This blog is about a subject that has started to interest me more and more- the link between Wellbeing and Paganism.
In case that statement seems odd, Paganism is the fastest growing ‘religion’ in the UK. There are many reasons why people are attracted to it, and no, it doesn’t mean you have to dance around with no clothes on.
Paganism reconnects us with the seasons, something lost in our concrete and air-conditioned world. It also connects us with reality- there is light and dark, life and death. Change is inevitable. So much stress in the world is connected to the unrealistic and impossible belief that everything will always be the same.
And paganism has many aspects, there are many ways in which it can be practised, so it is a very inclusive way of life. No judgements about others and an acceptance of others.
The best way to get into this I guess is to start with a story. Many years ago, when I was at school, I was a witness to some very illegal and unpleasant behaviour. I can’t be more specific, because the alleged perpetrator is currently going through the judicial process.
When it’s all over, I want to do something that will get me closure. So I asked a pagan friend what she would do. Here is her advice:
- Draw an outline of a human figure on a large piece of paper.
- Inside the figure, write down all the words you want to say to that person and the feelings you want to get rid of.
- Cut the figure out.
- Find a secluded place out in the countryside where you can go and meditate, take the figure with you. (make sure you are OK legally to perform the following steps)
- Ask Mother Earth for her permission to help you.
- Light a fire and burn the paper figure.
- Crush the ashes into powder
- The either throw them high into the air on a windy day or throw them into a stream or river.
- Say goodbye. Meditate on the future now that the past has gone.
What struck me straight away was the similarity between this process and what I do. For example, during therapy I may well ask the unconscious mind of my client if it is willing to take part in a particular process, such as hypnotherapy, Timeline therapy or Parts Integration. Pretty much the same as asking Mother Earth for her permission, because our minds are very happy to work symbolically.
Writing down our problems is always good therapy, it takes your problem out of yourself and sometimes when you read what you have written, solutions can become easier to see. It’s good just to get things of your chest too. Writing the words inside the shape of a person will focus those thoughts even more.
As for the rest of the ritual, I often use a deep meditation or trance to help my clients visualise performing actions that symbolically start a healing process. For example, with one client’s grief over losing her grandmother, we ended up standing on the edge of a giant cliff, surrounded by her family and ancestors, and throwing her grief (as a brick) into the abyss.
The main difference then is that I do this in a therapy room, a pagan may well perform these visualisations as an actual ritual. Does that give their actions more power? Maybe, but the human mind can think symbolically, so chances are the effects are equally positive.
Then I read an article on the Witches Pyramid. These are the essential qualities you need to be a good and effective witch. They pretty much sum up what you need to be a good therapist too:
- TO KNOW: We must have a high level of knowledge to be successful, and not just knowledge of a process but the reason why the process works. Because sometimes the process needs to be changed, tweaked, or even abandoned for something better.
- TO DARE: This comes with experience. Our clients can have all kinds of issues, some of which can be very serious and deciding on what we are going to do means taking a step into what could be a difficult place. We take that step though without hesitation. Being mindful of our own limitations.
- TO WILL: To focus on the client, be creative, not just sit there and go through a process. This is where the NHS can sometimes slip up. Only sometimes though, and other therapists can be just as guilty
- TO BE SILENT: Easy. This means shut up and listen. Observe, eyes open, mouth closed. It also means confidentiality, and trust.
- TO GO: Practice what you preach.
If you think about it, therapy as we know it is something very new. What did we have before that?
- Extended families
- Villages where everyone knew each other
- The local church
- The local wise person, usually female, the one who people ask for in secret for those really momentous life or death situations.
My conclusion is that pagans have a pretty good head start on wellbeing. Maybe I will end up there myself.