Pagans tend to come with a lot of baggage.
I mean that in both the literal and the metaphorical sense. I mean, have you ever helped a pagan move? It may not be true of everybody, but its like 90% of us. I’m not exempt – I have my share of hard-to-pack, fragile stuff.
I’ve known pagans who had a lot more altar stuff than me, too. Everybody knows that one pagan… or maybe more than one… with altar after altar, or entire temple rooms, full of statues, stones, and all sorts of things. The altars and temple rooms may or may not look fabulous, but they translate into box after box of stuff. I’m the kind of person who always seems to be the one available to help when a friend is moving. I’ve moved a lot of boxes that I could have labelled “magical stuff.”
When we moved up here, there wasn’t room to bring box after box of tarot cards, wands, blades, statues, and all the assorted offerings that accumulate on altars. Shells. Rocks. Crystals. Coins. There was picking and choosing. There was a lot of time spent going through altars one item at a time, asking “does this work? does this? what do I associate this piece with?” all the way down the line. We sold some things, and gave others away, and we were left with what seemed to matter most.
This is not just true for altars.
It seems like I’ve spent most of my adult life picking apart what I believed as a child. More of it sticks around than you realize. I went through a Catholic Mystic phase, trying to reconcile my upbringing with the magic and the spirits I knew existed. I’ve spent a couple of years carefully sorting through that, keeping the handful of things that seemed to work for me, throwing out the rest.
Some of the baggage is more recent. I had associations for Mara that came from my ex, not all of which were worth keeping. I had a couple of years of experience with “serious pagans” who were so adamantly opposed to fluff that anything that couldn’t be cited chapter and verse from a history book wasn’t worth doing. When I unpacked that baggage, I found things that were important to me my entire life that I had put away in the name of respectability or getting along.
I’m less interested in getting along these days. I think there is a place for personal deities, personal spirits, things that don’t necessarily translate and can’t be experienced by everyone. Part of the baggage I’m leaving behind is the idea that there’s a “right” way to do everything, and that if everyone else is doing it differently, I must be wrong. Historical, sure, we can debate historical all day long. Traditional, I’ll even give you that. But right? No.
I keep coming back to the thing that has always worked and never failed. I believe in what works. I talk to what answers. Every other expectation, every desire to please someone else, to meet another person’s standard… that’s all baggage. And eventually I have to leave it behind to move forward.