How Many People Can You Fit Under An Umbrella?

How Many People Can You Fit Under An Umbrella?

Author:   BellaDonna Saberhagen   

What is Paganism? Ask a hundred Pagans and you’ll get a hundred answers. The definitions are vast and mostly vague. Many try to describe it by saying what it is not: “Paganism is a name for the many paths that fall outside the Judeo-Christian or Islamic faiths.” By this definition Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Shinto, and even Scientology all fall under the banner of “Pagan”. Would any of these peoples describe themselves as Pagan? Would they appreciate you lumping them with the neo-Pagan movement? Probably not.

Other definitions are somewhat more descriptive, but are again so vague that they could describe almost any path: “Paganism is earth-centered spirituality” or “we choose what we believe so anyone wanting to call themselves Pagan, may do so.” Some Pagans might not see their path as “earth-centered”, so they might feel cut off from the rest of the community for not subscribing to that definition. The second one is better for the individual Pagan, but it does nothing to actually define Paganism to the non-Pagan.

How about this one? “Paganism is an attempt to recreate the indigenous religions of Europe.” That sounds good, but what if you’re a Kemetic Pagan? Sure, there was a lot of cultural trade between Egypt and Greece, but that doesn’t make Egypt a part of Europe. Or, what if you’re Asatru and prefer to be referred to as a Heathen? Does that remove you from this definition?

The best, so far seems to be, “Paganism is an umbrella term for varying paths that attempt to recreate indigenous forms of religions. It’s an umbrella term in the same way that Christianity is an umbrella term for varying paths that follow Christ.” Sounds good, right? However, there is a major problem with it.

All who take shelter under the umbrella of Christianity, whether Catholic, Baptist, Koptic, or Snake-Handler, have one very big thing in common: Jesus Christ was born, lived and died on the cross for their sins. They might duke it out and think the other ones are wrong and “going to hell” for their wrongness, but at the end of the day, they have this unifying principle. Jesus is their umbrella.

We, as Pagans, don’t have that. We can’t agree on a definition of Pagan. We can’t even agree on the fundamental nature of “deity” (or even if there are deities or if they’re just energetic archetypes to be used for our convenience) . In our attempt to make everyone who wanted to fit under the Pagan umbrella feel comfortable, we threw away the umbrella. Paganism is really more of a “cloud” term. You might say Paganism is closer to how “Abrahamic” describes all faiths descended from Abraham (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) by definition, but we really don’t even have that much in common.

This lack of definition has led to several problems, within the community, when dealing with those outside of it and even with deepening individual spiritual connections.

We’ll look at the major issues within the community first. This largely deals with how individualized we are while still wanting to remain some sort of cohesive unit. The Witches’ Voice is a prime example. Certainly not everyone with a profile on this site is a Witch, but since Wicca (an umbrella term for varying paths unto itself, yet another reason that Paganism can’t be referred to as an umbrella term) is the most prominent form of neo-Paganism and many Wiccans also refer to themselves as Witches, it’s a place where many of differing Pagan faiths can get information and network with other local (and not-so-local) people of (some-what) like-mind. It also used to be a site that posted news articles that were relevant to the Pagan community at large (this has now been moved to its Facebook page) , and this leads to the interesting phenomenon of “Pagans in the media.” Every time there is an article that puts an individual Pagan in an unflattering light (such as a 40 year old Wiccan High Priest deciding it’s a good idea to do a private ritual skyclad with a 15 year old girl) , there’s a plethora of comments that say “He/she’s not Wiccan/Pagan because we all believe A and since he/she did B, there’s no way he/she can be a practicing Wiccan/Pagan.”

