Posts Tagged With: Paganism

The Three Centers of Paganism

The Three Centers of Paganism

Author: John Halstead

I have found a useful tool for thinking about the Pagan community. Most attempts to describe contemporary Paganism use lists of beliefs or practices. Some of these lists attempt to be comprehensive, while others do not. One problem with these lists is that they inevitably focus on those elements that the person making the list wants to emphasize. Consequently, large portions of the Pagan community are excluded.

Another common way of understanding the Pagan community is as a metaphorical umbrella. The problem with this metaphor is that the image of an umbrella suggests a single center. And what the “center” represents is a matter of perspective, usually the perspective of the person drawing the umbrella.

Instead of a single circle with a single center, I would describe the Pagan community as three overlapping circles. Each circle has a different center, a different focus that transcends the individual. The three circles of the contemporary Pagan community are: earth, Self, and deity.

Earth-centered Paganism

Earth-centered Paganism includes those Paganisms concerned primarily with religious ecology, “deep green religion”, animism, and what is sometimes euphemistically called “dirt worship”. For earth-centered Pagans, their relationship to the earth is what defines their Paganism, and connecting to the “more-than-human” natural world is what characterizes their spiritual practice. A sense of wonder or awe often characterizes the religious experience of earth-centered Pagans. Of course, there are those whose spirituality may be described in these terms, but who do not identify with the Pagan community, including some earth-centered Christians.

Self-centric Paganism

“Self-centric” is used here, not in pejorative sense of ego-centrism, and for that reason I have capitalized the word “Self”. “Self” here means that larger sense of “self” which transcends the ego and even the individual. It is sometimes called the “Big Self” or “Deep Self”. Self-centric Paganism includes many forms of Neo-Wicca, Jungian Neo-Paganism, feminist witchcraft, and more ceremonial or esoteric forms of Paganism. The goal of Self-centric Pagan practice is personal development, spiritually and/or psychologically, through connecting with the Deep Self. This may be described in terms of psychological wholeness or ecstatic union with a divine “Oneness”. Again, there are those whose spirituality may be described in these terms, but who do not identify with the Pagan community, including many New Age practitioners and ceremonial magicians.

Deity-centered Paganism

“Deity-centered” is a term which I adopted from Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone’s book, Progressive Witchcraft. Deity-centered Paganism includes many forms of polytheistic worship, some reconstructionist or revivalist forms of Paganism, including those that are closer to Heathenry, and those that borrow techniques from African-diasporic religions. Deity-centered Pagans identify primarily in terms of their dedication to one or more deities. The goal of deity-centered Pagan practice is to develop a relationship with those deities. A sense of passionate devotion is what most characterizes the religious experience of deity-centered Pagans. As with the other two categories mentioned above, there are many people whose spirituality might be called “deity-centered”, but who do not identify as Pagan. They would include some contemporary polytheists who have rejected the Pagan label, many traditional or indigenous (small-p) “pagan” religions, bhakti Hindus, and many Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheists as well, including but not limited to evangelical Christians and Catholic devotee’s of Mary.

Drawing Boundaries

Because contemporary Paganism is so diverse, the more inclusive ways of describing Paganism tend to group individual Pagans together with others with whom they share little commonality. This is one reason why there is so much conflict over the definition of “Pagan”. Individuals respond to this by either opting-out and rejecting the Pagan label, or by attempting to define the term in a way that excludes those they are uncomfortable with.

One advantage of the “three centers” approach is that it recognizes both the similarities and the differences among contemporary Pagans. On the one hand, individual Pagans can identify with one or two of the centers, without having to identify with all three centers. On the other hand, the three centers approach also recognizes the overlap between these groups. For example, some feminist Goddess worshippers might overlap with both earth-centered and Self-centric Paganisms. Likewise, some forms of animism might overlap with both earth-centered and deity-centered Paganisms.

“Three Centers” Correspondences

The three centers described above correspond to three chapters in Graham Harvey’s book, What Pagans Believe, which describes Pagan practices in these terms: “Celebrating Nature”, “Working Magic”, and “Honoring Deities”.

In addition, the three centers correspond roughly to three different Classical “paganisms” described by 19th century classicists and philologists: (1) the local cults of the country folk (which corresponds to earth-centric Paganism) (2) the mystery cults (which correspond to Self-centric Paganism) , and (3) the poets and the city state cults (which corresponds to deity-centric Paganism) . Often contemporary Pagans will focus on one of these groups of ancient Pagans when invoking antiquity in support of their claim to the term “Pagan”.

Finally, the three centers correspond to three different reactions to Christianity. Earth-centered Pagans reject the “other-worldly” focus of Christian eschatology and the dualistic separation of matter and spirit, as well as its anthropocentrism. Self-centric Pagans, challenge the Christian condemnation of the body, sex, and the feminine, and seek to reclaim these. And deity-centered Pagans, reject monotheism and all it implies.

Community: A Fourth Center?

In contrast to Paganism, Heathenry tends to be community-centered. In recent years there has been greater interaction between the Pagan and Heathen communities, which grew up alongside each other, but held different values. As the two communities begin to blend somewhat, a fourth center of Paganism may be discerned. Community-centered Pagans define their Pagan identity by belonging to the group, which calls itself “Pagan”. Pagan authenticity is defined in terms of conformity to communal norms and participation in group rituals. For community-centered Pagans, the community is that which transcends the individual. The relationship between community-centered Pagans and the community is ideally characterized by mutual fidelity. Like earth-centered Pagans, what community-centered Pagans get out of the relationship is a sense of belonging to something greater than themselves.

