Posts Tagged With: Paganism

The Impact of Paganism on the American Culture, Past, Present, and Future

The Impact of Paganism on the American Culture, Past, Present, and Future

Author: Under A Pagan Moon 

Paganism has played, and will continue to play, a positive, and growing role in the American culture.

There are many misconceptions about Paganism, and it’s role in the American culture. In this essay I will present a fair amount of factual information supporting the afore-mentioned statement. Among the facts of this essay you will find that the men who put America and the American government together were more Pagan in thinking than they were Christian. You will see that major American monuments are modeled largely after temples built to Pagan gods, and you will learn that Paganism is more common than one might anticipate.

America, land of the free, and home of the brave. The greatest country in the world. A place where people can be whatever they choose to be, a place where a person can be successful no matter what their background or current status in life is. A country based at its very roots in the Judeo-Christian religion.

Or is it?

Most Americans believe that the people who founded America were strong Christians, and that America would not be the country it is today without a Christian based history.

This belief is based on many things, including the words imprinted on money, and the word God in patriotic songs and pledges. Why does this word God have to refer to the Christian god?

There is proof almost on every corner of America that leads one to believe that this country was actually founded more on a Pagan belief system rather than a Christian one.

Before we discuss the effects of Paganism on America, let’s learn about the Pagan belief system, and the history of Paganism.

Paganism is a peaceful, nature based religion, with many of the same ethics and morals as Christianity. Paganism is the oldest belief system in the world. From the times of cave men, to the inception of Christianity, to the persecutions, all the way up to present day.

All religions and all groups of people have been mainly a “Pagan people” at some time in their history. This includes Greeks, Romans, Native Americans, and basically all ethnic groups and nationalities.

According to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, the first and oldest book of the Bible, (the basis of Christianity), Genesis, was written around 1445 B.C. (Slick, 1996) Paganism, is so old, no one can actually put any kind of date on it.

There is proof of Pagans everywhere. One can see depictions of various gods etched into cave walls, as well as, statues and monuments in great, old cities like Rome and Egypt.

If paganism were older than Christianity, logically, one would see evidence of this in Christianity. Pagans and Christians share many of the same methods for communicating with their respective Deities.

For example, it is widely known that Pagans would gather in groups to worship. They would dance, sing, light candles, burn incense, perform ancient rituals, and speak to the gods through chanting or playing instruments.

Many Christians can be found to do many of these same acts when worshipping their god. The main difference in these practices is the fact that most Pagans prefer to worship outside, as Paganism is a nature based religion, whereas Christians generally have a church to enter for worship.

Now that we understand the practices of Pagans and Christians, which are almost identical, let’s look at the beliefs and morals of the two religions.

There are very large differences in the beliefs of Pagans and Christians. The main differences are rooted in the belief of what happens after we die and the consequences of our actions in this life.

Most Pagans believe in the theories of reincarnation and karma. The reincarnation theory basically states that after our bodies die, our souls continue on to born again into a physical body again and again.

The karma theory is the belief that whatever actions of thoughts we have, be they negative or positive, have a direct effect on our current physical world. Put simply, if we project a positive energy, or strive to create a positive environment, then positive things will happen in our lives and in our souls. The same thinking would also apply to negative thoughts or actions.

Most Pagans also celebrate the changing of the seasons and hold nature to be instrumental in worship and communicating with the gods. Christians, in turn, believe in a concept of one lifetime wherein a person must believe in the “Son of God” and live by a strict moral code.

If a person does those things, they will be allowed into Heaven, the home of God, to live in everlasting happiness with Him. If a person, any person, not just a Christian, does not adhere strictly to the Christian belief system, that person will be denied eternal bliss and will spend all eternity in Hell with Satan, the creator of all things evil and sworn enemy of God.

Most Christians are also taught that all other religions are false and that Paganism is a form of Satanism, which is the worship of the enemy of God, Satan.

In researching Paganism, one will find that the morals and ethics of Pagans are actually much like that of Christians, and nothing like Satanists.

Pagans and Christians believe that humans in general should be treated with respect and love, to harm no one, and to treat others the same way you would want to be treated. Both religions hold certain days as holy and perform ceremonies and rituals on those days to celebrate their god/gods. Both believe in moderation and respect of nature.

Now that we understand the beliefs and history of Christianity and Paganism, let’s discuss how Paganism is deeply rooted in the American culture.

Let’s start at the beginning of America. The first inhabitants of America were the Native Americans. These people were absolutely a pagan people. The worshipped many gods, and the changing of the seasons and nature.

The next inhabitants of America were European colonists. They came to America to be free of religious persecution. In most cases this persecution was coming from Christians.
“…These early European-Americans eventually succumbed to the government of Great Britain. The religious-right propagandists like to put emphasis on this period of American history because, indeed, these first European-Americans did live under Christian rule and it makes it seem as if these first colonists established the government of the United States. They did not.” (Jim, 2005)

Although these early colonists would eventually bow to Christianity, Paganism would not stay hidden for long.

The government system that the colonists, now calling themselves Americans, set-up is what set America apart from the Monarchy system which most of the colonists came from, and which they desperately wanted to avoid. The Monarchy system is one of kings and queens where religion, now mostly Christian, also plays a large part in government due to the fact that most believers in Monarchy believe the king or queen to be direct descendants of the divinity.

“The most influential American colonists rebelled against Great Britain and their taxes, institutional churches, and desired to form an independent government free from religion and Monarchies.

On July 4, 1776, The Declaration of Independence (written by a deist) announced their independence to the world.” Thomas Jefferson, a scientist, clearly believed that nature was God. He once wrote, “”Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight.”

Even in the Declaration of Independence he wrote, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Thomas Paine also helped lead the way in separating church from state and questioning the Christian and Monarchist beliefs.

The Constitution itself barely mentions religion, quite on purpose. (Jim, 2005) With all this being true, how can it be truthfully said that America is a Christian based country?

Even the monuments in Washington D.C. replicate buildings or monuments to pagan gods. The Washington Monument being an Egyptian obelisk, as well as many of the buildings is designed after the Greek Parthenon and the Roman Pantheon, buildings specifically built for the worship of Pagan gods.

There are statues of Pagan gods littered across courthouses and monuments all over the United States. Even the graves of many of the founding fathers of America are decorated with Pagan symbols and bare no crucifixes, crosses, or any mention of Christianity. (Jim, 2005)

Even some of the holidays that Americans celebrate today are derived from Pagan holidays or seasonal celebrations. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Years, were all Pagan, seasonal, traditions long before the advent of Christianity; the holidays were just known by different names.

There are over one billion reported Christians living in the world today. Most Americans are professed Christians. One of the main duties of a good Christian is to spread the word. This is not so in Paganism.

Christians have persecuted the Pagans for decades. They have “gone into hiding” let’s say. So Christianity continues to spread throughout the world and throughout America. It continues to be the most prevalent religion in the world.

