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Kaleidoscope of Kraft, Or The Joy of Spiritual Flexibility

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I used to joke with friends about what I called my “checkered religious history” — I’ve been a Jehovah’s Witness, an Anglican, a wannabe Catholic, a Pagan, a Yogini and a Buddhist—the last three all at once (and still). I have always felt free to choose and/or drop beliefs without a great deal of angst. This shows either a lightness of spirit…or a lack of seriousness. Perhaps both.


You can see the trend in my choices—from rigid doctrine to liberal faith, from dogmatic belief to open-ended spiritual practice. The combination of Paganism, Yoga and Buddhism gave me the freedom to play with inspiring imagery and ritual from a variety of sources. I wasn’t looking for “The Truth” anymore, but rather for experiences of uplift, healing, and celebration.


When I first encountered Paganism it was in the form of a tradition that honoured two main deities said to be immanent in nature: a Goddess and God worshipped in the deep past who were the source of all later deities. While the story’s historicity was questioned, the energies it aroused in me were real, so I allowed myself to explore further. This led on to forms of Neopaganism that drew freely from both ancient sources and modern psychology, ecology and feminism. 


This was a spirituality in which the divine might take new and unusual forms. Myths could be worked with according to the needs of the moment. Deities might be understood as transpersonal archetypes—as energies within the soul. I took part in ecstatic rituals and trances that were more like psychodramas than traditional worship, invoking ancient gods for modern purposes. There was both discovery and creation. 


When I met Pagans with a radically different approach I was at first a bit flummoxed. While I looked for the freedom to play and be inspired, they looked for encounters with gods who had to be dealt with on their own terms, with respect for their history and lore. Rather than “evoking” them from within, they “invoked” them from beyond. In the end, I found this solemn approach to deity was compelling. Here was the chance to worship with devotion, to make offerings and give thanks.


It seemed once I stepped into the sacred space carved out by ritual, anything was possible. The same mystical reality was making itself felt, whether I treated it as coming from the psyche, nature or some astral realm. In fact it seemed best to leave its nature undefined. As Ronald Hutton put it, “The essence of religious experience in modern Pagan witchcraft lies in the awakening or enhancement of powers within the participant, by contact with deity forms which may or may not be regarded as objectively real but are treated as though they are.”(1)


When I began to engage with Yoga, there was the same dance of external and internal gods. In training, we new Yogis were encouraged to “shake Indra’s throne”—to resist the supremacy of older gods who demanded external worship in favour of empowerment through the harnessing of our own inner prana. Paradoxically, we had divine patrons in this endeavour: Shiva and Shakti, the God and Goddess of Yoga, who were identified as energies within a Yogi that could be roused through both internal practices and external worship.


When my spiritual train made its next stop, at Buddhism, things were simpler. Buddha declared he didn’t care to talk about gods at all, but only about how to reduce suffering through mindfulness. Nonetheless, some Buddhists do work with gods in much the same way Yogis might, using deity images and ritual to evoke the internal qualities conducive to enlightenment: that open state in which one meets the world with curiosity, compassion and joy.


Images of the divine fuel our attempt to step into the sacred, into realms of experience in which the soul enlarges and we allow ourselves to be more, and better. Images of beauty and strength, power and compassion, longing and fulfillment. A goddess wrapped in the night sky, a god with wingèd feet, a playful spirit. A star, a tree, a wine-dark sea—they can all speak of something beyond that is also, magically, right here.


And when in meditation those images dissolve into light, I rest in a vastness that is both question and answer. And that, finally, puts me where I need to be.





  • I have not addressed issues of appropriation here but they are relevant. In my private practice I am obviously a bit eclectic. However, unless I had explicit permission, in any public ritual I would refrain from practices sacred to a group to which I do not belong.


1. Ronald Hutton. Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1999, p. 392. (emphasis mine)


See also Carol Christ, She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World, Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2003, pp. 128-135 on the aesthetic vs the moral approach to life.



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Archer has been trying to make sense of religion since her parents first abandoned her at Sunday School in the 60s. She’s a mom, yoga teacher and repository of useless bits of information on ancient religion, spiritual practices and English grammar. Check out her column “Connections” in Witches and Pagans.


  • Jamie
    Jamie Thursday, 20 January 2022


    Thanks for sharing the story of your spiritual evolution. As always, great a Thanksgiving Dinner of ideas instead of food.

    The concept of "Shaking Indra's Throne", does pose an interesting contrast with Platonist thought. The divine powers [within a theurgic context] exist as elements of a harmonious order. Your soul's ascension is dependent not just upon your own pistis (faith), alethea (truth), and agape (love), but also upon your devotion to the Deathless Ones.

    Like so many other areas of life, I believe this is a case where there is more than one right way to do things.

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