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Alex Fauque Neo Paganism

Alex Fauque Neo Paganism

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Alexander FauqueThe Golden Age and Neo-PagansApril 5
th
2008 Neo-Pagans use the myth of the “Golden Age” as a model for the future. They postulatethat at this time in our past, humanity was attuned to nature and worshipped mother earth. Sincethen, we have fallen into disunity and must now work to reinstate the balance that existed in theGolden Age. The way in which Neo-Paganism brings the sacred reality into the profane world isthrough rituals and beliefs that emphasize the sacredness of all beings and our ultimate connectionto the earth. The Sabbat is an example of one such ritual that Frederick Bird might term as being“self-representative.”
1
 Essentially, the three stages are as follows: the Golden Age, the shift awayfrom the sacred into our current state of disunity and the rekindling of spiritual movements thataim to reinstate the balance by reintroducing the values of the Golden Age into the modern world.Frederick Streng defines the profane world as “untouched or uninformed by the sacredeternal order” and is characterized by things like purposelessness, boredom, competition andwaste.
2
 It is an existence devoid of wonder as the absence of sacredness causes people to fill thevoid with transient satisfactions that lead to further restlessness. Ultimately, a sense of  powerlessness pervades and humanity has no real direction. Life becomes a matter of survivalmore so than fulfillment. Neo-Paganism sees our current situation as a manifestation of this problematic. The combined efforts of patriarchies across the globe have undercut our connectionto the earth and each other. As a result, we experience environmental degradation, widespread poverty, racism and various other afflictions that are directly related to the imposing of a malecentered value system. In the film “Full Circle,” one of the women interviewed notes that theworld is out of balance and lacks the female perspective.
3
Essentially, the problematic is a questionof artificially imposed hierarchy that puts distance between people and alienates them from their natural environment, which is where they would be most comfortable and aware. The symbol of the circle then becomes central as it dispels the notion of a chain of being in favor of a unified andflowing model for reality. The hierarchy, as defined by patriarchs, has man at the pinnacle,dominating all other life forms. This in turn fuels what Neo-Pagans perceive as the problematic inthat it justifies industrialization and capitalism. The central problem is that of selfishness wherebythe individual cares only for personal betterment without regard for the welfare of others and the planet. This mindset also applies to governments in that nations vie for sovereignty in order to
1
Bird, Fred, Rituals as Communicative Action (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1995) 30-31.
2
Streng, Frederick, Creation of Community Through Sacred Symbols (California: WordsworthPublishing, 1985) 45.
3
Full Circle, dir. Donna Read, VHS, NFBA, 1993.
 
impose their own agendas on their people and avoid entanglement with other nations that mightseek to establish an objective ethical code that takes the entire conglomeration of nation-states intoaccount.In order to proceed in a teleological fashion, Neo-Pagans invoke the myth of the GoldenAge. The myth serves as a model for how society once was and can become if we are able to bringabout the necessary transformation. The Golden Age myth coincides with Streng’s notion of the“Ultimate Reality”. This reality is the source of knowledge and thereby the source of empowerment for those seeking to rid themselves of the problematic. Streng writes “the SacredRealm, or Being, is also infinite and awesome, but expresses a structure or reveals
inherent characteristics
that are reflected in everyday existing forms.”
4
This is especially true in Neo-Paganism becomes the Golden Age is a past reality, meaning that at one point in human history,this was a tangible reality. Therefore, Neo-Pagans are encouraged to seek the sacred in this world.Indeed, nature herself is divine and so are we, it doesn’t get much more immanent than that. Neo-Pagans understand the Golden Age as a time when Goddess worship was widespread, reverencefor the earth was a given, people lived attuned to natural cycles (and thereby embraced change)and each person recognized their own divinity. Accordingly, one version of the Sabbat ritual hasthe high priestess say: “I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attainedat the end of desire.”
5
This illustrates how Neo-Pagans see the sacred as something that has always been carried within, as we are all aspects of the divine. The latter part suggests that gnosis, or wisdom through insight, is a matter of recognizing that we already have all that we need. Thisfollows from the belief that Gaia provides for us all, which is central to the Golden Age view andlacking in our contemporary patriarchal world that focuses on the supposedly ever-present lack weall feel. The Ultimate Reality also cannot be divorced from the notion of the Goddess. In “FullCircle,” Donna Read goes to Greece to find relics of Goddess worship but finds that the museumsare relatively unconcerned with the representations of Artemis, Persephone, Demeter or Aphrodite, often only labeling them anonymously as “Goddess”.
6
This is characteristic of themodern world that has abandoned the idea of the Goddess in favor of the father God of “churchianity”. Another point the film brings up is that from a very early age, children are madeto think of God in male terms as we use male generic language to refer to the divine.
7
These
4
Streng, Frederick, Creation of Community Through Sacred Symbols (California: WordsworthPublishing, 1985) 47.
5
Bromley, David and Cowan, Douglas, Cults and New Religions (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing,2008) 202.
6
Full Circle, dir. Donna Read, VHS, NFBA, 1993.
7
 
 Ibid.
 
 backwards notions renew the need for a reintroduction of Goddess and Mother Earth worship as away to make the values that they express integral to our lives. We live in a male oriented universeand so we value reason, strength, control, order etc. Awareness of the Ultimate Reality as per Neo-Paganism would enable us to incorporate the complimentary values of intuition, nurture instincts,cyclical and collaborative thinking etc.In order to reinforce the values prescribed by the Ultimate Reality, religious movementswill rely on rituals to communicate sacred truths. Streng refers to the “Means to UltimateTransformation” when designating the way in which practitioners bring sacred time and space intothe profane world and thereby symbolically transform the problematic into the Ultimate Reality.
8 
For Neo-Pagans, this is the process that allows them to reintroduce the Golden Age into themodern world. The film “Full Circle” addresses this question. In an interview, one of the womenasserts that the political is personal and vice versa.
9
 The myth of the Golden Age says that whenGaia first begot children, known as the “Rainbow Family,” she said that they would be summonedif she needed them.
We now find ourselves in that time and it is the responsibility of each of usto heed the call and return to our first mother and care for her. In that sense, there is no separation between the external world and our primordial selves; they are one. Political movements start withthe individual; we must change within before we can affect without. A key part of this process isacceptance of the self and consequently others. In order to attain this level of acceptance, Neo-Paganism emphasizes the importance of transformation. If we recognize that all things, includingourselves, are undergoing transformations, then we can accept them much more readily than if wehave preconceived expectations of how they ought to be. As nature represents the UltimateReality, we can use it as a symbol for the divine. Everyday, the natural world is different and soare humans. Fred Bird talks about rituals that are self-representative
 and I believe the ritual of theSabbat as explained by Helen Berger can serve of an example of one such ritual that reinforces thenotion of the fluidity of the self.
During the Samhain, those present are made to reflect on deathas analogous to the coming of winter, that is to say as a natural process that allows for the renewalof life. Furthermore, it is made clear that death is more akin to a friend than an enemy because if we resist death, we only cause more suffering for ourselves where as a welcoming of death allows
8
Streng, Frederick, Creation of Community Through Sacred Symbols (California: WordsworthPublishing, 1985) 49.
9
Full Circle, dir. Donna Read, VHS, NFBA, 1993.
10
 
 Ibid.
11
Bird, Fred, Rituals as Communicative Action (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred Laurier Press, 1995) 30-31.
12
Berger, Helen, A Community of Witches (South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1999)29-31.

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