Paganism is, as we have learned, a very old religion. It also happens to be a quite private one now, due to the harsh treatment of Pagans during the advent of Christianity. There are many Pagans across the world, though, many more than will ever be known due to the fact that most the people that are yet undiscovered must be Pagan in their beliefs.

Pagans are also becoming more open with their beliefs in America. When Gerald Gardener came to America and publicly published his beliefs and started teaching Paganism again, the floodgates were opened.

The future looks very good for Pagans in America. In America, people are free to belief whatever they want. We can worship whom we choose and worship how we choose as long as we are not infringing on any one else’s rights. It is not this way in all countries. Even Pagans in Africa were forced to accept the colonial view of Christianity. (Levernier, 2002)

Because of this freedom Americans enjoy, Pagans in America continue to become a rising force in the American culture. There are even laws in place to protect the rights of pagans specifically. Even the U.S. Military chaplain’s manual gives instruction to the military chaplain as to how they would assist a soldier in worship. (A Handbook for Chaplains, pgs 231-236)

In the future, one can expect to see more and more Pagans expressing their opinions, and even moving into American government. There are hundreds, even thousands of Pagan churches across America, and even some Pagan schools. There are Pagan organizations for kids and adults, much like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.

In conclusion, you can see now, how America was founded more on Pagan beliefs than Christian ones. From the Native Americans, to the founding fathers, to the documents and monuments that are part of America’s creation and history, to the children being taught by Pagan parents today, America has always been a Pagan country, and always will be. This can be seen in history, and in the tombs of our forefathers, also in the up rising of Paganism in America today.

As more and more Pagans are revealing themselves and teaching others the Old Ways, there will be an a growing opportunity for Pagans to reclaim the American government and promote a real change in American thinking.

 

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Footnotes:
Working Reference List:

The United States: A Country founded on Paganism By Pagan Jim, March 2005

United States Army, US Army Chaplain’s Manual, Excerpt from the U.S. Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains (pgs 231-236)

Wheatley’s ON BEING BROUGHT FROM AFRICA TO AMERICA,
By: Levernier, James A. Explicator, Fall81, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p25, 2p

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Mixing Traditions: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Mixing Traditions: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

Author: Ezmodin 

Have you ever noticed how humanity loves to label and categorise things? From bugs to the way we dress, all things have a label and a category they fit nice and neatly into, or so we would like to believe (wouldn’t it make life so much simpler?) . What is unfortunate and fortunate all at the same time is that nothing ever really fits perfectly into one given category. This makes things a little messier when you are trying to catalogue all the different types of fashion there are in the world, but also gives the world an endless and beautiful variety. The same happens with Paganism.

So we have this big ‘umbrella’ term ‘PAGANISM’ but can anyone truly describe in one sentence what Paganism really is? I bet you’re all saying no at the screen right now. This is because Paganism isn’t so much one big religious/spiritual belief as it is a culmination of many several different beliefs from all walks of life with a few general basics in common.

For example many, but not all, Pagan paths include the following: Witchcraft, working with the seasons, celebrating the Sabbats, viewing the divine as a God and Goddess Who also grow and change with the seasons, and having respect for nature; this is just to name a few. Without these fundamental bonds, there would be no such thing as Paganism. There would be a myriad of different religions, all different from the next.

I’m sure many of you who haven’t had a particular calling from the beginning of your journey, or followed a family tradition, have been troubled with the question of “Which Path do I choose to follow?” This happens all the time.

We have Joe Bloggs to the left of us going “I’m This Path and it’s awesome. I can read runes and we go into the woods to camp, drinking mead and swapping stories all night! Join us!” Then on your right is Sally Smith saying “I’m That Path; we’re all about empowering women and communing with the Goddess. Join us!” And now you’re stuck in the middle thinking, “Argh, but I like the sound of both of those!!” Well don’t despair, because in Paganism you can have your cake and eat it too!

The problem with the term ‘Path’ is that we imagine when we hear or read the word, one straight road that is rather monotone all the way, bushes to the left, bushes to the right and a dirt track in the centre. This is how I used to see it anyway. This is not the way it is supposed to be viewed at all! Your Pagan Path should be how YOU want it… with a rainbow to the left, Munchkins to the right and a yellow brick road to walk on if that’s how you really want it. Your Pagan Path should be a reflection of you and of what you hold dear and true to your heart. Your heart has no limits, so why should your Path?

It is healthy and, in my Coven encouraged, to not follow just one set of beliefs (unless of course this is what you find comfortable and works for you) . It can be so hard, even with how many different belief systems there are out there, to find one single system that completely works for you. I always find that you can fulfill your potential more if you branch out and find your own way of working that fits you.

I, myself, started with Heathenism. I put a lot of energy and time into learning all the Heathen ways, but I couldn’t follow it to the letter and traditionalist Heathens would have hated to work with me. After a while I thought I was ‘going off’ Heathenism as I became fascinated with the Celtic, particularly Merlin and the Morrigan.

However, it wasn’t that my Heathenism was just a phase; it was that there were areas that I needed fulfillment in that Heathenism alone couldn’t give me. So I mixed the two together.
Now, depending on your views you might be thinking “you can’t just mishmash things together how can all the Gods and Goddesses be real. You either must believe in one set of Gods and Goddesses or another.”

While as in some people’s views this may be true, in mine, it is not. I believe in what I like to call ‘The Diamond Theory’, in the way the books by Christopher Penczak describe it. If you think of one divine being or energy (conscious, primordial, unconscious, universal however you view it) in the shape of a giant diamond, the top half of the diamond is the masculine traits, the bottom half is the feminine traits and then each facet is an aspect of the masculine or feminine trait depending on which half of the diamond it is on.

Okay, so to break it down, let us use the Greek Pantheon as an example. Start with one divine in the shape of a diamond. Now the top half is all of the Gods and the bottom half is all of the Goddesses. In the top half, you will have facets to represent the war-like aspect (Aries) , the ruler aspect (Zeus) , the party-fun-loving aspect (Dionysus) and so on. In the bottom half, you will have facets representing the queen-like aspect (Hera) , the wise aspect (Athena) , the crone aspect (Hecate) and so on. Using this Diamond Theory, you can follow whichever gods call your fancy, whether they are in different pantheons or not.

This theory also opens the doorway to even broader thinking about the energy systems of the universe. For example, can there be a ‘Heaven’ and ‘’Reincarnation? Well why not? I believe that our souls/spirits are born into physicality, die, then after a while, come back again. Then again and again we return until we have learnt all we can from the physical realms, after which, we ascend into what we could call Heaven. I believe that the universe was created by divine will, yet I also believe in the Big Bang theory. This approach works for me because I see the divine as energy, flowing through all things and not as a bearded man on his lofty perch.

