Posts Tagged With: Paganism

Pagan Style

Pagan Style

Author: Chasmodai

What is “Pagan style?” Does such a thing exist? I was pondering this question recently when reconsidering my own personal habits of style. What influences my own personal style? Why should major chain stores and fashion designers – who probably do not share my religion and values – dictate what I should wear?

I was shopping at a store, and saw a woman whom I swore must be Pagan. She was tall, athletic, walking with an easy grace, in flat leather sandals and comfortable flowing clothing, astrological symbols tattooed on both shoulders. She looked like a Goddess. I wondered, “Can a person spot another Pagan by their dress and style?”

When I broached this subject on an online discussion list, there were some objections. It seems that Paganism is so highly individualistic that many of us resist anything that resembles pigeonholing. Or perhaps we resent the stereotypes that imply we are too strange or different from other “normal” people. (Who says Pagans aren’t normal?) For many of us, the words “Pagan style” can conjure up stereotypical images of hippies, gypsies, vampires, cartoon Witches and the Renaissance period. But like all stereotypes, this is not representative of the whole picture. I’m not saying that all Pagans wear gothic clothing, large pentacles, or witchy black cloaks, nor should they.

How does religion influence attire? Not just vestments, or what we wear in ritual or to worship, but how does religion affects our style of dress on a daily basis?

For example, the LDS have “garments,” and there is a movement among some Christian women and girls to dress modestly. Recently I heard about a fashion show featuring modest prom dresses for young ladies. There is an entire industry for women and girls who choose modest clothing. Head coverings are sometimes required for women, not just Muslim women but some Christian women too. Jewish men can wear a yarmulke to show their respect for God. Orthodox Jewish men will wear a prayer belt. And everyone is familiar with the traditional dress of the Amish and Mennonite people, which is still worn today. The Landover Baptist Church offers an amusing spoof article about proper Christian attire.

Without a doctrine like the Bible to tell us what to wear, one might think that Pagans don’t have a specific style of dress at all, apart from the occasional “Never Again the Burning Times” T-shirt. But there are many factors that can influence how a person dresses on a daily basis.

When debating the existence of Pagan style, consider the evidence. Anyone who has subscribed to Pagan magazines has seen a certain style of dress worn by the people on the covers. If you saw the 1997 film “Drawing Down the Moon,” you may have noticed the “witchy” heroine’s signature uniform of broomstick skirts. Anyone who has ever attended a large Pagan festival may have noticed certain trends in clothing. And if you’ve seen mail-order catalogs that offers Pagan wares, you may have noticed the popularity of T-shirts with fairies silk-screened on the front, and flowing dresses with pentacles woven into the design.

I do think that personal style can be expressive of lifestyle, religion, values, world view, ideals, and beliefs. One could say that for many people, Paganism can be a lifestyle, a religion, a system of values, ideals and beliefs, AND a world view. And people who congregate together can have some influence on each other, including dress. People may choose to dress to emulate those whom they respect, such as their community and religious leaders. Style can be comfortable and practical, too. Standing out in the cold at Yule will definitely have an impact on footwear.

Often I hear Pagans talk about living their beliefs and values every day, not just at ritual. What better way to do this than by expressing these beliefs and values in our choices of clothing and style? I have a personal friend who is an accountant. She often comes to ritual straight from work. Although the suits she wears are appropriate to her vocation, the accessories she chooses say much about who she is – the earrings in the shape of miniature tribal masks, the patterns like those found in nature, the colorful scarves.

Some Pagans share the characteristic of wishing to be more connected to earth and to nature. So natural fabrics may be preferred, and a Pagan might prefer to wear colors that reflect the seasons, or maybe colors that correspond with the observations of their faith.

I don’t think it’s practical to wear period clothing every day, but some Pagans might feel comfortable in clothing that is at least inspired by a period and culture that they feel represents their path. Have you ever noticed how a dancer might sometimes embellish his or her daily dress with dance clothing and accessories, or styles influenced by dance?

As for me, dressing to express my beliefs and values needn’t have the same effect as tattooing a pentacle on my forehead. I could dress in ways that honor my respect for the elements, for indigenous cultures, for my personal sense of the sacred, and a non-Pagan, who doesn’t recognize the symbolism and correspondences, needn’t be any the wiser.

Pagan style can also be expressed in how we decorate and arrange our homes. How many people do you know have arranged their homes according to feng shui, or used colors to favor the elementals? I’m not just talking about the altar in the corner of the room, or the framed poster on the wall – if Paganism is important to our identities, it could influence the materials and colors we choose for furniture, flooring, draperies and paint.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if there does exist Pagan style and fashion, that it is as varied and diverse as we are. It probably varies by region and changes over time. As the years unfold, I’m looking forward to watching as it evolves. Perhaps my floor length hooded black velour cloak is passé – what’s next on the Pagan fashion horizon?

