Posts Tagged With: Germanic Neopaganism

The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

Author:   Crick   

As Paganism slowly but surely emerges out of the grip of suppression brought on by what is now commonly referred to as organized religions. We may want to be aware of several pitfalls and realities as we once again step into the light of day.

First of all, the top three organized religions are themselves fairly new in the grand scheme of history. Prior to their appearance on the world stage, basically everyone in the world followed some type of pagan belief, which was for the most part an individual spiritual belief and not an organized religion per se. Such beliefs were influenced by ones personal environment and the immediate world around them. There was an interpersonal awareness that helped to shape one’s values and thus their corresponding beliefs. In today’s artificial world we no longer have such a mainstay or influence to guide us.

The current “accepted” beliefs being touted by the main three organized religions and the suppression of former popular beliefs did not occur as a natural effect of events in human history.

It was and continues to be a planned and concerted action, which began in one instance with the advent of the apologists and has continued on through the ages by acts of repression, fear and some very clever propaganda. These deliberate actions have been supplemented by the tactics of politicians who are overtly biased in favor of the institutions of organized religion.

After all, power begets power.

As such we should be aware that the basic tenet of these man made religious organizations is to hold onto such power at all costs. We as a community would like to think that we are accepting of all religious beliefs and spiritual paths, as we should be.

But we should not be so naïve as to think that just because we are so accepting that organized religions will welcome us back with open arms from the isolation of an exile that they themselves imposed upon those of pagan beliefs.

In all reality they (organized religions) would very much like to see paganism fade away as just another passing fad. An example of this is the gathering in Rome in the summer of 2007 of the Roman Catholic Church of which the primary topic was “how to draw folks away from Devil worship (allegedly paganism) and back into the grasp of the one true church”.

Granted there are some individuals within organized religion who are realistic and enlightened enough to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe as they do. And thus are willing to work with members of alternate beliefs such as paganism.

However the harsh reality is that these folks generally belong to one of the very aggressive religious organizations whose leaders do not endorse such openness. And as such we are being accepted only in isolated situations and only at the very grass roots of these religious institutions.

Acceptance of the fact that the oldest religious/spiritual beliefs in the world were not obliterated and are making a re-emergence is going to take some considerable time, effort and patience.

We will re-emerge into the light of day one enlightened heart and soul at a time. To believe otherwise is in my personal opinion, both foolish and self-defeating.

Another pitfall we should be wary of is manipulation by the organized religions. They have by virtue of their position in the world today, proven to be very adept at such tactics.

And quite obviously (to some of us anyway) they are employing these tried and proven techniques to the very community that they would like to once again vanquish back into the throes of exile.

What is this manipulation you may ask?

Over the recent years, a crumb will fall off of the table of organized religion and a pagan will be ‘allowed” to sit at the same table as these folks. Each time it has been a Wiccan who is chosen to take such a seat and in each case the chosen Wiccan will proclaim themselves as representative of the whole pagan community. And then folks in the pagan community will swoon like young schoolgirls and say, “oh what a great thing this is for the community”.

In my personal opinion, such proclamations fall right into the hands of those of the organized religions who are sponsoring such meetings.

I have serious reservations about such an approach and reaction for several down to earth reasons.

First of all, realistically we as a community are dealing with folks who are well schooled in such manipulation. It is quite apparent that if you can’t outright obliterate what you object to then you find a way to control it.

For example Brighid the Goddess did not become a Christian saint by happenstance. It was an act of sage manipulation by an organized religion. Hence we have the old adage of, “keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer”.

And so with all due respect to those of the Wicca, I personally have to wonder why organized religion seems to only choose members of Wicca, which is by all accounts barely a generation old and thus but a babe in the world of paganism as the ones who are proffered a seat with these folks.

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here, I think that it is great that a pagan of any path gets the crumb that is offered, to a certain extent.

But then this brings me to my next concern.

One of the primary tenets of paganism is diversity. And if we are to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy then perhaps those Wicca who are chosen to be seated with organized religions should state responsibly, that in fact they represent but a small portion of the pagan community.

Again, with all due respect to those of the path of Wicca, not only would this be a realistic statement but it would also leave the door open to those of other pagan beliefs. And as such would be a confirmation of the pagan community’s stated belief in the tenet of diversity.

Paganism is after all an acronym or umbrella for many “diverse” beliefs. And no one path can honestly state that they alone represent the many different beliefs that align themselves under the banner of paganism.

In all reality, and yet once again with all due respect, as an Irish witch who also engages the path of shamanism, Wicca does not remotely represent my personal path. Nor does it accurately reflect the beliefs of those who are Asatru, Voudon, Santerian, Odinist, Yoruba, Shamanic, witch and so forth.

If we as a community are going to endorse diversity as one of our founding tenets then we need to surpass the temptations of ego and thus avoid the snare that is being put into place by those religious organizations that have shown such skill in manipulation.

Those who are tapped should show some responsibility and use their opportunities to ensure that organized religion is aware that we are in fact a diverse community and do not fit into one spiritual/religious shoe fits all.

By the same token, we as a community need to overcome our petty ego driven differences and be willing to proffer folks from various pagan beliefs as representatives of our community. Granted this will take a measure of maturity that has for the most part been lacking in our community.