You will often find that many symbols, creation myths, systems, Gods and Goddesses from various Pagan religions are all extremely similar, if not the same, with different visual descriptions. As I said at the beginning, all the basics are generally the same in the various paths, which brings in this beautiful opportunity to mix and match without causing much conflict.

So before you start worrying “What path should I take?” I already have the answer for you. Your own! Tweak it. Mold it. Shape it as you see fit. It is no one else’s but your own! Always remember, nothing fits perfectly into any label or category.

[P.S. I would like to state that the examples of ‘This Path’ and ‘That Path’ I used above were purely stereotypical and I do not see these values to be solid truths in any religions.]

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5 Tips for Solitary Pagans

5 Tips for Solitary Pagans

By , About.com

 

In many modern Pagan belief systems, there are far more people who practice as solitaries than there are people who have joined covens or established traditions. Why is this? It’s partly because most people who want to learn about Paganism develop the interest long before they meet a coven or trad that they’re interested in joining. It’s also because even if you decide you want to be part of a coven or group, it’s not always easy to find one. Wiccan covens and Pagan groups don’t exactly have a listing in the Yellow Pages, so you may have five covens right up the street from you, and you’d never know it.

Certainly, practicing as a solitary can have its rewards. After all, you can make your own guidelines and follow your own set of ethics. Worship can be done at your convenience, rather than according to a schedule dictated by others. As a solitary, you’re really under no obligation to anyone but yourself and your gods. Many people spend their entire lives practicing as solitaries, and never feel a need to join a coven or group.

Occasionally, you may find some drawbacks to practicing as a solitary Pagan or Wiccan. You might sometimes feel alone, like you have no one to network with or share ideas with. You may at some point feel like you’ve stagnated — it’s hard to figure out what the next step is if you don’t have someone to compare notes. Sometimes, it’s nice to just get feedback from like-minded people — someone who can help you when you’re wondering about what to do.

If you’ve decided to practice as a solitary — either temporarily, or in the long-term — here are some tips on how to have a successful experience:

  1. Try to establish a daily routine. It’s easy to let your studies go by the wayside if you’re all by yourself, so establishing a daily routine will help you keep on task. Whether your routine includes meditation, reading, ritual work, or whatever, try to do something each day that helps you work towards achieving your spiritual studies.
  2. Write things down. Many people choose to keep a Book of Shadows, or BOS, to chronicle their magical studies. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, it allows you to document what you’ve tried and done, as well as what works and doesn’t work for you. Secondly, by writing down your rituals, prayers, or spellwork, you’re laying the foundation for your tradition. You can go back and repeat things that you find to be useful later one. Finally, it’s important to keep track of what you do magically and spiritually because as people, we evolve. The person you are now is not the same person you were ten years ago, and it’s healthy for us to be able to look back and see where we were, and how far we’ve come.
  3. Get out and meet people. Just because you’ve chosen to practice as a solitary doesn’t mean you should never come into contact with other Pagans or Wiccans. Most metropolitan areas — and a lot of smaller communities — have informal Pagan groups that get together regularly. This offers solitaries a chance to network and chat with each other, without having to form specific organized groups. Take advantage of resources like Witchvox and Meetup to see what’s in your area. If there’s nothing around you, consider starting a study group of your own for like-minded folks.
  4. Ask questions. Let’s face it, we all need to start somewhere. If your read or hear something and you want to know more about it, ask. If something isn’t clear, or contradicts something you’ve already read, ask. Don’t accept everything at face value, and remember that just because one person had a particular experience doesn’t mean that you’ll have an identical experience. Also, keep in mind that just because you read something in a book doesn’t necessarily mean it’s valid — learn to ask whether a resource is worth using or not. Don’t be afraid to be a skeptic sometimes.
  5. Don’t ever stop learning. Ask other people in the Pagan community — either online, or in real life — for recommendations about books and other resources. If you read a book that you enjoy, check the back for a bibliography and see what other books that author suggests. Remember that learning can take place by reading, but it can also develop from personal experience, and from speaking with other people involved in Paganism.
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Should You Come Out of the Broom Closet?

Should You Come Out of the Broom Closet?

By , About.com

 

After you’ve been Pagan or Wiccan for a while, you will eventually find yourself facing the question of whether or not to come out of the broom closet. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this essentially means coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan — making it known to family, friends, neighbors, etc. It’s a highly personal issue, and people have a number of reasons for choosing to stay closeted. Just as many people have reasons for making their beliefs known.

Coming out may not be for everyone, or it may be something you choose to do in degrees. When you decide to make your faith known, you are opening yourself up to all the problems that may accompany being recognized as part of a non-mainstream faith. However — and this is a mighty big however — you do have certain rights, particularly in the United States. Arming yourself with knowledge will help you tremendously in protecting those rights.

How Out Do You Want to Be?

There are different levels of being out. For many Pagans and Wiccans, simply letting their families or spouses know about their spirituality is enough. Many people consider religion to be a private thing anyway — no matter what religion they may be — and are perfectly content to limit the number of people in their lives who actually know the details. Plenty more people are of the opinion that if you are asked, tell the truth, but otherwise don’t be in-your-face about Paganism or Wicca.

Other folks are more vocal — feeling that if you really believe in something, you need to tell everyone, and do so with pride. These are the folks you usually see on television discussing Pagan and Wiccan rights, they’re the ones who openly teach classes, and often are leaders of your local Pagan community. Some probably own shops, perform ceremonies as Pagan clergy, or work as liaisons between the Pagan community and the non-Pagan world.

One of the reasons it’s so hard to get an accurate count of the current Pagan and Wiccan population is because there are so many people who are simply private about their beliefs. Estimates in the United States alone suggest that there are anywhere from 200,000 to two million Pagans and Wiccans in the country.

As Paganism and Wicca move more towards the mainstream, more and more people are coming out of the broom closet. Some are flamboyant and vocal, others are more discreet and quiet. Most of us, honestly, are somewhere in the middle. Others don’t come out at all, because they’re concerned about the reactions they’ll receive.

Bear in mind also that there’s a huge difference between being private and being deceptive.

Moving Towards the Mainstream

Thirty years ago, coming out as a Pagan or Wiccan was virtually unheard of. The only people who were actually out were Pagan authors — people like Sybil Leek, Ray Buckland, Scott Cunningham, Isaac Bonewits, Starhawk. These were the people who became leaders of the modern Pagan movement, simply because they were the most visible.

During the 1980s, more books became available on Paganism and Wicca, and one of the topics covered nearly universally was the decision to come out or not. In subsequent decades, as the Internet became a resource found in every household and coffee shop, Pagan and Wiccan networking sites became readily available. Earth-based spirituality became open to the masses, and more and more people realized it was okay to come out.

Advantages of Being Out

There are several positive aspects to being out as a Pagan or Wiccan. For starters, it allows you the freedom of not hiding your true self. When you’ve shared who you are with others, it makes it that much easier to be honest and open about other things.

