It is important to believe with as little force as possible. It is only in non-nature-based religions that faith must overwhelm natural instincts and sensations.
In nature-based religions, we need only look and see what is there. Faith in the Goddess is no more difficult than faith in the solidity of a stone. You can tap it, touch it, strike it, weigh it, toss it, drop it, pick it up, and feel its weight against your skin.
The Goddess too can be touched and felt, though she is not one thing but many, indeed everything around you and in you, and more. Thus, there is no need to strive for faith. Faith is given to you as naturally as your body.
Having a vision is no more difficult than looking and seeing what is in your mind’s eye. Touching the Goddess is no more difficult than touching your own flesh.
And yet, there may be times when you feel your faith is being tested. For whatever reason, you may feel that the Goddess is not there. You can no longer believe in her. Thus you feel your faith threatened. But actually this is an illusion.
Even if you become an atheist, still nothing has changed because the Goddess appears in many forms. First she came to you as “Goddess” and next she came as “there is no god.” You stop calling her by any name, you stop calling yourself Pagan, you do whatever it is you feel necessary to root out religion in yourself, yet your body abides. Your world abides. Your life abides.
That is what is meant by the Goddess—she is that which goes on. In the wake of all change, she abides. And no matter what you call her or don’t call her, she remains with you.
And even if you spit on her and curse her, she remains with you. The Goddess cannot be blasphemed. Hers is a purity no abuse can stain.
But you can make things harder for yourself. You can take such a cantankerous attitude that she can only appear to you as hostility, misery, and boredom—because you refuse to see anything else in the world. So you can make her fight you. Yet even so, you cannot offend her so terribly as to remove yourself from her being.
You may try to conquer her. But try as you might to conquer her, all you can do is change her. It is she that conquers you, by changing with you.
How much easier is it, then, to embrace her than fight her? How much more livable is it to care for her than neglect her? She does not require us to call her by any special name, or think of her in any particular way, yet how much more enchanting is it to call her by an enchanting name? How much more loving is it to know her in a loving way?
And so we celebrate the seasons, and perform our rituals, and tell our stories.
But let’s be honest: if the last Pagan ceased calling back the sun at Yule, would the sun cease to rise? Nothing would change but the enchanted feeling of things, which would be lost.
Yet she would not be lost. Nor would hope of regaining that enchanted feeling.
This is the mature reality of the Goddess: responsibility for the earth and its livability. It is childishness to think we can divorce ourselves from the earth. To be Pagan is to take responsibility for our relationship with the world. When we embrace the Goddess, our mother, we give up the illusion of separateness. Such is little more than adolescent rebellion. This childishness we surrender.
And yet, even as we accept responsibility and grow toward adulthood in the earth, we also grow the other way. As we return to enchanted ways, and allow ourselves to be suckled by a loving mother earth, we become children once more.
Rotting Silver is a column devoted to this Earth in all its tarnished radiance: poetry, prose, and parables of ugliness alloyed with joy.
A version of this piece was first published at The Witch’s Voice.
B. T. Newberg: Since the year 2000, B. T. has been practicing meditation and ritual from a naturalistic perspective. He currently volunteers as Education Director for the Spiritual Naturalist Society, where he is creating an online course in naturalistic spirituality. His writings can also be found at Patheos and Pagan Square, as well as right here at HP.
Professionally, he teaches English as a Second Language. After living in Minnesota, England, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea, he currently resides in St Paul, Minnesota, with his wife and cat.
After founding HumanisticPaganism.com in 2011 and serving as managing editor till 2013, he now serves as advising editor, and feels blessed to be a part of this community.