So, what happened at the funeral that affected me so much? Several things, actually; some which I had anticipated (though perhaps not fully), others that I hadn’t.
I already knew in advance it wouldn’t be a Christian service, and I felt quite comfortable with that. Neither the departed nor his widow V were Christian, and a Christian service would have been pointless and meaningless in those circumstances. Many of those attending (though by no means all) were pagan.
The service was essentially Humanist, and was led by Naomi Ozaniec, a well-respected “New Age”author and close personal friend of the widow; she led the service perfectly, despite her own, very real grief. She and V were both the living embodiment of strong, quiet dignity personified. I was keenly aware of the energies in the room, which Naomi handled impeccably with practiced calm. I won’t say ease, because I know it is not easy being the centre and focus of that much energy at the best of times, let alone whilst grieving. I doubt I could have done even half as well under similar circumstances.
The journey back and the following days were filled with a lot of thinking and spiritual questioning. There is no denying I was not as prepared for the energies raised during the service and my own instinctual response to them as I had thought; I am rather out of practice at handling such things. And I was totally unprepared for the way I felt at home in the company of pagans (I nearly typed “fellow pagans”….), even though I was a complete stranger to all there apart from V. I felt I was one of them in a way that, sadly, I have never done at church; though I do know people at St.Mary’s and count a few of them as real friends, I have never been entirely able to shake the feeling of being alone in a crowd there.
I also found myself thinking a lot about how my old cat Tom disappeared, the first Sunday I went to church. Friends had always joked that Tom was my “familiar”; his vanishing like that did make me wonder for a while if perhaps I had made a mistake and this was some divine sign of displeasure at the path I had chosen to take. I dismissed it as just a sad coincidence, but over the past couple of weeks I have been wondering once more.
Throughout my spiritual explorations I’ve always found myself coming back to the same thing: asking and looking for a sign as to the path I should take. Last week, whilst walking back home after dark from a shopping trip with my two youngest daughters, K (my middle daughter) pointed out the first star of the evening and jokingly remarked we should wish upon it. So I did; I silently asked for a sign to show which path I should take.
The next evening, my tabby cat Tabs jumped up on my laptop keyboard and dropped my silver pentacle in my lap.
So, where do I go from here? It seems I have received my sign; the clearest one I have ever received. Though I may have turned my back on the Godess, it seems She did not turn her back on me. So where does this leave me with regards to St.Mary’s? I have friends there, and it doesn’t seem right to simply walk away; and yet, I don’t feel I belong there any more. I still believe in God and Jesus; but then, I always have – I just didn’t accept that there was only one God, particularly as even in the Bible itself it seems at times that not one God but two are described; the God of the Old Testament is a very different deity to that of the New Testament. A friend has asked whether being Christain and being pagan truly are incompatible; the answer is “not from the point of paganism, but very much so from the point of Christianity”. After all, in the OT it does state “You shall have no other gods after Me.” That does not preclude the existance of other gods – and, indeed, in the OT there is no mention of God being the only god, but that He is a jealous God and requires of His followers that they remain faithful only to Him. It is very much an either-or situation; one can be Christian, or pagan, but one cannot be both.
I emailed Simon to tell him a little of what I was feeling after the funeral, but didn’t take it any further. I didn’t feel very comfortable at the thought of trying to explain how I felt – not just to him, but to anyone. I have always found it easier to express feelings in writing rather than verbally; that said, I think I owe a few emails now, and I haven’t the slightest idea how to begin them.
So perhaps I should simply say “sorry” – to Simon, Jackie, David, Elizabeth, Louise and Helen.