The Life Eclectic

May 10th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Keli Tomlin The Life Eclectic

It took me almost two decades to become comfortable with being, what many might call, an Eclectic pagan or, as I prefer to call myself, ‘green-spirited’. During my formative years in the early 2000’s I was part of the London Pagan scene and it was alive with a vast array of people and practises. I was surrounded on a regular basis by pagans who all seemed to be very comfortable and confident with the path they were walking and would wear the labels of their traditions with apparent ease and pride. As a thirty-something I can now appreciate how naïve and likely false some of those perceptions were; but as a young twenty-something just beginning to cut her pagan teeth, it seemed obvious that the ‘real’ pagans were the ones who had found their tradition and committed to it. So, I often felt a driving need to find the ‘right’ path and the label that would go along with it.

Eclectic paganism suffers from several criticisms, one being its supposed ‘watering down’ of the ‘true’ meaning of the traditions it takes inspiration from. Another is it being the ‘label’ of choice for many young, seeking pagans who have been known on occasion to make impulsive and ‘fluffy’ choices; some dismiss its quality and purpose because of that. I have known eclectics accused of being lazy, indecisive and downright disrespectful, but my personal experiences have all been to the counter. Most eclectics I know are passionate, curious and unwilling to settle with one answer when another might resonate more strongly. They don’t uphold strict boundaries of tradition and culture* not out of discourtesy but because they seem invisible against the beauty and riches being offered human to human, Land to heart, word to ear.

I met and worked with a number of folks during those London years who could probably be described as eclectic; I seemed to be drawn to them even when I was actively seeking another, more singular path. I found them to be inspiring and encouraging for the most part. Whenever I began to feel somewhat comfortable following my instincts and piecing together a practice from my many experiences and inspirations, I would inevitably suffer a crisis of faith and turn back to the idea of committing to a single tradition; convinced that this was the only way to prove I was devoted, disciplined and determined, ergo: a ‘real’ pagan.

 

I found this idea supported in some pagan circles; in life, online, and even in some publications and books. Although I freely admit I was probably reflecting many of my own uncertainties and fears, it would also be wrong to imply that there isn’t a school of thought within the pagan community that says committing to one path or tradition is the ‘proper’ way to do things. Many of us will have come across a person or an article or even a certain tradition that says just that and it does have its’ own logic. For some, such focused commitment and intent is the power behind their paganism which makes eclectic paganism – apparently lacking in a single focus – a less effective method in their eyes. Whether they publicise such a view is of course personal choice, but I think its fair to say that my fear of committing to an eclectic path was in part linked to this belief existing within the community I longed to be part of.

 

Still, for all the single paths I attempted to follow none held my attention nor captured my heart strongly enough to keep me from straying into other territories. I couldn’t help but bounce from idea to idea, following what to me seemed obvious threads that linked the various traditions and pagan schools of thought. The great beauty of Paganism for me is its capacity to hold all paths and possibilities in equality; in our World that is such a rare gift and one I truly treasure. It was inevitable then that eventually, after many years or trying and failing to fit myself into a single box, I finally managed to accept myself for who and what I was; an eclectic pagan with a green spirit who is inspired to live and create by a passionate love of the Land and the need for connection. Acting in service to that passion was the power behind my paganism and gave me the confidence to live it in a way I never had before.

Keli Tomlin Shapeshifter

Since moving back to the North of England in my late twenties, I’ve lost touch with the wider pagan community, instead working and celebrating locally amongst like-minded folks who instead of sharing labels, share a love of tea, cake and a generous creativity. My life has also undergone some large changes. Three years ago, I became a Mother and since then have made friends, lost friends and seen my whole idea of who I am as a person fall apart and come under massive scrutiny. My spirituality too has been forced to change and transform to remain connected and a viable part of the life I now lead. I never expected to find so many of my old fears recurring after this great rite of passage, but I often find myself feeling like a teenager or twenty-something again, facing the same uncertainties around the kind of person I am and whether that is in fact a ‘real’ person at all.

I have also come to appreciate just how much our society demands labels of us and desperately wants us to adhere to a single path. Whether it be the job we do, the political party we vote for or the newspaper we read it seems that the media and the market would be a lot happier (read: wealthier) if we could all just choose a type of person to be and stick with it; preferably one of the ones they have designed for us.

The don’t like it when we pick and choose, when we cross boundaries and mix ideas up a bit. Society at large seems to be frightened of those who refuse to settle in a single form; perhaps because they know we are harder to pin down, to use, to catch? We are told that we need to rally behind identities rather than allowing our variations to inspire and connect us to one another instead.

As the lines delineating my life blurred I too began to cling to rigid constructs, believing the lie that the only safety resided in a single focus. Soon I was allowing the friends I had made to define me or struggling to balance my work and my mothering; convincing myself that one could not exist alongside the other, that I had to make a choice. My “all or nothing” attitude roared back to the surface as I desperately tried to re-find myself. For a long time, I bounced from label to label, idea to idea, without finding a way to root into anything real.

 

Then I remembered my eclectic background: the comfort with which I was able to wear my pagan cloak stitched from elements of Druidry, Wicca, Shamanism, poetry, storytelling, ceremony and song and the confidence it gave me when I did so. I came back to the seeds that lay at the heart of it all: creativity, Land, connection.

What if my whole self could be re-stitched in just such a way? What if I didn’t need to limit the relationships I was making to a certain type of person? I could connect with anyone who I related to and who resonated with me. What if I could dance a winding path between being mother and being myself, letting the two aspects form a single glorious whole rather than sacrificing one for the other?

 

Eclectic paganism lead me to eclectic living.  

I know now that if I hold those things that matter most (creativity, Land, connection) firmly in my heart, the person I weave around it will be richer, more vibrant and more authentic than any single idea of who I could or should be.

So don’t dismiss the eclectics out there; carving out your own path takes devotion, discipline and determination too.

 

Keli Tomlin Shapeshifter

 

* In this vein, it begins to rub uncomfortably along the edges of cultural appropriation. Now this blog is not about that weighty topic nor do I intend to make it so, but I will say that there is no excuse for the misuse of anyone’s cultural history and tradition, particularly when it comes to making money or holding power over another. However, I am also of the belief that we are all here on this earth to be inspired by the things we encounter and that there is a way of embracing and absorbing teachings and traditions from other cultures that is respectful and thoughtful; it is to this approach I am referring when I speak of eclectic paganism.

 

 

 

Keli is a green-spirited Celebrant and writer based in Derbyshire, UK. She creates ceremonies and holds space for deep connection with the Land and our unique lives and enjoys exploring her own connections through poetry, prose and original stories. Find out more at Keli Tomlin Ceremonies.

 

Photo credits:
1) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, This Is An Adventure by SleepyMountain @ Society6.com
2) Rantz Labyrinths Are Amazing But Not Mazes via photopin (license)
3) Keli Tomlin

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One Comment to “The Life Eclectic”

  1. Annette Hetherington says:

    Keli expresses honest clarity of thinking. She has a mind open to, but not dazzled by, the kaleidoscopic choices we experience and helps us tread our own path mindfully.

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