It doesn’t even have to be an unflattering article. I’ll give an example. Let’s say a large Hof of Asatru are featured in an article (most likely some fluff/local interest piece that goes Pagan-media-internet viral) about what they believe and how they practice. Now, this particular Hof is on a farm and raises organic/free-range goats that are ritually slaughtered in a humane way and then used in blots to Thor (in which the sacrifice is also eaten by the members of the Hof that they might commune better with Thor) . You are bound to get at least one person who (while supposedly an open-minded Pagan) will say something along the lines of, “Oh My Goddess! How terrible! These people are NOT Pagan! Pagans don’t DO animal sacrifice!” And when other commenters try to inform them that ancient Pagans sacrificed a lot (sometimes even having practiced human/cannibalistic sacrifices- no! not the peaceful Celts!) they either ignore archaeological evidence or give some fluff-bunny reason about why “we” don’t need to do that.

Here’s the thing: if we cannot decide on an actual definition of Paganism that is held up by the ENTIRE community, then we have no right to say that anyone else who refers to themselves as Pagan is not Pagan. We can agree that a murderer calling himself Wiccan is not Wiccan as he did not follow the rule that unifies all of Wicca: “An’ it harm none, do as ye will.” However, if he just claims to be Pagan (remember, Caligula was “pagan” too) we cannot say he is not. We can say that it’s no worse than the guy who claims God or The Devil told him to perform a heinous act and that it does not reflect the actions of the majority of adherents, but we cannot just say “He’s not Pagan!” We would need to be able to have a documented definition as to what about his behavior made him a non-Pagan. And the Rede is only applicable to Wicca, despite what some might prefer to believe. We cannot say we accept anyone while at the same time denying people based on nothing more than gut reaction.

When dealing with non-Pagans, this becomes an issue that leads some to ponder if we’re being discriminated against. Recently, The Pagan Federation has been fighting to gain charitable status (exempted from taxes) . Part of the reason they are being denied is that their religion is “too loosely defined” and the non-Pagans don’t know what they stand for and where their money will be going. Could this be discrimination? Perhaps, but given the definition of their religion, I sort of agree: “love and respect for nature, a positive morality and recognition of the divine.” This could define almost any religion. How “the divine” is envisioned (a major part in most religions) is completely left up for individual interpretation. Which is great, if you’re a practicing Pagan and don’t want to feel “left out” of the local community (as I do from the local Wiccan community, really) , but not so great when dealing with non-Pagans. If you refuse to give them even a hint about what you worship, then why should they believe you worship anything at all? Why should they believe this is a religious organization just because the founders say it is? Even Christians have their tax-evading televangelists, and their supposed beliefs were fully visible for the entire world to see.

Pagan churches have gained tax-exempt status in the past. Most notable is the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. The big difference between The Pagan Federation and the ATC is that the ATC is officially a church of Wicca, which has set rules, rituals and interpretations of “the divine” that can be pulled out and shown to non-Pagans and allows them to say, “This is what we believe, this is what we practice.” Now, the ATC does cater to the broader community and many non-Wiccan Pagans attend services there, however, since their basis is a specific Wiccan tradition, they have the definition that lets the general public feel better about their tax-exempt status (I’m not saying everyone likes it, but at least it “feels” more like a religion to them) . This is the model that I think the Pagan Federation (and others fighting for tax exemption) should try to adopt. Narrow the official focus but add something about catering to other alternative religions that have nowhere else to worship to the by-laws. The organization will seem more legitimate in the public eye and it will still be a place where Pagans of varying faiths can attend to their spiritual needs.

There is also the problem with dealing with the non-Pagan public on slightly more individualized scales. I once went to a meeting of ghost investigators that were having an informational lesson on dealing with Pagans. Our friend, also a Pagan, was part of the group and was very keen for us to meet the “expert” (he was a member of a local coven she was thinking about getting involved with and since has) . The problem was, she invited two very experienced, well read and opinionated Pagans (Barnabus Saberhagen and myself-and if you are shocked that I am opinionated…what have you been reading?) to a talk hosted by an expert that had only been practicing for six years (to put this into perspective, Barnabus and I had easily twice that experience under each of our belts, quite possibly more) and while I have met some who’ve only practiced that long but have managed to learn much and go through all three degrees of Wiccan initiation (within that same Tradition, I might add) , he had only managed to finish first degree (now, I don’t know if he decided he was a Witch/Pagan and didn’t find the coven for a few years but considering his opinion of reading books on Paganism-which I’ll get into later- it doesn’t seem likely) .

