Will Paganism Survive Beyond Us? We Must Pay It Forward.
Author: Beth Owl’s Daughter
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. – Pericles
Throughout my life, I have been a passionate spiritual seeker. In fact, I might have been born with an extra “God gene.” When I was school age, I would have given almost anything to be able to answer what I felt was my calling – to be an ordained minister. But at that time, such a thing did not exist for girls in the Episcopal Church (my childhood religion) .
After years of exploring many religions and paths to the Divine, (and having no inkling that there were actual living, practicing Druids!) , I declared that I was a “Shamanic Druidic pantheist mystic with Hindu and Buddhist overtones.” And that was pretty much that. Or so it seemed.
As the years passed, however, I gradually discovered that there were thousands, maybe millions, of others on a similar path. And happily, they had a much easier name to call themselves (and, I might note, one that is far easier to fill in, in the small space allotted on medical forms) .
We are “Pagans.” It’s a broad term, so, as I am using it here, it includes Wiccans, Heathens, Witches, Druids, Goddess worshipers, Hellenic devotees, Kemetic practitioners, and so on.
But there are some real challenges that we face as Pagans (surprise!) . The obvious, dramatic one has to do with the many ignorant people who consider us to be evil, in league with the Devil (their creation, not ours) , or, at best, damned for eternity.
Yet there are other, more irksome issues we face. Ours is a new religion. In some cases, we are trying to reconstruct it from antiquity. Much of our liturgy is founded on creative conjecture, old remnants and historic bits and pieces, and wisdom from a long ago world that is nearly alien to the one in which we now live. By and large, we do not enjoy the unbroken, ever-evolving lineage of most other religious paths.
Of necessity, obviously, we are finding ways to address the life passages and events that spiritual people need to deal with – birth, marriage, disputes, illness, divorce, death and so on. But many Pagan groups find themselves having to make it up as they go along, probably knowing they are often re-inventing the wheel. And for others of us, even if we have created structures of initiation and scholarship within our tradition, recognition, respect and cooperation from the mainstream is still in short supply.
Furthermore, we are extremely lucky if our Circles and Groves have people who are skilled counselors, or inspiring ritualists, or pragmatic, proactive leaders. To grow and mature, and to survive beyond only a generation or two, it seems to me that we are going to need our people to have actual training in such things.
Imagine if we had leaders who had learned pastoral guidance skills specific to Pagan beliefs. What if our scholars and facilitators trained in the history and development of human interaction with the natural world and its ecosystems, directly from an Earth-based spirituality point of view?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had our own institutions of higher learning that could train our Priests, Priestesses, Bards, and Leaders to competently, creatively facilitate our devotions in harmony with our tradition’s values, and guide us across the thresholds of our life’s journeys, and speak knowledgeably to the media, and nurture our relationships with other spiritual groups?
But then, I offer another question…
Is modern Paganism sustainable?
Our traditions are only now beginning to be tested beyond the lifetimes of the original founders and those directly taught by them. With a wildly diverse number of beliefs, Gods and Goddesses, sacred texts and forms, will our practices have relevance for those born in a completely different context than the elders who established them?
Will modern Paganism grow, deepen and flourish for many generations as a strong, meaningful alternative to the major players now dominating the world’s religions? Or will it simply end up being a footnote to our turbulent historical milieu?
I believe that our ability to survive and thrive as a viable spiritual path for the future depends in large measure on whether we have wise, competent, skilled and well-trained leaders, priests and priestesses.
We need a dedicated clergy that is recognizable, both from within the many traditions of Paganism, as well as to mainstream government and religious institutions. We need highly professional, accomplished, seasoned scholars, leaders, teachers, and chaplains who have been educated at the graduate level – in a Pagan learning environment, by Pagans, and for Pagans.
Of course, many of our traditions are building their own internal systems for training future leaders, and, certainly, such programs are important in ensuring the endurance of their particular customs.
But please — let us not repeat the insularity of Christianity’s denominational systems, which have contributed to centuries of misunderstanding and bloodshed.
Instead, it seems to me that an Earth-based spirituality should see the obvious advantage of the cross-pollination of ideas and practices for its budding Priests and Priestesses. Instead of cultivating a monoculture within each tradition, I think we should encourage diversity and exploration.
Consider how much richer our own traditions could become if, say, our Reclaiming tradition Priestesses and Heathen godhis were also fluent in “Dark Green Religion, ” experienced in Voudon, animism and Druid rituals, and formally trained as grief counselors and dispute mediators.
But how can this be accomplished?
Cherry Hill Seminary is the world’s first and only graduate-level education for Pagans of all traditions. Cherry Hill Seminary offers online distance-learning classes, regional workshops and intensive retreats in religious studies and topics at a professional and graduate level. It is where Pagans from all walks can be nurtured and taught the topics so vital to a sustainable Pagan ministry. We offer courses within a degree program, and also on an ad hoc, elective basis.
Because it is not a “bricks and mortar” university, its students are from all over the United States, as well as other English-speaking countries. This means that as long as they have Internet access, qualified individuals can receive a quality higher education not available anywhere else.
Many of Cherry Hill’s students are already accomplished professionals who are ready to deepen their Pagan practice. They seek both the theory and practical skills that will make them more effective in their communities, within the context of their own traditions.
But Cherry Hill Seminary, like all other institutions of higher learning, needs more than student tuition to support its existence.
It needs you and me.
If you believe, as I do, that the time has come for the next generation of Gaia-loving men and women to have access to higher education that honors their beliefs; that teaches them the critical, sometimes complex skills for serving their communities; that hones them into outstanding, creative leaders and scholars, please become a part of history. We need your donations.
Your gift – large or small – will change lives now, today, by ensuring that students who desire this training have it available at an affordable price.
But please know also that your gift will ultimately help shape the legacy of today’s Paganism. Help us build the first living, breathing Pagan-oriented seminary in modern times.
This is an opportunity for weaving enormously important money magic. You can make a gift for our future generations by supporting their mission.
Please pay it forward.
The God Gene:
Cherry Hill Seminary: