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3 Harvest Festivals (Sabbats) - What's The Difference?


Guest SnowyGirl
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This year I have starting paying close attention to the harvest festivals, particularly Lughnasadh (aka Lammas), Mabon and Samhain. I've been following About.com's 7 day email guides to Lughnasadh and now Mabon. There are a lot of similarities between these 2 festivals, obviously that they are harvest festivals, celebrating and being thankful for the abundance in our lives, the Demeter and Persephone story seem to feature a lot now. So my question is, how do you differentiate between the 3 harvest festivals? How do you mark them differently, and think of them differently?

 

I understand Lughnasadh is the first harvest festival, and seems to focus more on bread (as Lammas), being what is mainly harvested at that time, along with berries. Mabon seems to focus a little more on apples, gourds and root vegetables. But I also associate apples with Samhain, and especially Pumpkins. Aside from Samhain being associated with the dead, don't all 3 harvest festivals seem very much the same?

 

 

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Well, I think of Lammas (Lughnasadh) as being the first of the harvests, Mabon being the autumnal equinox and the marking of when the nights are shorter than the days, and Samhain as the beginning of Winter.

 

Samhain is when I associate with the Demeter/Ceres myth, the ending of growth and the beginning of the sleep of the earth.

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I don't 'do' Mabon - I do 'do' evenights (autumn equinox), which is nothing to do with harvest.

 

Lughnasadh for me is harvest. Samhain is far darker and something else entirely. ;)

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For me Lughnasadh is "First Harvest" its the indication of what is to come.

 

The equinox, Alban Elued [Mabon,] is Harvest Home when you know whether you'll make it through.

 

Now I'm not dependent on the year's crop. I can always open a tin of pineapple when the going gets tough but I use these two festivals to assess my direction and preparedness.

 

No Samhain isn't harvest at all unless you have the grim reaper in mind. This is the festival that reminds me that no matter how practical, skeptical and scientific I might believe myself to be, there is another dimension of which I need to be aware. By Samhaine I am already drawing on resources rather than adding to them.

 

I love Samhaine - it is the beginning of my favourite time. I greet Imbolc with a pang of regret.

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Really?

 

 

Isn't that funny? I look upon Samhain with a feeling of trepidation and almost fear, and Imbolc I greet with heartfelt relief and hope. :)

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Ah, interesting. I love Samhain - to me the magi of winter is a closeness with the Otherworld that begins at Samhain. :)

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Ah, interesting. I love Samhain - to me the magi of winter is a closeness with the Otherworld that begins at Samhain. :)

 

 

Oh yes!

Dark days, inward reflection, fires [have I ever mentioned that I work with fire :D :D :D] parties and gatherings, time to think. Closeness with other worldS

 

I'm stupid enough to enjoy camping at around zero, just me and the fire for company. -Its not macho, only my wife knows when I do it unless I blog it here. Just so very peaceful and I am blessed with a constitution that thus far allows it.

 

Oops - [tries to think of a Harvest reference to get back on topic!] Well - what I've already said I suppose. Lughnassadh and Alban Elued are the preparations - the gathering of physical and mental resources that allow me to sling shot through the dark days happily burning up those same resources.

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whats been said covers it admirabley IMO.

 

I would add - Samain is a harvest - animals are after all part of the crop and regardless of path: xtian/pagan - both sides of that coin honour their ancestors - for me it's a biggy on the calendar.

 

Mabon - is a niggle for me - the term no matter how the americans trot it out just doesnt make sense to me and I can find no referance to it before 1976. I refuse to use the term on principal. Other than that - slack tide on the astral. Any referance to the Oak/Holly King appears to be unworkable and may be a modern invention as well.

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urk! Mabon and the autumn equinox is one of my pet bugbears. it was Aidan Kelly i believe who introduced it. As Aleq says, the festival itself bears no relation to the deity in question (Mabon>Maponos).