The point of this talk was to educate the ghost hunters on not being freaked out by Pagans should they ever investigate a haunting at a Pagan’s house. Most of the ghost hunters were some form of Christian and we all know that some of the tools commonly used have seeped into the Satanic Panic media. This was a fine idea…and then the guy opened his mouth. I’m not sure if his research skills are sub-par or if his teacher gave him incorrect information, but almost everything he said was quite frankly wrong, especially when trying to be as generic as possible. So Barnabus and I began to give counter points and examples from our seats. I suppose I could have left his holiday muddling alone (he claimed Ostara was the feast of Brigid) , it did no real harm (other than grate on my nerves) . However, he also claimed that Aleister Crowley wrote the Satanic Bible.

When I said that was Anton LaVey, the crowd of the uninformed asked that Barnabus and I refrain from commenting anymore because they found it confusing. The problem is, now these normal people are going to get freaked out by every tome written by Crowley because they will automatically associate him with Satanism (and even LaVey’s Satanism isn’t the Christian perversion you imagine when saying Satanism) . Many, many magical folk love Crowley; so this could be potentially damaging if and when they actually investigate a Pagan home. At the end of the discussion, the guy (and some of the crowd) performed a John Edwards style “read” (which I am always leery of, no matter who performs them) and was then approached by someone who wanted to learn more about Paganism. He told her NOT TO READ BOOKS, and to attend open circles to see what it’s about.

I don’t know about you, but the open circles I have been to have not been the deep rituals I sought. They were nice and beautiful in their own right, but sometimes depth of meaning and power is sacrificed in an attempt to be open to all. Also, books. BOOKS. Read them. They are important. His tradition was even started by a prolific Pagan author, so that he did not even recommend her works (as unrecommended by the over-all Pagan community as they might be) was a bit of a surprise.

The point is when the crowd asked us not to comment anymore because they were getting confused. They were getting information from two distinct Pagan traditions that had almost nothing in common aside from being called Paganism. I suppose the best thing to do in these situations is to explain that you only know things as your tradition sees them, so you can only comment on that. We step on each other’s toes quite a bit by trying to be all-encompassing in our rhetoric about our paths. We can’t speak for all Pagans and we need to make that clear.

Now we get to the individual. How is lacking a definition of Paganism hurting the individual Pagan? Well, I think it causes “101 Pagans” that don’t move on beyond it. The Pagan 101 books sell like hot-cakes. In fact, that’s the biggest seller and the most easily obtained form of works on Paganism. They try to be as generic as possible, often reading like Pagan Plug-and-Play or (at their very worst) Pagan Mad-Libs. This leads to new-comers thinking that that’s all they need to know and never seeking anything deeper. They think they can substitute Freya for Aphrodite just because they happen to like amber more than seashells. Or worse, their gods are faceless and unknowable, often either distant or immanent “mother/father energies” and often both at the same time. They have no cultural context for their deities and don’t feel they need to look any further because they can just call themselves Pagan.

Here’s the thing, to move beyond 101, you have to specialize. You have to specialize in technique and you have to specialize into a cultural framework. Without that, you lack the roots that connect you to the ancestors and what they practiced and if Paganism really is an attempt to “reconstruct various indigenous faiths” then you can’t move on without that connection.