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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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Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality

Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality

Author: Cu Mhorrigan

Introduction:

Paganism has received a lot of attention in recent years with the increased use of the internet, television shows like Charmed, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel and movies like The Craft, Harry Potter, as well as cartoons like Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch.

Nowadays, it has become fashionable to announce oneself to be a Pagan, or Neo-Pagan, Wiccan or Witch – especially for teenagers, wishing to attract attention, adults trying to follow the latest fad in spirituality, or just as an excuse to justify weird or aberrant behavior.

However, calling yourself a Pagan is one thing; actually following the spiritual path is something else. It is my hope with this ‘class’ that I might explain in practical terms what it actually means to be a Pagan in our modern age and to assist those who wish to implement the following of this spiritual path.

Definition of the word “Pagan”:

The Word Pagan is derived from the Latin word ‘paganus’, which is loosely translated to mean “of the country”. It should be noted however that the usage of ‘paganus’ within the Roman Empire (Where they spoke Latin. Duh!) was always meant to be a slur meaning “hillbilly, redneck, hick, trailer trash, or white trash”. Much in the same way we would talk about guests on the Jerry Springer Show.

Later, when the Christian faith took over the Roman Empire under Charlemagne, it was used to describe those outside of the Christian faith and those in need of conversion. Not an improvement, because paganus was still pretty much of an insult.

Turning a negative into a positive:

It wasn’t until recently that the term ‘Pagan’ gained a more positive use with the resurgence of Pagan beliefs within the European and American Cultures. Those who sought spirituality closer to that of their “ancestors” adopted it. Eventually, it came to mean ‘those who follow the Old religions’ or ‘those who follow a spiritual path outside of the big three Abrahamic religions’. (What are the big Three Abrahamic religions?)

What DO Pagans Believe?:

An it harm none Do as thou wilt.

Speaking in general terms, Paganism is an earth-centered spirituality, which believes in the sacredness of all things, equality of all persons regardless of gender, sexual, and spiritual and social practices. The practices within Paganism are extremely diverse and open-ended allowing individuals to incorporate whatever rituals and belief systems they feel comfortable with.

Since there is so much diversity within our spiritual path, we stress personal liberty, and responsibility for one’s own actions. That as long as a person does not cause physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual harm to others or himself, he/she is free to pursue one’s physical, mental and spiritual development as he/she sees fit.

Which brings me to my next point: Pagans, in general, do not proselytize! That means you aren’t going to get a call from us at three o’clock in the morning asking us if you are going to ritual or not. There is no High Priestess going around smacking people over the head if they haven’t worked on their Book of Shadows or if they bought the wrong candle for a personal ritual. Aint gonna happen.

Why? We are assuming that if you are here, you want to be here. We’ll give you information, let you know your options, and the rest is up to you. We aren’t going to stand on a street corner and scream at folks for not worshipping Athena nor at women/men who chose not to go around sky clad (That’s ‘nekkid’ for those of us who are really new to this).

The Law of Return (or sowing and reaping):

There are no true “sins” within our spiritual practices. There are only things that cause harm (or, as I like to call them, “Stupid Ideas”) and things that are helpful (Or as I like to call them, “Good Ideas”).

When you do good things, good things tend to happen to you (Eventually). When you do bad things, bad things tend to happen to you (Eventually). Of course, since we do not live in a static environment, and people tend to interact with one another, sometimes things get a little ‘fa-kakhed’. However, the Universe always balances Itself out in the end.

This concept is called, karma and it’s a relatively complicated matter, which I have here boiled down to its lowest common denominator. Of course, there are differing views of Karma, one of which is the Three-Fold Law What you do comes back three-fold, or three times, back at you. (If you are not sure as to whether an act will have some kind of repercussion, ask yourself, how much would I really like this done to me?)

(The self-defense caveat: Like all “Laws”, there are loopholes. If someone else is out to cause you harm in some way it would be a really STUPID (Bad Karma) idea not to protect yourself, or your family, or your friends. However, make sure you have as many facts as possible (like the guy is holding a knife and threatens to cut you up) before beating the oneness of all things back into these individuals.

Pantheons, Divinities, Spirits, Energies:

Okay this is where it gets a little tricky, but stay with me. The most common (and extremely annoying) question we as Pagans get is, “Don’t you folks worship Satan?” (Everyone roll his or her eyes here.)

The answer to that is a resounding, “NO!” For the most part, you need to keep in mind that Paganism is a separate religion from Christianity. Hence Satan (Whom I call, the Christian God of Evil and Nastiness) is not a part of our pantheon. Sorry…

For the most part (depending on the tradition you follow) the Pagan concept of Divinity falls under one of the following expressions:

Duo-Theism: (Duo=Two or Dual, Theos=Divinities):

The Worship of a Co-Equal God and Goddess, each having unlimited power, compassion, wisdom, energy or what-have-you, but maintaining different roles and functions.

The God is aggressive, powerful, sexual adventurous, skillful. He handles the Male side of fertility.

