Tales of a Southern Pagan Mom

Posts tagged “pagan community

Beyond Pagan 101

d7ff58a26b32f8fe0b532c96a1027961Something I’ve noticed is that when you start browsing Pagan books, the great majority of them are ‘Pagan 101’ – what is is/means to be Pagan, how Pagans practice their faith, etc. I am a researcher by nature, and tend to be drawn to books on spirituality and on Pagan paths in particular. It’s been disappointing to see the same material rehashed over and over and over again: what Sabbats are, correspondences, dedication rituals and how to ‘be’ pagan – the very basics. Oh sure, it’s a little different; re-branded or spiffed up and published under a new name or path, but so much of it is the same basic, beginner material that you can find all over the place.

I’ve been thinking about why that is; why so many books are ‘beginner’ style books for Pagan spirituality, and have come to several observations. First, I think that a lot of Pagan practice is ‘first generation’. People are dissatisfied with mainstream spirituality and they go exploring. Because there are so many different styles of Paganism, it’s hard to ‘pick one’, and so each style or path has its own interpretation of the Path. Additionally, there are different ‘branches’ of Paganism: Wiccan, Heathen, Asatru, Druidic, Dianic… the list goes on, each with their own specific way of doing things.

Secondly, as information and technology have increased access to information, the sheer volume of beginner Pagans has increased to the point that such a volume of beginner material is necessary. Since there are so many first generation Pagans, there isn’t a large population of people who have practiced long enough to move beyond basics. Although I know many who have been in practice for decades, a great many of those have switched paths or gone eclectic or solitary for lengths of time, and developed their own traditions, rituals and styles of practice and don’t feel the need to publish it publicly. Add to that the general consensus that Pagans don’t like to be told ‘what to do’ or ‘how to worship’, finding an open group to practice with can be extremely challenging, which leaves many/most new Pagans solitary.

Thirdly, of those who have practiced for extensive periods of time, they don’t feel the need to indoctrinate their children into their faith, allowing the children to find their own paths, as it were. Without that indoctrination, children who grow up Pagan may or may not feel the need to pursue their own spiritual path. I know several adults who were raised by Pagan parents and although they may be interested on the fringe, most tend not to practice actively, at least among the people I know in this situation. Obviously, that’s not true across the board, so no slight intended if you’re a third or fourth generation practicing Pagan. These are just my observations, and I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Though I understand these as logical explanations, and accept whatever other possible explanations there may be, they don’t mitigate the fact that the majority of Pagan-centered books available are beginner-level books. For those who have been practicing long enough to have personalized their faith and practice, investing in new books can be disappointing because even seemingly promising books end up containing only a little bit of new information. While I certainly do not claim any authority, I thought I would share some of the ways that I have found helped me to move beyond ‘Pagan 101’ and into a more deeply personal and meaningful practice.

One method I found to circumvent getting trapped in the newbie books has been to move outside of strictly Pagan-themed books and into history, philosophy and world religion books. (Side note: My path isn’t deity-centered, so if yours is, the same types of methods for researching and deepening your knowledge about your pantheon or deities applies.) Beyond a certain point, even the most devout reconstructionist Pagan practitioner is just making stuff up to fill in the gaps in whatever factual/historical recorded information they have managed to piece together. From that viewpoint, their opinion on how you should practice is no more authoritative than yours. Additionally, many strictly Pagan-themed books tend to be European in origin, which means that they may be making recommendations for alignments and correspondences for a different hemisphere, climate or botanical availability than where you;re practicing your path. I am a firm believer is adapting my practice to suit my environment and many nature or earth-based paths focus on that connectivity almost exclusively. It seems silly to try to find herbs or wood to work with that you wouldn’t have any personal connection with because you’ve never seen, touched or smelled it!