But what if Paganism isn’t an attempted reconstruction of indigenous faiths? Well, then, what is it? Without a definition, it’s not an umbrella term, and is barely even a cloud term, really. It’s pretty much meaningless. You have to add another descriptor word to even give people a vague idea what you’re talking about and if you refuse to even narrow your focus that much because “you’re not about labels” then don’t expect to be asked deep questions about your path, because many will assume that it’s not deep and meaningful to you. I use at least three words to describe my unique path (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on with whom I speak) and that is without stating the name of any specific Tradition. The real lesson here is to read books, specialize, and don’t claim to speak for all Pagans, because you just can’t.

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Footnotes:
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1163381/

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20121201/NEWS01/712019950#.ULoImKgxv7I.facebook

http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/3018295

 

Is Wicca Dead?

Author: Helio

It seems like an odd thing to me, and I’m sure to many others, that some would claim that Wicca is dead or dying. But I have heard this from at least a few members of the Craft. Strange to think of Wicca, the fastest growing of the rapidly growing Neopagan religions, as being doomed to die in the near future. I have received different opinions for ‘why Wicca is dying’ and ‘what the fate of Wicca will be’.

More than a few Wiccan elders who have expressed this sentiment to me are just simply disheartened by what they view as a lack of progress made in and for Wicca over the past few decades. These elders, I think, believed that there would be a great unity in the Craft and that Wicca and Neopaganism would make great social progress. Many of these Wiccan elders have also seen the rise and fall of covens and friendships between witches. And so if asked the fate of Wicca, they would respond that there would be no future for Wicca. Neopaganism in general will fail as a religious movement.

I have heard from other Wiccans that Wicca is dying do to a lack of central authority. And this I have heard from Witches who are not members of any tradition! I’ve found that some of those I’ve heard this from have backgrounds in Catholicism, so perhaps they are used to the idea of the papacy as a central authority. But the whole reason why many come to the Craft is I>because of the lack of central authority. The Craft teaches self-reliance. I think some of my fellow Crafters have forgotten this.

I have also heard that Wicca has become too public. ‘No one wants to stay in the broom closet anymore like a good witch should’. Oh My! I think those who hold this sentiment may still be holding on to past life feelings of persecution. But if this is an age of religious tolerance, and Judeo-Christian beliefs are no longer supposed to operate in the secular domain, then we have no reason to hide or fear being burned at the stake. Wicca needs to be open if we are to show the world that we are not dangerous.

There are also those who see the rapid rise of solitary witchcraft and the collapse of covens as evidence of Wicca’s impending doom. I have never felt that it ‘takes a Witch to make a Witch’ but certainly there are some who could use a bit more experience before they declare themselves a Witch. I know there are plenty of solitaries who don’t really know the Craft as much as they should and that they may sometimes suffer from hubris, but it is the right of every Wiccan to explore the Craft personally and without a coven. I think covens are great, but for some people a coven just doesn’t work, and I feel there are some who use the coven structure to make themselves feel more important and powerful. We all know there is no place for tyrants in a coven structure.

Now unlike the belief that Wicca will die and cease to exist, I have found those who believe Wicca is dying but that it will develop into a new religion, or religions. I somewhat share this sentiment, but I don’t think Wiccan witchcraft will just cease to be. And if Wicca is to become something else then it is not dying, it is evolving. All religious movements evolve. There are many who would point out that modern Wicca is ‘not the Wicca of sixty years ago’, and this is because of a natural evolution in the religion.

I feel that part of the reason for this whole ‘Wicca is dead’ thing seems to be that Wicca and Neopaganism have failed in the last sixty years to supersede western society’s Judeo-Christian dominance. I know that there are many screaming at me after reading that last line. ‘The point of Wicca isn’t to supersede Christianity! All faiths lead to the same source!’ But I have not yet met the Crafter who didn’t hold some level of anti-Christian sentiment. I’ve found that much of the ‘Wicca has failed’ belief comes from those Wiccans who experienced the great social and spiritual revolutions of the late sixties and seventies. At the time it must have seemed like Neopaganism would become a powerful social force by the turn of the millennium. Its failure to become so has soured the movement for some.