When it comes to controversial issues, Wiccans and Pagans are often at the forefront of writing letters to congress people, marching in parades, and organizing protests. By making your presence as a Pagan known, it allows like-minded people to find you when they need your assistance. Likewise, if you need them, you’ll be able to find them if they’re out.

Finally, there is a sense of liberation that comes with being out. Even if you’re not one of those in-your-face Pagans, and are simply out to friends and family, there’s a freedom born of openness. Once you’re out, you don’t have to worry that other people are going to find out — because you’ve already made it known, on your own terms.

The Downside of Stepping Out
For some people, the idea of coming out as Pagan or Wiccan is terrifying. They may feel that they’ll be persecuted by local fundamentalist groups, or that they will be in danger of losing jobs, children, etc. If this is of concern to you, be sure to read the section on Your Rights as a Pagan.

Some Pagans choose not to come out because of fears related to past history. There is sometimes a concern that outing oneself as Pagan or Wiccan could lead to a repeat of the Burning Times that existed during the Middle Ages.

Another thing to bear in mind is that once you’re out, it’s a one-way street. You can’t suddenly take back that you’re Wiccan or Pagan, because people won’t forget. This is why it’s not a bad idea to come out gradually — rather than waking up one morning and wearing your brand new I’m a Witch, Deal With It! shirt, it may be better to first let family know, then friends, and finally become open with others. Regardless, it’s something you can do at the pace that feels best to you.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the decision to come out is one that takes some thought and possibly some clever planning as well, depending on how you believe you will be received. You may be pleasantly surprised to find support and friendship in places that you didn’t expect it — it’s possible that dear old mom and dad will embrace your newfound spirituality rather than chastising you for it. Talk to people who are out of the broom closet and ask them for advice on how to talk to their families and friends about who they are.

Finally, be sure to never, EVER, out someone else without their permission. It’s a personal choice, and while you’re more than welcome to tell people what you believe — without proselytizing, of course — you’re not welcome to announce that other people are Pagan or Wiccan, unless they are already out.

Religion and spirituality is a private and personal thing, no matter who you are. Coming out of the broom closet is a choice that only you can make for yourself. It’s something that you can choose to do when the time is right for you — or not.

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Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility

Author: Crick 

As more and more folks rediscover their Pagan roots, they run into an emotional, spiritual and mental paradox called individuality. This concept for so many, lends itself to a heretofore unrealized sense of intellectual, spiritual and personal responsibility. No longer is there the option of blaming ones actions on an ethereal entity such as the Devil or Satan or what have you.

While one was a member of one of the organized religions, this was an accepted and in many instances an encouraged cop out. However this self-abasement and pleading for mercy from a distant God is not a tenet of Paganism.

This is in fact one of the tenets that tends to separate a spiritual path from a formal religion.

As a Pagan, one is expected, and indeed should seek, to become involved in a deeper sense of personal responsibility. Seeking out the mysteries, and thus the spiritual lessons of life, become our primary goal within this realm. And this goal is not something that can be handed off to someone else. For each of us is indeed, responsible for our own growth. As Pagans we are each expected to strive for the highest spiritual level that we can attain.

This is not to say that such a sense of responsibility is to be taken for granted. Saying that “I am a Pagan therefore I am a responsible person” just does not fly. Sincere and devoted Pagans do not hang pentacles around their necks and simply pay lip service.

One has to actually work at and continue to adjust one’s thoughts and actions in order to achieve this personal goal.

This is in part what the lessons of life are all about: the ability to face the obstacles that are placed before us — and to act or react accordingly in a way that is spiritually acceptable — is our ultimate challenge as Pagans.

As Neo-Pagans, we have entered into a special world that is very exciting and full of rewarding experiences. We are availed the opportunity to rediscover and explore the world of our ancestors.

Prior to the onset of organized religion, such acts as working with energy, healing with herbs, walking amongst spirits to name a few, were common place events. And the mindset that goes with such responsibility was inherent in such nature-connected folks.

But alas, over the ages we have become somewhat disconnected with our world and all that She offers. We have to make a concerted and conscious effort to regain the values and respect for such gifts that we once took for granted.

If we are to walk the path of Paganism, then we have to make a honest decision to clear off the layers of dust and apathy that have settled upon our souls and seek out the truths that will lead us to spiritual growth.

In general, becoming one with our chosen Deity is a goal that many Pagans choose as their personal goal.

Fortunately Deity has allotted us many tools in order to achieve this level of spiritual responsibility and fulfillment.

We are blessed with an inner voice, which opens up many options when faced with a challenge. Some folks call this their conscious; others may call it Shaitan or even Coyote (the Trickster). There are of course many other names for this particular phenomenon.

But the point being made here is that this is not something that is intended to lead us down a negative or evil path. Rather it is a way of testing our choices in life. As every Pagan should realize, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to personal spiritual responsibility. We are unique individuals with many different beliefs and/or approaches to the great mysteries of life.

How we respond to challenges is dependent on our personal experiences and the lessons encountered up to any given point in time. There are no masters in this journey of the soul; rather we are all students of life. And continue to be so until it is our turn to pass through the veil. Once we do pass through the silvery veil and the book of Akashic records is opened, there is no one to answer for the pages of your life but yourself.

It is a wise person that keeps in mind that as we walk the path of Paganism.

Mistakes will be made. It is what we learn from our mistakes and how we proceed from that lesson to the next that will be the mark of our personal growth. These are the defining moments of our personal spiritual responsibility.

There are, of course, many, many other tools available to those who engage the path of Paganism. For instance, when we embark on an astral journey there are many teachers waiting and willing in the cosmic realm. We need but to reach out and make our desires known to them.

We even have the ability to visit the Akashic records in order to review lessons, both past and present. In addition, there are many spiritual entities here on Mother Earth who are patiently waiting for us to find the inner strength to once again be able to see and acknowledge them and who are more then willing to assist us in our journey towards such a personal goal.

Deity has not left us to our own devises but rather has provided us with many opportunities for attaining a sense of personal responsibility for ourselves.

Deity awaits us with open hearts and arms. But it is up to each of us as to how quickly we arrive home to them. And thus become one with them.

So whether you are one who has walked this path for a number of years or are just starting out on the path of Paganism, in whatever form, do so with a deep sense of awareness. And fully embrace the concept of personal responsibility that is a mainstay of this particular and fascinating belief system.

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I’m a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations

I’m a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations

Author: Treasach   

I have commented before on the usefulness of designations in the neopagan community. Though we are generally self-directed with many being solitary and “eclectic”, it is darn helpful to be able to declare certain predispositions, especially if one is interested in working with others. In joining an on-line group or planning a ritual, the use of categories can help determine if a great deal of negotiation, or only a little, is required to make your collaborations most satisfying.

