HP Pride is a new monthly column where we interview members of the Humanistic Paganism community and other like-minded friends. One or more interviews will be published every month. If you are not a “Big Name Pagan”, or if you have never written online before, all the better! We want to hear from everyone! If you’d like to be interviewed, just click this link and follow the instructions. Today we are interviewing Trellia.
What do you call the religion you practice?
If you call yourself “Pagan”, what about your religion is “Pagan”? Why do you choose to call yourself “Pagan”? If you don’t call yourself “Pagan”, why not?
Because I venerate multiple, nature-based deities.
What other words (i.e., humanistic, naturalistic, atheistic, pantheistic, witch, druid, shaman, etc.) do you use to describe your religion and why?
Shintoist, because Shinto is a major aspect of my religion. I find the humanistic, naturalistic and pantheistic approaches to Paganism attractive.
What is your religion of origin? What religion were you raised with?
I was raised Roman Catholic.
How did you transition to your current religion? Tell us a little about your faith journey.
I was raised as a fairly strict Catholic, attending a Catholic primary school and going to church 2-3 times a week. Things started changing when I went to secondary school; firstly because my Dad (who was the more religious of my parents) started losing faith, and secondly because my secondary school was a secular one and exposed me to other religions for the first time (and I discovered I really loved learning about other religions). I was pretty much agnostic from then onwards, but I did have a particular interest in Paganism, stemming partly from my love of the Gothic subculture, partly for my love of nature and folklore, and partly from my family background (despite being a Catholic, my Dad quite liked Pagan imagery and made a living out of selling Pagan-themed jewellery). But because I am quite a rational, scientific individual, as much as I loved the idea of Paganism, I never felt I could really practise it because I wasn’t sure if I could ever “believe” in it. But then things changed when I went to live in Japan for a few years, where I discovered Shinto (Japan’s equivalent of Paganism practised on a mass scale). I came to realise that in Shinto, belief is less important than the ritual itself, and that many Japanese would take part in Shinto activities out of tradition or just for pleasure, without really worrying to much about “faith.” When I learned this, I realised that I could in fact be a Pagan without actually worrying too much about what I believed. I then read The Golden Bough which gave me an even greater insight into the whys and wherefores of Paganism, and finally, when I decided to have a handfasting for my wedding, that sealed the deal. From then on I decided to become a fully practising Pagan incorporating many Shinto aspects.
What makes your religion a good fit for you?
I’ve come to discover that many Pagans feel the same as me — they have a deep yearning to venerate something unseen within nature, although they’re not sure what the nature of that thing is. They also desire to connect somehow with their ancestors and bring back the “old ways.” I think Paganism is fantastic for people who feel this way, as it is a religion of action rather than one of philosophy and beliefs.
How do you practice your religion?
I have two altars – one outside for my patron Shinto deity, Inari, and one inside for more generalised Pagan worship. I tend to spend more time praying at the outdoor altar, where I give offerings to Inari and make prayers to him in the Shinto way (generally very briefly, only for a few minutes). The indoor altar is reserved more for specific rituals and events, such as the Full Moon Esbats and the Sabbats. On those occasions I will hold a more elaborate ritual (sometimes over an hour long from start to finish) involving invocations and offerings – I hold this indoors in cold, wet weather and outdoors during warmer months. I’m also a member of a pagan moot and take part in their monthly rituals too.
Do you observe the Wheel of the Year? If so, how?
Yes. I will set up my altar with the appropriate offerings and items according to the season, as well as attend communal rituals commemorating the Sabbats with my moot (where I can’t do this, I will hold a solitary ritual).
Do you believe in or work with “gods” or “deities” or “spirits” in any sense of those words? Why or why not? If so, how?
This is very hard to answer. I certainly act as if I do, and I think that this is the most important thing because I think that, psychologically, rituals can be very beneficial. When I started my Pagan path, I was fairly indifferent to whether or not deities existed. But I find that the more I practise, the more I really do feel that there is something out there, listening. Particularly when it comes to Inari — I feel a connection with this deity like no other. When I make prayers to Inari, I really do get the sense that she is there with me, and then I often see “signs” that I interpret as messages from him.
Do you believe in or work with “magic” in any sense of the word? Why or why not? If so, how?
Magic is less important to my path, and again I’m not sure if I believe in “magic” in the sense of being able to manipulate reality through supernatural means — but I do keep an open mind as I know many who deeply believe in this and swear that they’ve had encounters that demonstrated to them that magic in this sense is absolutely real. I tend to blend certain magical practises into ritual — for example, I’ll try to use a form of Shinto sympathetic magic to heal people. I find I am most likely to try and use magic when I am feeling especially helpless or powerless. But mostly, I believe that “magic” is simply a good way to describe the miracle that is existence in itself.
How does your religion affect your daily life or your state of mind?
Very positively. My religion gives me comfort, clarity, and a sense that there’s something mystical and wonderful out there, no matter how difficult my mundane life may be. It’s also made me more aware of my actions and their impact on the environment and other people.
Do you interact with theistic Pagans in religious community? Do you share ritual with theistic Pagans? What has been your experience in this regard?
Yes. All my experiences have been very positive and helped to deepen my understanding of Paganism.
How do you engage other Pagans online?
I’m a member of several Pagan Facebook groups and I keep a blog (http://themirrorbook.wordpress.com).
Are you “out of the closet” about your Paganism? To what degree? Why?
Sort of; it depends on the person. My close friends know and my family sort of knows (they don’t know to what extent I follow it though). I don’t like to talk about it too much with non-Pagans who are not genuinely interested because I am worried about being ridiculed or judged. My work colleagues do not know; I work in a Japanese organisation and I’m actually more afraid about them knowing that I practise Shinto than Western Paganism as they’d probably find this extremely weird, especially because my patron deity, Inari, has a somewhat mixed reputation in Japan.
What is the thing you love the most about Paganism?
Its complexity, its wisdom, its celebration of both the natural and the supernatural, and feeling of both invigoration and serenity that comes from performing rituals.
What is one thing you would like to change about Paganism or the Pagan community?
I’d like to see it be more like Shinto in Japan, i.e. be an integral aspect in society that anyone can take part in whenever they like, regardless of whether not they would regard themselves as Pagans.