It may not seem like it for many, but Wicca’s ability to suddenly go from a few dozen followers to thousands (or millions) of followers in only half a century is an amazing achievement. It is a direct parallel of early Christianity’s rise from a few dozen believers in 30 C.E. to hundreds or thousands by 150 C.E. Wicca has perhaps grown twice as fast in half the time thanks to television, the Internet, and especially, modern printing and publishing. Most new religious movements do not rise out of the underground in their first hundred years.

Is Wicca dead? Has Wicca failed in some way?

No one ever said being a Witch is easy. Some of my elders may find me youthfully naïve, but in the six years that I have been in the Craft, I have found a vast, vibrant, though mostly underground, community that is ever growing and evolving to meet the needs of its followers.

I can definitely say Wicca is very far from taking its last breaths.

My Path, My Truth


Author: Winterswan

I’ve thought often about writing an article such as this. There are so many different religious paths in existence in our world and so many venues available for spiritual research. I’m also familiar with the difficulty experienced by some of us when involved in the quest for a spiritual path that truly mirrors our mostly deeply held beliefs and understandings, as well as our heritages.

That said, I feel this piece needs to be written, although I will admit that I was hesitant to write it-hesitant to admit that I was not one of those people who immediately understood what I believed, chose a path, and stuck to it!

To provide the reader with a bit of my background and thus lay the groundwork for why my spiritual quest has been so involved and, at times, so difficult, I will tell you that I come from a family that is half Irish Catholic and half Jewish (although my Jewish grandmother was Irish).

I was raised with a strong connection to my Irish roots and feel most at home within Irish traditions in my current spiritual work. I am, in fact mostly Irish and have always longed to find a connection between my Celtic heritage and my spiritual path. Because I was raised with a sprinkling of combined Judao-Christian traditions, I was always open to different concepts of what a spiritual path could entail.

My father always advised me that it was important to have a belief system, but that it was more important to have a belief in God than it was to follow any one particular religion. Religion was never forced upon me and any knowledge gleaned was the result of my own initiative.

I was first introduced to God/Goddess traditions during my first year of college. I naturally gravitated toward the closeness with nature and emphasis on feminine/masculine energy as an equal balance that these paths offered.

At the time, however, I was involved in largely selfish endeavors and don’t feel that I was really able to make the connection with true spirit. I believe that becoming close to the Lord and Lady involves a level of being able to truly and deeply give of one’s self.

Living a happy spiritual life requires being willing to do more than simply cast spells to make one’s own life more satisfying (although I do believe that the God/Goddess does want us to be happy as individuals and to live prosperous lives).

I drifted for awhile, always reading books and trying to learn more about the path I was trying to walk but never really engaging; I never celebrated the various holidays of which I am now so wonderfully aware, never cast a circle to celebrate Imbolc, Litha, etc.

Thus, I never became fully immersed in the Pagan life; I never really connected to that part of me that’s made of spirit and never made a real connection with the spirits who govern the elements. I think that I believed that they existed, but I never spent enough time outside of myself to be able to really reach out to them or to the God/Goddess whose illuminating presence I feel today.

Over the years, I studied both Catholicism and Judaism. Some of the traditions of both religions were interesting and even beautiful, but neither spoke to me wholly. Neither encouraged a belief in the Fair Folk who I just knew lived in my gardens, or a belief in the spirit guides and wise ancestors who I today feel guide my readings when I turn to Tarot to help answer some of the difficult questions life throws in my direction and who are always with me offering their wisdom and protection.

I flip flopped for years between both, feeling like somewhere along the way I would have a breakthrough, a “white light” experience which would show me which path I was supposed to take. I felt like because I’d been born into these two religions they belonged to me somehow, but I was forever torn because I could identify with aspects of both but not the complete ideology of either.

Before my daughter was born in 2004 I knew that I needed to make a decision with regard to which spiritual path fit me best. Because Judaism encouraged the delving and question asking that Christianity seemed to discourage, I chose that as my path. I went to synagogue, lit candles on Shabbat, whispered guided prayers, and looked for confirmation from the Higher Power that I was on the “right track”.

