So far January has been the month of Buying Spiritual Things – to date I’ve purchased a pentacle, new athame, and two of Beth Wodandis’ beautiful creations, one beadwork and one fibrecraft. Now I fully agree with Marietta that you don’t really need anything to be a practising Pagan, and while a Bible is reasonably necessary for a practising Christian there are plenty of free versions in many languages available on the internet, so you don’t even need to buy a physical copy. However, I like having stuff.
I don’t consider myself hideously materialistic, but I do like having physical reminders around the place – I’ve saved certain ticket stubs, kept the programmes from theatre trips, carefully preserved silly little things that friends have given me over the years, and like having random pretty things sitting on my bookshelves and windowsills. However, I don’t hold on to absolutely everything I’ve ever had, and the vast majority of the time I don’t buy things just to have them; for one thing my bank account couldn’t handle it, and for another I like my things to have a use – it looks pretty but also does this practical thing, as a reminder of a person, place, or event, or as a piece of artwork.
Over the past year I’ve realised and begun to settle into the fact that my personality is very Earthy; I’ve always liked making things with my hands, I’ve always had Stuff everywhere, I’m reasonably practical, I like stability and structure in my life, I crave physical affection from friends and significant others (I’m a very huggy person), my friend Kizzy has told me in the past that she’s always considered me to be very grounded, I’ve essentially dedicated my professional career to soil, mud, and the things found in soil and mud, and my sense of humour is very earthy – think Nanny Ogg from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
As a result, my altar is a fairly crowded place (I refuse to use the word ‘cluttered’) and although I’ve got a bigger space for it since I’ve moved I have plans to add more things to it in the future, mostly statues. And the rest of the flat isn’t much better – in fact, as I’ve been moving more of my stuff over from the parents’, it has definitely begun to approach cluttered in some places, which suits me fine. My jewellery/makeup/personal hygine area (the top of my chests of drawers) is a prime example of this, as the things stay in their prescribed area and I can usually find what I want, but it looks disorganised and messy. To me, my crowded altar looks used as opposed to purely aesthetic, and my
cluttered busy flat feels lived-in rather than a show-home.
A lot of this post was bubbling around in my head last night, which may be why I decided to wear my amethyst Tree of Life necklace today. It was given to me by my close friend/hookup Ian for my birthday in 2014, and he certainly helped to bring me back to reality after I wound up with clinical depression in late 2013. I don’t often wear jewellery, but today felt like a jewellery day. Humans don’t need much Stuff for survival or to live comfortably, but the Tree’s roots sink down through the earth and into the past, and remind me that even in Neolithic villages like Skara Brae people displayed objects in their houses. As a species humans have produced a lot of art, and while a fair chunk of it has been religious or spiritual, there is still an awful lot of secular art produced purely because it looked nice and makes us feel better about our surroundings (yes, there’s a status thing going on as well, but it pretty much boils down to ‘I have money and/or power and so I can have even more art than you’).
There is beauty and majesty in Nature, and you can go outside and see a gorgeous sunset that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good about being alive and able to see it. But the day could be cloudy, you could be busy, the sunset might not be particularly spectacular. However, with a painting of such a sunset on your wall you can see that beauty and majesty as often as you like, and still see the same thing happen in reality, changing subtly every time. So I’m wearing this necklace today as a reminder that my aquisition of Things isn’t some manefestation of the big bad materialistic grabbing culture that a fair amount of people believe has infected modern society, but a continuation of things that humans have done throughout our existence as a species – pretty things to wear, nice things to look at, and stuff to have that you don’t need for survival so you can prove to yourself that you are able to survive and can therefore afford ‘useless prettiness’.