One question often asked is the difference between designations in the neopagan community. Of course, there are a vast variety of answers, and as a very dynamic and vibrant community, these answers may be quite altered in a decade. However, there are some trends that seem to have settled out for the moment…

Earth Religions or Earth-Centred Spirituality is currently the designation for all those traditions that are outside most of the major religions, i.e. Abrahamics, Buddhists, etc., but that also follow an Earth based path. It usually encompasses folk traditions, like European peasant beliefs and practices, as well as native aboriginal spirituality. However, not all followers of those traditions would choose to call themselves pagan, especially if they also practice some form of Abrahamic religion as well. So it’s best to not to assume, which is why Paganism is a subset of Earth Religions.

Paganism, or Neopaganism, is the modern catch-all phrase for many organized and non-organized Earth based religions and spirituality. Often seen as based on European Aboriginal practices and beliefs, it can also be used to describe traditional African, Asian, and North American spirituality, though less so, largely due to its primarily English usage. By declaring oneself “pagan”, it specifically implies resurgence in traditional Earth Based beliefs, sometimes in defiance of Abrahamics, depending on the area, and a reconstruction of traditional wisdom, knowledge, and connection with Nature as a completion of self and humanity. It can be Deity based, supernatural, or atheistic.

Witchcraft is a subset of Paganism. Because of the etymology and use of the word itself, witchcraft usually means pre-Christian folk beliefs of Western and sometimes Eastern Europe. As a modern practice, it has two main elements, either one of which may be included. It is both tribal and a religious choice. For most, it involves the preference of using magic as meditation, prayer, ritual and empowerment. For a smaller group, they are born into families that are known for the “Gift”, “Second Sight”, or the “Eye” if you are less popular… In the past in most places, children born into these families or who showed potential would often have been trained and dedicated to help their communities. A few of these families that survived the Abrahamic purgings retained the gifts and occasionally the training and traditions that went along with them, though most rejected them, usually out of real fear and concern for their safety if they weren’t outright converted.

Like many reClaimed traditions, such as native spirituality, modern witchcraft is a combination of contemporary writings and current analysis of past traditions, as well as past and extant examples of country and folk rituals, and to a much smaller extent, of witch families and their practices. Due to recent advances in cultural archaeology, it is also undergoing the greatest updates and flux. Though most are not from family traditions, modern witches can follow the folk beliefs of the aboriginal Europeans, or practice magic, or both. They can also refer to themselves as witches if they come from a witch family or have the traditional innate abilities, without practising a folk religion or spellcraft. Or any combinations of the above, including practising witchcraft in other traditions, like Abrahamics. (Jewitches. Heh.) It’s a pretty broad category, but my usual test is – anything that can get you burnt as a witch by fundies usually qualifies you to self-identify as a witch. Spellcraft, Goddess worship, foretelling, healing… But not that heretic stuff. That’s totally different.

Due to its heavy reliance on magic and its European structure, Wicca is almost entirely a subset of Witchcraft, though there are a few practitioners who could be considered outside of it, such as high magicians. Wicca is a relatively new tradition, with its origins largely in the middle part of last century, with some of the structure extending back into the Victorian era. Drawing on what was known at the time of folk history and tradition, it is a conglomeration of primarily European beliefs, but also reflects turn of the century Orientalism with elements of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Asian references. Though slow to start, in the last few decades it has had hundreds of writers popularizing it, and has seen an explosion in individual sects. Because of its very modern feel and adaptations while retaining an aura of Romanticism, Wicca is one of the largest and best known segments of Witchcraft and neopaganism, and one of the fastest growing religions in the world.

Wiccans are almost always witches, but witches aren’t always Wiccan. Wiccan is not the ‘politically correct’ term for witch. It’s a sect of witchcraft, like Protestantism is for Christians. They have certain specific beliefs and rituals that identify them as a group. You wouldn’t call all Christians Protestants, would you? (*Hence, the Venn diagram.) I hope that clears things up, especially for the well meaning but less knowledgeable.

Heathenism is a collective category of paganism who follow the Old Religion and who will sometimes consider themselves Wiccan if they practice magic but usually don’t identify as witches at all. Primarily men, they can be of a more structured faith, like Druids, or more folk based, like Odinists. They often identify with warrior culture and value traditional knowledge, self-reliance, personal strength and honour.

This is a very brief sketch, of course, and some in the community will dispute these categories. There are lots of others as well. Wizards, or High Magic practitioners, for example, deal with the Other World and its denizens in a rigid, formalized manner, and so can be from nearly any religion, including Abrahamics. From what our current literature refers to, these are the general starting points and what most persons will intend to convey when they use these terms at the moment. As neopaganism is one of the fastest growing religions on the planet, however, I have little doubt that these terms will alter considerably in the next decade or so.

 

_________________________________________

Footnotes:
*Venn diagram is here:
http://gifts-of-nature.blogspot.ca/2012/10/im-witch-not-wiccan-brief-summary-of.html

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Pride and Paganism in the 21st Century

Pride and Paganism in the 21st Century

Author: Melanie Marquis 

As one of the fastest growing and multi-faceted religions in America, Paganism has lately enjoyed more understanding and awareness from the mainstream community. Today, more Pagans than ever before choose to openly express their beliefs and practices. But what led to these changes?

I talked to many of today’s most notable Witches and Pagans, those who have been legends for decades, and those on the cutting edge of the modern Craft, to find out where the magical community stands today in terms of openness, expression, and public understanding, and to shed some light on how we got here.

“Hiding one’s magickal inclinations can be detrimental, ” says Raven Digitalis, Neopagan Priest, Gothic DJ, and author of Goth Craft (Llewellyn 2007) and Shadow Magick Compendium (Llewellyn Sept. 2008).

“It can be mysterious to a point, and perhaps manageable if someone only dabbles in charmery or kitchen witchery, but for someone who lives the magickal lifestyle, hiding and denying this part of one’s constitution can reinforce ideas of shame and insecurity, which builds up and can become suffocating over time. I have never hidden my beliefs, practices, or lifestyles; I simply see no need to do so unless the self-protective necessity is absolutely dire, which is the case for a handful of individuals.”

Considering that handful used to be a gigantic armload or two, we’ve come a long way.

Gwinevere Rain, college student and author of Llewellyn titles Spellcraft for Teens, Moonbeams and Shooting Stars, and Confessions of a Teenage Witch, is the founder and Editor of Copper Moon, http://www.copper-moon.com, an ezine for Wiccan and Pagan young adults. “I think that my generation and those younger than myself are more open about being Wiccan, ” she says. “I hope that ‘staying in the broom closet’ is a fading custom, but I guess, only time will tell.”

Early Pagan leaders like Circle Sanctuary’s Reverend Selena Fox, who organized one of the U.S.’s first officially recognized Wiccan churches, and spearheaded the ultimately successful effort to get the U.S. military to recognize the Pentacle as a religious symbol that can be used on military graves, have been catalysts in the evolution of modern Paganism, speaking out about their beliefs in a time when doing so entailed a lot more risk and a greater amount of boldness and bravery than it generally does today. They’ve witnessed firsthand how Paganism has transformed over the years, and they offer insight into the forces behind that change.

