This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Beginning in the Middle
Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power. Never forget that you can still do your share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and frustrations and disappointments." Albert Einstein: A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
What is it to be a Modern Pagan?
This question is so fundamental. Where do we start our explorations of our new found wonder or the next turn in our path? We ask it of ourselves and of the others we encounter as we search for spiritual meaning.
The problem and part of the glory of choosing our paths is the fact there is for each of us a different answer to this basic question. What we are here to discuss this evening is how to establish a common ground that can be shared with the curious and the new. And maybe open a new Door.
Western culture for a long time has been given to Portraying non-Christian faith paths as something to be at best toyed with and and worst dangerous as any serial killer.
• Heathen: not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam • Pagan: One who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, especially a worshiper of a polytheistic religion. One who has no religion. A non-Christian.
Being Defined Cont.
Witch: A woman claiming or popularly believed to possess magical powers and practice sorcery. A hag, A woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing. Or, A believer or follower of Wicca; a Wiccan.
Have any of you ever experienced or been influenced either positively or negatively by something you have seen in popular media about witches or pagans?
Being Non-Christian but not one of the Asian faiths (Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, etc) has left the Modern Pagan with Some very tenuous and negative social stereo-types.
These have become our Archetypes - an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience and present in the individual unconscious. – These are the things that we are drawn to and desire to emulate. – Many that are drawn to any of the definitions or images above are looking to “different”. Sometimes with out care of the negative or the positive.
In counter to those popular culture stereo-types are the classical art images, stories and history of the Greek and Roman Gods, the Norse Myths, and even the fairy tales and stories of other Indo-European cultures.
These pieces of history – our linage have survived in the world of academics, theologians, the peoples of Europe and even through the use of Latin in both the Christian faith and Science. These sub-contexts have left enough of a footing for use to build and explore from.
Can any of you recall a myth or a tale that brought you closer to seeking out more about paganism?
The Roots of Modern Paganism
Open to a great deal of debate.
Obviously the sources of our paths are ancient. Some have roots in faith paths that have been in continues practice (Native American, other tribal paths, Hinduism). Many only survived as piecemeal practices, rituals, and ornamentation that where subsumed in the dominate role that Christianity had to play over the last 2000 some years. This did not just happen to the “Western” Goddesses and Gods. Think of South America, Polynesia, the natives peoples of many places.
Wicca, Paganism, Astaru, - are groups of religions based, in part, on ancient, northern European Pagan beliefs in a fertility Goddess and her consort, a horned God. Although the religion is a modern creation, some of its sources pre-date the Christian era by many centuries. Most of us do not believe that their religion is a direct, continuous descendent of this earlier religion. They see it as a modern reconstruction.
Some of our Origins
Charles Leland (1824-1903) published a book in 1899: Aradia: Gospel of the Witches. Leland was the founder of the Gypsy Lore Society, editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin, and a prolific author and folklorist. Aradia deals mainly with the Goddess Diana. Margaret Murray (1863 - 1963) authored The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches. These books promoted the concept that some of the Witches who were exterminated by Roman Catholics and Protestants during the "Burning Times“. Gerald Gardner (1884 - 1964), a British civil servant, who: has written that he joined an existing Wiccan Coven in 1939, taking the (then) usual vows of secrecy. added many rituals, symbols, concepts and elements from ceremonial magick, Freemasonry and other sources to "flesh out" the coven's beliefs and practices, most of which had been long forgotten.
wrote Witchcraft Today in 1954
Other individuals discount this belief system and maintain that there was no continuous Wiccan presence from Celtic times to the 20th century. Still others trace Wicca back to a little known faith group in New England in the early 20th century.
Do you think the origins of the neo-pagan paths are:
Critically important into understanding ourselves. Just a good reference point in understand we are in the process of creating something new (possible paradigm shift)
Focus on Western Pagans
Most of us here are interested in what we can call Neo – Paganism (New Pagans). What is the position of Neo-paganism on the issue of Gods? There is NO ONE position However Don’t fear there are some Guidelines. But for that we have to dip a bit into Polytheology…
Theology in monotheistic terms is"the field of study, thought, and analysis concerning the nature of God, His attributes, and His relations to the universe and humans in particular." Polytheology, then, is the study of the religious thought of Pagans and their deities. It can encompass monotheism, since the god of a particular monotheism can be discussed as other deities are.