Still, something was missing.

I was going through the motions but still not feeling wholly engaged. I would attend services at the synagogue and, although the people there were for the most part kind and friendly, I didn’t feel a true part of the whole scene.

I believed in tattooing as a connection to the world of spirit but I had to hide my body art when attending religious services. I possessed a freedom of spirit, which felt crushed by the dogmas of Judaism; I was being told that modest dress was required of me but I didn’t feel comfortable or natural wearing “modest” clothing.

I didn’t view my body as ugly or my sexuality as scary thing. I didn’t see magic as an instrument of evil and I didn’t feel that people who were homosexual were unnatural or unloved by the Blessed Ones of the Universe.

I saw my homeland not as Israel, but as Ireland. I once joked with my husband that I felt guilty feeling that if I had a choice of anyplace to where I could travel, my choice would absolutely be blessed Eire. And, there were so many other beliefs that I felt I was compelled to follow without really believing them in my heart and soul.

In short, I felt a bit like a hypocrite, believing one thing and mouthing another, following rituals which were beautiful but not completely who I was.

Eventually, my longing for a return to my Celtic heritage drew me toward the religion of my husband, who is Catholic. I thought that maybe it would be easier for my daughter to be raised with two parents who believed the same thing.

I thought that I could go to church with my husband and soak up the elements of the Mass which reminded me of my Irish roots and focus on the traditions which were derived from Irish Pagan culture. In the end, of course, this brought me only a deeper sense of being a hypocrite and a further sense of unease.

As all the other congregants were staring at the huge likeness of Jesus on the cross hanging over the altar (an image which from the time I was a child I found horrific and violent), I was gazing with love at the statue of Mary, envisioning her as the Goddess rather than as the mother of God portrayed by the Catholic church.

I would cringe at various parts of the sermons, for although the priest spoke with a thick brogue, his words offered me little comfort. I found little of my own truth in the words I heard during those church going days, and felt suffocated by the dogmas being bandied about.

I felt like I was being mentally lashed for my own beliefs, but my Pagan beliefs felt so natural and so normal.

No one could make me believe that they were evil or wrong, for I knew that they were coming from a place of love and peace. At this point in my life, I knew my own spirit enough to understand that I couldn’t be a horrible person simply because the church said being a Witch was evil; my ideas couldn’t be completely off base just because they didn’t correspond to how I was being advised that I should think and feel and behave.

In my heart, I was a Celtic woman of the wild, and I loved that. I could NOT let that go at any cost.

In the end, I returned to the Pagan roots that I explored during my college years, although on a much deeper level. In them, I find truth and comfort. I find a natural avenue toward the spirit. I feel enriched by the connection I have with the earth and with the elements, by the uninhibited connection I feel with my wise ancestors and my spirit guides.

I know that I don’t need to feel guilty about the spiritual gifts I’ve been given, gifts I feel we all possess but that we can’t all access because we’ve been told by certain organized religions that they are a pathway to Satan, or whatever.

I hate that there are religions out there that cause people to feel guilty for being different, for being gay, for being lesbian, for being able to communicate with the animal world and see that world as equal to the human one. For trying to force people into unnatural behaviors and stirring up hatred deep within the depths of humanity by telling people it’s their duty to convert “non-believers” and even, in some cases, to kill those who refuse to repent to their religions.

My religion is one of love and tolerance. I believe strongly in the law of return and in sending out good, positive energy. I believe in love as the only real pathway to understanding others and to relating to the world in a creative rather than in a destructive way.

I want to raise my daughter as a free little spirit, to nurture a belief in the magic and wonder of the world (and the otherworld) that she naturally, as a small child, believes to be real. I want to teach her that it’s important to be concerned about the health of our environment and that it’s important to stand up and speak out when events are unfolding that she knows are unjust.