The Goddess is nurturing, passionate, creative, sensual and artistic. She oversees the power of creating life through birth and the Female side of fertility.

This belief is widely held by the Wiccans and Wicca-like factions of Paganism.

Poly Theism: (Poly=Many, Theos=Divinities) The belief in multiple Gods and Goddesses.

Many folks see these Gods as extensions of the God and Goddess (i.e. Monism) with each one taking on different aspects at the time of their encounter with the worshipper. Others (like myself) believe that They are actually separate entities with Their own personalities, quirks and motives.

Not every god or goddess is a real people person nor does every god and goddess have a laid back attitude. If you are going to get involved with a particular deity, you had better make sure you do a LOT of research as to what they like, don’t like, and if a particular god or goddess is right for you. Otherwise your life will get extremely interesting in a bad way.

The third school of though in polytheism is the idea of the gods and goddesses being archetypes within a person’s own psyche. This is sort of like a piece of our own subconscious wrapped up in a costume and a mask in order to teach our conscious minds lessons they need.

Of course, there is more than those three Schools of thought, but I’m just giving the basics here.

Pantheism:

Simply put, this is the idea that the Divine is in everything; hence all things are a part of the energy we call god. Since all things are a part of god, all things are sacred and are expressions of the divine in some way, shape or form. When I worship a tree, I am worshipping the Divine; when I give food to a hungry stray, I am feeding the Divine; when I am hurting someone, I am hurting the Divine.

Then there is the Fourth Category:

I-have-no-Friggin-Clue-ism:

For the beginner, this is the best spiritual idea I can suggest. The idea is essentially, “I have no friggin’ clue if there is a Divinity or not, therefore unless I am shown otherwise, I will not say that the Gods are this way or that. I will respect the Power behind the name, but I will not pledge myself to him/her/it unless I have an absolutely good reason to.”

This is actually one of the safest belief systems to take as a new student of the Pagan path because you are open enough to receive enlightenment, but at the same time, you do not run the risk of making a total, complete ass out of yourself. The Gods will instruct you as They see fit.

Now of course, Pagans will usually incorporate not only one, but perhaps two or three of the ideas listed above. This usually comes from personal experience and cannot be learned any other way.
Keep in mind that it’s okay to shift from one idea to another or even to incorporate two or more of these ideas…it’s all good. Just find out what works best for you.

So How the Hades do I Become a Pagan? (Or stupid questions that are commonly asked)

Well, for the most part, it’s a matter of doing a lot of reading and a lot of self-exploration. It took me at least two years of studying online and reading books and attending classes to even consider myself a Pagan. A lot of the traditions under the banner of Paganism will have different views on training and initiation (think of it as baptism), and how one becomes a member of that tradition.

The best way is to start out attending Pagan gatherings, visiting bookstores and such, and talk to other Pagans. Eventually, you will either find a religious path that works for you or you will throw your arms up in dismay and run screaming back to your religion of birth. And there is nothing wrong with that. NOT AT ALL! We realize that the Pagan spiritual path is not for everyone, and we will not be offended. Just make sure you don’t tell people we sacrificed your cat and you’ll be cool with us.

Do I Need to Buy Special Clothes and Dress in Black?

The answer is: Only if you really want to. Yes, there are special robes some folks wear, but unless your coven says otherwise, you can pretty much wear what you want.

Just some basic suggestions: Wear something comfortable and wear something you won’t mind getting dirty. Most of our rituals take place outdoors and, while you may look really good in an Armani suit and Gucci shoes, there is a good chance your clothes will get messed up and your shoes scuffed.

Loose, light clothes in summer and spring is always a good idea, and warmer clothes in the fall are really smart. Most winter rituals will be held indoors, depending on the weather. If it makes you comfortable to wear black Witch clothes and pointed hats and cloaks… Knock yourself out…You’ll be getting lots of stares and odd looks (mostly from us), but all-in-all, if it makes you comfortable, then that is all that matters.

Do I Need to Buy Special Jewelry?

Again, only if you want to and if you enjoy it. Jewelry is a personal matter to the people who wear it. And it’s usually best to find a piece that says, “HEY! I LIKE YOU. WEAR ME AROUND YOUR NECK!” Otherwise, No special jewelry is required to be a Pagan.

Do I Need to Kill Something (like a kitten) and Drink its Blood?

No, you don’t have to kill an animal to be a Pagan. For the most part, we are animal friendly and don’t believe in killing a critter in order to work our rituals. Yes, there are some Pagan groups that practice animal sacrifice and it is left alone…but fear not, the only thing usually killed has already been slaughtered and put on the feasting table in a sacred bucket marked, KFC.

Do I Need to Become a Vegetarian?

Nope, being a vegetarian is a matter of personal preference and what you feel in your heart. While many of us are vegetarians, a lot of us aren’t. It may be a good idea to eat a little healthier, but no one is going to come down on you for eating meat or using meat-based products. However, you might want to do your own research and come up with your own choices.

So, What DO I Need to Do?

Excellent question. One, as I suggested before, do a lot of research, a lot of reading and, when in doubt, do more research. A lot of Pagans keep what is called a “Book of shadows”, which is just a fancy name for a Journal. Write down everything you learn in that book and when you get a chance, read it. If you see a cool article on the net, feel free to print it (for your personal use only, please).