But I personally believe that if we are true to ourselves and our community that we can indeed find the inner strength to exhibit such maturity as a community to express ourselves in such a manner.

The final concern that I would like to express in this treatise is this.
Why do we buy into the perception that organized religion has of us?

Realistically, it is “their” perception and should not be the view that we as pagans hold of ourselves.

Why do we as a community get all flustered and swoon whenever organized religion allows us a seat?

They are in all reality the newcomers to the world stage of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Paganism is in fact the oldest such beliefs in existence, period!
When one of us is invited to their table it should be with the approach that they (organized religions) should be honored to have a member of such an ancient belief seated at their table.

We need to stop playing into their blatant manipulation and express ourselves with aplomb and dignity and not as eager children grateful for a brief moment of attention.

I personally believe that this is why they (organized religions) only invite the Wicca (who are the babes of pagan society) into their midst. In this manner they can point and say “but they have only been around since 1952” and so the manipulation continues and unadulterated attempts at control continues.

In closing I would like to make it clear that I am not casting about disparaging thoughts against those of the Wicca or any other members of organized religions and/or other pagan paths.

My words are simply a reflection of the realities that we as pagans did not create but which we have to live with. How cognizant we are and how we approach such issues as a community in regards to organized religions will determine whether we remain in the daylight or whether we once again resume our existence in the darkness of religious/spiritual exile.

If you don’t want to think of these issues in regards to yourself then maybe you should consider the religious/spiritual freedoms (true freedoms) of your children and your children’s children.

For in all reality, such manipulation and control did not occur over one generation nor is it likely to ebb within just one generation. Freedom of religious/spiritual beliefs is an ongoing struggle against those who would have it otherwise.

I think the last 2000 years or so has made that quite clear…

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Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Buchmesse

magick89

October 16th and 17th

Kan-name-Sai Cermony, Hengest, Buchmesse

Annually on this date, the Japanese Shinto ceremony of Kan-name-Sai or good Tasting Event takes place. The rice from the first harvest is offered to the Imperial Ancestors, and the ancient Sun Goddess, Ama-terasu, is honored. In Asian countries, rice is the main source of nourishment, equal to that of wheat in Europe. In Japan, rice is the symbol of abundance and divine provision. It represents immortality, happiness, fertility, primordial purity, glory, solar power, knowledge and happiness and fecundity, which is its significance when thrown over brides at weddings.

In modern Asatru, the 17th of October is the feast of Hengest, the Saxon general, who along with Horsa, in the fifth century C.E., began the Germanic settlement of eastern Britain, which eventually became England.

Buchmesse is held in Germany each year at this time and is the world’s largest book fair for the publishing industry. More than 90 countries send exhibitors featuring their latest titles with attendance reaching more than 200,000 people.

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Asatru: We Are Not Racists

Asatru: We Are Not Racists

by Gamlinginn

 

Ásatrú is not a racist religion. Anyone who wants to be in Ásatrú should be in Ásatrú. And the word “anyone” means just that: anyone - regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, language, sexual orientation, or other divisive criteria. Today, we live in a multi-ethnic nation (not to mention a multi-ethnic world). As Ásatrú advances, it will inevitably become more and more a multi-ethnic religion.

But, unfortunately, some people seem to think that Ásatrú is a racist religion. Why? Probably because there have been some people in Ásatrú who were racists and some of these have tried to use Ásatrú as a front for their racist views, claiming that it was somehow an exclusively “Nordic” religion, only open to those of “pure Aryan” descent. However, the existence of a few racists does not make Ásatrú a racist religion. Almost every religion has had some racists in it at one time or another. In Sri Lanka, for example, there are some Buddhists who are so racist that they have recently been killing the ethnic-minority Tamils in their country, but that does not make Buddhism a racist religion.

Another reason some might think that Ásatrú is a racist religion is confusion and misunderstanding about the “Scandinavian Connection” of Ásatrú. The truth about this is simply that the Aesir and the Vanir were followed longer in northern Europe than elsewhere, and thus we know about them from there. That is the reason why we use the Old Norse names for the Deities and other terms, and are so interested in pre-Christian Scandinavia. It is fine for those of northern European descent to seek out their cultural roots, but no single ethnic group “owns” the Gods of Asgard.

Some people have suggested that the ancient inhabitants of northern Europe believed in racial exclusivity, in other words that they were racists. I do not believe this. However – even if it was true – it does not matter. Just because a person’s remote ancestors might have been racists is no reason for that person to be a racist today. If one’s great-grandfather was an arsonist, one need not and should not follow in his footsteps. (Those interested in the racial attitudes of the Viking-age Scandinavians should read the article “Race, Religion, and Ásatrú Today,” by Kveldulfr Gundarsson that appeared in Mountain ThunderNumber 5, Summer 1992. This article shows that European descent is not necessary for full participation in modern Ásatrú.)

The characteristics we admire so greatly in the Vikings came about because the Vikings followed the Aesir and the Vanir – not because they had blue eyes or blond hair. These same characteristics are available today to anyone who wants to develop them by following the way of Ásatrú. It is important to remember that admiration for these attributes is not Eurocentric, it is universal. Every culture that has ever existed in the world has inherently esteemed the virtues esteemed by Ásatrú, including: courage, honor, hospitality, independence (and liberty), individuality (with self-reliance, and responsibility), industriousness (and perseverance), justice (including an innate sense of fairness and respect for others), loyalty (to family, friends, and the society of which one is a part), truthfulness, and a willingness to stand up for what is right.

What makes the Ásatrú way of life different from that of other religions, is that the Ásatrú “Code of Conduct” supports and encourages these virtues far more strongly than do other religions – some of which actually discourage several of these ideals. People who have the characteristics we admire acquired them because their culturecontains values similar to those of Ásatrú (in some cases because their culture was rooted in Ásatrú). Conversely, people who have characteristics we dislike come from backgrounds that lack those values because they are no longer taught. This is a social problem, not a racial one. It has to do with the breakdown of the family, and the resultant crumbling of all cultural values. It has nothing to do with eye shape, or hair texture, or skin color.

Ásatrú is a multi-ethnic religion – not because that might be “politically correct” at this point in time, but because multi-ethnicity is fundamental to the theology of Ásatrú. Asgard, home of the Gods, is multi-ethnic. For example, Magni and Modhi, the sons of Thorr, are also the sons of their mother, Jarnsaxa, who is a Jotunn. Who will tell Thorr that his sons should not participate in something because they are not of “pure” descent? And what of the Vanir? Since the Gods of Asgard do not worry over these things, the Ásatrú people of Midgard certainly have no need to do so.

In the Prose Edda there is a passage about the many names of Odhinn that says:

Tha segir Harr: “Mikil skynsemi er at rifiaa that vandliga upp, en thó er thér that skjótast at segja, at flest heiti hafa verit gefin af peim atburdh, at svá margar sem eru greinir tungnanna í veröldinni, thá thykkjast allar Thjódhir thurfa at breyta nafni hans til sinnar tungu til ákalls ok baena fyrir sjálfum sér.” (Snorra Edda, Gylfaginning, XXXII)

Then said High One: “It would take a vast amount of knowledge to cover them all, but it is swiftest to say, that most of these names have been given (to him) because, the many different nations speaking different tongues in the world, all wanted to change his name into their own tongue in order to address and pray (to him) for themselves.”

As for the so-called “ethnic descriptions” of the Deities sometimes encountered in the literature, these resulted from people trying to visualize the unvisualizable. Those who, for example, wrote about the red beard of Thorr did so because they knew men who had red beards. Does a God have a beard of any color? (Theologically speaking, the answer is “yes” but only if and when the God wants a beard, and it would then be any color the God desired. A God does not have human ethnicity of any kind, and is far more different from any particular human than is that human from any other human on earth.) A comparison can be made with the “Asian faces” on Japanese statues of Buddha, who was an Indian, or the blue-eyed paintings of Christ that were so popular in the European middle ages.

All humans, we believe, descend ultimately from Ask and Embla, who were created by the Gods. What color were Ask’s eyes? What color was Embla’s hair? Such questions are ridiculous. Since all humans are related to each other by blood, all humans have the same inherent source-potentials – and the same instinctive longing for the Gods of Asgard who watch over allthe peoples of Midgard, not just some small group of them. Any thinking person, whether or not an Ásatrú believer, can logically see that there is no place for racism of any kind in Ásatrú. Nor has there ever been.

Racism comes from two sources:

  1. A psychological fear of anyone who is “different” in any way.
  2. A psychological need to find someone to blame (a “scapegoat”) for whatever misfortunes happen to occur.

Neither of these attitudes is logical. In the Old Stone Age, little groups of 20 to 30 inbred humans lived their lives separated by vast distances from all others of their species. On the rare occasions when humans from another group happened to be seen, they looked different, and the reaction was to kill them, or at least to drive them away. Times have changed. We no longer shave with stone axes. But for some people the Paleolithic mentality lingers on.

In the Modern Age, racists will become more and more isolated from mainstream society (and reality), living lonely, bitter, and paranoid lives.

Those of us who have spent our lives fighting both alongside and against many of this world’s diverse ethnic groups learned to appreciate the essential similarities of all humans, and to ignore the superficial differences. Every life is filled with combat situations; physical, mental, and spiritual. When facing combat, it is always better to pick allies who share with you the Viking values of Ásatrú than those who share with you only your skin color.

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The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

Author: Crick

As Paganism slowly but surely emerges out of the grip of suppression brought on by what is now commonly referred to as organized religions. We may want to be aware of several pitfalls and realities as we once again step into the light of day.

First of all, the top three organized religions are themselves fairly new in the grand scheme of history. Prior to their appearance on the world stage, basically everyone in the world followed some type of pagan belief, which was for the most part an individual spiritual belief and not an organized religion per se. Such beliefs were influenced by ones personal environment and the immediate world around them. There was an interpersonal awareness that helped to shape one’s values and thus their corresponding beliefs. In today’s artificial world we no longer have such a mainstay or influence to guide us.

