Being related by blood doesn’t guarantee much. The accident of birth can place us amongst people we don’t like, can’t relate to, are unhappy with, or worse. For people who discover their pagan identity, when their families have a different path, that difference can prove insurmountable.
However, family, ancestors and duty are important values in paganism, and were much respected by our pagan ancestors of old. How do we tackle this when things go wrong?
Where issues of physical and psychological abuse are concerned, there’s not much to ponder. No one owes a duty of care to a person who has harmed, injured or mistreated them, no matter what the blood connection. However, for most people, the trials of family life create a far more grey and uncertain experience. No matter how our parents try, most folk do not escape from childhood unscathed – I suspect it’s just a part of the process. No one, and nothing is perfect, and the places things go wrong teach and shape us. How much of that teenage feeling of being misunderstood should we carry into adult life?
Perhaps the answer here is not to look out, but inwards. What do we need now, to flourish? Do we need to forgive, let go and move on? Do we need to step away from relatives because we find their attitudes poisonous? Do we need to challenge and teach the people who failed to teach us? There’s no one right answer here, but for any kind of relationship to work, you have to know what you want from it, and what you will give, and tolerate. Stepping back from blood family and acknowledging that you do not need their approval, understanding or recognition any more is incredibly liberating. Being an adult is about not needing to be so closely parented, and it means letting those relationships change. The power to do that lies in your own perceptions, even if blood relatives still insist on treating you like a child.
Each person has the right, the duty even, to set their own boundaries and define their relationships. Family can create unbalanced relationships where one party acts as though all the power and right lies with them. It is not something any other person needs to co-operate with. Sometimes, refusing to play the same game can make a lot of odds. Duty is not a one sided thing, it is part of a balanced relationship. Where there is no balance, there is (to my mind) no obligation. It must always be an option to identify any relationship as unworkable, and step away from it. If it means a relinquishing of responsibility, then that must be done with absolute care and honour.
We should not seek to own people, nor permit them to own us. If a family scenario is unworkable for some reason, if there is no fixing it, then there is no dishonour in acknowledging the situation. There should be no power without responsibility. No duty without some kind of reciprocation. No obligation without respect. We can show by doing, by living responsibly, with care and honour. That means not only being mindful of our own actions, but also not allowing those biologically closest to us, to treat us dishonourably.