 

It is best to stop thinking of all of the festivals as set events and more in terms of a short season in and of itself; harvest is a season... a drawn out period of gathering different things as they come into their time. for me it began back in July with the beans and broccolli on the allotment and blackberries in the graveyard behind the house. then the damsons and plums came into their and the blackberries keep on going. Elderberries, wild apples, pears etc etc

 

the grain harvest is pretty irrelevant to nearly all of us so it i perhaps better to think of it in terms of other more appropriate harvests, one that we do actually make and can therefore celebrate rather than something we dont do any longer.

 

Lughnasadh itself was apparently more of a pre-harvest shindig, a chance to have a get together and perhaps hire the people to do the harvesting with you. certainly, early august is too early for most grain crops prior to more modern ones.

 

if anything - and assuming Lugus is a god you acknowledge, - take it as a time to bear in mind Lugus is a culture god (amongst other things), one who gave us what we need to use the harvests, to store them and make it through the winter.

 

and yep - Samhain is a harvest, but of the noisier, more bloody variety.

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I think all the Sabbats, the 13 Moons & the Holly/Oak King stories can be useful tools for understanding wheel/year & how the can effect you & your local surroundings. I don't think there's any need to throw yourself into them all or any, but just by recognising & studying aspects of them a good starter. I don't think you can ignore any of the Sabbats or cherry pick them, but I would say I like some better than others. Some may recall a thread concerning the Summer Solstice earlier this year.

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I would add - Samain is a harvest - animals are after all part of the crop and regardless of path: xtian/pagan - both sides of that coin honour their ancestors - for me it's a biggy on the calendar.

 

Ah. That's Winternights for Heathens. Sometimes the two coincide and sometimes they don't (in time, i mean). As for coinciding in others ways - feasting to the elves, the goddesses/female protectors of the clan/family, and to the god Frey, Lord of the Land.

 

Mabon - is a niggle for me - the term no matter how the americans trot it out just doesnt make sense to me and I can find no referance to it before 1976. I refuse to use the term on principal. Other than that - slack tide on the astral. Any referance to the Oak/Holly King appears to be unworkable and may be a modern invention as well.

 

The Oak/Holly king thing comes from Graves.:(

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Thanks everyone for your thoughts, it's good to hear differing views and what the different sabbats mean to you, even if that's nothing at all! I want to learn and understand about the sabbats before I can really choose which ones I want to acknowledge and not. It is a little difficult to imagine an actual grain harvest, as we don't physically do that, and we don't have to harvest food in order to survive. As Moonsmith points out, we can walk to the nearest shop and buy food, it's always there. But I do think we can appreciate grains as a core of our diet. We are always eating bread and cereals (or at least I am), we do need food to survive, and if for some reason we couldn't get food, we would die. So I think we can still be appreciative of what we have. Not everyone across the world can get food as easily.

 

Ancestral_Lee - I do like Lugh and how is a god of many crafts, so I love that element of Lughnasadh, and also I think there was something about his creating Lughnasadh as a harvest festival to honour his mother's memory?

 

Both Lughnasadh and Mabon have been likened to American Thanksgiving, where we are thankful for the abundance in our lives. I don't see how both of them can be the same, else one sabbat will feel like a duplicate of the other. I would think Lughnasadh would be more to do with Thanksgiving as it is at the start of the harvest and still in the heart of summer, when there seems to be abundant greenery everywhere (I love the greenery of summer). But if you do think of Mabon more as the Autumn Equinox (like Moonhunter), what do you do to celebrate/acknowledge that without thinking of it as a harvest festival?

 

From these first 2 'harvest' sabbats, it seems they are both to do with harvest and has a lot to do with harvest foods - apples, berries, pumpkins, etc, (and grains at Lammas/Lughnasadh). And so is Samhain associated with pumpkins and apples, even the sickles and scythes are associated with harvest (as well as the Grim Reaper). I was wondering, does anyone celebrate the Mexican Day of the Dead along with their Samhain celebrations? I've been learning more about it, and I do like it, and it seems to have a lot in common with Samhain / Halloween. People honouring their ancestors and/or recently deceased. It seems it would work well to combine the festivals?

 

Also, what do you do at Samhain? Moonhunter, you say Samhain is far darker and something else entirely, what do you think Samhain is all about? The killing of animals for winter, or is it literally about ancestor veneration, or as Moonsmith says being closer to the Underworld, and how is it you feel more connected to the Underworld? What do you do?