The current “accepted” beliefs being touted by the main three organized religions and the suppression of former popular beliefs did not occur as a natural effect of events in human history.

It was and continues to be a planned and concerted action, which began in one instance with the advent of the apologists and has continued on through the ages by acts of repression, fear and some very clever propaganda. These deliberate actions have been supplemented by the tactics of politicians who are overtly biased in favor of the institutions of organized religion.

After all, power begets power.

As such we should be aware that the basic tenet of these man made religious organizations is to hold onto such power at all costs. We as a community would like to think that we are accepting of all religious beliefs and spiritual paths, as we should be.

But we should not be so naïve as to think that just because we are so accepting that organized religions will welcome us back with open arms from the isolation of an exile that they themselves imposed upon those of pagan beliefs.

In all reality they (organized religions) would very much like to see paganism fade away as just another passing fad. An example of this is the gathering in Rome in the summer of 2007 of the Roman Catholic Church of which the primary topic was “how to draw folks away from Devil worship (allegedly paganism) and back into the grasp of the one true church”.

Granted there are some individuals within organized religion who are realistic and enlightened enough to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe as they do. And thus are willing to work with members of alternate beliefs such as paganism.

However the harsh reality is that these folks generally belong to one of the very aggressive religious organizations whose leaders do not endorse such openness. And as such we are being accepted only in isolated situations and only at the very grass roots of these religious institutions.

Acceptance of the fact that the oldest religious/spiritual beliefs in the world were not obliterated and are making a re-emergence is going to take some considerable time, effort and patience.

We will re-emerge into the light of day one enlightened heart and soul at a time. To believe otherwise is in my personal opinion, both foolish and self-defeating.

Another pitfall we should be wary of is manipulation by the organized religions. They have by virtue of their position in the world today, proven to be very adept at such tactics.

And quite obviously (to some of us anyway) they are employing these tried and proven techniques to the very community that they would like to once again vanquish back into the throes of exile.

What is this manipulation you may ask?

Over the recent years, a crumb will fall off of the table of organized religion and a pagan will be ‘allowed” to sit at the same table as these folks. Each time it has been a Wiccan who is chosen to take such a seat and in each case the chosen Wiccan will proclaim themselves as representative of the whole pagan community. And then folks in the pagan community will swoon like young schoolgirls and say, “oh what a great thing this is for the community”.

In my personal opinion, such proclamations fall right into the hands of those of the organized religions who are sponsoring such meetings.

I have serious reservations about such an approach and reaction for several down to earth reasons.

First of all, realistically we as a community are dealing with folks who are well schooled in such manipulation. It is quite apparent that if you can’t outright obliterate what you object to then you find a way to control it.

For example Brighid the Goddess did not become a Christian saint by happenstance. It was an act of sage manipulation by an organized religion. Hence we have the old adage of, “keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer”.

And so with all due respect to those of the Wicca, I personally have to wonder why organized religion seems to only choose members of Wicca, which is by all accounts barely a generation old and thus but a babe in the world of paganism as the ones who are proffered a seat with these folks.

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here, I think that it is great that a pagan of any path gets the crumb that is offered, to a certain extent.

But then this brings me to my next concern.

One of the primary tenets of paganism is diversity. And if we are to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy then perhaps those Wicca who are chosen to be seated with organized religions should state responsibly, that in fact they represent but a small portion of the pagan community.

Again, with all due respect to those of the path of Wicca, not only would this be a realistic statement but it would also leave the door open to those of other pagan beliefs. And as such would be a confirmation of the pagan community’s stated belief in the tenet of diversity.

Paganism is after all an acronym or umbrella for many “diverse” beliefs. And no one path can honestly state that they alone represent the many different beliefs that align themselves under the banner of paganism.

In all reality, and yet once again with all due respect, as an Irish witch who also engages the path of shamanism, Wicca does not remotely represent my personal path. Nor does it accurately reflect the beliefs of those who are Asatru, Voudon, Santerian, Odinist, Yoruba, Shamanic, witch and so forth.

If we as a community are going to endorse diversity as one of our founding tenets then we need to surpass the temptations of ego and thus avoid the snare that is being put into place by those religious organizations that have shown such skill in manipulation.

Those who are tapped should show some responsibility and use their opportunities to ensure that organized religion is aware that we are in fact a diverse community and do not fit into one spiritual/religious shoe fits all.

By the same token, we as a community need to overcome our petty ego driven differences and be willing to proffer folks from various pagan beliefs as representatives of our community. Granted this will take a measure of maturity that has for the most part been lacking in our community.

But I personally believe that if we are true to ourselves and our community that we can indeed find the inner strength to exhibit such maturity as a community to express ourselves in such a manner.

The final concern that I would like to express in this treatise is this.
Why do we buy into the perception that organized religion has of us?

Realistically, it is “their” perception and should not be the view that we as pagans hold of ourselves.

Why do we as a community get all flustered and swoon whenever organized religion allows us a seat?

They are in all reality the newcomers to the world stage of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Paganism is in fact the oldest such beliefs in existence, period!
When one of us is invited to their table it should be with the approach that they (organized religions) should be honored to have a member of such an ancient belief seated at their table.