So – do your beliefs influence your style? And if so, how?

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Self-Teaching: The Inner Requirements

Self-Teaching: The Inner Requirements

Author: scriibe

One principal difference between Paganism and other belief systems is the amount of individual effort involved. These are not “one size fits all” religions where all that is required is weekly attendance in a place of worship and the repetition of memorized lines. Pagans are perpetual students constantly exploring, experimenting, and experiencing; their spirituality a continual process of discovery and renewal.

Pagans often own more books than most people. Not just books on Paganism and occult matters (although there will probably be plenty of these), but a good general selection dealing with such diverse topics as history, science, the arts, and self-improvement. We realize the value of these tools and how seemingly offbeat topics can benefit us.

A cookbook might not seem of much spiritual benefit. But even without taking into account the practical alchemy that is cooking, it does offer insights into our nature. Why does one recipe strike us as bland while another immediately captures our interest? Why does a recipe we whipped together get praise while one we slaved over is only complemented out of politeness?

We also see the value in reading the sacred texts of mainstream religions. It should not surprise anyone that many Pagans are better-versed in the Bible than many Christians. Most of us began as a part of a Christian faith, and an early step toward Paganism is that we’ve seen both the beauty and the ugliness present in the Bible.

I can remember being 12 or 13 and getting a Bible for Christmas. I read it…well…religiously. The Gospels still made a lot of sense. The Epistles less so. Then I came to a part in the Old Testament where God smote an entire city, simply because the citizens were of the wrong religion. I was deeply troubled by this show of inhumanity. This led to my taking a more scientific look at the Bible; realizing it was the work of men, and subject to the conditions present at the time it was written.

Pagans, like artists, allow their minds to explore life’s many possibilities to a greater extent than most people. We can imagine ourselves in situations that would make many people uncomfortable. This allows us a better understanding of ourselves; both the good and the bad; and if we are honest with ourselves, shows us how to improve on our shortcomings.

The upshot to all this is that Paganism is not for everyone. Those afraid of introspection or seeing themselves as less than perfect are probably better off avoiding any religion outside the mainstream. People who dislike study or don’t believe they still have much to learn really are not cut out to be Pagans.

The “what-if” game can be a valuable tool for those seeking to better understand themselves. Take a situation from a movie, television, or written fiction, and imagine yourself in that situation. For example, imagine yourself with an occupation you find distasteful. Would you look for the earliest opportunity to quit? Would you be torn between your ideals and your salary? Or would you adjust, perhaps even learning to enjoy the job?

Another useful situation is to imagine yourself attracted to someone very different in one or more ways than what you’d consider your “ideal mate”- perhaps a different ethnicity, age, occupation, or even gender. Consider how you’d react to this situation.

Then try writing out how you’d see yourself reacting to these situations. You might imagine yourself answering a friend’s questions regarding the matter. This will help focus your concentration and strengthen your writing.

Life can be a wonderful laboratory for those willing to experiment. A couple of years ago, I was walking through the hair color section of a local pharmacy. I saw a box labeled “plum” and wondered how I’d look with my hair that color. Now I’m a short male, 47 at the time, with long graying hair – definitely not in the product’s target market. Yet my curiosity got the better of me, and for the next few months, I was a short, 47-year-old male with long plum-colored hair. All in all it was a very nice and educational experience (and while I haven’t colored my hair since, it is something I would consider doing in the future).

There are other such temporary changes one can make as a way of experimenting, including wearing clothing different from what you normally wear (at least in the privacy of your own home), altering your daily routine (perhaps making it either more or less structured to make it more balanced), and taking up a new area of interest or study. Being Pagan does not mean looking or acting in a specific way. The natural world is a colorful, vibrant place, and it seems fitting that as a belief-system more in-tune with nature, we should reflect that.

Finally we need to experience the magic that exists in the world. This requires being more open to nature. It is too easy to close off ones senses when traveling from place to place – particularly in this age where traveling on ones two feet requires expensive running shoes and an iPod to be socially acceptable.

Yet the lessons are there in nature; in the sting of a cold January breeze, the scent of April rain, and the sound of birds singing just before sunrise. This may seem more difficult for one living in an urban or suburban area. Yet all it really takes is greater use of ones imagination. As I walk down the street, I can imagine it 100 years ago, where milk and coal were delivered by horse-drawn cart. I can imagine it 200 years ago where settlers were building their log cabins and the howl of wolves could be heard in the distance. I can feel my existence at this place as part of a continuum that reaches back through the centuries.