To create a book of shadows, I would suggest buying a loose-leaf binder and fill it half-way with paper. It’s also a good idea to invest in a three hole punch. That way, you can put articles that you printed from the net and use them for later reference. Do not worry about using blood and special things to “make it official”. It is your study guide — your book — and so, make sure you personalize it to suit your needs.

When you feel you are ready, and you have found a religious tradition you feel comfy with, take that Book of Shadows and attend any class you can afford. A lot of places have very reasonable rates for their classes. The Learning Annex is one source, but so is your local Pagan bookstore. Just make sure you talk to the person running the store to make sure he knows what he/she is talking about. If you are not entirely comfortable in studying there, consider looking for another teacher. Remember, this is about YOUR spiritual growth and enrichment and you need to be in an environment conducive to YOUR learning.

Holidays, and Rituals:

There are eight major Holy Days during the Pagan year that a lot of us agree upon. There are also rituals that are held on the New Moon and the Full moon depending on how often your coven (A group of Pagans you worship with) meets.

The Eight Major Holidays are listed in the order they fall on:
Imbolc (February)
Spring Equinox (March 21)
Beltaine (May 1)
Summer Solstice (Litha) (June 21)
Lughnassadh or Lamas (August)
Autumn Equinox (Mabon) (September 21)
Samhain or Halloween (October 31 to Nov 1)
Winter Solstice (Yule) (December 21)

Each Holy Day represents a certain mythological event in our religion, which will be discussed by the High Priest (ess) in advance.

It’s usually a good idea to find out what you would need to bring so that you can best participate in the ritual.

Now most likely you are going to have a hard time pronouncing the names of the days when you first start out, so don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions; it’s the only way you are going to learn.

Tools For Rituals:

Energy: This is the most important, and since I am assuming people know Jack about Paganism, I’m going to make this explanation brief: When we perform rituals and cast spells, we are attempting to gather energy. This energy comes from the universe and ourselves. Depending on what we are trying to do, we use certain rituals, and tools. Think of it this way: It’s like gathering up a whole bunch of snow together. We eventually gather enough to make a snowball and then we pack it in and send it off to impact your friend. It’s basically the same thing. When we perform these rites, they help our minds to focus on gathering this energy and tell it what we want done. Energy is the most important part of any ritual, and without it, we are just looking stupid.

Cauldron: This is basically a black, three-legged pot to be used for burning incense and for other things. They range from tiny to huge and can be used to burn incense, burn paper, and make potions. Now cauldrons tend to be rather expensive, so if you are a bit “Price Sensitive” like me, find yourself one of those old fashioned iron pots that Mom uses to make rice. Make sure you clean it before and after use. If you have one of these in your own home and have had it for a long time, you are pretty much used to it and it is used to you. So, you really don’t have to “charge” it with energy.

Athemae: Essentially, this is a knife or a really small sword. This is used to direct energy raised up during rituals. THESE ARE NOT USED TO CUT PEOPLE (of any species). It can be used for cutting vegetables. Most traditions prefer a double sided blade, small enough to conceal. (You would be amazed how many cops will stop you for carrying a broad sword.) If you’re unable to get an athamae, it’s totally cool to make yourself a wand or use your index finger to direct energy.

Wands/Rods: Okay, these are wooden or crystal sticks also used to direct energy as well as to draw it to yourself. Wands tend to be no longer than your arm, while rods can be longer. Best way to get a rod is to go out on little walks in the park and look for a stick. Once you find a stick you like and that screams out for you to take it, take it home, and sand it and decorate it until you are totally comfortable with it. Viola! You have a wand or rod. If you have as much mechanical aptitude as a slug, ask around your local occult bookstores. Keep in mind they are going to be slightly expensive and you will have to charge it once you get it home.

Candles: Candles are used in rituals to help get your mind into the practice of Magic (No, I am not spelling magic with a K or a J…I’m keeping this as simple as possible. If you want to use the funky spellings in your own notebooks, knock yourself out. You’re not being graded here). Candles are lit in order to help get the mind into a state where it’s easier to put the patterns in for the energy to flow. I would strongly suggest getting candles of all colors and sizes and as many as you can afford. (Usually one of each color.) You can pick them up anywhere.

Incense: Like candles, incense helps the mind get energy together to cast spells. It’s a good idea to make your own incense or to purchase them from a botanica, or occult bookstore. Incense sticks may be colored, but it’s usually a good idea to purchase them based on their smells. Pungent or spicy incense is normally used to send stuff away. (Mainly because they are offensive.) Sweet incense is used to bring stuff to you. Earthy smells help to facilitate healing and to strengthen you.

Divination tools: Things like Tarot Cards, Runes and what not. These are mainly used to help you to make decisions or to gain some kind of insight as to what is going on around you. Keep in mind, these items themselves are not magical in and of themselves, but are based on your own intuition interpreting what you are seeing.

Books, books and more books: Like I said earlier, it is suggested you read religiously. It’s best to keep a library of things you have read or are about to read. Don’t just pick books only by one author, but of different ones. Some people may know a lot about what they are talking about; others are complete and utter horse feces. However, the only way you are going to find out is if you look for yourself and keep your Book of Shadows nearby while you read. If something sounds like nonsense, or if you aren’t sure about whether or not what is true within a book, do some research. It sounds like a lot of work, but this is your spirituality we are talking about here.