We need to stop playing into their blatant manipulation and express ourselves with aplomb and dignity and not as eager children grateful for a brief moment of attention.

I personally believe that this is why they (organized religions) only invite the Wicca (who are the babes of pagan society) into their midst. In this manner they can point and say “but they have only been around since 1952” and so the manipulation continues and unadulterated attempts at control continues.

In closing I would like to make it clear that I am not casting about disparaging thoughts against those of the Wicca or any other members of organized religions and/or other pagan paths.

My words are simply a reflection of the realities that we as pagans did not create but which we have to live with. How cognizant we are and how we approach such issues as a community in regards to organized religions will determine whether we remain in the daylight or whether we once again resume our existence in the darkness of religious/spiritual exile.

If you don’t want to think of these issues in regards to yourself then maybe you should consider the religious/spiritual freedoms (true freedoms) of your children and your children’s children.

For in all reality, such manipulation and control did not occur over one generation nor is it likely to ebb within just one generation. Freedom of religious/spiritual beliefs is an ongoing struggle against those who would have it otherwise.

I think the last 2000 years or so has made that quite clear…

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Defining ‘Pagan’

Defining ‘Pagan’

Author: Ladywolf
Pagan, what does it mean? Is Paganism a religion? What is a Neo-Pagan? While the Pagan community cannot agree 100%, there are widely accepted answers to each of these questions. I will present the widely accepted views and then my own. Please note that even the widely accepted views are not accepted by all.

Pagan is, and is not, a term easily defined. The origin of the word is Latin and was first used to describe the people who lived away from the cities and refused to embrace the new Christian religion. The original meaning was country-dweller or peasant and was not complimentary.

Over the years another definition of Pagan evolved and again, is not complimentary. This evolved definition is used mostly by followers of Abrahamic religions and is meant as a derogatory description of anyone who does not follow an Abrahamic system of belief. This definition is meant to convey someone who is immoral, has no religion or follows an ‘evil’ religious path.

Pagans are not people without religion, evil or depraved. While not all Pagan pathways share moral standards, beliefs and practices, most Pagan religions do adhere to strict codes of conduct and do have moral guidelines. Asatru has Nine Noble Virtues, Wicca has the Three Fold Law and Wiccan Rede and Druids have a Code of Honor.

In the Pagan world, the word Pagan is most often used as an umbrella term to categorize the many diverse minority religions that follow or attempt to reconstruct ancient pre-Christian religious paths or folkways, and their followers. Included under this umbrella are the religions of Wicca, Witchcraft, Asatru, Druidry, Celtic Reconstructionist, Norse Paganism, Odinism, Scottish Reconstructionist, etc. Some would also add Native American Spirituality, Shamanism, Vodun (Voodoo) and Santeria to the list.
It is important to note that while Wicca is most certainly a new religion invented in the 1950’s by Gerald Gardner, there are, woven within its framework, ancient beliefs, mythologies and fragmentary practices from many folkways, that survived until this day.

Neo-Pagan simply means New Pagan, referring to the revival of these ancient paths in the modern form, as well as the people that follow them. I am not sure we need this new term, as I do not believe any ‘old Pagans’ are still alive today. Some believe this term separates modern Pagans practicing positive systems of belief, from the old derogatory ‘Pagan’ term; but Pagan is still there and adding the ‘neo’ fools no one.

While everyone can agree that Pagan is an umbrella term covering many diverse paths, not everyone agrees that Paganism can be a path unto itself. What then of those people who do not follow a defined path such as Wicca or Asatru but still follow fragmentary ancient beliefs and practices interwoven with new? I say they too are Pagans and their religion is Paganism.

As our world evolves so too do the words that define our religious and spiritual paths. As new thought forms and beliefs emerge we need to update our thinking and shed our old ways of thought. Why not change the meaning of the word Pagan? Why not claim, as another definition, that Pagan can also mean an eclectic follower of a number of paths with no name?

People are ever changing and evolving and so too does our language. What was called a horseless carriage around 100 years ago is now called a car. Does this mean that the horseless carriage and car are two different things? Is using the new word ‘car’ less valid than using horseless carriage? Does it make the car less of a car? I think not.

In the same way, Pagan should be embraced as the definition of a religious path as well as an umbrella term. Why should those of us who follow the Pagan path allow others to define our beliefs and practices for us? Why should we be restricted to neatly defined little boxes of belief? What if I believe in and follow the Nine Noble Virtues as well as the Wiccan Rede and Three Fold law? What if Kali-Ma speaks to me as strongly as does Pan? Am I not then a “true” Pagan because I do not follow a defined path?

There is no one religious or spiritual path in which all of the practices resonate with me. There are many paths where only one or two practices or tenets ‘feel’ right for ME. I will not follow a belief system simply because it has an accepted definition and label if that system holds no meaning for me. Religion is personal. Religion should make you feel whole and content, not empty and frustrated, as I would feel following a system whose practices made no connection to who I am as a spiritual being.

With that in mind I take from many places, mostly from paths that do fall under the Pagan umbrella, but also from Eastern systems and Native American teachings. I believe in many Goddesses and Gods. I believe in Magick but do not practice rituals. My Magicks are simple and Earthy. I believe in reincarnation and the Summerlands. I fit into no formally defined Pagan belief system, so does that mean I have no ‘religion’?