 

Oh, and camping at zero degrees - that sounds cold! I couldn't do that!

 

Apologies for all the questions, I'm just trying to understand what the 3 harvests mean to me, and which, if not all, I would want to celebrate and why. I don't think you can truly celebrate them without first understanding what you are celebrating.

Edited by SnowyGirl
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But if you do think of Mabon more as the Autumn Equinox (like Moonhunter), what do you do to celebrate/acknowledge that without thinking of it as a harvest festival?

 

I'm a Heathen - we don't celebrate the 'wheel of the year'. Mabon etc is in our calendar. I personally celebrate the equinoxes because I have an old association with a goddess whom we know (as near as we know anything!) was extremely influential at the Vernal equinox - so much so, the month in the old Anglo Saxon calendar was named after her: hrethamonath. From UPG I have found she is equally interested in the autumn equinox and tends to change character. In spring the equinox releases her to joy. This explains how I view her.

 

I'm afraid that, even while I was not a convinced Heathen, I really couldn't get my head round the 'Wheel of the Year. It didn't add up. I wrote what was probably my best piece of satirical poetry about it, which was often sung around the camp fire of a camp I used to attend. Both there and when sung by people elsewhere, everyone always cracked up at the same verse - the vernal equinox. :lol:

 

Also, what do you do at Samhain? Moonhunter, you say Samhain is far darker and something else entirely, what do you think Samhain is all about?

 

OK, forgive me for quoting some research I did a few years back. I'll keep it brief:

Although often called the Celtic New Year, more properly this was the start of the winter season for the Celts, Beltane being the start of the summer season. It is paralleled by the Nordic festival of Winter Nights, both being a time when the stock would be brought in from their summer pastures for the winter. The weakest would be culled, both to prevent them using up expensive animal foodstock over the winter and to provide the family with meat. In the pre-Christian Anglo Saxon calendar, this was 'Bloodmonth': which, as in Scandinavia, may have been a time of meat feasts dedicated to the gods and elves, and so a time when, like the Celts, the Otherworld drew close.

 

Unlike the other festivals, there is a little evidence that this one may have been recognised among the continental Celts and is therefore a truly universal Celtic festival. However, no such record exists for Wales. Green records that it is at Samhain when the legendary triple killing of the Irish kings took place. It was also a time when the Sidhe opened their hills and lakes to ride out, as recounted in many songs and tales, notably Tamlain. Although Hutton recounts that Irish sources speak of civil meetings, nothing is recounted of religious rites.

 

In the 8th century, the Roman Church moved the festival of All Saints from the second Sunday after Pentecost (which would have fallen in May or June) to 1st November. All Souls was dated as 2nd November from the 10th century and this appears to have begun an association of this time of the year with the dead. This idea was picked up by Frazer, who then asserted that Samhain had been the Celtic festival for the dead, though there is no evidence for this.

 

The killing of animals for winter, or is it literally about ancestor veneration, or as Moonsmith says being closer to the Underworld, and how is it you feel more connected to the Underworld? What do you do?

 

I tend to light candles and listen to Steeleye Span's version of Tam Lin. I sacrifice to the alfen, the disir and to Mr Forester (as I call him). I feel this is the right time of the year to do that as, in addition to it being attested in the old sources of our religion, it's the time of the rut for red deer (which are commonly associated with him in one of his personas) and fallow deer (which I associate with him as a result of UPG). I used to live on the boundary of one of the largest parks of London, with a huge captive herd of both, and loved the park in October - despite all the warning signs about the dangerousness of the deer at that time.

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....... what do you do at Samhain? Moonhunter, you say Samhain is far darker and something else entirely, what do you think Samhain is all about? The killing of animals for winter, or is it literally about ancestor veneration, or as Moonsmith says being closer to the Underworld, and how is it you feel more connected to the Underworld? What do you do?

