's eyes, you recognize a sentient being that deserves kindness, compassion, and yes, respect. You may be a bit of a "cat whisperer" or "dog whisperer." Animals just seem to trust you, and are drawn to you. Particular animals, like owls or dragonflies, may consistently reappear in your life, and it seems meaningful, as if they're carrying a message.
Your plants aren't just decorations, and the things growing in your yard or the trees that line your street aren't just "green stuff" in the background. You notice their seasonal changes, their patterns. You can place your hand on them and feel their life force reaching up for sunlight and pushing down into the earth for water and nutrients. You might be a "green thumb" with plants or in the garden. You push a seed into the ground and up it sprouts, hungrily seeking life. Your houseplants thrive, leafing out and stretching up with joy. You relax around plants and animals, and maybe even feel more comfortable and serene around them than people.
- You're drawn to things from the Earth. You love the feel of dirt under your hands and feet, and the smell of grass. You can feel the low, slow vibration of energy in those things that form in our planet's womb, from rocks you pick up while out walking to sparkling geodes and opalescent crystals you see in a gift shop. You might be looking at a bin of stones or crystals on a shelf, and are inexplicably drawn to a particular one: This one is mine. Maybe it feels so comfortable and "right" in your hand, or maybe you feel differently when you hold, wear, or look at it. Maybe its glisten or shine simply fascinates you. You're compelled to gaze into it, or hold it, and keeping it on your desk or wearing it on a pendant causes a shift in your mood.
- Fascination with the cosmos. When gazing up at that vast, dark dome of night sky and glittering stars, you're awash in wonder. You feel the infinite energy and pulse of something infinitesimally larger and older than yourself or the planet on which you live. You realize you're but a microscopic speck on a microscopic speck of an immense connected, living entity. When you look up at that full moon, you feel a bond to every human who ever lived, since the first person who ever lived. The moon has been gazed upon by everyone, everywhere, for all of time—it is a metaphor of connection for all human beings that ever were, are, or will be. Your very own ancestors, from tens of thousands of years back, also looked up at the night sky and shivered in awe. It's the one experience you can still share with them, even if you don't know their names or faces.
- You feel the energy of the seasons and the weather. You're sensitive to the lengthening and shortening of daylight, and gradual rise and fall of the temperature as each season rolls into the next. You'd recognize each season immediately—the spicy scent of wet autumn leaves, the crunch of winter frost on the grass, the warm, thick spring air, or the lovely warmth of summer sunshine. You can smell approaching rain or lightning, and feel the subtle rise and fall in the air pressure as storms come and go. You don't simply notice these seasonal and atmospheric changes, you experience them.
- Rhythm grabs you. Music, and in particular, rhythm, takes hold of you. You can't ignore the beat. Your body naturally moves with it, especially drums. Drumming also stretches back through our DNA, existing in every culture throughout time, beginning with the first person who clacked a stick against a log and discovered the pattern of the sound was pleasing. Whether sticks clacking together or hide stretched over a frame, we're naturally attuned to rhythm, regardless of our musical skill or lack thereof. It energizes our connection with our bodies, particularly tribal, ethnic, or indigenous drumming. To your DNA, a drum beat is a heartbeat.
- You're naturally intuitive. You frequently know who's at the door when you hear a knock or who's calling when your phone rings. You detect a strong feeling to "turn this way" or "don't go in that room." It feels like a knowing or premonition. And, you often discover that something amazing happened or, conversely, something horrible didn't happen, because you paid heed to that tugging feeling. You may suddenly feel the need to contact someone, and discover that they really needed to hear from you; maybe they're having a hard time, or struggling, or simply missing you. You might be thinking about someone and just then, that person texts or calls you. You sometimes know something will happen... and then it does.
- You will things to happen. There have been times in your life when you were determined to make something happen, and you made it so. Failure was not an option. Maybe it was landing a job or getting a promotion. Maybe it was getting a date with a certain special person or finding that perfect new apartment. You didn't merely want that specific result, however. It was a far more forceful mindset than that. You determined that "this is going to happen" and to cement that outcome, you said or did something to put some heft behind it: said a certain prayer, wore a certain color, or carried a good luck charm.
- Increasing social disillusionment. Something's missing in your relationships, activities, or social circles. Things that used to seem fun or interesting are becoming dull and stale. Relationships and activities are feeling more like habits than choices. They used to be fun or supportive or reinforcing, but now they seem obligatory or contentious, or maybe even toxic. You're realizing that the rattle and drone of the news and talk shows is infusing your life with stress, and that social media isn't merely unfulfilling, it's literally siphoning your life away—gulping down the minutes and hours of your life like an insatiable beast. You yearn for more meaning and value in your activities, relationships, and social circles, but you can't quite figure out what to put in their place.
- Spiritual dissatisfaction. Maybe you've never had a spiritual practice and wish to develop one, or maybe you feel a growing discomfort with your current religion or spiritual practice, like clothes that have become too tight. You're wearing a costume, and it's just not you. You hunger for a divine connection that isn't being satiated in your spiritual practice or at church. The answers you find there feel hollow, disingenuous, or maybe even downright harmful. There's no congruence between your spiritual practice and your true inner self. You may be wishing to try a new path, but you're not sure what that might be, and you may be concerned about the resistance or backlash from friends or family that may result if you give that a try. However, that concern is starting to feel less unpleasant than continuing on as an imposter. You feel the burn and boil of your spirit yearning for an unfettered connection to the divine energy of the cosmos—God, Allah, the Universe, the Goddess, Spirit, Source—whatever label you prefer. Your DNA recognizes that divine energy as well, and longs for it. Oh, how it longs.
So: Did one, some, or all of these things resonate with you? Did they feel true and solid? Did you have some "oh yeah" moments? Trust them. One of the most basic Pagan values is to acknowledge and trust your intuition.
Here, we have taken ten steps toward the magical gate that swings open to the Big Pagan Garden. Welcome, good seeker. As you wander, may you find what you've been searching for: the path back to your own true, divine self.