THEISM versus DEISM
Both terms came into common use in the 17th century. The Deists believe that God created the world and then had little or nothing to do with it. Theists believe that God created the world and remains involved with it. The contrast between Theism and Pan-Theism is that in Pantheism the divine, identified with the world, is wholly immanent, whereas in Theism deity is both transcendent and immanent. Some Neo-pagans believe that the Divine is both immanent and transcendent. Therefore some neo-pagans are actually Theists, conforming to the modern so-called dipolar theism which posits a balance between transcendence and immanence, absoluteness and relativity, in the conception of deity.
Have you ever thought of paganism in the terms of a deist or theist point of view? Why?
From Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon”: "Animism is used to imply a reality in which all things are imbued with vitality.”
The ancient world view did not conceive of a separation between 'animate' and 'inanimate.' All things from rocks and trees to dreams were considered to partake of the life force. At some level Neo-Paganism is an attempt to reanimate the world of nature; or, perhaps more accurately, Neo-Pagan religions allow their participants to reenter the primeval world view, to participate in nature in a way that is not possible for most Westerners after childhood. The Pagan revival seems to be a survival response to the common urban and suburban experience of our culture as 'impersonal,' 'neutral,' or 'dead.'"
View that all matter is alive, either in itself or by participation in the operation of a world soul or some similar principle.
The word was coined in the 17th century by Ralph Cudworth, who with Henry More (1614 – 1687) spoke of "plastic nature," an unconscious, incorporeal substance that controls and organizes matter and thus produces natural events as a divine instrument of change.
everything is possessed of soul. Although there is a distinction between possessing soul (panpsychism) and possessing life (hylozoism), in practice this division is difficult to maintain. Early Greek philosophers viewed matter as intrinsically active, Aristotle is on the line between panpsychism and hylozoism.
Religion, Eastern and Western Thought from Greek pan and psyche, meaning
W.L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy
Which of these three concepts rings most “true” to you?
Animism Hylozoism Panpsychism
Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: "For many Pagans, pantheism implies much the same thing as animism. It is a view that divinity is inseparable from nature and that deity is immanent in nature. Neo-Pagan groups participate in divinity. The title of this book implies one such participation: when a Craft priestess becomes the Goddess within the circle. (The ritual act of) "Drawing down the Moon" symbolizes the idea that we are the gods, or can, at least, become them from time to time in rite and fantasy "
So how do we articulate what it means to join our community to someone that maybe curious?
The fancy terms we just used gives us some thought out foundations but may be a bit over the top We believe in general that there is a greater spirit that connects all, but it is also part of us, there is no separation between us and the divine. This allows use as a group more flexibility and less tolerance for Dogma. Again – THERE IS NO ONE PATH.
We acknowledge responsibility for our own actions, we are our own saviors. We act, react & and live with the benefits or consequences in then now. The can manifest itself as a concern to live as part of nature, not outside of or over it. Equality of the sexes, of gender definition, of acceptance should be incorporated in the view of polytheistic moral.
The “Divine” is so all encompassing that they may be distinct Gods and Goddesses, or broken into numerous aspects, renamed, re-envisioned to help us make them comprehensible and easier to relate to. There are hundreds of different Pagan paths. All can be further subdivided into traditions. The limit is “our” understanding.
How many if any of you have a personal Deity?
What are you views on the Gods?
Are the many one? Are each their own? Are we just not capable as beings in truly knowing?
Cycle of the Year
• Many Pagan paths focus on the seasons or the cycle (wheel) of the year.
This focus helps us to understand, link, and live fully with all of nature. It also helps us understand the nature of the divine from both the Female and Male points of view. For many Pagans it is the complete immersion in the natural world and the acknowledgement of the divine in us that make may declare a completeness or sense of home within themselves.
Yule (Winter Solstice)– Is the shortest day of the year. Litha (Summer Solstice) - Is the longest day of the The goddess gives birth to the god. The shortest day year and brings us to the zenith of the Sun God's of the year. A reminder that after death comes rebirth. power. He is celebrated and honored in order to ensure a large harvest. Imbolc - It represents the recovery of the Goddess Lammas – Is the first Harvest. It is at this time (she awakens from rest) after giving birth to the God. that we first begin reaping the fruits of our hard The world readies itself for the coming of new life. labor. We celebrate with great feasts and lots of thanksgiving. Ostara (Spring Equinox) – Light and dark balance waiting for the Gods power to Wax. This day the Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility. Days and nights are equal in length. The Gods Power grows. Mabon – (Autumn Equinox) a time of balance, but also to the second harvest. We prepare for the cold months ahead. We resolve to equalize within ourselves anything that we believe to be "tipping the scales"
Beltane - The God and Goddess fall in love and unite. Samhain - it is the Pagan New Year. We reflect It is the time of fertility. back on all the things that have come to pass in the previous year. We look forward to new beginnings. It is one of the most Holy of our Holidays.
Does knowing of the cycle of the year bring you closer to the life around you? Or do you still feel apart? Why?
All Pagan faith paths and traditions have some form of ritual with them. Some can be very simple and some can be very complex. Each path has its own way of attuning its followers to the world and their chosen Goddesses and Gods.
The 4 Elements stand for CREATION itself. They are the Corner Stones of CREATION, because they are in everything. They are Principles of Being, and so they are part of macrocosm, and microcosm, and of us. In the material plain they are physical basis for life, and at the same time they have the power of the most terrible destruction
The Link between the Elements & Directions
Air: Air is the element of the East, connected to the soul and the breath of life. If you’re doing a working related to communication, wisdom or the powers of the mind, Air is the element to focus on. Air carries away your troubles, blows away strife, and carries positive thoughts to those who are far away. Fire: Fire is a purifying, masculine energy, associated with the South, and connected to strong will and energy. Fire both creates and destroys, and symbolizes the fertility of the God. Fire can heal or harm, and can bring about new life or destroy the old and worn. Water: Water is related to the West, and associated with passion and emotion. Used for healing, cleansing, and purification. In some covens, water is used to consecrate the circle and all the tools within it. Earth: Connected to the North, Earth is considered the ultimate feminine element. The Earth is fertile and stable, associated with the Goddess. The planet itself is a ball of life, and as the Wheel of the Year turns, we can watch all the aspects of life take place in the Earth: birth, life, death, and finally rebirth. The Earth is nurturing, and firm, full of endurance and strength.
In looking at the elements and their directions, do you think its important to identify with and explore those forces within your own spirit?
Magick – A Subject onto itself
There are many questions, opinions, and comments on this topic as part of pagan worship. Magick will be the subject of our fifth talk in detail. For now lets just look at it from a point of raising personal energy, however you wish to envision it, and the roll that plays in our worship. Raising personal energy is part of the monthly cycle of the moon. Being in tune with its movements and influence helps us be in tune with ourselves and the greater world.
The Esabats - Also called a Lunar ritual.
Esabats are Full and new moon celebrations so understanding the phases is important to personal energy usage. Full moon energy is used for banishing unwanted influences in your life, protection magick and divination. Full moon magick can be conjured for seven days, the night of the full moon and the three days either side of it. The new moon is used for personal growth, healing, the blessing of a new project or venture etc. The waning moon (between full and new) is a time for banishing and rejecting things in our lives that we no longer wish to carry around with us. The waxing moon (between new and full) is a good time for attraction magick. The dark of the moon is the three days before the new moon when the moon is not visible in the sky. This is a time to take a break from performing magick.
Opening the Circle – The Rede and the Law
Many, Not all pagans use the Rede and the Law as the ethical and moral underpinnings of Western Paganism. This will be discuss more fully on during our forth session. The Rede - An it harm none, do as ye will. The Law – All good that a person does to another returns 3 fold in this life; harm is also returned three fold. For us there is no sin there is only personal accountability and acceptance of the consequences of our choices. Wisdom and thought, charity and Love will make ones life rich and full.
Do you feel like you have a basic overview of the nature of the pagan paths?