Sunday, December 23, 2007


It's a normal human desire, belonging. We all want it in one way or another. We want to belong to or with other people, to belong in a place that calls out to us, belong to a group whose goals and intentions resonate with our own. We seek out belonging in shared culture, spirituality, friendship, and family. Even outsiders and radicals want to belong and seek out sympathetic others of their kind. This is part of what drives the creation of religious and spiritual movements -- the desire to belong to something greater than ourselves. 

Reconstructionist religions speak to those who feel a sense of belonging to a different time and possibly to a different place. I've never talked to anyone in CR who wanted to live in iron age Ireland -- we're all pretty fond of things like central heating and indoor plumbing. Yet so many of us feel spiritually connected to that other time and place. It's not a desire to escape, either. So many of us are deeply engaged in social and political struggles, in learning about the world and humanity's place in it, in working for change in the destructive patterns in modern Western civilization. Yet we wonder if we could achieve a sense of belonging and kinship with people in the places where our deities arose, where the languages that are important to us ritually once were and sometimes still are spoken. We read and study and dream and make pilgrimages, seeking that sense of belonging and acceptance.

Alastair McIntosh addresses the idea in a brief poem from his collection Love and Revolution, entitled Scotland.

A person belongs
inasmuch as they are willing
to cherish and be cherished
by a place 
and its peoples.


Buinidh neach an seo
Fhad 's a tha iad deònach
tasgadh is a bhith air an tasgadh
leis an àite
agus a mhuinntir

(translation to Gaelic by Maoilios Caimbeul)

Alastair McIntosh is originally from the Isle of Lewis, currently residing in Glasgow. He is an environmental, political and spiritual activist whose activities touch on many communities. His work and writing offers connection with the original animist, immanentist traditions of the early Celtic peoples, and an acceptance of those who would join in that reverence. Outsiders, our respect for and cherishing of the traditions and the peoples whose pre-Christian spiritual practices we wish to reconstruct and emulate is what gives us a connection to the traditions and grants us a sense of belonging.

We belong to the Earth. We belong to the deities and the spirits. We belong to ourselves and to what we cherish. When we embrace the land in a particular place, we allow ourselves to be embraced in turn -- to belong to the land and its spirits. Even when we come from far away, if we approach with respect and with love then we can be accepted there, becoming a part of that place, of those people. With love and respect, we create belonging and connections. We find our way home. 


  1. This is a good distinction between connection to another place while remaining grounded here, and indulging in escapism. I think there are a lot of pagans who end towards the latter, and I think that the balance you espouse should be disseminated more widely. I think not only would it help people from leaping to huge romanticized conclusions based on what they want the past to be like, but it would help bring the good things about the past into alignment with the good things of the present (and, as we proceed into it, the future).

  2. Thanks, Lupa. I've always tried to espouse that balance in my approach to CR and to life in general. I try to share that ideal with others through my work and my writing and to practice it in my daily life.

    Like so many other things, I don't always succeed, but it's the effort that counts.

  3. One thing that I've been figuring out for myself (despite my loud opinions) is that sometimes the best way to teach is through example. More power to you on that :)

  4. May we all be able to fully practice our ideals!