So, one thing we don’t often talk about is finding your spiritual path. I’ve touched on it before here, but I’d like to go a little more in depth now, if I can. It’s a tricky topic, filled with what ifs and UPG. It’s hard to give advice for something that pretty much just boils down to, “Well, you just sort of know when you’ve found it.” Generally, we just try a bunch of different things to see what works best. It’s honestly why I named my blog, “The Meandering Path.” Like any other pagan who’s been doing this for more than a couple years, my own path has meandered through quite a few different areas, and while I’m quite happy and settled in with Kemeticism at the moment, I know there’s a chance it may continue to meander further down the road.
But how do you know when you’re going in the right direction? It can be hard, although, personally, if it’s improving your life, I think you’re on the right path. Sometimes, though, it can be easier to tell when a particular direction is the wrong one. There are a lot of things that can be a red flag, although any one of them on its own might not mean anything. Indeed, a certain degree of struggle can be beneficial when learning about a new path. But some things I would say are signs that you might want to reconsider the direction you’re going include:
- Difficulty following the tenets/rules. Are there rules that make no sense to you? That are actively counter to what you feel you should be doing? Maybe this isn’t the right path. A good example might be if your path taught that women should stay in the home, but you’re a woman who very much enjoys her career. Alternatively, if you just can’t be bothered to follow what the path is teaching, it may also not be right. Your example for that would be if you were trying out a polytheistic path, but never bothered to do offerings, or resented having to do them.
- Difficulty with the teachings/principles. This is similar to the last point, but less direct and more philosophical. An example here might be if you were attending a church that taught young earth creationism and you believe in the mountains of evidence supporting evolution. Alternatively, if you felt like ma’at was too vague and unclear, kemeticism probably wouldn’t be right for you.
- Difficulty with the mythology. This is going to be more specific to reconstructionist faiths, such as hellenic polytheism, kemeticism, or even asatru. Many of these faiths are based largely off of myths from antiquity that may have content that disagrees with modern sensibilities. Modern day practitioners are generally able to consider these in their original cultural context, and remember that the myths are not sacred scripture, but written by men. If you are unable to take the mythology at more than face value and see, for example, the power struggles shown by the domination of Horus by Set, or that some of the less flattering stories about Zeus contradict his role as a loving husband, well, those might not be the paths for you.
- Disbelief in the deity(s). It goes without saying, but if you don’t believe in whatever higher power or powers the path you’re exploring revolves around, that path is probably not for you. It seems silly to include this, but I’ve seen it happen.
- Difficulty with the deities. Most polytheistic traditions encourage worshiping the pantheon as a whole. While you may still work with just a couple deities on a daily basis, and you are by no means required to work closely with all of them (I’m not even sure that’s possible in some traditions, there are a lot of gods out there), you are still generally expected to respect and honor them all. This can overlap with having difficulty with the mythology, as many people read certain myths and have rather visceral reactions to them. That said, this can also be more direct–if, for example, you have managed to somehow offend the gods of whatever path you’re exploring and they will not accept your apologies, you may do best to move on.
These are probably the biggest red flags I can think of, and I think it’s important to note that some of them can be opportunities for growth in addition to red flags. You may start out being uncomfortable with the mythology, but continued study shows you a bigger picture and gives you a better understanding not only of that god, but also how they were viewed throughout antiquity. You might initially have trouble following new religious rules and practices, but soldiering through that could build a solid and responsible practice. Other things on this list, well, I would say are dealbreakers, like straight up disbelief, or not being okay with the fundamental principles of a given path. And I think one of the most important things when exploring and trying to find your path is to acknowledge when something isn’t right for you. There is no shame in moving on from a path that doesn’t serve you. Indeed, I would say there’s more shame in staying on a path that you get nothing out of or that actively harms you.
But I don’t want to leave things on a negative note, so let’s talk about some of the possible signs that a path is right for you.
- It feels natural. Often (but not always) if a path is right for you, things will fall into place. You may find that the teachings and moral values line up with your own beliefs, or that longtime interests turn out to have more meaning.
- Things click into place faster than they should. Sometimes when you find the right path, you may find the resources you need practically falling in your lap. Especially with polytheistic paths, you may find the gods willing to help make sure you have what you need.
- Pretty much the opposite of the previous list. I’m not going to say the right path is always easy–far from it. There will be times you’ll doubt, and there will times you’ll struggle and question things. But it won’t be all the time, and you’ll generally be able to deal with those questions and doubts.
- It just feels right. I know. That’s singularly unhelpful. But like many other things in life, when you find the right path, you know it’s the right path. It is worth noting that you may find yourself on many paths throughout your life–some may be the right one for only a short time. Think of it like a road trip–you often find yourself on many roads to get to your destination. Some you may only travel a mile or two on, others you may stay on for hundreds of miles. And remember, everyone has different paths. Some may travel down only a couple of roads to reach their destination, others may travel many. No path is inherently better or worse; it is only better or worse for the specific traveler.
This is not an absolute list, and not experiencing something on it doesn’t mean your path isn’t right for you. We don’t all have the same experiences, and some people find their path differently, and have a different relationship to it and their gods. So if you feel like you are on the right path, but haven’t experienced some of these things, that’s okay. This is not something that happens overnight, and building a fulfilling practice takes time. Be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to explore and experience things, and don’t force yourself down a particular road because you feel like it’s one you have to take.
My hope is that this can be a rough guide to helping people find out what does and doesn’t work for them. It’s not a hard and fast list of rules, but things to consider when you’re having trouble. Some things may hit home right away, others may never apply to you. Both are okay. What’s important is being honest with yourself in your spiritual journey.