I was lost and confused as I stood in front of my altar no longer having the desire to pray, meditate or even connect with the guiding forces that had brought me to this very moment. My spiritual path tasted like saw dust on my tongue; tasteless and dry. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me, but gradually I became aware of an overwhelming longing to get rid of all of the physical things that I had been using for my spiritual practice and begin with a clean slate. I had a realisation that I needed to strip away the veneer, strip away the suffocating amount of objects distracting me from having a meaningful and authentic relationship with the land and spirits around me. Layer after layer would have to be stripped away so that eventually I would only be left with the bare bones of a spiritual practice. This happened three years ago during the weeks leading up to the Heathen celebration of Winter Nights. A time I associate with the releasing of all that no longer serves us so that we can walk into the season of hibernation unburdened.
Up until this point everything had been a distraction for me: the tarot decks, the new age books and all of the other paraphernalia that I had accumulated over the years, believing that these were things that I needed to be a pagan of today. Yet without even realising, it was actually leading me further and further away from the place I was aiming for. A place of wisdom and understanding.
The materialistic side of modern paganism is ugly. Thankfully I didn’t fall into the hole as deeply as some do, but when I first encountered pagan spirituality and began seeking like minded souls online, there was no way of avoiding the sparkly crystals, the hipster witchy books, the Heathen tattoos and the must have pentagrams, not forgetting the perfectly curated animal bones on altars.
When some of us begin exploring different spiritual paths, more often than not we have no one in our immediate environment to guide us through the mire of uncertainty, so instead we turn to online communities for guidance. We sit through hours of unboxings and witchy shopping hauls that all wax lyrical about this or that item, ‘the one item’ that will help you heal your shadows or your inner child or even help you reconnect with the divine feminine. Where is the value in this and what meaningful contribution is being made? Apart from encouraging consumerism and distracting people from true spiritual fullfilment, absolutely nothing whatsoever. Is this what we have come to, admiring other people’s possessions?
We don’t need stuff to help us build connections with the land and its inhabitants, but sadly as long as there are spiritual trends and people with credit cards there will always be some merchandise being forced down our throats. At one point for about a year I was deeply drawn to Norse paganism, reading the lore and studying as best as I could, but then it seemed that everyone and their uncle was a Norse Pagan and were more concerned with the cool aesthetics, the tattoos and the tacky mjolnirs from China than working towards anything spiritually meaningful. How quickly a spiritual revival can be turned into a fashion statement. I distanced myself from this trend very quickly because I did not want to be clumped together with these people who were giving sincere and honest heathens a bad name. This shallow trend however has everything to do with likes and followers and absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a genuine interest in learning about the ways of an ancient European people.
Deciding to follow my instincts, little by little I began letting go of my card decks, my books and so on; a process that I am still abiding by today. Now that I am older and I hope a little more wise, I have learnt to look towards my ancient ancestors for guidance instead of new age gurus. I turn within and listen to what courses through my veins. With less stuff I am no longer distracted, I am more focused and intentional with my time and continually deepening my relationship with the old ones of my homeland.
I have donated or sold hundreds of books and from the two dozen decks that I once owned I now have the grand total of three. This allows me to bond with them on a much deeper level because I work solely with them on a daily basis. My altar is presently a lot smaller and is actually a stool on which I have a handful of intentional items that mean something to me.
The process of letting go has trickled into other areas of my life. Now I only follow a small number of online content creators which frees up so much of my valuable time. I no longer submit myself to three hour long live videos of rambling nothingness repeating the exact same thing week in and week out that brings absolutely no benefit to my life at all. I no longer scroll through meaningless pretty photos with vague captions and now only follow accounts that share genuine and authentic content that brings value to my life.
If you are where I was a few years ago before my journey of letting go of the unnecessary, then I wholeheartedly suggest that you try and start stripping back your own life to the bare bones and see what happens. Starting anew with both your surroundings and spiritual practice throws wide open the doors to mental clarity and enlightenment which allows room for true joy and contentment.
Our ancient ancestors’ possessions were few, but they were treasured. Handmade and lovingly cared for, every item, even a work tool was more often than not engraved or decorated and was blessed after each use. Their belongings lasted much longer than our throwaway plastic ones and when those objects had seen better days they would either have been repaired or perhaps offered up to a deity in gratitude. Our ancestors never sought to have more than they needed and instead of the fancy spiritual tools that we have today, they looked of course to the gifts of the land they lived on. We could all learn a thing or two from our ancestors. Following a simple, stress free and more intentional way of living is a great thing to aspire to indeed.