I want to teach her that there is something inherently wonderful about being a woman, and that the discrimination she might face at the hands of those whose religions tell her that women are somehow inferior to the male species are wrong (and, oftentimes, very misguided).

My sense of wonder has been renewed and at last I feel wholly able to connect on a spiritual level. My hope is that this piece might help others who have experienced similar quandaries with regard to their faith. There is no need to be afraid of what you know in your heart to be your truth.

The Lord and Lady are waiting patiently for you to reach out and let go of your fears, guilt, and shame.

Once you’ve set your spirit free to wander the beautiful path offered by them (whatever your own particular path might be-there are so many fabulous ways of connecting to spirit within the Pagan community), you will find that the universe is a magical place indeed.

Brightest of blessings.

–Winterswan

The Wiccan Book of Days for Jan. 29th – A Swedish Spiritualist

Wiccan Images, Pictures, Comments
A Swedish Spiritualist

January 29th, 1688, was the birthday of Swedish scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. He trod a spiritual path, experiencing mystical dreams and visions, studying the Judeo-Christian scriptures and drawing his own conclusions. He eventually became convinced that the Last Judgment had occurred in 1757, that he was the prophet of the New Church that he subsequently founded, and that becoming a more spiritual being on Earth would result in an angelic existence in heaven. Swedenborg died in 1772, but his ideas and teachings remain very much alive.

“Pray for Peace”

Pay tribute to Irene and Pax, the Greek and Roman goddesses of peace, especially if hostilities are tearing your country or the wider world apart. Place a symbol of peace (an object that evokes a rainbow, like a multicolored ribbon, or a twig from an olive tree) on your altar and address the goddesses.

“Who is the Wiccan Goddess?” Just saying those words brings on a lot of feelings. A goddess is a female version of a deity, and the Horned God being the male version

“Who is the Wiccan Goddess?” Just saying those words brings on a lot of feelings. A goddess is a female version of a deity, and the Horned God being the male version of a deity. But let us step back for a moment and define just what a deity is, or if it is, and how one should go about dealing with one if its existence pans out to be real.

What is real is what is held in the mind of the individual, but that is questionable. After all, what is real to me may be imaginary to someone else. To an atheist, even talking about the potential existence of deities is absurd. I cannot please other people. I have to please myself and do what I feel is right, and what feels right to me is being able to make decisions on my own and experience the consequences of those decisions. I want a level playing field, not to live in a world where my actions are restricted or my thoughts expressed lead to a retribution of sorts or to authoritative action being brought against my person simply because I had a thought and spoke it aloud.

We humans do not speak haphazardly under normal circumstances and given that we follow some sort of mental etiquette; therefore, an organized mental system is implied, one that allows individuals to live as freely as possible, to be afforded as many freedoms as possible within reason, to have freedom of movement of the body in most every sense of the word. Our collective interpretations of “evil, ” always return back to one experience: the fact that some other person or persons acted on the person of another without their permission, leading to a loss of control over their physical body and entailing a gross loss of respect. Without this act or event becoming part of physical reality, we do not call an event “evil.” It may be characterized in a multitude of ways but with the term “evil” seldom so.

So what does this lead me to conclude? It leads me to logically conclude that if we could eliminate the possibility of another person or persons being able to affect another person in such a way that their permission was not granted or that respect for them was lost, or they were not required to subjugate control of their physical body to others, then I could negate all undesirable experiences and erase them from this world.

But to do that would require tampering with the entire energetic system we all live in, which is not feasible or practical or even probable, but could be conceivable were it done genetically. Nonetheless, none of these options being open to me, I am then puzzled as to why this is so, why the human condition lends itself to such tragedy and why we would choose to be so vulnerable?

Does this not give the atheist or agnostic the prime motive for doubting that deities ever existed in the first place? And if on graduation into the afterlife, as we Pagans call it, Summerland, why would a personality want to advance to the status of deity, only to see its subjects demoralize one another, physically slaughter each other, downplay the integrity and rights of others, ad infinitum?

