I should start by saying that I don’t know how this is going to pan out. I’m writing this diary as I learn more about Paganism following my disillusion with the Catholic Church. In recent years I have become distanced and can’t escape the flaws in Catholicism that are so potent and off-putting to me. Saying that, I believe that individuals are entitled to their own beliefs and are responsible for their own choices and so this diary isn’t intended to offend, or be didactic- this is my own, personal journey and so people are free to disagree with or support my choices, I won’t mind. Anyway, I’m sitting here alone. My boyfriend is upstairs studying and my other housemate has gone home for the weekend, and I’ve been doing some googling. I looked into Paganism about a year ago, and liked the sound of the general principles behind it, but I never really pursued it until now.
I was raised without a religion for the first years of my life but when my mother met my step-father we moved into his parents’ house. His father was an Irish Catholic and went to church every Sunday. With the move came my move of schools, and it was decided that I would go to a Catholic primary school. In no way do I resent this decision. In fact, it was a decision made largely by myself. Whether it was because of underlying ‘daddy issues’ and the constant need to belong (something I still struggle with a lot to this day) I don’t know, but I chose to go to Church with my new family, who I loved and continue to love. When my younger brother was born we had a joint baptism, and then I made my First Holy Communion with my class at school, followed by my Confirmation. I went on to a Catholic high school after this, which was honestly an equally enjoyable experience- I was so lucky with my schooling and had many opportunities. The standard of education was high; I was involved in the school choir, was lucky enough to perform at cathedral services and even at the televised concert of the Pope’s visit to Birmingham in 2010. I was never bullied and had a supportive system of staff and pupils around me.
There was a strong sense of community during these ten years or so, until I left high school to attend a different Sixth Form College with several school friends. It was not a religious school and so I was suddenly immersed in an environment that supported pupils of all religions. I made friends with Muslims, Sikhs, and atheists for the first time, and it gradually became obvious that the supportive system I had grown up with was exclusive to Catholics, and was only available to me on religious grounds, not for any other personal reasons. I had so many questions. Why couldn’t my friends have had the same positive educational experiences? Why did I know nothing about their religions? Why had I not been taught to tolerate other beliefs? Why would I not have the same support if I wasn’t Catholic? I soon met my atheist boyfriend who I have been with now for over three years, and eventually stopped going to Church. As we became more serious I couldn’t understand why some of the fellow members of my church’s choir were against our pre-marital relationship. I remember one lady tutting at us when I confirmed that he was indeed my boyfriend, not my brother… This, and the lack of trust that emerged following the revelation of the Church’s involvement in covering up cases of child abuse, led me to pretty much make the decision that I wasn’t a Catholic any more. Whether this means I’m not a Christian any more I don’t know, but at this present moment in time, I feel no connection to the Catholic Church and so this is why I am exploring another religion.
From what I’ve read so far, Paganism is not a religion based on the power of an institution, but of the circular connection between divinity, nature, and the individual. I like this concept. I like natural things and have always felt something within me when I see mist on a mountain, or feel the crisp of autumn leaves, or lie on grass in the summer, or experience the coldness of spring in contrast to the beautiful flowers that are blossoming around me, or feel the sea rush over my toes. I hope exploring Paganism may help me find answers and let me develop as an individual. To be honest, I am concerned about possible family reactions. Although neither of my parents go to church or express any strong religious beliefs, I’m worried they might fall into the trap of Paganism= devil worship, but I’ll deal with that if and when it happens. All in all, I’m very excited to learn and help others learn. Nothing is prescriptive at this stage, and Paganism might well be wrong for me, but I look forward to finding out, and hope that this diary might help or support others going on similar journeys.