I was born in Riverside, California, in 1990. Because of this, for a long time (no matter where I lived) I said that I was Californian; that California was where my home and heart was. Over the years, however, I have come to realize that that simply isn’t true even in the most remote senses.
Californian is not what I am. I am Oklahoman, an Okie. But I fought that fact with every fiber of my being for the longest time; between the stereotyping of the Southern United States, the ridicule I often faced when visiting states outside of the South (for my accent especially), and even my own mother’s adamant and often patronizing comments about our state and how “Okie” I was in every way… I fought it. And eventually I lost my identity and my accent, and everything else that connected me to this wonderfully diverse state.
No matter how hard I fought it, though, the fact remained (and still remains) that an Okie is what I was, what I am, and what I will likely always be; despite being born elsewhere and living in other places at various points throughout my adult years, those were only minor blips on a map- mere seconds in the scope of my life so far. I have lived here since I was 3 years old. This is where I was raised. This is where I spent the formative years that helped to shape who I am, what I value, how I speak, and more- and I can no more separate my identity from this state than I can from the fact that I am a Woman; it is a part of who I am and it always will be.
There is no changing that, and in the last few years I have began to accept that and even feel pride in it. That pride has manifested itself in ways I genuinely never expected- and strangely enough, this is particularly true when it comes to my religion.
Despite the modern idea that they were, ancient religions weren’t monolithic. The practices, festivals, folklore, names, and so many other aspects of pre-Christian faith systems were often heavily reliant on the local area or region in which those faiths were practiced- even if they followed a general baseline established by the culture as a whole. In modern Polytheism, this often manifests itself as the development of Local Cultus.
Like with pre-Christian faith systems, Local Cultus is unique to the individual, and the towns and regions they find themselves in. And recently, I’ve been pushed by several Entities of my faith to begin developing my own Cultus focused on Oklahoma. Someone asked me last night, though, how I went about it; how I started the process, and how I developed what I have so far. And the answer to that is far more simple than people often realize: I took a walk.
I didn’t recognize it at first, but moving into our new house last year opened the floodgates and established a foundation that became incredibly important to me this year: It established within me a need to explore the local environment in a way that I hadn’t before despite the fact that I now live in the same town that I grew up in, in North-Central Oklahoma; the exact town I’ve spent nigh 18 and 1/2 years of my life living in on and off.
That need for exploration led to little walks around my local area. After a while, on those walks I started to notice things around me- namely the plants that grew here and there. Soon I began to bring them home with me and identifying them- which ultimately led to a passion for Native Oklahoma Wildflowers. And when I worked for my mother on and off, walking to work every day only increased that interest in the plant life that I saw. Through it, eventually I even rediscovered my love of Photography and began Photographing the plants that I encountered. When Pokemon Go came out, my Husband and I discovered buildings, plants, animals, and locations that I, who had lived here practically my whole life, never even knew existed. All of this, for me, continued to fuel that need for exploration and knowledge about my town and my state.
Now I can tell you that there are at least 3 mated pairs of Peregrine Falcons nesting near my house, that a family of Foxes live in the train yard next to me, and that two mated Raccoons have a roaming area of at least 6 blocks- one of which includes my own House; that Sweetclover favors the empty field by the Deli down the road, but that Carolina Larkspur favors the field across from the old Water Treatment plant- and that Ohio Spiderwort favors both area indiscriminately; I can tell you that the wetlands predominantly exist in the Southeastern Corner of the state, but also that we have 3 different plains regions- not just one giant one like many believe; I can tell you that my police station was built in 1909, that our Middle School used to be our High School, and that we have 3 different Art Galleries in town; I can tell you that the Irish built the first Catholic Church in Oklahoma and mined some of our first mines- and that the Cherokee and the Irish had an important relationship with one another.
All of this started in May of last year. By February of this year I had already become an Irish Polytheist… And as I studied Irish lore, history, and culture, continued my walks, and studied my state, things sort of fell into place naturally. The funny part, though, is that throughout all of this, my Photography has really become the largest factor in my exploration and the knowledge it brings; in its own way, it has taught me probably the most important spiritual lesson of all.
Many people think that looking at the world from behind the lens of a camera (whether it’s a Nikon D3000, or the camera of your Cellphone) decreases your ability to look at the bigger picture in many ways; that you can’t really appreciate and marvel in the beauty of the world when you’re stopping to take a picture every second. I whole heartedly disagree, though. If my walks and my photography have taught me anything truly important in the last year, it’s that sometimes what we need to see isn’t the bigger picture; sometimes looking at the bigger picture leads us to ignore the little details and often minuscule components that make that bigger picture possible in the first place.
All of this started with a walk, and a camera… And so that is my answer: If you want to develop Local Cultus, take a walk. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to have a destination. You don’t have to take a camera with you- and if you do, your photography doesn’t have to be perfect… But open yourself to the little things that you encounter along the way, and allow those to fuel a passion for the exploration and discovery of your land. Eventually, you will find the Gods there.
For a list of IriPol resources, including those I used to inform the opinions mentioned in this article, please view this page here.