It is a good idea to question everything and find out if there is an agreement between the authors you have read. Another thing to keep in mind is that some folks are completely full of fluff and bluster while others deliberately water stuff down to keep from divulging too much about their path. And some are completely straightforward about the things they are writing about.

One of the best ways to learn about an author is find out when they are going to be doing a book signing near you. Get to meet them (Most book signings are free and most will give a short lecture about their book just to whet your appetite for it.) Some of the most intense learning experiences I gained were in attending some of these lectures; it’s also a great way to actually see the person who is writing.

Use your intuition…and don’t be shy about picking their brains. That is what they are there for. In fact, I would suggest doing the same thing at the store where you get your tools and books. It helps you learn a lot faster; especially when you ask Stupid questions. Yes you will get looks. Yes, you will even get the occasional shake of the head, But if you don’t ask, you wont know. It’s worth it.

Suggested Things to do:

Check out different groups that meet in your area. You can do this by attending open (public) circles or classes. Use them as a way to meet other Pagans and eventually find a group that you feel comfortable studying with. If you are Solitary Pagan, it helps to “meet and greet” other Pagans.

Look around for Pagan shops, botanicas and other places where you can get supplies. Most botanicas are devoted to Santeria or Voudu, but you can get some really good equipment at cheap prices.

Check out the local library, as well as the bookstore for things you can read about your particular pantheon.

Ask a lot of questions. Even stupid ones. It’s one of the chief tenets of Paganism to question everything you come across. If you get an answer that sounds like horsesh*t, then verify, verify, verify.

Things Not To Do:

Don’t panic; this seems like a lot of information, but it really isn’t. This is just the primer for your own research.

Don’t sweat if you cannot find a teacher right away, Nine times out of ten, they usually show up when you are ready to learn more about a particular aspect of your tradition.

Don’t start off calling yourself a High Something of a particular tradition. Most systems within Paganism have their own methods of teaching and credentials for clergy and what not. No faking!

Don’t be afraid of getting criticized; it’s going to happen. Learn to grow a thick skin, and if someone points something out to you, listen and check out your own motives and conscience. If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, then don’t.

Don’t take everything at face value…Learn how to question what you hear and not be a total jerk about it.

Don’t try and convert people, It rarely works just put out information let people know where you stand and end it there.

Recommended Websites:

http://www.witchvox.com “The Witches’ Voice” — It’s a great place to start since they have information about everything.

http://pantheon.org — A great place to learn about the Gods of your chosen pantheon. It doesn’t have all the information, but enough for you to get your feet wet and do some research.

Yahoo.com — They have a plethora of Pagan groups and places where you can talk to people of different walks of life. It’s also a great way to meet Pagans in your area.

Google and other search engines — Another great website with links to thousands of Pagan websites.

Recommended Books:

The Truth about Witchcraft Today: Scott Cunningham
Urban Primitive: Tannin Silverstein and Raven Kaldera
The Book of Shamanic Healing: Kristin Madden
The Celestine Prophecy: James Redfield (Yes, it’s a novel but it helps to get an idea about energy-work and how energy can be gathered and stolen.)
The Wiccan Warrior: Kerr Cucuhain
Witchcraft Theory and Practice: Ly de Angeles
When I see the Wild God: Ly de Angeles
Drawing Down the Moon: Margot Adler (of NPR)
The Spiral Dance: Starhawk
Buckland’s Complete Witches Handbook: Raymond Buckland

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Footnotes:
Listed in the article..

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Let’s Talk Witch – The Role of Prayer in Paganism


Egyptian Comments & Graphics

The Role of Prayer in Paganism

 

