the other day one of my facebook friends asked, in response to a status update i posted, "what do pagans study?"
i was so disappointed. i was all set to go to pagan study group that night and talk about "how we know what we know." i wanted to take the question to my pagan study group friends and see what THEY said. but when i came down with the Mother of All Migraines, i was forced to take two imetrex AND a nausea pill. fourteen hours of sleep later, and i feel (almost) good as new.
i missed the meeting but at least i can think coherently enough to write what *I* think. i hope any other pagans out there reading this will chime in with comments. :)
the short answer, of course, is EVERYTHING. most of the people i know who identify themselves as pagans are insatiably curious, about just about everything, and insatiable readers, the sort of people who read the tubes of toothpaste on the potty if nothing else is handy.
my own spiritual path has taken me down a lot of roads, including a very thorough grounding in the judeo-christian faith as it's practiced by american roman catholics of irish/italian descent. additionally, because my mother - who defines herself as "intellectually protestant" (whatever THAT means) - other branches of the family so to speak - jews and christians of every flavor - were welcomed and listened to. my mother was even willing to talk to mormons and jehovah's witnesses when most people on our street shut their doors and pulled the shades.
my mother had lots of ideas about what constituted an "education" as opposed to "training" - and this included four years of latin, which in retrospect was probably one of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me. not only did it hone my memory with its thousands of conjugations and declensions, but it gave me a sense of what history really means. the study of latin isn't just the language - because there's not a huge body of material, we covered a lot of history and culture and philosophy, not just of the Romans, but of the ancient world in general, including Palestine in the time of Christ.
it was this convergence of the history and the spiritual beliefs and practices of my own family that made this all so real for me. i'd had a latin missal since i was five. the first thing i did after my first latin class was to pull it out of hiding in the back of my top drawer and start looking up words in the dictionary in the back of my text book. what i found there was fascinating. the dictionary meaning of some of the words was slightly different from what i "knew" the latin meant because i heard the mass said in english by then every week. an entire world of possibilty of interpretation opened up for me in that moment and i never looked at anything quite the same way since.
from there, i've ranged far and wide across time and space. my spiritual inquiries have led me to read subjects as eclectic as celtic history and mythology, the uses of salt, herbalism, energy healing, quantum physics, the evolution of parasites, neuroscience, milton, blake, yeats, buddhism, tibetan buddhism, and carl jung. and yet, intellectual inquiry is only a piece of it.
my own personal path has led me to various forms of therapy - including massage - and to meditation and to yoga. and i am not much different from any of my pagan friends - even if their paths have led them in vastly different directions from mine. pagans are in my experience a wide-ranging and eclectic lot: any group of pagans always reminds me - energetically at least - of the cafe scene in the first Star Wars. this diversity alone, while i can find it intimidating and unsettling at times, also infuses me with a sense of how breathtakingly and awesomely unique each manifestation of the Divine can truly be.
and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.