I don’t think so. What that means is: I have created my own religious path using what is most meaningful to me and what helps me to grow as a spiritual being. It matters not that my path happens to have elements from dozens of other belief systems, there is no cosmic rule saying I must have a label that fits a box. So in terms of spirituality, my particular path of Paganism is a religion!

I am Pagan. That is my religious path. I choose to define it as the name of my religious path. It is a firmly held belief and infuses every aspect of my life, every day. I honor deity, have a set of beliefs similar in form to other religious paths and adhere to them. Under those terms, the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes my religious path as a religion. So I say yes, Paganism is a religion!

Note: In order to be a recognized religion in the U.S you do NOT need a Supreme Court decision. As long as your religious path falls within the definition of a religion that the courts have set- your path is a legally recognized religion!

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Paganism in America: Misunderstandings, Controversy, and Mainstream Conflicts

Paganism in America: Misunderstandings, Controversy, and Mainstream Conflicts

Author: WindBreath

What is Paganism? There are countless definitions of this, or rather these, minority groups. The part of speech these is used, because Paganism is in its most basic sense an umbrella term used to describe religions such as Wicca, Druidism, Asatrú, and ancient cultural Pagan reconstructionist faiths. One views the diversity among the very definition of the term Paganism by looking up the term from a Pagan source, and then looking up the term from a non – Pagan source. According to Scott Cunningham, who is heralded as one of the foremost important authors in the Pagan path, a Pagan is “from the Latin paganus, country – dweller. Today used as a general term for followers of Wiccan and other magical, shamanistic and polytheistic religions.

Naturally, Christians have their own peculiar definition of this word. It can be interchanged with Neo – Pagan (Cunningham 200) .” However, a non – Pagan, and more specifically, a definition clearly derived from Christianity’s impact on Western Europe and the United States is “a person not subscribing to any major or recognized religion, esp. the dominant religion of a particular society; spec. a heathen, a non – Christian, esp. considered as savage, uncivilized, etc (pagan, n. and adj., Oxford English Dictionary) , ” which can be found in the 2010 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This is indeed peculiar, as Cunningham stated in his definition. The main issue facing this description is that it highlights the implications the non – Pagan source that is the OED has on currently practicing Pagans. That is, what type of impact Pagans face day to day with a leading source of direct, resolute, definitions found in books such as the OED. This definition is the tip of the iceberg in the American Christian and political conservatives’ conflict with Pagans.

A look must first be taken at the first amendment right to practice religions in order to understand the dilemma faced by Pagans. The amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… ” (Fathers) which translates to most Americans that not only can Congress not establish any type of state religion, but that they constitutionally cannot block the free exercise of any one particular religion. However, this is amendment is seemingly not inclusive of all. Pagans face discrimination in the workplace, at their homes, their places of business, against their children, and most of this comes from the deeply embedded Christian principles most citizens believe America was founded on.

This often creates legal problems for Pagans tried in courts with cases directly tied to obvious discrimination against their religion. It must be realized that Paganism is a rapidly growing group of religions in the United States. The brief history of Paganism in the U.S, its tensions with Christianity, and the legality of its many religions in relation to Christianity in America shall be discussed. What Paganism is in relation to mainstream religions is paramount in understanding why there is a growing tension among them and mainstream Christian groups. Ultimately, a goal on how to address and dissolve this conflict will be looked at lastly.

Paganism grew within the United States in the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, and has been blossoming ever since. This started with the influence of key leaders in the early Earth – Religion movements, such as Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca. This was spurred on by writers such as Margot Adler, who’s “Drawing Down the Moon” is still read and looked upon today by Pagans as a guide to the past of American Paganism, and where it may be headed in the future. According to Adler,

“Most neo – Pagans sense and aliveness and presence in nature. They are usually polytheists or animists or pantheists, or two or three of these things at once. They share a goal of living in harmony with nature and they tend to view humanity’s advancement and separation from nature as the primes source of alienation. They see rituals as a tool to end that alienation. Most neo – Pagans look to the old pre – Christian nature religions of Europe, the ecstatic religions, and the mystery traditions as a source of inspiration and nourishment. They gravitate to ancient symbols and ancient myths, to the old polytheistic religions of the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Celts, and the Sumerians (Adler 4) .”

This holds true today, in the year 2010. Although the first copy of Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon was written in the late 1970’s, this revised addition is testament to the evolving growth in numbers of Pagans/Neo – Pagans, but also to the fundamental values Pagans held and still hold to in the modern age.

Although at first glance these practitioners seem to be nothing more than reconstructionists of ancient cultural practices, the fact that many of these people find daily conflict with America’s main religious groups, Christianity, illuminates that there is a tension between the two. The main tensions faced by today’s Pagans with Christians come in the form of what the writer coins to be ‘domestic conflict, ’ or conflict that deals with the day to day life and livelihood of the subject. Also, there are no ‘manageable models, ’ a term coined by Diana Eck, meaning a model on which to base a fair and equal comparison of the two religious groups.

