Yesterday, this was posted on a blog that I follow: “I have more occultist friends observing Lent than I do Christians.” The post was titled “Confused”.
For whatever reason, that post has since been removed, however, it set me to thinking. Why are Pagans, occultists and other type folk (many of us who left Christianity) observing Lent? So, I posted the question on FB and got a few responses. Now I want to share my own reasons to observe the Lenten season.
Last year I observed Lent for the first time in my life. Well, I sort of observed. I didn’t succeed in giving up the things that I chose. I didn’t abstain from meat. Also, I didn’t really behave different or make any other significant changes in my life. I started out the with idea of meditating on sacrifice and trying to figure out for myself what that would mean from a Pagan perspective. I also remember wanting to create a work of art that would embody my own view, but that never happened. In the end, life went on the same as it always had and I ended the season feeling more than a bit down on myself. I had failed at Lent.
But why was I, a self-identified Pagan, observing Lent in the first place? Please, bear with me.
A couple years ago, I starting practicing ancestor veneration. I researched where my family was from and I put together a family tree. My people are from Scotland, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, England, Africa and the US. I always had a fascination with Celtic mythology and folklore, so I first committed to learning more about Scotland.
I read up Scottish folklore, beliefs and history. I spent five weeks traveling around Scotland and even started learning Gaelic. I began incorporating traditional foods and practices into my religious practice.
Later, I fell in love with Ukraine, where my great-grandmother’s parents were from, after my brief trip there while I was studying Polish in Krakow. My dad and his siblings don’t know too much about that branch since they tended to spend more time with my dad’s mother’s people who are German and English. I do know that my great-grandmother spoke Ukrainian (which I hope to study in future) and made pysanky. So, I took a workshop and learned the art, which is traditionally done during the Lenten season.
This brings me back to why I was observing Lent. For Ukrainians, Easter is kinda a big deal and, as part of my work with my ancestors, I decided that I would add Easter to my festival calendar. However, as with Lent, this posed a problem. I don’t worship Jesus and I wasn’t particularly excited about the Resurrection. Mostly, I just wanted to please my dead relatives and give them a celebration that they would recognize and enjoy. In that, I definitely succeeded.
So, why am I here yet again observing Lent?
In this post, I mentioned that, in honor of my mother, I would give Jesus a place in my heart. I also mentioned that I was studying hoodoo, which I discovered while researching New World African traditions as a way to connect more with those of my blood who are of African descent.
Well, in this past year I’ve been working with the Bible, praying to saints and, more recently, I’ve even been to church. Twice. I went last Sunday on my mother’s birthday and I went to Ash Wednesday service, something I’ve never done before.
After my Lenten failings last year, I engaged in a lot of reflection and when it came up again this year, I decided that not only did I have to do it again this year, but I also had to really, truly observe the season. And this is why….
For the past couple of years, I have not had a devotional relationship with Deity. I have worked with my Ancestors, with saints and with a particular spirit, but not with a celestial deity. For a while, I started to wonder if I needed to work with the Gods. Maybe my Ancestors and saints, who are not Gods, but still powerful, are enough. But that felt wrong somehow and a little blasphemous. I think back to when I used to worship the God and Goddess and how full of faith and devotion I was. When I moved toward polytheism, I started some devotional practices, but I let them fall apart. My regular practice currently only consists of a weekly devotion to a spirit and prayers to my Ancestors. While I find this work satisfactory, I’ve felt there has been something missing for a while now.
Lent is a time of reflection, self-denial and, according to the priest at my local Catholic church, a time of reunification with God. Lately, every where, I’ve been getting signs that I should return to my daily devotional practices. Once, my faith and trust in the Gods held me up when nothing else would and I let that fall away somehow. I want to re-remember and reunite with my Gods and I’m using Lent to do that.
So, I’m going to church and I’m observing Lent, which has so far been a success. In the four days since it started, I’ve given up a singular vice that I’ve chosen to focus on. On Ash Wednesday, I started fasting. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t physically and spiritually ready for that. So, I’m not really fasting, but I am trying to be mindful of what I’m taking in. I am going hardcore on the no meat except on certain days part of the practice. Additionally, I think I might continue to go to church at least through Easter. After only two services, I find that I actually like going to church (I know my mom’s happy about that) and the sermons are good prompts for meditation.
A few days in and I’ve already accomplished more this Lent than last year. I feel really good about it. Things are starting to come together in a way that I didn’t expect. I’m really looking forward to Pascha this year because I know that I will really have something to celebrate.