 

 

Ha ha. I think its more of what the spirit of Samhaine does to me! I'm pretty confident in my own world view - ever learning but confident. Its largely science based whatever that means - I suppose it means that I am largely convinced and accepting of the views and evidence presented by physics. This "evidence" is taken entirely on trust as I don't own my own particle accelerator. It all makes for what I think of as a rational and stable platform from which to move forward.

 

Then comes Samhain! It might shake that trust just a little :) I'm not scared of the dark, darkness allows my imagination free reign. Flickering firelight feeds the imagination. Stories told in the dark have a different magic. Stories told by firelight have a different life. Its at this time and through Yule that my ilk comes together at parties and the very fact of us sitting around a table makes me aware of those who are new, those who are changing and those who are no longer there. At Samhaine there is an empty place for whoever wishes to fill it or whoever we wish to see sitting there as they once did. Alban Elued [equinox]is thought of by many as the last festival of the year. At Samhaine I get texts saying "Happy New Year".

 

 

What has this to do with your OP? Well remember what I said about resources? Lughnassadh and Alban Elued are for me, mind harvests, the check points before I head into the dark times. Times to reflect on what I have gathered over the year. That done and tucked away I pour the Guinness and dive head first into the dark. :D

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I'm afraid that, even while I was not a convinced Heathen, I really couldn't get my head round the 'Wheel of the Year. It didn't add up. I wrote what was probably my best piece of satirical poetry about it, which was often sung around the camp fire of a camp I used to attend. Both there and when sung by people elsewhere, everyone always cracked up at the same verse - the vernal equinox. :lol:

 

 

Oh that is wicked. I'm never going to be able to attend any kind of public ritual again, in case someone mentions the Vernal Equinox, because I will crack up. :lol:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Moonhunter - I absolutely love your satirical poem! It's brilliant! :D And actually sums up pretty well how I feel about the sabbats - particularly just what on earth the God and Goddess are meant to be doing at each! Very funny!

 

I'm afraid I've never heard of Hretha before, but I see the Autumn Equinox takes on special meaning for you because she changes, as I guess it's also the main change from the warm to the cold - it's this time of year we feel it more. Is Mr. Forester (as you call him) Frey? Apologies I don't know Heathen Gods very well! Again it seems more about honouring your deity at Samhain, and it does seem the time for animals being culled in winter (thanks for sharing your research, my brain is slowly learning!) :)

 

Moonsmith - Oh dear, I am afraid of the dark! Though having said that, I do love Halloween and all the imagery that goes with it, the bright orange colours in the pumpkins, the white ghosts, and the all the candles and warm fires. It feels bright and fun on what could be a dark and scary night! I guess it's a time for celebrating all of that, and all the scary stories. I don't know much about the Underworld, I've not really looked into it. It might be a good time to do so - in a dark corner with candlelight! ;)

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Is Mr. Forester (as you call him) Frey? Apologies I don't know Heathen Gods very well!

 

Mr Forester is my name for him. It was simple at first - he acknowledged being Cernunnos and will take the name Herne. Then he admitted to Silvanus, and later still, to Frey. No other god has done anything like that to me - they all stick to one name. :P

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I guess if you grow crops like me you can sort o see the significance in the 3 harvest festivals :huh: .

 

We have winter crops that are sown or planted out mid/late summer that help sustain us through the winter, they get a good start with our warm Autumns. The hardy Kale, an winter Cabbage an the Leeks that wave defiant through the snow drifts like flags whilst other crops get turned to mush. These winter crops are treasures because the frost often coverts the starches in the root veg like parsnips into sugar an that = Energy. An they are a hard worked food source when you are trying to extract a Leek from soil that is frozen to concrete hard an it goes down about 8 inches into the soil, or shovelling off the snow trying to find said root veg. There is a hungry gap between march an July for obvious reasons (soil temperature, frosts, ground just unworkable due to rainfall etc) No frost tender crops are planted at this time.

 

The spring time is a blessing.

 

So along come spring with peas, onions, an the greens start to heart up an broad beans, the sort o crops that have been dormant for months over winter just waiting for a bit more light in their lives .