Call of the Ancients
Our ancestors prayed to their gods, long ago. Their pleas and offerings are documented in the hieroglyphs that adorn the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, in the carvings and inscriptions left for us to read by the philosophers and teachers of ancient Greece and Rome. Later on, as Christianity moved in and replaced many of the old Pagan cultures, Irish monks wrote down stories, illuminating their manuscripts with vivid and colorful artwork. Information about man’s need to connect with the Divine comes to us from China, India, and all over the globe.
Some prayers survive to the present day because they have lived on not in written documentation but in the oral traditions of the area — via folktales, songs, legends, etc. Although we don’t know how much of the existing wording is really “ancient” and how much was added through the ages, the message remains essentially the same. A prayer is our way of saying to the gods, “I can’t do this alone, and I could sure use some help.”
Offerings and Altars
In many Pagan traditions, both modern and ancient, it is customary to make an offering to a divine being. An offering is simply a gift, and it is given not as a trade-off (“Yo, here’s some pretty sparkly stuff, so now can you please grant my wishes?”) but as a way of showing honor and respect, no matter what the answers to your prayers may ultimately be. In some forms of Wicca, the offering of time and dedication is as important as an offering of tangible items.
Many times offerings are left on an altar or shrine to the gods, and this is common in many faiths. How many times have you driven past a Catholic church and seen flowers or candles left in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary?
So What’s the Point, Really?
Some people may argue that prayer is a waste of time — after all, if the gods are so divine, don’t they already know what we need and want? Why should we have to go to the trouble of asking?
If you’re married, there have probably been times where you’ve gotten frustrated with your spouse, because they didn’t know what you wanted. You didn’t TELL them what you wanted, because after all, as your spouse who loves you, they should just KNOW, right?
Well, not necessarily. Eventually, you probably talked to your significant other, found out he or she had NO idea you were annoyed at him because he didn’t want to go with you to that romantic comedy you’ve been looking forward to for months. Then you forgave him because once the lines of communication were opened up, it turned out that your honey doesn’t hate Drew Barrymore after all, he just wanted to go see something with guns and explosions instead.
The gods are the same way (no, they don’t hate Drew Barrymore either). They don’t always know what we want — and sometimes, what they think we want and what WE think we want are two completely different things.
That’s why it’s up to you to make it known. If you want divine intervention, you should ask. If you don’t, the answer will ALWAYS be “no”.
Prayers vs. Spells
A prayer is a request. It’s where you go directly to the Universe, the Goddess, Allah, Yahweh, Herne, Apollo, or whoever you may be hoping will help out, and you ask them point blank, “Please help me with _______________.”
A spell, on the other hand, is a command. It’s the redirection of energy, causing a change, to conform with your will. While you may ask a god or goddess for a little extra mojo in your spellwork, it’s not always necessary. In a spell, the power comes from within the caster. In a prayer, the power comes from the gods.
Who Should I Pray To, Anyway?
You can pray to anyone you like. You can pray to a god, a goddess, or the Grand High Poobah of the Toaster Oven. Pray to whoever — or whatever — is most likely to take an interest in your dilemma. If you’re working on protection of your home, for example, you may wish to call upon Vesta or Brighid, both guardians of the hearth. If you’re about to enter into a nasty conflict, perhaps Mars, the god of war, would be willing to step in for a bit of fun.
Some people pray simply to spirits — spirits of the earth, of the sky, of the sea, etc.
In addition to praying to gods or spirits, some Pagans and Wiccans pray to their ancestors, and that’s perfectly acceptable too. You may see your ancestors as a specific individual (dear Uncle Bob who died in Vietnam, or your great great great grandpa who settled the frontier, etc.) or you may see them as archetypes. Either way, go with what works best for your tradition.
Putting it All Together
Ultimately, prayer is a very personal thing. You can do it out loud or silently, in a church or backyard or forest or at a kitchen table. Pray when you need to, and say what you wish to say. Chances are good that someone is listening.
Source:
By Patti Wigington, Paganism/Wicca Expert
Article Found On & Owned by About.com

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What is Magick?

What is Magick?

Author: Silverwolf

I was having a discussion with a friend about Magick, with or without the extra K, and describing what I believe to be the correct definition. Now many people have different ideas, both within Paganism and without, of what magic or magick is. It usually runs the gamut somewhere from illusion and sleight-of-hand to the control of cosmic forces and the channeling of the divine. To define magick as used by the mainstream of Paganism, however, I thought it would be worth going back to the source for a view. That would be the person who first defined Magick, with the K, and that, of course, is good old Aleister Crowley.

Now Aleister is an interesting study to say the least. He contributed much to the study of many branches of Paganism. Gardner, for example, drew heavily on Crowley’s work when he created Wicca, and of course there is Crowley’s own branch of Paganism. On the other hand, Crowley is hardly the poster child for why your son or daughter should become Pagan. He was, for example, kicked out of Italy for “behavior that would have made a Roman Emperor blush”. I forget where I read that quote, but it’s a great one. Given the decadence of the Empire in its glory, making a Roman Emperor blush would have been a neat trick to say the least. Nevertheless, Crowley, himself drawing on many sources that came before him, left us a rich legacy especially concerning magick.

So what does Crowley say about magick? In his book “Magick In Theory and Practice” he begins with an introduction describing magick, why he chose that spelling, and what it means. He added the k, of course, to differentiate his version of magick from stage magic. This is not such a bad thing, and while the spelling may seem a bit silly today, like faux old English, the distinction is important. It might have been better if he had simply coined a new word altogether, but he didn’t.

Crowley begins the introduction to his book with quotes from a number of sources including Pythagoras, “The Golden Bough” by J.D. Frazer, St. Paul, etc. so we see that he, too, drew from many classical sources when creating his work. Magick, as defined by Crowley, is “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.” This is a famous definition and, since Crowley himself created the term
magick (with a K) , we can certainly say that his definition is the correct definition.

What is particularly interesting is that the definition does not say anything about divine forces, spiritual intervention, or occult phenomenon. All it really describes is a cause and effect relationship, initiated by the practitioner.

If I want to make something happen, and I will it to happen, then it will happen, but this can be something as simple making breakfast for myself. Crowley even uses example such as publishing a book, or mixing chemicals, as examples of magick. He postulates that “Any required change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of force in the proper manner through which the proper medium to the proper object.”

There is a great example of this in the movie “Bedazzled”. Liz Hurley is the Devil, and Brendan Fraser asks her to prove it by granting a wish. He wishes for a burger and fries. So she takes him on a bus, drives to McDonalds, she orders the meal, and even asks him to pay for it. He complains that she didn’t use magic (k) and she points out that he didn’t specify how she was supposed to obtain the food, so she did it the easiest way.

