'It’s understandable more young people today are turning to a spiritual practice'

'It’s understandable more young people today are turning to a spiritual practice'

At the beginning of July, I received the following text message. 

“Discover your Pattern & add me as friend!” You’ll love this, my friend wrote. 

She had heard about the Pattern app through Dolly Alderton, the writer, podcast host, and all-round Millennial Whisperer, and days after I signed up, the actor Channing Tatum had taken to Twitter to query about the app’s freakish accuracy, asking, “How do you know what you know about me, Pattern?”

The Pattern is an astrology app that helps you to ‘better understand yourself and connect with others on a deeper level’, by analysing your date, time, and place of birth. (Since we are basically living in an episode of Black Mirror, the app is, of course, actively collecting your data.) 

It is, as advertised, almost uncanny in its accuracy, leaving me fascinated by the unerring insights into my personality.

My friend was right. I do love it. But I love all this kind of stuff, stuff your mam might term as ‘woo-woo’. 

I’m planning a trip to New Orleans and I’m researching the Haitian Vodou Princess I want to visit while I’m there. 

I know my sign is Pisces but my rising Sun sign is Leo, and I wait impatiently at the beginning of every month for Susan Miller to upload her horoscopes to AstrologyZone.com. 

I live for the Chinese New Year and the Squawking Chicken’s predictions for my sign, the Ox. 

I have a Miraculous Medal wrapped around the rear-view mirror in my car, I wear a gold cross bracelet that was blessed in Medjugorje, and a Ganesha charm hangs round my neck.

I have crystals on my writing desk — amethyst for creativity and healing, pyrite for protection and vitality, rose quartz for love and compassion — and a prayer alter holding a card saying ‘Jesus, I trust in Thee’, a small Buddha statue, and a pack of Rider-Waite Tarot cards.

'It’s understandable more young people today are turning to a spiritual practice'

I’ve taken the baths in Lourdes, I’ve had Reiki, I have cherry-picked elements of different religions that resonate with me and I have discarded the rest.

It turns out I’m not the only one. 

A recent article in the LA Times by Jessica Roy entitled ‘How millennials replaced religion with astrology and crystals’, found a “growing number of young people… have turned away from traditional organised religion and are embracing more spiritual beliefs and practices like tarot, astrology, meditation, energy healing, and crystals”. 

Interviewing more than dozen millennials for her story, Roy found that a common theme began to emerge. 

Those interviewed had been raised within one religion, whether that be Catholicism, Judaism, or Buddhism, but as adults, they didn’t feel their respective faiths were representative of who they were now. 

Although they might feel alienated by mainstream religions’ attitudes to abortion, gay marriage, trans people, and by years of attempts to conceal sexual abuse, Roy writes “young people still seek the things that traditional organised religion may have provided for their parents or grandparents: religious beliefs, yes, but also a sense of community, guidance, purpose, and meaning. 

"But it can be hard for (them) to find those things in their parents’ religions. So, they’re looking elsewhere.”

I have found this to be true in my own life, particularly with my female friends. 

Alienated by the traditionally patriarchal structures of most religions, the women I know have been forging their own holy spaces for years, usually with a pack of tarot cards in tow. 

If we lived in different times, women like us would have been called witches and burned at the stake for our sinful ways but today, we have reclaimed the term. 

Sarah Maria Griffin
Sarah Maria Griffin

It cannot be a coincidence that a glut of Irish women authors has recently released books about witches. (Niamh Boyce, Deirdre Sullivan, Sarah Maria Griffin, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, and an upcoming YA title by Caroline O’ Donoghue, to name but a few.)

In his book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari argues the reason Sapiens came to dominate the world rather than the Neanderthals is because of the former’s unique ability to believe in concepts that exist in the imagination.

He includes gods in this — the stories that humans have created since time immemorial to make sense of the world around us. 

Whether that be that the idea that all of humanity descended from Adam and Eve or the worshipping of sun gods, nearly every society in every era has developed their own religious practices. 

Our world seems miraculous to us and we are looking for answers to explain its wonders. 

What is the meaning of life? Who am I? Why are we here? What is our purpose, our life mission, our calling? What happens when we die?

In a way, it’s understandable more young people today are turning to a spiritual practice, even if it’s not the one they were steeped in as children. 

We are living in uncertain times, faced with economic instability, political flux, and a looming environmental catastrophe that looks set to make entire continents uninhabitable. 

When the planet is burning, why wouldn’t we seek comfort wherever we can find it?

Louise Says

READ: A Strange Kind of Brave by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.

Like Chocolat meets To Kill a Mockingbird, this young adult novel is about vulnerability, fear, and the redemptive power of love.

It has all of Moore Fitzgerald’s trademark heart while finding new depths of twisty darkness.

READ: Expectation by Anna Hope.

Telling the story of three college friends, this book is so sharply observed, you can’t help but wince in shamed recognition as the narrative unfolds.

If you’re a fan of Sally Rooney, you’re going to love Expectation.

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