Being your own teacher means learning from nature; that is the natural world, human nature, and your own nature. And it means being open and flexible. There are many books on the topic of Paganism (some of them quite good), that will teach the rituals and traditions. A teacher can help guide one along, the student benefiting from the teacher’s experience. Ultimately though, these will only point the student in the right direction; the qualities that truly make one Pagan come from within.

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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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The Pagan Newbie

The Pagan Newbie

Author: Crick

We often hear of someone who considers themselves a ‘newbie’ on the path of the mystical arts, or of others referring to someone as a ‘newbie’. But is either of these descriptions really accurate?

The concepts of paganism and the parameters that define such concepts have always been since the first human took breath and more likely even before the advent of humans. There are some who will say that paganism and thus by association the mystical arts, died out and is just now being re-discovered. But is this really an accurate observation? Or is it really our perception and thus sense of awareness that is new?

How many times as a child did you have an “imaginary friend”? Was this friend really imaginary or was it just that the mind of that child had not yet been brainwashed to deny such a sense of awareness? Was the perception of that child such that they could see/sense otherworldly beings? How many times as a child has one seen faeries?

And yet as adults such sightings have become a desire that is in many cases difficult to achieve.

Why?

Did the faeries cease to appear? Were they, as some would have us think, simply figments of our imagination? Or are such invectives towards the imagination really just subtle denials of that which really does exist but which certain folks feel more comfortable denying the existence of?

Within paganism, imagination, which is visualization by another name, is a necessary tenet or tool of paganism and by association, the mystical arts. And who but a child has such a powerful and unfettered tool as that of imagination/visualization?

And so instead of viewing paganism/mystical arts as some re-discovered form of belief, perhaps it’s simply that our realization and thus acceptance of what has always been is really what is now coming into play. And if this is the case, is anyone really a newbie to paganism/mystical arts?

Could it be that those who now choose paganism/mystical arts are basically just shedding the denial that has been implanted from an early age? When we walk through the woods and a deer silently walks by without one noticing it, is the deer non-existent or is it just our sense of awareness that is the reality here?

When we go fishing we cannot see the fish beneath the surface of the water but we cast our lines in anyway. Do the fish hidden in the depths not exist because we cannot espy them, or do we cast our lines into the murky waters because we know that there is something there even if we cannot physically see it?

Or do we decide that what one cannot see, one cannot acknowledge and thus we move on without bothering to cast our lines in at all.

Paganism/mystical arts are akin to this analogy in many ways. Every person on earth is involved in paganism/mystical arts their entire lives and has always been. For it is such tenets of reality that have immersed us from the very beginning of time as we know it. It is our sense of awareness of this reality that determines whether we once again step onto the path of paganism/mystical arts.

Saint Augustine once said; “Unless you believe, you will not understand”. And so though there are some who will deny the existence of paganism/mystical arts this does not preclude a reality that is ever present and ever evolving. It simply highlights a sense of denial of a profound awareness. And as this denial is pierced and recognition of reality and the higher truths that accompany it are brought into the scope of one’s awareness, that person re-emerges onto the pagan path that in all reality they were always on.

And so in essence, no one is a “newbie” as such in regards to paganism/mystical paths. And so such descriptions as “newbie” should be seen not as an introduction by one to paganism/mystical arts, or as it is in some cases as a diatribe used to elevate one’s own sense of personal status, but rather as a re-awakening of one’s awareness of such a reality.

In my own “personal opinion” such a term as “newbie” should be a cause of celebration much like the birth of a newborn child. For when one opens their awareness beyond the layers of denial that have accumulated over the course of one’s life, that person has emerged from the depths of denial and is once again swimming freely in the waters of self discovery and personal growth.

Is this not a cause for great celebration and adulation by those who willingly walk the pagan/spiritual path?

If we are determined to utilize the word “newbie”, then perhaps we should consider changing the implications of such a word from the current understanding. For in essence, we are all “newbie’s” as we seek to walk the mystical path. For each time we encounter a mystery of life and arrive at an answer that works for our individual lives, we open the door to yet another mystery or experience. Is this not the essence of what it means to be a pagan?

It is this constant seeking that for me at least, defines the difference between being a subservient member of a religion and being a seeker on a spiritual path. The latter has set parameters of which subscribers are expected to follow blindly without question. And of which one is discouraged from questioning even when such questions beg an answer.

As a seeker on the mystical path, one has un-fettered liberties to form and then to seek the answers to the questions of spirituality that we all face, whether as a member of a religion or as a seeker on the spiritual path.

And so if I have to take on the label of “newbie” in order to experience such freedom of the heart, mind and soul, then I personally will wear such a label with humble pride. For as a newbie, I look forward to the rest of my life as being involved in a state of discovery and learning.

If being a newbie equates to being a pagan, I have found my calling, have you?

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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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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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