For the first time in my Paganism, I’m an active member of a CUUPs (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans) group. Our group itself is pretty new; I think we just celebrated our first year. I myself and even newer, joining around 9 or so months ago. (Though our current CUUPs iteration is new, apparently there was a previous group at this UU church that for whatever reason ended very badly not that long ago. I wasn’t even in this town at that point, much less at the church, so I have no firsthand knowledge myself of how it all went down.) Being new in town, I needed to connect with other pagans or pagan-friendly people somehow, and this was one way to do so.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I showed up to my first event. I read a lot of John Beckett’s writings, and I know he’s a very active member of his local CUUPs group; but what little I knew of UU theology seemed pretty antithetical to my “hard” devotional polytheism beliefs and experiences. When I first showed up, things seemed pretty organized, polite and respectful, which always make me happy, so it seemed a good idea to stick with it and see where involvement with the group went. The group at that point was pretty much just a monthly meeting to discuss various generic Pagan-related concepts (for example, “altars” and “Winter traditions”). I’m not sure if this is the CUUPs norm or not, but it worked for us, particularly as we were just in the first year of building the group.
However, pretty quickly on I realized it was not giving me any spiritual benefit, as such. There were no rituals, no Gods, ancestors, or landspirits actively honored or even mentioned, really, aside from “this is what I do, or what I’ve seen people do”. Very useful discussions, especially when building community with people with a wide assortment of experiences, interests, and backgrounds, certainly. Just not something that scratches the spiritual itch for me, personally.
This didn’t really click in for me, though, until our most recent couple of meetings. In one, we were planning the schedule for the coming year, which essentially includes another year of discussions around general topics. In another meeting, we were discussing “January holidays and traditions”. Word to the wise, there are no Heathen holidays or traditions in January. Not a one, unless you’re doing some kind of personal advent-based thing that carries over from December. And I, personally, have no January traditions to speak of. My family has a distinct lack of religious or spiritual traditions (or, hell, any family traditions whatsoever) so I really have nothing to say about January at all, except that it’s kind of a nice break from the stress and business of the holidays.
And I figured that’s the way most people were, too. Turns out there’s a wide variety of folk beliefs and traditions associated with the New Year which some people still celebrate. (Ironically, I have a degree in Folk Studies, so I know this to be true; folk traditions of any kind have never held a very important place in any of my personal beliefs and practices, however.) I feel somehow anti-Pagan to admit that I don’t actually believe in any folk superstitions because, to me, despite (or perhaps because of?) my anthro and folk studies training, they just seem like watered-down vestiges of the ancient spiritual truths and practices of the Scandinavians that I try to understand and recreate here and now. I feel it’s kind of like choosing to drink Hi-C when you could have a fresh-fruit alcoholic drink for the same price instead. *shrug* Perhaps I’m just weird that way; YMMV.
In part, it probably is just me being idocynratic. I mean, not everyone was brought up generic Midwestern WASP several generations removed from any “old country” traditions and born into a family who had no interest in creating any of their own. I’m kind of jealous of the recovering Catholics I know because at least they have the background of a rich spiritual tradition to pull from, whereas I’m truly recreating my polytheism from ground zero, theologically speaking, and it’s reaaaally slow going at times.
But this is probably one of the benefits I’ll get from my involvement with the CUUPs group. It’s always good to be reminded that not everyone thinks the way I think. or experiences the world in the same way. 🙂