 

Late March (around Easter time, spring equinox ) the seed tatties get planted, mange tout peas are flowering , spring veg is maturing an the bees are coming out o hibernation. There is a mad flurry of activity to be sowing seeds an enjoying your labours from the previous years late sown hardy crops that are hardy enough to have made it through the winter.

 

Our flaming Junes really start to pick up the pace (more frantic planting an sowing) an like this year we had a glut o strawberries by May. July we are starting to crop beans an the big glut starts with the frost tender summer crops . Crops are franticly growing faster than you can harvest them, freezers are a blessing are medieval sisters would have been in awe o. Preservation for the winter months is key. We have veg coming out our ears.

 

Come September/October we have the harvest o the squash afor the frosts get a chance to have at them, Hay, wheat, blackberries an fruit from trees. They all have to be squirrelled away an stashed for the darker months to come so we have food to last an we can hulk down with supplies for ourselves an the beasts in the darkness. It's a race an leave you feeling with that sense o satisfaction that your cupboards an stores are full in preparation for the darker months. Things are dying, summer crops are spent an preserving an harvesting an squirrelling away is frantic , When its done an you have a good stash you can relax a bit so long as you have got the land cleared an ready in preparation for it all to start again next year :D.

 

My Main harvest festival is the autumn one...i have a stash o crops for the winter months to come to last me, it's an accumulation of a year o hard work...time to enjoy the wine i have made because there ain't much going on once the ground is hard cept trying to pick frozen sprouts off frozen stems with frozen fingers.

 

Rain

Edited by Rain
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PS: It was to late to edit my above post to add this, but as a crop grower I can see the significance in having 3 harvest festivals. Spring, Summer an Autumn are prime points in our harvest calender .

 

Rain

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Mr Forester is my name for him. It was simple at first - he acknowledged being Cernunnos and will take the name Herne. Then he admitted to Silvanus, and later still, to Frey. No other god has done anything like that to me - they all stick to one name. :P

 

Ah, hence Mr. Forester being god of the forests. It makes sense now. :)

 

Hi Rain, I can see the harvest festivals are very relevant when you do that much planting! That sounds like a lot of hard work, but very much what our ancestors would have done. I guess it makes sense to have the 3 harvest festivals when you have the different plants ready to harvest at different times. Trouble is, when you live out of the supermarket, you tend not to be so aware of what's in season now! I am lucky to have a garden though, and sometimes it's not so well looked after, so this year we had lots of tall long grass going to seed at Lughnasadh/Lammas, so that seemed very appropriate! I can see the Blackberries are beginning to grow their fruit, not quite ripe yet, but they should be in time for the Autumn Equinox. I don't have any vegetables growing in my garden though, so can't really appreciate those then! But I can pick them up at the supermarket and enjoy them from there instead - they will have still grown in the earth at this time! Just not local to me! :)

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You are spot on :),

 

Supermarkets do give a clue with their offers because inevitably if its on special offer, then it's in season an there is a glut o it here. I can never get my head round why they need to import tatties from Egypt at this time o year though!. Most farms have blight under control now.

 

Here on the south downs our blackberries are in full crop at the moment because we had a very hot May an June. I just picked 6lb o them a couple o weeks ago an have a couple o demijohn o sweet blackberry wine on the go . I like my wine dry as a norm but this stuff is lush an port like. It's a treat. If you would like the recipe then shout up. :).

 

Preserving is key. The late Autumn harvest would have meant using up the last o the summer perishable crops afor they went mouldy, a huge feast afor the harder winter months set in with the hungry gap to get through. Your preservation skills would have been life or death skills to get your family an beasts through the darker months. We have kitchen freezers now, but salting and root veg clamps were the old methods along with drying.

The Autumn festival would have been stuff your face with as much perishable crops as you could get in them afor the bitter darkness closed in an the land was hard as concrete an you had a good stash for the months to come.

 

Rain

Edited by Rain
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Here on the south downs our blackberries are in full crop at the moment because we had a very hot May an June. I just picked 6lb o them a couple o weeks ago an have a couple o demijohn o sweet blackberry wine on the go . I like my wine dry as a norm but this stuff is lush an port like. It's a treat. If you would like the recipe then shout up. :).