Currently, “the most contentious issues arise from the desires of some practitioners to flaunt their alternative behavior and exhibit their religion as counter cultural on one hand, and those who are more concerned with fostering mainstream acceptance and pursuing legal rights and protections on the other…Pagan[s] struggle to control how others perceive their religion (Davy 183) .”

Clearly, Pagans struggle with the way they are perceived because of the mystery nature of the majority of their religious practices, as well as with individuals within the Pagan movement that wishes to be gaudy and flashy with their religion. These particular individuals, along with those who commit acts of horror such as murder in the name of their particular Pagan religion, are the same individuals making Pagans who are honest, law abiding citizens look like horrible people that should be feared and in some cases, attacked.

While most Pagans and Christians living within the same area normally lead peaceful, non – violent lives, in some cases it has been found that Christians take it upon themselves to demonize and denounce the practices and practitioners of Pagan religions. Many Christian authors have written several books within the last two or three decades which denounce Paganism, and “condemn the rising popularity of modern Paganism as an insidious threat to morality and civilization (Strmiska 8) .”

Here one observes two things: one, that modern Paganism is something that should be condemned, and two, that it is an insidious threat to morality and civilization. There are several cases where this form of thinking through the lens of one’s own faith rather than attempting to understand the other is played out in the form of domestic conflict.

For those who practice a minority religion such as Wicca or Druidism within Paganism, “[they] can be assured of little protection under the Free Exercise Clause, unless the law harming them has clearly and unequivocally targeted their particular religion (Barner – Barry 23) .” For example, in Beaumont, Texas, a reverend of a Unitarian Universalist church and his congregants were explicitly harassed at a meeting they had called within the community. The purpose of this meeting was to answer any questions had by the community about Paganism because of recent allegations of abuse against children during a Pagan festival. This abuse was alleged because a group of children found out that some congregants of the church were indeed Pagan, and the police were soon brought in because the parents of some children stated that their children must have been harmed by the Pagans they spoke with.

During this meeting, the explanations of Paganism were soon silenced by police harassment, and the Pagans who remained after their pastor was removed for refusing to be silent were surrounded by Christians agreeing with their sheriff deputy. Not only was this deputy abusing his power, but he stated that he was “[a] Christian policeman…not going to tolerate Pagan religious practices (Barner – Barry 65) , ” which clearly demonstrates the abuse of the religious majority (and abuse of a position of power, in this case the police) overriding the Constitutional rights to practice religion of the minority.

This example explicitly highlights the abuse of positions of power given by the government, such as that of sheriff deputy in stating that he would indeed illegally enforce his personally formed law that Pagans who practice their religions would not be tolerated.

Examples of these abuses are not limited to adults, and happen in the public school system as well. Since the expulsion of prayers in school, there have been flairs of tension when schoolchildren are caught praying or found to be speaking about their religious beliefs. For the most part, these children are simply reprimanded, or not spoken to at all. However, for Pagans of the elementary, middle, and high school age groups, simply being reprimanded does not happen.

For example, at a middle school in the Midwest, a Pagan student was featured on the school’s wall of fame for having received extraordinarily high grades, as well as for having contributed to the school and her community. However, after the school saw she had drawn herself with a pentagram and a winged pig pulling at it, her portrait was “rejected because it had a religious theme and contained a pentagram (Barner – Barry 190) , ” yet “another picture was placed on the same wall of fame… had a clearly Christian theme (Barner – Barry 190) .” The pig, the student reported to school authorities, represented those who were ignorant of her religious faith and beliefs. Ironically, the school became that pig – not only were they ignorant of her religion, but they also explicitly favored and allowed a Christian display of faith to remain on the wall. After speaking with the child’s parents, her portrait was re hung (Barner – Barry) .

However, this is a success story in terms of religious tolerance, and does not happen often, especially in areas inhabited by conservative Christians. Thus far, conflict with general religious intolerance and school children has been observed. How conflict with Christians affects the lives of day-to-day individuals is of paramount importance, because it demonstrates how otherwise mature and sensible adults treat one another.

Every individual within the United States has the ability to start his or her own businesses. Indeed, America is made up of self – made men, men who worked hard and diligently for their earned titles, positions, and earnings. Opening a business is a difficult endeavor, which includes finding a market to sell to, costs of startup and operations, as well as buying and stocking product that is to be sold, among myriad other things. These things being difficult in their own right, add on top of that for Pagans opening shop in largely Christian areas the threat of vandalism and daily harassment.

For example, a Pagan who wished to open his shop in Austin, Texas, was harassed and ultimately forced to move because of daily taunts that he practiced Satanism. These daily taunts in front of his store caused him to lose business, and thus leave due to pressures of conflict with Christians. Another example of Pagan businesses being attacked is that of a woman in Lancaster, California as recently as 2002. She re named her store, and thus held a new dedication ceremony in the parking lot of the strip mall. Not only did conservative Christian hecklers harass her, but also when the police were called due to the disturbance of the peace, the police unit failed to respond (Barner – Barry) .

