Mystic & The Mind: Of Mental and Spiritual Health

The landscape of mental health and spirituality in relation to the Pagan and Polytheist experience is vast and regularly uncharted territory. How can we gather the tools to help those that are experiencing spiritual emergence? What happens when emergence becomes an emergency? How can we support our community members who experience mental illness? And is it possible that there is a spectrum of experiences relating to mental health and spiritual transformation instead of a dichotomy? This blog explores the realm of mental health's intersection with spiritual health, both from a personal perspective and an academic one.

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Introduction to Do ut Des

15 years ago I found myself walking down the streets of downtown Chicago on my way home from an English class. It was my first week of classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and I was experiencing the culture shock of moving from small town Iowa to downtown Chicago. On that afternoon, I'd finally gotten to the point of being comfortable enough to talk to a young man I'd spent the nights before listening debate philosophy with a few others. I was so paralyzed by social anxiety in those days that I was certain I was developing an ulcer, and later another friend had expressed shock over me not actually being mute as he believed when he first met me. However, this was the first time I'd had a chance to sit and listen to philosophy and political discussions between my peers that didn't involve Christianity or the Matrix. Like many college freshman, this sudden arrival of discussing thought was a whole new world ripe with possibilities. We were adults.

That autumn afternoon I announced proudly that I had been a Pagan for 5 years. I practiced an eclectic mix of Wiccan-influenced Stregheria and had a budding relationship with Hekate, who at the time was hard to find information on. To my delight, my newly-made friend was interested in Roman Polytheism, and he introduced me to Nova Roma. We spent quite a bit of the semester talking about Rome, Paganism, and astrology.

I survived a single semester in art school before leaving. For many years I lost contact with my friend. What I didn't lose were the memories of the conversations we had. Not too long after leaving Chicago I joined Nova Roma, and slowly my path continued towards where it is today.

Today I label myself as a Roman Revivalist, a Pagan, and a Polytheist. To be honest, it took longer than it should have to begin talking about a path informed by Rome. I'd studied Religio Romana and kept a Lararium, a shrine to the Lares or Ancestors, for over 5 years before I had the bravery to write about it publicly on my blog.

I was intimidated by those who felt more than comfortable telling others what they were doing wrong. Reconstructionists have a (mostly undeserved) reputation for doing what I refer to as source bullying, and I've witnessed this happening many times in the Roman communities. Adding to this, the Roman tradition of perfected cultus, of no mistakes or being expected to start all over again, and the environment on the internet can be downright toxic when we are lacking a physical face to say things to.

The other issue that sat between Religio Romana and myself was that it was deeply woven into historical reproduction and micro-nations. I don't have any interest in rebuilding Rome. This is not to say that I am not thankful to those who have established so much easily accessible information on the Roman religion from these groups.

My interest is in the religion, the philosophy, and the Gods of the Rome. I'm also interested in applying this to who I am in this day and age. I hope to show the larger Pagan and Polytheist communities that Ancient Rome actually has many gifts to give us in the realm of religion if we are willing to remove our preconceived (and regularly incorrect) notions of what Rome was.

I've set out to build a different approach to Roman Polytheism and community, fostering an environment where new students feel comfortable not only asking questions but speaking openly of their experiences as they are learning. I never want to hear of anyone else say that it took them years to share their path with others because they were afraid of being attacked by a co-religionist.

So here I am. My name is Camilla Laurentine. I'm a proud member of the Revivalist movement, which is a synthesis between purely historical reconstruction and Powers-informed cultus. I'm a Spirit Worker, seer, and artist. I am training as a death midwife and home funeral consultant. I am a mother living with disabilities and an entire household of rare diseases. I'm quite a few things beyond that, but I tend to mentally blank any time I'm asked about who I am.

Until recently I was a public godspouse of Apollon, who I am still deeply dedicated to, along with Hekate. My own personal path is Syncretic, so Gallo-Roman and Heathenry are cultural approaches I regularly find kindred spirits in. I am incredibly called to Ancestor veneration and have been honoring Them for nearly 15 years.

This is my new blog, which I'm ridiculously excited about! I plan to write about various aspects of Roman Polytheism and how I approach it in my own life. I will cover various festivals, rites-of-passage traditions, and philosophical understandings of a by-gone era applied to this day and age. I hope you will find something of interest, something thought-provoking, or at least something amusing within my writing. If there's any topic you are interested in learning about that pertains to Roman religion, please let me know! I am always open to suggestions, and most likely I'll be quite grateful for the help in narrowing topics down.

Thank you for joining me, and may you be blessed by the Gods.

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Camilla Laurentine is a mother, artist, writer, and craftswoman wandering about Memphis, TN. She is a Roman Revivalist and American Pagan. Her path is a living, continuously changing entity that could best be described as a syncretic blend of the Continental Europe, honoring a careful balance of Spirit-informed gnosis and scholarly study. She has big dreams of building temples and a safe sanctuary for those struggling with spiritual and mental health issues. Camilla is a sibyl and teacher, available for spiritual consultation and mentoring. You can find her jewelry and art at her Etsy shop: Wunderkammer by C. Laurentine -  


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Tuesday, 31 March 2015

    Hello, I'm Unitarian Universalist myself. I've read Ovid's Metamorphosis and enjoyed it. I highly recommend it. I have not yet read "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius but it is on my to do list, I read in the book "Nature's God" that Thomas Jefferson owned six editions of the book and made numerous notes for personnel reference. I have in my personal collection a copy of "Christianity the Origins of a Pagan Religion" by Philippe Walter which has stuff on the Ides and Kalends. I thought the author was a bit hung up on Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais but I enjoyed the work all the same.

  • Camilla Laurentine
    Camilla Laurentine Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    I still mentally toy with the thought of going to UU divinity school for my upcoming higher education. I spent quite a few years teaching religious education and thinking I might go into UU ministry as a job. So I'm very pro-UU. :)

    I haven't checked out Philippe Walter. I'll have to do so! Thank you for taking the time to make suggestions!

  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    Your welcome, I hope it sparks your dreams and imagination.

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