Multifaith Musings: Reflections from Grace Love ’19

Posted on September 20th, 2018 by

Grace’s Rat, Clover

Neo-Paganism is a modern spiritual movement that does not as yet have a defined universal set of beliefs or a specific structure and authority. Most practitioners, whose number is unknown, have a highly individualized form of thought and practice which may overlap with New Age Spirituality and Wicca. Much of the ideology used by today’s pagans is reminiscent of or taken directly from pre-Christian religions, and often holidays are based on old European traditions. The need to connect with nature is widespread, and animism and pantheism are quite common. Some practitioners are polytheistic, often revitalizing worship of ancient Norse or Celtic gods, while others are monotheistic.


My name is Grace Love (’19). I am majoring in both biology and religion. I’ve been interviewing students for this blog, but this time I’m writing about myself. I like learning about the intricacies and varying worldviews in different faith traditions. I also love talking to people who have faith. They seem to glow when they talk about it and it’s such a lovely feeling to be around them. I value holiness in all its forms, so I love interfaith interactions.

I’ve enjoyed my time learning about and participating in prayers of a variety of different churches and traditions, but I personally don’t have a well-recognized religion. My mom raised me in a very pagan, magical sort of way. Magic and God and spirits were all intertwined for me growing up. We would hang up herbs over a hearth and leave out food for the fairies and hobgoblins. We thanked animals for the meat we ate and said hello to plants and insects. We celebrated Christmas—I personally love Christmas songs and decorations—but it was always more of a Yule and/or Solstice-themed holiday. My mom likes to use certain spices and concentrate certain intentions into her food as a sort of kitchen magic. We would dance in the rain and go barefoot to connect with the energy and spirit in the earth.

When I came to Gustavus, I left everything and everyone I knew. I needed a way to ground myself and help myself cope with the changes. I turned to what my mom had taught me. My mom calls herself a witch and a pagan. I read more about Neo-Pagan and Wiccan thought to see where we fit into that. Then I sat down and wrote a list of things I believe in, so I have a set foundation for myself.

After a while at Gustavus, I began doing these things because they made me feel good and at peace. I started walking around barefoot and hugging trees again. I lay out offerings like fruit on certain days. I sometimes make herb bundles, weavings, icons, or other things to help in times of need.

I don’t believe that there is a separation between the sacred and profane, so the world is my church, but I do keep a small mobile altar in my windowsill. I like to use things like sage, candles, and pipe smoke (in off campus settings), to focus and commune with the world around me. I do have some more private, oracular ways of communication with the Spirit as well.

I’m an animist, so I believe that everything has a soul and that these souls are all part of a universal community. As such I love and connect with many non-human persons. I get value from those connections in the same way I would family or friendship. For example, I am a rat owner, and keep rats for emotional support on campus. Rats, and animals in general, have really helped me feel connected with the universal spirit.

The concepts of a universal soul and connection are at the base of my faith. For me, faith is an internal thing: it’s an experience of and love for a deity. I cannot deny the spiritual connection I feel, and I need to acknowledge it in my life.

I have an unshakable conviction that God exists. For me, there is only one God, but he/she is a pantheistic one. This is an overarching being who has many faces, names, and facets, representing the duality and complexity in us all.  When I think of God, I think of light and love reaching out to all things. I feel God in the ground, reaching up from the earth, and in the sky, watching over from the sun and moon. I also feel God in the love I feel towards others.

I chose to be called Grace because it’s a name that represents the person I can be when I walk the path of God. I want to spread light and compassion and fight for justice. I may not have a distinct religious community but through interreligious connections, I can still help form a community of faith and love.

“Everything and everyone is sacred and deserving of love.”

 

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