The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch
As Paganism slowly but surely emerges out of the grip of suppression brought on by what is now commonly referred to as organized religions. We may want to be aware of several pitfalls and realities as we once again step into the light of day.
First of all, the top three organized religions are themselves fairly new in the grand scheme of history. Prior to their appearance on the world stage, basically everyone in the world followed some type of pagan belief, which was for the most part an individual spiritual belief and not an organized religion per se. Such beliefs were influenced by ones personal environment and the immediate world around them. There was an interpersonal awareness that helped to shape one’s values and thus their corresponding beliefs. In today’s artificial world we no longer have such a mainstay or influence to guide us.
The current “accepted” beliefs being touted by the main three organized religions and the suppression of former popular beliefs did not occur as a natural effect of events in human history.
It was and continues to be a planned and concerted action, which began in one instance with the advent of the apologists and has continued on through the ages by acts of repression, fear and some very clever propaganda. These deliberate actions have been supplemented by the tactics of politicians who are overtly biased in favor of the institutions of organized religion.
After all, power begets power.
As such we should be aware that the basic tenet of these man made religious organizations is to hold onto such power at all costs. We as a community would like to think that we are accepting of all religious beliefs and spiritual paths, as we should be.
But we should not be so naïve as to think that just because we are so accepting that organized religions will welcome us back with open arms from the isolation of an exile that they themselves imposed upon those of pagan beliefs.
In all reality they (organized religions) would very much like to see paganism fade away as just another passing fad. An example of this is the gathering in Rome in the summer of 2007 of the Roman Catholic Church of which the primary topic was “how to draw folks away from Devil worship (allegedly paganism) and back into the grasp of the one true church”.
Granted there are some individuals within organized religion who are realistic and enlightened enough to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe as they do. And thus are willing to work with members of alternate beliefs such as paganism.
However the harsh reality is that these folks generally belong to one of the very aggressive religious organizations whose leaders do not endorse such openness. And as such we are being accepted only in isolated situations and only at the very grass roots of these religious institutions.
Acceptance of the fact that the oldest religious/spiritual beliefs in the world were not obliterated and are making a re-emergence is going to take some considerable time, effort and patience.
We will re-emerge into the light of day one enlightened heart and soul at a time. To believe otherwise is in my personal opinion, both foolish and self-defeating.
Another pitfall we should be wary of is manipulation by the organized religions. They have by virtue of their position in the world today, proven to be very adept at such tactics.
And quite obviously (to some of us anyway) they are employing these tried and proven techniques to the very community that they would like to once again vanquish back into the throes of exile.
What is this manipulation you may ask?
Over the recent years, a crumb will fall off of the table of organized religion and a pagan will be ‘allowed” to sit at the same table as these folks. Each time it has been a Wiccan who is chosen to take such a seat and in each case the chosen Wiccan will proclaim themselves as representative of the whole pagan community. And then folks in the pagan community will swoon like young schoolgirls and say, “oh what a great thing this is for the community”.
In my personal opinion, such proclamations fall right into the hands of those of the organized religions who are sponsoring such meetings.
I have serious reservations about such an approach and reaction for several down to earth reasons.
First of all, realistically we as a community are dealing with folks who are well schooled in such manipulation. It is quite apparent that if you can’t outright obliterate what you object to then you find a way to control it.
For example Brighid the Goddess did not become a Christian saint by happenstance. It was an act of sage manipulation by an organized religion. Hence we have the old adage of, “keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer”.
And so with all due respect to those of the Wicca, I personally have to wonder why organized religion seems to only choose members of Wicca, which is by all accounts barely a generation old and thus but a babe in the world of paganism as the ones who are proffered a seat with these folks.
Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here, I think that it is great that a pagan of any path gets the crumb that is offered, to a certain extent.
But then this brings me to my next concern.
One of the primary tenets of paganism is diversity. And if we are to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy then perhaps those Wicca who are chosen to be seated with organized religions should state responsibly, that in fact they represent but a small portion of the pagan community.
Again, with all due respect to those of the path of Wicca, not only would this be a realistic statement but it would also leave the door open to those of other pagan beliefs. And as such would be a confirmation of the pagan community’s stated belief in the tenet of diversity.
Paganism is after all an acronym or umbrella for many “diverse” beliefs. And no one path can honestly state that they alone represent the many different beliefs that align themselves under the banner of paganism.
In all reality, and yet once again with all due respect, as an Irish witch who also engages the path of shamanism, Wicca does not remotely represent my personal path. Nor does it accurately reflect the beliefs of those who are Asatru, Voudon, Santerian, Odinist, Yoruba, Shamanic, witch and so forth.
If we as a community are going to endorse diversity as one of our founding tenets then we need to surpass the temptations of ego and thus avoid the snare that is being put into place by those religious organizations that have shown such skill in manipulation.
Those who are tapped should show some responsibility and use their opportunities to ensure that organized religion is aware that we are in fact a diverse community and do not fit into one spiritual/religious shoe fits all.
By the same token, we as a community need to overcome our petty ego driven differences and be willing to proffer folks from various pagan beliefs as representatives of our community. Granted this will take a measure of maturity that has for the most part been lacking in our community.
But I personally believe that if we are true to ourselves and our community that we can indeed find the inner strength to exhibit such maturity as a community to express ourselves in such a manner.
The final concern that I would like to express in this treatise is this.
Why do we buy into the perception that organized religion has of us?
Realistically, it is “their” perception and should not be the view that we as pagans hold of ourselves.
Why do we as a community get all flustered and swoon whenever organized religion allows us a seat?
They are in all reality the newcomers to the world stage of religious/spiritual beliefs.
Paganism is in fact the oldest such beliefs in existence, period!
When one of us is invited to their table it should be with the approach that they (organized religions) should be honored to have a member of such an ancient belief seated at their table.
We need to stop playing into their blatant manipulation and express ourselves with aplomb and dignity and not as eager children grateful for a brief moment of attention.
I personally believe that this is why they (organized religions) only invite the Wicca (who are the babes of pagan society) into their midst. In this manner they can point and say “but they have only been around since 1952” and so the manipulation continues and unadulterated attempts at control continues.
In closing I would like to make it clear that I am not casting about disparaging thoughts against those of the Wicca or any other members of organized religions and/or other pagan paths.
My words are simply a reflection of the realities that we as pagans did not create but which we have to live with. How cognizant we are and how we approach such issues as a community in regards to organized religions will determine whether we remain in the daylight or whether we once again resume our existence in the darkness of religious/spiritual exile.
If you don’t want to think of these issues in regards to yourself then maybe you should consider the religious/spiritual freedoms (true freedoms) of your children and your children’s children.
For in all reality, such manipulation and control did not occur over one generation nor is it likely to ebb within just one generation. Freedom of religious/spiritual beliefs is an ongoing struggle against those who would have it otherwise.
I think the last 2000 years or so has made that quite clear…