Paganism – Past or Present
One often hears neo pagans talking about following the “old ways” and I stop and wonder why? There are even neo pagan groups who call themselves re-constructionists. Exactly what is it that they are trying to reconstruct and more importantly, why?
These particular groups use the title “Celtic” within their group descriptions but in all reality little is known about the ancient Celts. They were a people who believed in passing down their beliefs and customs orally and so there are very few written records. For the most part what we do have is the Christianized versions of the oral history of the Celts. And in all actuality, those who call themselves Celtic re-constructionists draw upon information from the Nordic, Hindu, Egyptian and so forth to form their particular Celtic neo pagan gathering.
But this article is really not about yet another neo pagan group seeking to establish what is pagan. It’s about neo pagans and their beliefs in general.
Why do neo pagans, as a religious/spiritual movement feel such a deep need to validate themselves by referring to the way things “used” to be done? Do you really think that the pagans who lived in 5000 BCE tried to emulate the pagans who lived in 7000 BCE? Did the pagans who lived in 500 CE try and emulate the pagans who lived in 1000 BCE? Was it even a concern?
I personally believe that prior to the recent neo pagan movement which began about the mid 1950’s, that pagans in general lived in accordance with the beliefs and customs of “their times”.
And so I have to wonder why is it so important that neo pagans forgo their own moment in history in an effort to emulate those who went before them. Theoretically society advances forward and does not (in theory anyway) regress backwards. And yet the neo pagan movement of today seems determined to do just that.
One would have to venture into an isolated section of a jungle in South America and perhaps parts of Africa to find a societal community, which has not evolved in accordance with the world growth pattern.
So why it is that neo pagans are so determined to buck the trend of thousands of years of paganism and try to revert back to what they think might have been at one time. In all reality, one cannot return to the womb. So what is it that scares the neo pagan movement so badly that a legacy of paganism as it applies “today” is avoided at all costs?
Could it be that subconsciously it’s known how superficial today’s society has become and with that superficiality there is a severe lack of spiritual will? A possible answer to such a lack of will l is to first acknowledge that such a problem exists and then be true to oneself and set a different example one neo pagan at a time.
Of course this sounds easier then it is because of the pervasive influence that the so called organized religions has had on the hearts and minds of folks. And such a cancer will take time and a sincere effort to heal.
Could it be that the concept of paganism relies on an interpretation of values and morals such as those found in many of the Lebor’s associated with Celtic paganism? This thought can be extended to other forms of paganism, but as an Irish witch I speak from my comfort zone. And yet again in today’s society such values and morals have become a memory of yesteryear.
In today’s society, many folks consider their individual selves to be far more important then Mother Nature and even their fellow travelers within this realm. Could it be that paganism, which was once akin to a massive island, is now no more than a tiny atoll just barely hanging on? With such a sad demise related to the erosion of spiritual values, and human morals?
Quite frankly, I personally believe that the Celtic pagan societies that existed prior to the Christian invasion from England were far superior to the society that we have today as far as morals and values go.
The Celtic pagans had a legal system called the Brehon Laws that was brilliant. It applied fairness in law, throughout Celtic pagan society regardless of ones wealth, social status, sex and so forth. These laws unfortunately were preempted by way of the invasion of the Christians into Celtic lands and beliefs.
As it is today, we have pimps in Washington D.C. who cater to special interest groups such as the Right Wing Christians, Oil companies, Lawyer groups and many others who offer their money, special favors and votes in return for certain laws favorable to their particular groups. And in place of a legal system that one could be proud of, we have the Patriot Act, which is a frightening affront to any imaginable concept of freedom within a free society. In short we have managed to regress as a society.
And what about the determination to associate with a particular pantheon of Deity, even though many neo pagans do not live in the areas that such Deity held sovereignty over? Does a particular pantheon only recognize and respond to those peoples found within their particular geographic areas of worship? Or do they respond to the hearts and minds of those folks who recognize those particular Deity regardless of where they reside?
Is Deity in fact the same throughout the world, albeit known by different names and aspects? Or are neo pagans inadvertently being irresponsible in their approach to Deity. For instance what of the Deity that Native Americans recognize and worship?
Very few non -Native Americans acknowledge and worship that particular pantheon. Is this a form of disrespect for a particular pantheon that has long been associated with a specific geographical area? Does the pantheon that was recognized by the original inhabitants of the US have precedence over Deity imported from other parts of the world?
At any rate if neo pagans want to be like the pagans that preceded them for thousands of years why not do as they have always done? And that is to actually exhibit a deep love and reverence for Mother Earth not just in words but also by substantive actions.
Neo pagans might also want to take a look at themselves and their current society. And apply pagan concepts and ideals in a way that works in “today’s” society. Pagans are indeed different in that we are as one with nature and not as some would have us believe, above or lords of nature. If one is to follow true pagan precepts then one should work to set the right example for others to possibly follow.
Paganism did not begin in 1954 CE. Trying to re-create the pagan wheel has done little but set the stage for would be elitists groups and to give a platform to egotists with massive insecurities. There are more pseudo “masters” today then there have been real masters over the last five thousand years.
At least there are thousands of years of pagan history for our ailing atoll to “reclaim” the values and morals that could once again restore us to the Grand Island that paganism once was. I use the analogy “island” because paganism is a diverse belief system and not one that can be contained or properly described under just one description or continent if you will.
At the end of the day when lay our heads down, it is in the current society that we sleep and not one from hundreds or thousands of years ago. So we can as pagans either work to improve the woes of our modern society or we can continue to try and emulate a pagan society long since gone…