“Since its revival in the mid-20th century, ” says the Reverend Selena Fox, “Paganism has grown in size, scope, diversity, maturity, and visibility. The quest for equal rights for Pagans in the USA and in some other countries has had many successes through the years due to the combined efforts of those of many traditions.”

Carl “Llewellyn” Weschcke, current Chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, the U.S.’s largest and oldest New Age/Occult/Magick publishing house, has been a major force in educating our communities about Paganism for decades, through the countless books published by his company, and also through his own willingness to be a Pagan in the public eye in the 1960’s and 1970’s, his magical and metaphysical practices and beliefs being the focus of media attention for many years. Commenting on the changes he’s seen regarding the Pagan community, Carl points out that even the word “Pagan” has much different connotations today than it did in the past:

“People may challenge our beliefs, ” he says, “but there is far more respect today for ‘alternative spirituality’ than 50 years ago, and when we use the word ‘Pagan’ today, most people know what we’re talking about. The basic change is that “Pagan” no longer means just ‘non-Christian, ’ or worse, ‘anti-Christian, ’ but is more often recognized as “alternative spirituality.” Paganism shares very little with Indian or Japanese Buddhism, for example, as non-Christian religions. On the other hand, Japanese Shinto does compare comfortably with European and American Paganism.

As a further point, ” he says, “modern Paganism is much more than Celtic spirituality and more and more is inclusive of Nordic, Germanic, Spanish, Italian, Greek, and on to Egyptian and African Spiritism, to Mayan and Afro-Caribbean, and native American traditions. “Paganism” has become a word for Earth-based spirituality – with nurturance of Nature and non-human life, visible and invisible, as key principles. Not all non-Christian religions share that with Paganism.”

“There are obviously several factors at work, ” says Ray Buckland, who is known as The Father of American Wicca due to his enormous role in introducing Witchcraft to the U.S. “Number one is probably the education that people of today have, both in general and specifically regarding paganism. They are more inclined to think for themselves and to take an interest in and express that interest regardless of what others may think or say. With the knowledge of what paganism – and especially Neo-Paganism – is, there is not the fear of being branded as a tool of Satan! There seems to be more of a thirst for knowledge these days, than in earlier generations. All of this, in turn, has led to the openness of mass media to previously occult subjects that, in turn, have led to more seeking and enquiring about what is presented.

“In the past there has always been a general fear about this whole field; that fear due to ignorance as to what was involved. It is by examining and learning all about a subject that such fear is erased. With today’s Internet access, among other things, there is the ability for anyone to research anything. In the “early days” of Neo-Paganism, Wicca, and the like, a few “pioneers” set out to straighten misconceptions and to show what was really believed and practiced. I think that started the ball rolling and today, with computer access so readily available, the ball (of enlightenment) is now traveling at very high speed!”

Brian Ewing, Membership Coordinator of the Pagan Pride Project that organizes large public gatherings, reports that their events are growing in popularity, with tens of thousands participating in activities each year around the world. Like Ray Buckland, he also credits the Internet with helping to facilitate some of that growth. The Pagan Pride Project’s website at http://www.paganpride.org serves as a source of information and a means of communication for people interested in the project.

“The Internet and email lists greatly facilitated the growth of the Project, ” he says. “Being able to connect quickly, despite living in different cities, and finding out about each other’s plans and existing events, helped us band together.

“The Internet also helps us advertise our events more widely, and for less money, than was possible in the past. In this way, we attract more people to our events. I also believe that Pagan events, including our own, are growing rapidly because our religion is now growing rapidly. We reached some kind of critical point, when there was enough practicing Pagans that they wanted to hold larger events where they could practice and worship together.

“Lastly, Pagan Pride events, and probably other events, were partly galvanized by the election of George W. Bush, and the fear that a neo-conservative administration would adversely affect our movement. I remember in 1999 George W. Bush and Congressman Bob Barr were both making some pretty negative comments about Paganism. People responded to that by writing to newspaper opinion sections and starting events such as Pagan Pride Days.”

Thriving and ready to take action, it seems that today’s Pagan community has undergone a lot of positive changes in recent years. Of course, not all the changes are seen as positive.

Flash Silvermoon, creator of The Wise Woman’s Tarot, a matriarchal Tarot deck, describes some of the negative changes she’s seen in the Pagan movement.

“One of the main differences that I see in the changes within and without this movement if you will is the fact that most of the movers and shakers in the early 70’s were powerful women, and most specifically, the Dianic branch of Wicca.

“This rising tide of Women’s Spirituality blended a Goddess centered Spirituality with Feminism, which is really humanism when you get down to it. The Womanspirit Movement swept through the country like wildfire, creating a more fluid and anarchistic style of Goddess Worship than some of the more traditional Wiccans.

“One of the problems that I have seen with the new mixed Pagan groups is that most are not at all really reverent of the Goddess or women. The talk is there but the walk is not, and most of the Pagan fests that I have attended bear the same old world sexist practices of male domination and sexual objectification of women. I realize that this can’t be totally true of all the new pagan groups but it sure seems to predominate. Even the women in some of these groups can tend to be very hierarchical.”

However, the Pagan faiths still generally enjoy a reputation of equality and respect for both sexes. Copper Moon’s Gwinevere Rain explains, “I was first attracted to Wicca because it was very empowering. It showed women being equal to men; additionally, the idea of magick was so appealing to me. The religion represented everything I wanted: to be equal, empowered, and spiritually comforted.”

So where do Wicca and the other branches of Paganism stand today? Have we really moved past a need for secrecy and concealment?

“I have had mail from guys in prisons who are openly allowed to practice their craft, ” says Ly de Angeles, outspoken environmentalist, screenwriter, and Australian author of Tarot Theory and Practice (Llewellyn 2007) and the collaborative work, Pagan Visions of a Sustainable Future (Llewellyn 2008). “I have also had a long connection with another guy who is in the US army, and I am very aware that Wicca (not Witchcraft) is a recognized religion and yet … the open expression of Paganism is still seen as fluff and twaddle by most; a bunch of very evil people by others.”

Gwinevere Rain agrees that negative and false stereotypes still exist. “I hope that the stereotypes about Wiccans and Witches are changing, ” she says. “It used to be that people’s vision of a witch was a green old hag; now that that has subsided, other images are at the forefront of people’s minds. It seems that one of the persistent false stereotypes is of real witches seeking to hurt people by casting hexes and curses.”