This is huge! Crowley further states quite simply that “every intentional act is a magickal act.” We have become so wrapped up in viewing magick as something belonging to the hocus pocus realm that we forget what it is really all about. It is about controlling our world. It is about molding the world to our desires. This application of will may be to control our own selves. We may wish to lose weight, stop drinking, and get more exercise. No hocus pocus here – this is about well-understood cause and effect. Not that these are easy, far from it in most cases, and they do require a strong application of will. We can further argue that if we cannot exercise some level of control over ourselves, we are certainly not ready to exercise control over cosmic forces. Magick begins within.

O.k., so far this doesn’t sound all that interesting, does it? Work hard and you will achieve something. Not particularly revolutionary. But there is an important lesson here. This is where the classical attraction to magic starts to lose out. Everyone would like to be able to learn a few simply phrases and wave a wand and have the universe dance for us. It is so simply – just learn the right spell to say!

But magick doesn’t work like that. There are no free passes or shortcuts.

It begins with our will, and our will alone. Without being able to control and exercise our own will, we can not move on to controlling the truly cosmic forces that are available to us. For some this is an easier task, for others it is a very hard path to follow.

Crowley then goes on to describe how we each have a true nature and a true place in the universe. If we act in accordance with our true nature, the universe will assist us. If we act against our true nature, the universe will block our progress. He further expands the definition of magick by saying “Magick is the science of understanding oneself and one’s conditions. It is the art of applying that understanding in action”.

So what makes this a book about “magick” and not merely a self-help book? Crowley essentially relies on science as the tool for helping us to impose our will. The key difference, however, is that he also allows for forces far beyond our current understanding. Today we understand electricity, which, a few hundred years ago, was considered magic (thunderbolts of the Gods, for example) . What we call magic or witchcraft today may well simply be taping into scientific principles of the universe that we just do not understand yet. Here we add access to forces beyond our understanding to impose our will. Call them what you will: divine, supernatural, spiritual, whatever.

So yes, we do cover magic, or witchcraft, in this as well but only as one end of a spectrum. The beauty of Crowley’s magick is that it covers a whole spectrum of forces at our disposal. We use our will directly to make changes in ourselves. We use our will and employ the tools of science to make changes. We use our will and employ the tools of witchcraft to make changes. To improve our health, we might use our will to exercise more. To travel from Boston to New York we might use our will and the tools of internal combustion in the car we drive.

Crowley also goes on to define and defend discovering and acting on your true nature, and we see here the beginning of a defense for his outrageous actions. Let’s not forget that Crowley said “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” This differs quite dramatically from the Wiccan Rede that adds in the responsibility to not harm others. This strays from our discussion of magick, however, so we’ll leave that alone for now.

On the other hand, true nature is important for the use of forces at our disposal. We do not hammer nails with a screwdriver, which would be ignoring its true nature. This reminds me of the old joke about the man who repeatedly asks God to let him win the lottery. Finally God speaks to him and says, “Help me out here – at least buy a lottery ticket!” We do need to be aware of what forces, tools, or even spells are correct and whether we are trying to violate the true nature of the universe. It is easy to make a dog bark. It is difficult to make a cat bark.

So if we can boil this all down to a sound bite, Crowley said that you, and you alone, make things happen for you. And making them happen is performing magick. Everyone has a true nature that they must discover and be true to, or you will never be effective (or happy!) . You have a range or tools available to you to carry out your will: some are well understood (self-change, science) , some are not (witchcraft) , but they are all part of our toolbox for changing the world.

What I find particularly appealing to this definition of magick is that it complete removes from the table any argument about whether magick works. Of course it does, no question. I can change myself if I exercise the proper will. I can change my environment by using the forces of the universe at my disposal.

Now we can always get into a discussion about the exact scope of forces available to us and argue if we wish about any of them that are not well understood (like witchcraft) , but that in no way invalidates the concept of magick. You do not, strictly speaking, have to believe in witchcraft to believe in magick. You should be at least open to the possibility of things you don’t know and forces that are currently not well understood. But magick, with a K, cuts right to the heart of our lives.

We each have the power to control our world, but it all begins with the control and application of our own will. No one is going to do it for us – we need to make it happen. We can make it happen. We will make it happen.

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The Rede

The Rede

Author: Ginger Strivelli

The “Rede” is a fine document, a good starting point for a ‘code’ of conduct, a great and rare uniting part of Paganism, as it is being followed, taught, learned and believed in by Pagans from various traditions all over the Planet… when so many of the practices, believes, Gods, and such parts of Pagan Religion vary too widely from group to group. Alas, what the “Rede” is not is “the Pagan Ten Commandments.” It is often view as, held up as, and thought of, as such a ‘carved-in-stone’ ancient holy text… it just isn’t.

It is not even an ancient text, but a very modern one… often credited to Doreen Valiente or more likely to Lady Gwen Thompson, or Lady Gwen’s Grandmother, Adriana Porter, but in any case it is certainly less than 100 years or so old. Yet it is given the reference and ‘weight’ of an ancient document that was unearthed from under the Sphinx, or Stonehenge… .or copied down from a cave wall written in some dead language of our ancestors. It is in fact, like so much of ‘modern Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism’, modern, and based on teachings and believes of certain individuals, not on the religious principles of say, the Ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Cherokee, Aztecs, Hawaiians, or Celts, or any of the original Pagans. They would not recognize it, nor certainly understand their modern peers adhering to it as if it was the dictate of one of the Gods’ Themselves.