 

yes please. I've been thinking about a bit of home brewing over the past year. I've never done any myself before although my dad used to do an occasional wine or two and my granddad did a wickedly strong rhubarb wine. It was bottled in the early 70's and each of us grandkids opened a bottle on our 18th birthdays by the time the last one was opened in the mid to late 90's it was so potent you only needed a liqueur size glass and it still blew your head off.

 

I love a sweet wine, sherry's and port so it sounds like your blackberry brew would be right up my street Rain :)

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Here on the south downs our blackberries are in full crop at the moment because we had a very hot May an June. I just picked 6lb o them a couple o weeks ago an have a couple o demijohn o sweet blackberry wine on the go . I like my wine dry as a norm but this stuff is lush an port like. It's a treat. If you would like the recipe then shout up. :).

 

yes please. I've been thinking about a bit of home brewing over the past year. I've never done any myself before although my dad used to do an occasional wine or two and my granddad did a wickedly strong rhubarb wine. It was bottled in the early 70's and each of us grandkids opened a bottle on our 18th birthdays by the time the last one was opened in the mid to late 90's it was so potent you only needed a liqueur size glass and it still blew your head off.

 

I love a sweet wine, sherry's and port so it sounds like your blackberry brew would be right up my street Rain :)

 

For a sweet wine, try brewing elderberry but use a port yeast !

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      Hi, Welcome.  While I rarely go to bed before three am, I am also in the habit of switching off my phone between uses.  This device is primarily outgoing.  Many of us have been Christians at some point in our histories.  Experiences vary considerably.  I was heavily involved but just lapsed.  No issues or problems. I know a lot of Pagans who have switched between different belief sets, pagan and non pagan over the years.  They have a tendency to carry over elements from each crossroads they come to.  My own beliefs have been evolving for decades.  I don’t suppose that they will change much more but if anyone gives serious thought to their beliefs there must always be the risk of a new realisation.  Don’t take any notice of what other people say, just be sure that whatever you believe is what you really believe.    There is no top to that mountain.  The road goes ever on. Take any path that leads in a direction that want to go.  Don’t worry about the destination.
    • Roundtuit
      Hi!  Welcome to my self-absorbed drivel. I don't quite know where to start about this, but after years of trying to be a Christian, I'm exploring being a Pagan.  Actually, I'd go as far as to say I am one, and was before in my late teens and early twenties.  I grew up in an Evangelical household and my parents are now Pentecostal deacons.  I started to question my faith from an early age, and later started to practice Wicca and study legends and folk customs.  I had some health problems that made me a lot more dependent on family.  I don't see any reason to ever let my parents or other family members know about my beliefs as that would be devastating for them, but they ask about church and my spiritual life every time I see them.  In my mid twenties I started to think that I had to compromise with my parents over my beliefs if they were ever to accept other life choices I made.  I have had relationships they wouldn't accept and didn't want to alienate myself from them even further.  I wanted to be pragmatic.  There was truth in virtually every belief system so I might as well re-adopt Christianity, find a progressive church and live as good a life as I could like that.  So I did that for years, as a secretly pantheistic Christian who went to a church that worshipped God using male, female and gender-neutral pronouns and lived what most people would describe as a secular life outside of church.  I'd left Christianity because so much harm was done in the name of a set of beliefs.  Then I came back because I didn't want to cause harm to my parents in the name of beliefs, religion or the lack of it.  How people are treated should always come first. Then aged 43, in January during the lockdown, I went 'pop'.  It was like I'd been getting more and more resentful and thirsting after Earth-based spirituality.  It was a need and I'm not sure it can be denied because I need to feel alive.  I've been studying various pagan traditions ever since and have taken a break from church (my vicar knows all of this and is great about it).  Not attending church is unacceptable in my family.  I feel so behind though.  Most people I meet or come across on social media has years of experience and say they've been practicing since they were teenagers.  I once heard someone say that yes, there are many paths up the same mountain but if you keep changing paths you never reach the top.  Do you agree, or not? Is anyone else here a new older pagan?  Is it at all common?  
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