The Pagan Experience: Humanity

This post is inspired by The Pagan Experience blog prompt for week 1 of February, which reads: “ Humanity– How do you define “humanity”? What is your contribution to the collective space of humanity? How does your spiritual path support this definition and contributions?”

yew treeAllow me to begin with some thrilling disclaimer action: my beliefs may have some differences from both mainstream Heathenry and the specific denomination of Urglaawe. I am not claiming that my personal beliefs, especially in this post, represent a historic depiction of what was believed by our ancestors, whether Deitsch or Viking age, nor do I claim to speak for anyone but myself. My beliefs do draw upon older traditions, but they are also both modern and personal. Understand? We good? Great!

I am an animist. I believe that everything in the universe (including the universe itself, which I understand as the World Tree, also called Yggdrasil (Norse) or Lewesbaam (Deitsch) ) has a spirit. All of these spirits interact through an intricate web of relationships known as Wyrd (Norse) or Wurt (Deitsch), both of which can be loosely translated as meaning “fate” or “destiny”, though neither of those words quite covers the subject. These interactions directly influence the health of the World Tree, shaping how it will grow and how strong it will be. No, I don’t think of it as a literal, wooden tree–it’s the universe, remember? But this shaping changes what our experiences within that universe will be like.

As spirits, I believe that our bodies are temporary vessels for our true selves–very special vessels, deserving of love and care, but not the totality of our selves. Why, then, do we move into these physical bodies? Why do we come to live in the physical world? I believe it is because here, our choices directly shape Wurt. The decisions that we make, each and every day, add up to our own individual fates, as well as the collective Wurt, and determine its course. All of the decisions you make in a day affect your personal circumstances in some way. The sum of your personal circumstances then have an impact on those immediately around you, and the sum of all of those circumstances, such as those of your family, or those of your circle of friends or coworkers, then have an even wider impact. In this way, we not only affect all of humanity, but also the animals and plants who share this planet with us, and indeed the planet itself. These choices, these individual and collective circumstances, influence all of these beings on a physical level, but they also influence everyone on a spiritual level. (And don’t think that their cycles don’t affect us in turn–they definitely do!)

Now, we can see that being alive in the physical world is only a temporary state. However, I believe that it is one that we experience many times over–that is, I believe that we reincarnate. This aligns with the cycles of the Earth and everything that we observe within it: things are born, die, and are born anew. The seasons come and go in cycles, and every day ends in nighttime which must once again give way to the day.

As we live in the physical world, die, and then return, I believe that each time, we come back to learn and grow that much more, to make more choices, to shape more Wurt, to keep the World Tree going. I also believe that all of this learning and growing and shaping has a purpose.

In my belief, the Gods are our ancestors–our very oldest ancestors. As such, They are guiding us to grow into the best possible version of ourselves that we can be. We know from our mythology that the World Tree, just as everything else in life, is born, dies, and is reborn again. At the beginning of this lifetime of the Tree, as we know it now, our Gods were in a certain level of evolution if you will–that state They are in that makes Them so much wiser and more powerful than we are. With that power, They created us and have been guiding us. But towards what? I believe, eventually–perhaps in the next cycle of the life of the World Tree, or perhaps many cycles from then–towards becoming as They were at the beginning of this cycle. I believe that the Gods, too, have Their own cycles of growth and learning and evolution, moving towards levels we can’t conceive of now. And the spirits of animals and plants and planets and stars and all the other known and unknown beings in the universe, these too all have their own cycles, their own reasons for being, that may sometimes interact with ours and sometimes not. We can’t possibly know them all; we can only respect other beings with an understanding that they have their own paths just as we do.

So how does all this belief, all this theology, inform my life and my practice? First and foremost, it tells me that every action we take matters. Every choice is precious. A life well-lived is the sum of every action we take. It means that every day I wake up is a whole 24 hours of new chances to influence my personal destiny, and that of those around me, for the better.

That gives me tremendous hope. Even if I screwed up before, I have new opportunities to make things right and build a brighter future. Even if I feel powerless in the face of world tragedies, inept politicians, and so many greedy people hurting each other, I still have just as much power as everyone else: the power of my daily decisions.

Taking this knowledge into account, I do my best to make my daily choices matter. I try to build myself into the best version of me that I can be. I take small, direct actions to help others, knowing that even the little things matter. I look at who I am, and the example that my ancestors and my Gods set for me, and I do my best to bridge the gap between the two–not all at once, but over this lifetime, and hopefully in future lifetimes too.

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