These examples given about business owners run counter culture to the idea that each individual has the ability to become a self – made man in the United States. If owning a business comes in direct conflict with the main morals and virtues of the population, then rather than allowing the business to exist as it legally is allowed to, these Christians feel the need to attack and actively take a role in shutting down these stores. Therefore, in reality, every man cannot be self – made if the mold does not fit. Here, one observes the majority coming directly down on the minority based on suppositions of Satanism, evil, and sacrificing of humans/animals. Here, one observes the ignorance and obvious lack of education of the minority religion by the majority.

Furthermore, even though it appears as though attacks are being wrought from every available angle, there is yet another, and most important to every American that is being attacked: the home. Home is supposed to be a place of solace and serenity, a place of relaxation and fun with family. It is supposed to be a place to let go of the cares of the `worldliness of work, school, and other obligations. As an extension, the neighborhood is supposed to be a place of community relaxation and recreation. For many Pagans living openly in majority Christian areas, this is sadly not true. In some extreme cases, Pagans have had to move out of their homes in order to avoid harassment and illegal actions taken against them.

For example, a Pagan couple whose house was almost paid off was found to be practicing Wicca by their neighbors. After discovering the poisoning their dog and the harassing their son on the way to the school bus, the Wiccans went to court against their neighbors only to be told to stop practicing their faith in one week or move out by a judge (Barner – Barry) .

This obvious abuse of power by the judge and illegal act of poisoning another’s animal, along with harassing someone’s child would appear to have been an easy case to decide. However, this was not true. The problem in the sphere of where one lives is that it attacks the right of anyone to live wherever they can afford. It furthers the idea that you can live where you want, so long as you prescribe to the majority lifestyles of those around you. Living in an obvious ‘counter – culture’ way is so threatening to the majority that acts such as poisoning an actual living being are not only not charged as animal abuse, but because no one was charged, it serves as an example that harming someone of a path different than one’s own is fine so long as a perceived threat is thought to be at hand.

All of the above cases have ties to the justice system, which is to Pagans, not just at all. This is seen most clearly in child custody disputes after the breaking up or divorce of parents who are one or both Pagan. Many Pagans face this fear, and “the loss of custody or visitation rights is one of the primary fears of Pagans who are parents of minor children…intact Pagan families may face custody challenges that are initiated by relatives, police, social workers, and adoption agencies. These challenges are usually based on a genuine belief that the children are potentially being harmed by their family’s non-conformist religious practices. (Barner – Barry 116) .”

Clearly, the belief that minor children are going to be harmed because of the minority religious practices directly affects the family. Not only are homes being torn apart, but these children being taken from their homes solely based on religious choice is in direct conflict with the constitutional right to the freedom of religion. It also makes a clear pathway for those who wish to remove minor children from the homes of parents or guardians based solely on their religious choices rather than if there is actual abuse in the home perfectly normal.

These cases of abuses from the majority over the minority are only growing in number as Pagan numbers increases as the years go on. The history of Paganism would appear, to a secular and unbiased individual to be that of a peaceful and Earth – based religious movement that is evolving as technology and people evolve as well. As with other religions that have growing numbers such as Islam and Judaism in the United States, one would first think that Paganism too would, like the aforementioned religions, be accepted as a legitimate religion to co – exist with. However, as the above cases have pointed out, this is not so. Pagans face discrimination in the workplace, at school, at their businesses, and in the courthouse. Stress must be placed on the fact that although these cases are largely isolated incidents, they are growing in number as Pagans grow in number in the United States.

But how are these problems do be dealt with? What is the solution to the many aspects of discrimination against Pagans? Perhaps an unbiased education about Paganism for communities would help foster understanding and help end these conflicts. Education is the key to stopping these attacks on people who have done nothing wrong but practice their religion of choice in a country that is supposed to protect that right. First, people must be taught that Pagans do not want to harm anyone: child, adult, even an animal. To do so goes against most Pagan creeds and vows to not harm any living beings. Second, people must realize that Pagans do not practice Satanism or carry out any Satanic rituals. This is the most important thing – realizing that Pagans are not evil and are not trying to attack the mainstream will be paramount in determining the fate of these minority groups in relation to the majority.

Conclusively, the minority religions of Paganism must be protected equally under the free clause law, and under the legally binding Constitutional amendment that declares that all people have the right to practice their religion of choice. Furthermore, these case studies show the cruel reality faced by Pagans who choose to live openly must face. Their minimal news coverage and lack of media attention show that there is a lot of work to be done in terms of fair coverage of events, but that their stories are covered at all shows that some effort is being made for equal press. Finally, the hope of education for those who do not understand the minority will ultimately lead to true religious freedom for all.
       


Footnotes:
Bibliography:

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers and Other Pagans in America. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.
Barner – Barry, Carol. Contemporary Paganism: Minority Religions in a Majoritarian America. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005.
Cunningham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practioner. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2003.
Davy, Barbara Jane. Introduction to Pagan Studies. Lanham: Altamira Press, 2007.
Fathers, Founding. “The United States Constitution.” 25 June 2010. US Constitution. 1 December 2010 .
pagan, n. and adj., : Oxford English Dictionary. November 2010. 1 December 2010 .
Strmiska, Michael F. “Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives.” Strmiska, Michael F. Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC – CLIO, Inc., 2005. 1-54.

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