It's the start of May - Beltane, or May Day - so that means it's time to give my Fat Blue Lady a new coat of paint and pop her out in the garden for the summer :-)
After I stopped being a Christian, many years ago, I felt that I still needed a spiritual dimension to my life (because that was what I was used to) so I went through what I guess was a "pagan-curious" phase. I looked into Wicca but rejected it rapidly on the grounds that it was just as dogmatic, bigoted and divorced from reality as the religion I'd left. I could never bring myself to take magic seriously. But for a long time I was sympathetic to alternative spiritualities and I hung out with pagans (there are a LOT of them in re-enactment circles, so I met them through work), and I even studied modern shamanism for a couple of years.
My skepticism grew as time went on, and eventually I had to admit that, sod it, I really was an atheist.
Funny thing is, I don't miss anything about Christian ritual at all - no, not prayer or Christmas carols by candlelight or the promise of Heaven - but I do desperately miss pagan ritual sometimes. I loved the fact that it was tied to nature. I loved the going outdoors and putting myself into a mental state where I felt I was directly in touch with the great big living wonderful Universe. Even more beguiling for pagans is the idea that the Natural Universe is aware of and paying attention to you. It's very validating.*
One of the things I'm hoping to recapture when I write The Wheel of Year is some of the joy and the mystery of pagan worship, and that shivery sense of intimacy with something far bigger than oneself. I'm hoping to make the world seem magical once again. Because writing can do that:
“I believe that Magic is Art and Art whether it be music, writing, sculpture or any other, is literally magic. Art, like any magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness… Indeed to cast a spell is simply to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or a writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a Shaman.”
— Alan Moore
My base mental attitude to Nature is one of awe and wonder and worship. In my heart I am a nature-worshipping heathen. The thing is ... my heart just can't take my head along for the ride. Fiction is as close as it gets.
*(But is it true? Is it bollocks.)