In this it has no more ‘power’ than any lovely poem by any of a dozen or more popular Pagan authors of the last century, or any of the (hopefully) countless ones that will come this century. It is simply a poem, and a ‘code’ written by some modern Witches for their particular covens use… somehow it morphed into “the Laws” of ALL Witches. I still meet people who think it is taken from some ancient monument, or sacred text. It amazes me how the poem seems to have taken on a mythic life of its own in its very few years.

Now, That bit of history being said, I think the Rede itself is a nice sentiment… Not my personal code of ethics, I prefer the older, truly ancient, and truly magical code of “karma.” But The Rede is not a bad code, better than no code, for sure. But it does have a couple of flaws. Firstly, most people can only recall the ‘short version, ‘ the “and ye harm none do as ye will” part. Alas, this is pretty vague, and pretty permissive for a ‘code of conduct’… I as a mother, can’t imagine telling my kids… Hey, y’all go do whatever you want to, as long as you don’t actually hurt anyone.” It totally overlooks right and wrong, morals, discipline, and manners. A lot of bad behaviors that really don’t hurt anyone are in fact unlawful, immoral or both. One can’t in good conscience go about doing whatever they personally wish, just as long as they spill no blood. It is irresponsible, shortsighted, and reckless, not to mention rather selfish. One’s personal code of conduct, whatever it is for each person, should go a bit further, I think.

Even the long version (which varies somewhat depending on where you get it, whom you ask, and such, ) is less than complete in its rules, it still leaves basically all behavior up to each individual with only their own beliefs of what is best for the world, as their guide. Sad to say, but the truth is, few people can see past their own nose when it comes to right and wrong. A lot of people would think it was ‘right’ to shoot someone they disliked, or fire someone for being a certain religion, or race, or harass someone if ‘they deserved it.’ Many people often think they know what’s best for others… saying they would make someone leave their husband, or quit their job, or seek treatment for an illness, all because ‘it is what they really need.’ The truth is, we as humans have great shortcomings when it comes to telling what is best for ourselves, much less best for others, or the world as a whole. Yet to a great degree the ‘Rede’ that so many Witches, Wiccans, and other Pagan traditions follow, gives us little guidance in the area of judging right from wrong, it tells us precious little in the way of how to behave, and centers mostly on ‘free-will.’ Free will, is of course a good thing… we are not Christian sheep to be herded about by thousands of ‘thou shall not’s” but we are not all-powerful, all-knowing Gods, to be given free reign, over the universe, either.

In some versions of the Rede, a lot of religious dogma, is at least included, in the absence of a true ‘code of conduct.’ It tells us things to do and when, magically. It tells of circles, moon sign, and what trees to use for what sorts of magic workings, and mentions the eight holidays…. all useful information, and a good place to put it, as so many study little of “Paganism” but that one document before declaring themselves, to be “Pagan/Witch/Wiccan/Druid/Shaman/etc.” But alas, there are often differing opinions, on which trees to use for fertility… the Apple tree may indeed be used often, but the Hawaiians, used others, obviously. A tree used for healing in ancient Asia might have been used for other causes in ancient Africa. There is no hard and fast ‘right’ way to work magic, from which direction to start casting one’s circle, from which direction to spin, when the moon is waning… no certain tree that is ALWAYS used for one certain potion. Magical practice varies greatly. So even the useful magical information in some of the Rede’s longer versions can be rather confusing, if one happens to be of a different tradition, than the writers of the Rede were. There are in fact several “Rede’s”, some more useful in both information, and behavior management, than the others. But in all cases they lack the ancient and divine power that the mythical “Rede” is often wrongly assumed to carry.

The Rede is a piece of poetry written by modern Pagans, for their personal use, not a carved in stone, edict from the GODS, to be followed by ALL Pagans, ALL the time, and certainly not the ONLY rules one should follow in their personal behavior, unless they want to be very willful, selfish, and self-centered people. It is a sad truth that this document has been held up as ‘our official code’ of conduct. It reflects badly on us, within our own communities of traditions, and certainly without, in the greater community, when others look upon this document and think we are so willful and unrestrained in our selfishness. Nonetheless, it is a good thing that so many Pagans turn to this one document as a source as it at least gives our varied masses some sort of uniting point.

Alas, the Rede is a small step towards a real ‘code of conduct.’ It is more like a lovely poem, with a theme of behaving appropriately, it certainly does not go far enough to tell us how to do that, it only suggests we should try, and then gives us such a inflammatory… do as ye will, permission slip. We should all try to follow our own code of conduct. If some want to base theirs on the Rede, I hope at least they try expand on the Rede’s simplex prescription for moral behavior and do more than just ‘not harm, ‘ but instead go forth and do good, temper free-will with some morals and avoid all evil.

For further reading;

Various Versions of the “Rede.” http://pagan.drak.net/sheathomas/alternate.html

Some interesting articles on the Rede and war, and other Pagan codes; the 9 noble virtues of the Norse, Karma, and such more ancient ‘laws.’ http://paganwiccan.about.com/library/weekly/aa091801a.htm

Another interesting take on the Rede http://www.starkindler.org/dianis/realrede.html

Ginger Strivelli

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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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