49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives

Canadian Paganism has a style all its own. Have a look at events, issues, celebrations, people, trends and events north of the border from the eyes of a Canadian Wiccan and Witch.

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A Quest for Canada

Quest for Canada is a new series of articles that will appear alternately in both my Witches & Pagans column 49 Degrees and my Patheos blog Between the Shadows.  It will be published once a week in an alternating schedule between the two blogs.   Links will be provided in both blogs.

I believe in new gods as well as old gods.  When you invest spiritual and emotional energy into a concept, it acquires its own egregore; and when enough people do it for long enough, it develops a very powerful egregore.  Most of my readers will have heard of Lady Liberty, or the American Dream.  Simon and Garfunkle wrote a beautiful song about searching for the spirit of America, which was remembered recently in a political campaign ad.  I, as a Canadian, went in search of the spirit of my own country, Canada.

Our land mass is so vast that most people really have no idea of how vast it truly is.  I had my first introduction as a young woman, when at the turn of the millennium I took advantage of a special promotional deal offered by Greyhound to cross the country, as long as all travelling was done within thirty days.  I had another reason for the trip – I was going to Maine to record and gig with the other members of my goth rock band Gallows Hill, which had developed something of a cult following on MP3.com in the early days of online music – but I simply could not believe the expanse of the country and it left a lasting impression on me.  It took us five days of continual driving, with a few brief stops of not more than an hour at a time on the way, and usually only about five to fifteen minutes, to get from Vernon, BC, to Niagara Falls, which is where we crossed the border.  Two of those days were spent just driving around Lake Superior.

I had a chance to experience something of this again when I was invited to present at the Canadian National Pagan Conference in 2010 in Montreal.  It was cheaper (at least on paper) for me to drive the distance than it was for my hubby and I to fly.  So I thought, why not see the country while I was at it?  I allowed myself five days of driving time, and because my husband needed adaptive equipment to drive and it wasn’t installed yet, I had to do all the driving.  I was told that what I had intended to do was physically impossible for one person to do.  But I did it.  Still, I didn’t get a chance to do a lot of looking around except from out my car window, so I knew I would want to go back.

When I did my Western Canada book tour, I had a chance to do a bit more exploring as far east as Winnipeg; but I still didn’t make it back out east.  So this fall, after saving up for two years, we decided to do a mad driving tour as far east as we could get.  Initially I was going to do a book signing in Montreal and Halifax if I could swing it in order to mitigate expenses, but the book order from the publisher didn’t work out in time, so we decided to carry on anyway.  In a way I was relieved; as a person who suffers from social anxiety I have to build up my courage to meet the public, and it was pleasant to toy with the idea of just enjoying an actual vacation.  For the most part, I didn’t tell the people I knew that I was coming through because I wasn’t sure specifically when I was going to be there or how long I was going to stay.  And that turned out to be a good idea, because internet availability turned out to be sketchy in many of the places I stayed, and so even when I did contact people, reaching them when I needed to often wasn’t possible.  It’s weird to realize that Canada, even though it’s one of the G8, has large areas where cell phone service is still sketchy.

Most Canadians never see it.  They never go outside of the next province or two over, and they often say they have no interest in doing so.  I think this is a mistake.  I think this leads to a certain regionalism that creates an artificial tension between Canadians in every area from social interaction to politics.  It leads to each of us believing we have the “true” sense of what “Canadian” is.

There are still vast expanses of the country to which I have never been.  I’ve never been farther north than Northern Alberta, and I’ve never been to Newfoundland because it’s either been too far away or the ferry ride was just too expensive; so there are still two whole provinces and two whole territories for me to even start to explore.  So I apologize for their exclusion in my writing.  It’s not a snub; it’s just that I can’t write what I don’t know.

This series is a compilation of my experiences and observations over the course of my major Canadian journeys.  What I’m trying to communicate is my sense of spirit-of-place.  More than the details of what is happening in each of these places in Canada, I want to try to give you a sense of the loci of these places, and the spirit of their people; and through that, perhaps somewhat to communicate the spirit of “Canada,” and of “Canadians.”

Next article: On the Trans-Canada

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Sable Aradia (Diane Morrison) has been a traditional witch most of her life, and she is a licensed Wiccan minister and a Third Degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions. Author of "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power" (Red Wheel/Weiser 2014) and contributor to "Pagan Consent Culture" and "The Pagan Leadership Anthology," she also writes "Between the Shadows" at Patheos' Pagan channel and contributes to Gods & Radicals. Sable is just breaking out as a speculative fiction writer under her legal name, and a new serial, the Wyrd West Chronicles, will be released on the Spring Equinox this year. Like most writers, she does a lot of other things to help pay the bills, including music, Etsy crafts, and working part time at a bookstore. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada with her two life partners and her furbabies in a cabin on the edge of the woods.


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