There is a sort of liminality to my religious identity.
Hindu but not Hindu.
Pagan but not Pagan.
Catholic but not Catholic.
When I immerse myself into Hindu practices, I find it harder to relate to a lot of the discussions in the Pagan blogosphere. Of course, I inevitably hit a point, often when it comes to Hinduism as an expression of Indian culture, where I feel a sense of total alienness about Hinduism. It overwhelms me and I pull back.
Then, I immerse myself into Catholicism/Christian mysticism, because of its part in my ancestry and because it’s an active tradition in this society…or Paganism/polytheism, because I’ve been a part of this community since 1993. Even if I cannot relate to Wicca or Wiccans as being of my religion, Pagans always feel like ‘my people’.
Practicing these religions, though, never feels as right to me, though, as my relationship with Sri Ganesha, which has been going on (off and on) for over 15 years.
Right now, I’m fully immersed into my daily pujas towards Ganesha. It feels so familiar to me. This part of it isn’t alien to me at all. But then I read about how Hindus are celebrating Holi today and it reminds me that there’s just so much about Hinduism that I either don’t know, are unfamiliar with, or just seems like something I’m unable to relate to.
I’m used to liminality. I’m often most comfortable in liminality.
I am male but not male. Like Ardhanarishwara, the Lord Who Is Half-Female. Being intersexed, I cannot relate fully to either maleness or femaleness.
Perhaps “most comfortable” is the wrong term to use. I guess I don’t know how NOT to be somewhere in-between. I don’t know how to be male or female. I don’t know how to be fully Hindu, or Catholic, or Pagan.
I tried being fully Catholic. It would have made things so much easier for me. (Just like being fully male would be so much easier.) I do not have the faith to be a Christian. I love the culture of processions and celebrations of the saints, of the devotions and prayers of Catholicism. But I cannot say the creed and mean it. I also love the morality of Christianity (oddly enough). Not the judgy or holier-than-thou attitude. But the way that religion inspires people like Mr. Rogers or Dorothy Day to be the excellent people they were. I’ve also encountered similar people in my time living in a Quaker-based intentional community. That sort of morality. The morality that leads not to someone being a more pure person, but an actual holier person. (This is not limited to Christianity, of course. I think the Dalai Lama is an excellent example of it in Tibetan Buddhism.)
Perhaps if I were in India, surrounded with the religion and having it be a part of my everyday life (outside of my daily puja). I might be able to be fully Hindu. Outside of my daily pujas, Hinduism in my everyday life almost feels like an affectation to me. (Not in others. But in myself.) It’s difficult to be involved in Hindu communities because here in America, they serve a double function as Indian cultural centers for immigrants. So it becomes really weird to have a white person show up. Especially when I wasn’t raised with the culture and am not really familiar with it. I have a daily puja routine but that doesn’t mean I know how to handle myself in a temple situation and most temples are not inclined to walking you through the process or making you feel welcome.
Paganism (and Western polytheism), on the other hand, I’ve been involved with since 1993. Outside of the polytheist blogosphere, /r/Pagan on reddit, and visits to PantheaCon every couple of years, it doesn’t really feel like my community or my religion. Most of it is based in Wicca, witchcraft, some form of magick, or New Age. Especially in person, with local groups. That’s hard for me to relate to. Even when I’m focusing more on worshipping European deities than Hindu deities.
PantheaCon, though, in a sense…feels like ‘my people’ due to the variety of polytheisms being expressed. Kali puja, Pomba Gira ritual, Feri trad, Temple of the Morrigan, Hellenic deities, etc. That’s my sort of “Paganism”, not multiple varieties of Wicca.
Additionally, though it’s not the same as having a group to practice with, I find a sense of camaraderie with my fellow polytheist bloggers and those on /r/Pagan. I felt closer to these people when I was worshipping Brigid (and it also scratched my itch for Catholic devotion, given that She is also a Catholic Saint) but I felt a call in my heart to go back to Sri Ganesha.
I sometimes wonder whether this is just how I am or whether it is something I should overcome with discipline. Just focusing on one deity (or pantheon).
I will do as the Gods will me to do.