Spiralled Edges: Do Pagans Have Free Will?
Every time I think I have something figured out about myself, my Pagan practice, or the Gods something invariably happens to make me thing – do I still believe that?
Recently, I’ve been considering the idea of Free Will. Philosophers and religious scholars from every religion have been cussing and discussing it for centuries. Free Will or Pre-Destiny? Do we make the choices in our life, or are out paths laid out for us well in advance of our arrival.
Or, is it somewhere between these two extreme ideas?
Many years ago, I was talking to a friend (Religion and culture: Hindu) about the subject of Free Will and he shared with me something he had been taught by his father.
Free Will can be compared to a goat tethered to the ground. The goat can freely decide where it will walk, and what grass it wants to eat within the radius allowed by the length of the rope tethering it. Free Will in this example is an illusion, existing only within the limits placed upon the goat.
Likewise, as humans, we have an illusion of Free Will within the limits that have been placed upon us.
When they were young, my children liked the independence of being able to choose what they wore each day. I made my life easier, and gave them an illusion of choice, by limiting their choice. Red shirt or blue shirt, blue shorts or brown. How many of the choices that we make as adults are in their own way just as limited?
My own ponderings on this subject have been triggered as I have explored what it means for me to be a priestess of The Cailleach. For years, I have told people that they always have a choice on which God/s they might serve and how, and on what God/s may be their Patron, whether or not they choose to also dedicate themselves to that Deity. Over the years I have had Patron Gods and I have worked with them, but never had I been called to actually serve as a Priestess. Until now.
I will probably still tell others that they always have a choice, but I am beginning to question what illusions there might be between free will, and planned destinations. How much choice did I really have in agreeing to be a priestess of the Cailleach? Or was I presented with limited choices that ultimately would have led me to where I am now, regardless of which choice I had freely made.
How often as we move through life, thinking that we are exercising our own Free Will, do we discover through hindsight wasn’t quite what we thought. Free Will within the limits placed upon us by circumstance, location, and possibly even a Deity or two.
Over the past few months, She has shown me ways in which She has steered me in my decisions in order to bring me to this point in my life. Seemingly unrelated events, like the creating of my staff over 20 years ago and the move to the UK 18 years ago were each tiny links in a chain. How often, I ask myself, have these not-so coincidental occurrences steered me towards who I am today.
How often have each of us lived under an illusion that we were exercising our free will, never realising that we had been limited in the options we were given?
It is only now, looking backwards through time, that I can see the patterns and the points where The Cailleach had touched me, spoken to me, and guided me on my journey. Hers was the whisper in my ear telling me to select the sapling of a particular tree for my staff instead of a branch on another tree. Hers was the urge in my soul to move further east than I had ever anticipated from my Kansas home when I ended up in London instead of moving west to California. She is the one who led me to study the art of Soul Midwifery so that I may one day work with those who are at the end of their life.
I am still working out just what being a priestess of The Cailleach means. One thing she has made clear though, I am the one, with an occasional nudge from Her, who will be doing the working out. With or without Free Will.
Spiralled image created by Nan using WeaveSilk.com