Because of such myths, some Pagans are deterred from expressing their beliefs openly. Christopher Penczak, teacher of magick and author of the popular Temple of Witchcraft series published by Llewellyn Worldwide, explains, “I think we are blessed to live in a time and place where more Pagans feel comfortable being out of the broom closet. While it’s important to be grateful for great strides we have taken in the recent decades, it’s also important to remember that not all Pagans and Witches have the same freedom, both across the world, and even in more conservative areas of the United States. Thankfully, most of us can live openly if we desire, and I think most pagans who can do so safely, do live an open life.”

When I asked Carl “Llewellyn” Weschcke if he feels that Pagans today are more open about expressing our beliefs, he also pointed out that where we are has a lot to do with it. “The best I can do for a short answer is to presume that today most of us are relatively comfortable in speaking about being Pagan in most selective social environments, ” he explains. “In other words, we can’t be particularly comfortable as Pagans at a Baptist convention, but we are comfortable doing so in our family and familiar social environment.”

The Pagan Pride Project’s Brian Ewing states, “The rapid growth of Pagan events, including Pagan Pride Days and many others, has allowed people to reveal their practices in public. But there are still many Pagans who practice in private, because there are occasional, but very real, instances of discrimination in the workplace or among neighbors.”

Brian reports that their events have been fairly well received by the public. He recounts only one protestor that he’s personally seen, at an event in Los Angeles. The protestor simply held a sign that read “Jesus Saves” on one side, and something about “You’re going to Hell” on the other side.

Raven Digitalis, who likes to host community worship circles in his hometown of Missoula, Missouri, reports that his gatherings have not attracted serious protest. “We are getting quite an outer circle going on! We have even performed some circles in the yard, ” he says.

“Living on a busy street, many cars have witnessed this; the reactions have been varied. Most people in this case simply drive by and look strangely, while others stop their cars to watch. It hasn’t escalated beyond that, luckily, though nearly all of our circles are now held in private places because the ‘public’ energetic exchange should only be reserved for certain times, places, and intentions.”

Tierro, lead guitarist and producer of the international Pagan tribal psychedelic rock band Kan’Nal, recalls an incident where his band encountered “polite” discrimination:

“Kan’Nal was booked to play a high end ‘Captain Planet’ fund raiser in Atlanta last year. The booking agent delicately requested that we not do anything ‘Pagan Like’ on stage in fear of offending the guests. We all laughed as if of course we would behave, but never said we would not… As far as I am concerned, the act of being born is a pagan act; it proves our equality and connection to the animals, plants, and the mysteries of the universe. To breathe is a pagan act, for we breathe together with the trees, fish, birds and bees. To experience joy, love, sorrow and loss is a pagan act, for all these emotions are reflected in the animal and plant kingdoms. So to show up and rock out a Kan’Nal set … well that alone is definitely a pagan act.”

So what is it about our religion that stirs our passions to the point that we want to speak out about it, wave our wands in the face of dissent and proclaim our magical faith to a world that, despite an increase in public awareness of what Paganism truly is, still couldn’t hardly care less? Says Christopher Penczak, “The more witches we have out and open, the more it becomes ‘normal’.”

Raven Digitalis expresses a similar sentiment. “It shatters commonly-held notions for a person to see a ‘Witch’ looking and behaving like a (relatively) ordinary person, ” says Raven. “When people learn about the validity of the modern Craft, it brings a modern and more realistic context to an antiquated stereotype. People see us operating and functioning and being progressive in our own lives, and not choosing to hide ourselves (and not having many adverse responses as a result), which can encourage others to do the same.”

Gwinevere Rain first started writing about Paganism when she was 14 years old, publishing articles in Cauldrons and Broomsticks. “I wanted to show others that young Wiccans can be as serious about religion as adults, ” says Gwinevere. “At the time there were many stereotypes about young practitioners just practicing Wicca to be ‘cool.’ I wanted to help counteract this misconception. For me, it’s worth being open or ‘out of the broom closet’ because Wicca is a part of who I am. I don’t want to hide a significant part of myself.”

Of course, not everyone wants to be open about his or her Pagan faith. Says Gwinevere, “It is important to do what is best for yourself and not succumb to any pressure within the magical community. Just remember that everyone moves at their own pace and you may not be ready to become an outspoken figure of this beautiful religion.”

Christopher Penczak stresses that the individual’s chosen path should be respected: “We should respect our sisters and brothers who wish to be secretive, as the spiritual path is a personal, and sometimes secretive, path. We cannot decide to out someone who wishes to remain private.”

Raven Digitalis emphasizes that the ways we express our beliefs to others should be appropriate for the person we are talking to. Says Raven, “There is always a balance. I believe that people should be communicated and interacted with based on their own levels of understanding. Whereas it might be appropriate to call oneself a ‘Witch’ to someone familiar with magick, it might be better to call oneself a ‘Wiccan’ or ‘Pagan’ or even ‘Earth-honoring Healer’ to someone else, who instead understands the definition of that vocabulary.”

So, what does the future hold for Paganism? How can we publicly express our beliefs in a way that ensures the well-being and growth of our community? “One of the best ways of showing Wiccan/Witch pride is to be a good person, ” says Gwinevere Rain. “Society will catch up with us if we make a collective effort to be kind, healthy, and smart people.”

Ly de Angeles also says that responsible actions are key. Ly explains, “The open expression of Paganism and magical beliefs, in my opinion, needs to be backed with very real and credible behavior, as I have seen way too much hubris and listened to way too much jargon and sheer wankery. I apologize to those who are not that way (and you are many) but the rest really need to look to what you wish to achieve for the greater community of Paganism in the future. Education and knowledge in diverse areas is the key. Acting on that is a way through. I suggest we enter the sciences, politics, the education system, as well as the Green movement.” She also shares a warning: “I am disturbed by the rising tide of radical right-wing fundamentalism, in the USA in particular, and suggest it may be very necessary for openly expressed Pagans to watch their constitutional backs in the future. This is not paranoia but prophecy, darling.”

The Wise Woman’s Tarot creator Flash Silvermoon comments that respect for women is integral. “To my thinking, ” she says, ”one earns their position through study, dedication and commitment, and if one truly loves and worships the Goddess, then women must be more empowered and respected as Her surrogate.”

Raven Digitalis is hopeful about the future of modern Paganism. Says Raven, “I think Neopaganism is becoming more and more personal and personalized every day. As more and more people are drawn to the ways of magick, self-empowerment, and mysticism, personalizing one’s own beliefs and practices will serve to allow the Pagan movement to grow and establish itself with much fuel and dedication behind it.”

The Reverend Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary puts it in a way that resonates throughout the heart of Paganism: “It is important that Pagans of many paths and places continue to find ways to work together in our quest for freedom and in bringing more health and balance to the greater Circle of Nature of which we are all part.”

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The Power of the Individual

The Power of the Individual

Author: Crick   

As I walk into the comfort of the forest a deep sigh of relief escapes my lips. I find solace amongst the towering oak trees, which provides a much-needed break from the din of what passes for a pagan community.