These are valid questions and strike at the heart of most logical and simple thinkers throughout all eras of history. I feel free enough to write these words in the year 2010, without fear of being burned alive, or rebuked by my elders or societal influences, because I live in the United States of America, which is a republic based on a democratic form of governance.

Given that I live in America, I also am free to practice my religion, Wicca. This Pagan religion is based on two deities: The Wiccan Goddess and the Horned God, and can conceivably contain many other gods and goddesses depending on which pantheon is ascribed to, what peculiar beliefs any one individual may feel inclined to entertain.

Wicca has given me a nature-based love of life and myself that I did not find in other faiths, whether those be Eastern based or Judeo-Christian. My love for the Earth and for Nature itself and the Sacredness of all Life, lead me into a deep study of myself and my dream life and the interior universe that illuminates my thoughts, occupies my days and fills my nights with song and revelry, or quiet nights alone reading sitting in silence, listening to the purr of electronic gadgets in my home, or the refrigerator, or watching my cat nestled on the futon deeply enmeshed in her own dream universe.

And how is the dream of my cat any more real than my own dream? How is my cat’s dream any more real than the Wiccan Goddess? Subjective realities exist and always will exist, the domain of the mind is a fertile domain that has no ground or dirt or trees. The trees that grow in the mind are of a different variety, but you can rest assured they are as real, if not more real, than the trees in your own yard.

When we leave physical reality and rejoin the whole personality that exists in the dimension inside of yourself, then we will see the reality of our efforts in life. Quite often, I have majestic and wonderful thoughts during the workday, sprites of thought that bubble up and colorfully wisp across my mind and I feel satisfied, though only until the feeling subsides and again I’m back in the ego dungeon world, of my own accord. It’s only a dungeon inasmuch as it cuts out other data and can be restricting and even destructive if allowed to dry up and separate itself too much from the other parts of your whole personality. Nothing is more dangerous than allowing yourself to be ruled by the ego portion of your personality alone, with no input or influx from other portions of your sacred whole person who exists as surely as the birds singing outside, as surely as the ocean surf, as surely as trees.

Bounty and aliveness filled my being when I did my initiation ritual and filled the psychic air of my ritual room, the space of which also doubled as a workspace and a home gym. Raising energy in your ritual room is a good idea, and exercising in it all the better. But what good is it to raise energy or accumulate it, if you don’t know the outcome of the events of your life, or you don’t know if the Wiccan Goddess is real or not, and if you don’t know what tomorrow will yield? To this end, much speculation has happened, much writing and intellectual effort been penned out, and much exasperation and depression and anxiety been wrought, all in the name of certainty and of the unknown.

The one certainty is life is the unknown, and on it you can rely as a counterpoint to your questions, a foundation to base your knowledge on, a place to go to unleash yourself. Creativity and love and wonder come from the unknown like springs of water, their roots hidden, but feeding all the tributaries and valleys and ripples that go out and expand and make up a personality.

So we are still left with the question: who is the Wiccan Goddess? Where did she come from? The latter question is basically meaningless, as she came from the same place I did, and every reader of this text did, the unknown place inside ourselves that can be known in dark times, or even in solitude or quiet moments of reflection. She is alive in every cell of your body, and reminds you of the showers of nostalgia you have every day entertained in your mind and heart, ever seeking and yearning to evolve into more than it was.

The Wiccan Goddess is not a deity who is hanging out somewhere, in a state of readiness or beyond evolving. She is what you make her, and she lives in your heart and in the oscillations of your molecules and in the corridors of your mind. Meet her there, and you can evolve together and make a new pioneering world without the constraints of constant egoism, corporate tyranny or dependence on others who may or may not have your best interests in mind.

Focus on the positive, stay centered and aim for your highest dreams, because dreams really do become your world.