Salvation. That’s something you don’t hear everyday in Druidry, much less Paganism. And why is that?
In Paganism in general, salvation isn’t necessary because there’s nothing really from which to save us. Life is sacred, the world is sacred. There’s no unified concept of sin within Pagandom. It’s a concept left to the devices of other religious tenants.
As a Pagan, I don’t believe in divine salvation. The only salvation, to me, comes from within. Your true self, when stripped of ego, truly knows yourself. It knows what you’ve done wrong, and recognizes the fact that you did not live a perfect life. Many might disagree, but when you’re honest with yourself, when you ask yourself, “Was what I did right?” there will always be the answer in the back of your mind. It’s the guilt you feel after doing something wrong.
In some religions, these wrong doings are referred to as sin, an imperfection upon your spiritual face. But sin hardly has a place to play in Paganism, because again the majority of Paganism views life, imperfections and all, as sacred and divine, a lesson in the cosmic classroom of life.
But if I had to define sin in a rational, useful way, I’d harken back to the writing of a man named Whitley Strieber.
Strieber is probably most well known for his books detailing his personal interaction with what he calls the Visitors. On the outside, it appears to be alien abductions. On the inside, a spiritual adventure full of fear, terror, and revelation. Perhaps Strieber is lying, perhaps he’s dishonest, perhaps he’s delusional. Maybe, just maybe, he’s telling the truth. But in his writing I find a deep truth regardless of his agenda, a truth from which many can learn.
In one encounter he wrote about, he meets a mysterious man who seems to know much about the universe. Is he human? Who knows. Was he real? No one can say. But what he said to Strieber rings a sort of deep truth.
Strieber asks him “What is sin?” and the man answers simply: “Denial of the right to thrive.”
If sin exists, I believe it is in the form of these six words. To deny a being the right to thrive is the utmost evil. You don’t need a god to tell you this.
I believe that one should always try to live an intentional, mindful life. We should respect all beings, practice peace.
Wicca has a tenant that I think spreads across the gulf of spirituality. “An it harm none, do as ye will.” Simple as it is, I think it touches on something important. Now, I know it’s impossible to live without harming some life form or another. We live off death, quite literally. But I don’t think that’s the point of this little saying.
While, yes, I do believe we should try reducing the number of entities we harm, I also believe that, because it’s unavoidable to an extent, there’s a need to recognize this. I think modern Pagans do, as we celebrate Samhuinn, the dying of the year, and honor those who’ve passed, we bow to the Morrighan’s black wings in respect. We know we have to have death, and that is why we honor those who die for us, whether it be for food or otherwise.
I thank the creatures who have gone before me to die to become my meal, whether it be feathery or leafy. They die so I might live. Each death is one for life. I think it’s a vital part of living mindfully to realize this ultimate fate and honor it. Let it humble you.
When we do live with humility towards death, knowing that not only we will have to die but others will die for us to continue living, we help ourselves in recognizing the “denial of the right to thrive,” and battling it. When we bow our heads to the inevitable embrace of the Lady Death, we repay that which we’ve taken: we say, “I’ve taken life to live, now take mine so others might do the same.” This is one of the most honorable things that must be done, I believe. And in that lies our Pagan salvation.