With so many folks coming from the Abrahamic belief systems onto a path that is diametrically opposed to their former comfort zone, the tenets of paganism are becoming ever so blurred.
Many of those who call themselves Neo Pagans banter about words like acceptance, diversity, and individualism and ponder over what constitutes a pagan community. However the intent behind these words carries less weight than the gentle breeze that is now caressing my brow as I walk along a quiet wooded ridge.

For instance, the concept of community is one that has been borrowed from the Abrahamic belief systems and has absolutely no chance of becoming a reality amongst those who walk the pagan path. There are many reasons for this summation.

One of the largest stumbling blocks to community is the neo pagans themselves. True paganism is about individualism and yet there are some neo pagan groups that see their mission in life as being regarded as the ‘Pagan standard’, though they represent no one but themselves. And as their concept of self-importance as a group becomes broader and broader, the concept of individualism gets lost in the mix. And so the one tenet that would validate them as true pagans becomes more of a façade then reality.

Such groups make ridiculous claims that paganism has died out and they are re-creating the concept of paganism. Off in the distance a crow begins to caw, as if laughing at such a foolish declaration. The Deities, which pagans ascribe to, have never left us. It is not up to the Deities to validate Themselves. Rather it is up to humans to empower themselves through the lessons that have always been proffered by Deity.

The universal energy that pagans manifest to enhance their personal workings has been in place long before humankind took its first breath and will be here long after humankind takes its last breath. For such energy is not beholden to the whim of humans, and to claim that it was ‘re-discovered’ is at best a naïve statement.

Such neo pagan groups expend more energy trying to validate their perceived position in Paganism than they do recognizing the power of the individual. It is such hypocrisy that leads to the constant posturing of personal points of view and to “my group is more pagan then your group” attitudes.

But if one embraces individualism, then who cares?

Such groups waste so much energy trying to be validated and accepted by general society and by others who see themselves as pagans that they fail to see the hypocrisy that they are engaging in.

A prime example of this is the word “community”. Such a concept as envisioned by Neo pagans is fine for those of the Abrahamic belief systems for many of these folks, with some slight variations believe in pretty much the same concepts.

But in all reality, it is an oxymoron as far as paganism goes for several reasons.

The most obvious reason is that “community” implies a central leadership of some sort. If pagans are truly individuals, then such a centralized leadership will never work beyond the coven setting. Even within the coven setting, each member is an individual who has come together with other individuals for a common purpose. Leadership is based upon actual experience and wisdom, not self-declaring oneself as a leader as is often the case in neo-pagan groups.

Another observation is that far too often are the times I have seen a respected Elder from one group or area being ripped to shreds by members of another group who are just an hour or so away. Such a realistic and yet deplorable setting will forever doom such a divergent concept as community in regards to paganism.

But not all is lost as far as paganism if only folks are willing to put forth the effort.

Instead of mimicking the Abrahamic religious concepts — which by the way are fine for those folks that such an approach works for — why not strive to create a pagan society?

The difference between ‘community’ and ‘society’ as I see it is quite clear.

Instead of a central leadership as one would expect to find in a community, under a mystical society the average mindset would have to be adjusted to accepting that there are numerous divergent pagan paths, each with its own form of leadership and representatives (Elders) .

Of course, this would knock the legs out from under the elitist groups who claim to “be the one” or who see themselves as representing all pagan paths (not a very realistic assumption really) , but then if one is going to be a pagan and mouth the words diversity, acceptance and individualism, then actually embracing such concepts should be the norm rather then the exception as it is today in modern paganism.

But it doesn’t stop there.

For a pagan society to become a reality, those who would make up the membership of such a society have a responsibility as well. Such folks, whether they are solitaire, or belong to a gathering such as a coven, teaching group, what have you, must re-learn how to be actual individuals.

With so many coming from the Abrahamic belief systems, there is a tendency to keep the same ingrained habits as before. As a member of one of the Abrahamic belief systems, one is discouraged from being an individual, which is another tenet that is diametrically opposed to the tenets of paganism and yet is one that is often over-looked by modern pagans. Within such beliefs, folks are told when to stand, when to kneel, when to sing, and when to put their funds into the collection plate.

And granted, some of the Neo pagan groups follow the same pattern in their approach to paganism, but then again, old habits are hard to break and are in fact selling themselves short as far as the experiences that the mystical path holds for them.

But again, we each choose our own cup of tea.

In order to learn how to become an individual, one must be willing to tackle the lesson of the ego, for this is a major stumbling block to the creation of a true pagan “society”. How many self-described pagans I wonder actually take the time to look deep within one‘s self?

As individuals we bring a unique source of energy and power to the table as a whole. Each person has latent abilities that are just waiting to have the eons of detritus dusted off so that one can begin to grow spiritually again. We have become a community of followers and as such, these latent abilities have become buried in the layers of disuse.

Could you just imagine how creative and thriving a mystical society would be if each of its members re-learned such abilities and talents and then united in a loose way with others of such abilities?

With the albatross of ego out of the way, there would be room for common respect and thus a natural environment for learning and true spiritual growth, as paganism was meant to be and not as it is dictated today by this group or that who by their own actions have yet to learn these lessons and thus are more of a hindrance then a help.

The last hurdle that I want to touch upon is the misguided belief that paganism died out and was re-created. There are some groups out there who emphasize that we must practice paganism as it was done by our ancestors. This is yet another myth that creates a barrier to a mystical society. Paganism is about life and how it affects ones surroundings. It is about being tuned into those changes as they occur. Paganism is an ever-changing concept that reflects the current situation in the world.

The Egyptians did not practice as the Incas did, The Romans did not practice as the Celts did. Each society was affected in different ways by their environment and style of living.

Folks today do not build pyramids or ride chariots, therefore there are separate and “individual” needs as far as paganism of today goes. This myth that one must practice as those of 3, 000 years ago did, may serve the groups that engage in such a misguided belief, but it does little if anything in advancing real paganism amongst folks.

Also, in spite of such a common misconception, there are many societies today who have never left their pagan lifestyles as such. There are the Eskimos, members of the Yoruba, Bushmen of Australia, tribes in parts of Africa and South America, Shamans of Siberia and the Native Americans and so forth who have always held on and continue to practice their traditions without all of the hoopla that some Neo pagan groups seek for themselves as far as attention and exposure.

I see such groups as trying to create an elitist persona based upon their inability to control their egos. Such attempts serve as a stepping-stone for those new to paganism but not much more as far as any real substance when it comes to the introduction of a pagan society. For the society and many wonderful teachers are already in place by the folks mentioned above.

Neo pagans just need to realize this and move past the hype put out by those who want to just sell books or stroke their egos. Once the neo pagan part of paganism finds the maturity to move past such hurdles one will find that paganism is a wonderful world of exploration indeed. But it will take the power of the individual to move such a concept forward.

Are you a pagan individual?

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