If your path is earth-based; hedge-witches, kitchen-witches, and the like, and herb-crafting is a big part of your practice, then you’ll only find a handful of information in your typical Pagan-themed herbal companions. Look into books on gardening – learn native flora and what grows best when. Growing your own herbs, flowers and plants can make them so much more effective when you need them to work and the connection that you have to your garden and materials is a big part of making your path come alive. Continue your education; learn about using plants as medicine, how to distill essential oils, and anything else that strikes your fancy from sources that aren’t strictly Pagan-oriented. If the only information you;re lacking is the magical correspondence, those are easy to find online. If food is your bag, then the same applies; research cooking and recipes; experiment with flavors and use herbs and ingredients that you grow yourself.

I’d also suggest researching folk magic – hoo-doo and root-work, Santeria, Native American religions and other types of old, earthy magic. Many of those types of religions can be hard to find information on, but it’s worth it when you do. If your ancestors come from those religions, then even more so. My personal task over the last year or so  is considering how ancient holidays could be modernized. I have posts about Lupercalia and Matronalia, and will be doing similar posts this year. I may not get them ‘right’, but it’s been a fun experiment, and adds value to my practice.

Another way to find more meaning in your practice is just that – practice. If you are a new practitioner, especially if you’re coming out of a religion where Pagan things are taboo, then you may be reluctant to actually do the things that you’re reading about. Even if you’ve ‘been Pagan’ for a long time, but don’t practice, moving beyond the basics means getting your feet wet – sometimes literally (if ritual cleansing is part of your practice). If you haven’t found anything in what you’ve read that appeals to you, make something up! There’s no right or wrong way to do an Esbat or Sabbat Ritual; there’s no right of wrong way to perform a candle spell, or sage your house, or  create an altar. Don’t be afraid to try something, whether it’s all written out for you or you make it up yourself. If it has meaning for you, then it works. I view my path as an ever-winding road, with new things to learn and try around every corner, and I’ve been practicing for twenty five years. Some things I’ve tried flopped entirely, some things worked for a time or were interesting to try out, but ultimately didn’t stick, while others have become a regular, essential part of my practice. our spiritual practice should add meaning and value to your life, even if it’s a simple ritual like lighting a candle and incense with your morning coffee.

My final tip for moving into a more mature practice is to connect with the Pagan Community. Not just online, but in person. If your local community hosts Pagan Pride Day, or has a ‘Pagans Night Out’ or other meet-up, make an effort to go. If you have children, look for (or organize!) a Pagan Playdate or Pagan Game Night. There’s a group in the Houston area of TX that hosts an Interfaith Tea & Game Night, and there are organizations like Celebration of Womanhood and Women Of Magic And Nature (WOMAN) that host retreats for Pagan women each year. Meeting the incredibly varied group of women at WOMAN for the last 2 years has been such a great way for me to learn and explore different paths and practice dynamics and has added to deepening the meaning and value in my own practice. Plus, it’s just plain nice to be around other people who have similar (even if very different) beliefs.

How have you moved beyond Pagan 101?

Brightest Blessings,

RH_med small


Arts and (Witch)Crafts

CAM04040Houston’s Pagan Pride day is coming up soon, and my Circle-mates and I are planning on having a vendor’s booth set up, which means that I am going into arts-and-crafty-mode very soon to prepare. I’ve been thinking about what kinds of things I have typically seen for sale at events like this and considering what I might want to make. As a consumer/practitioner, I don’t typically buy tools for my personal practice because I prefer to make them myself (for various reasons), but there are some things I can’t make, and some things I want to purchase because they have a level of craftsmanship that I lack. So in that vein, I’ve been considering what kinds might be attractive as a customer, what skills I have as a craftsman, and how the two might merge.

I have an Etsy store, but if you’ve ever clicked on the link, it’s usually closed; I don’t craft with sales in mind, so this is kind of a new thing for me. The only reason I started the store was because I went through a period of sculpture and thought the little figurines I made were cute, but I didn’t need quite so many of them! I ended up giving them away, and then lost the inspiration for sculpture, so my store has been closed for a long time. My next crafty endeavor was wood burning. Turns out I love doing that, so I started making spirit boards and boxes and other burned art projects. I kinda ran out of things I need personally, so that may be a great way to blend my talent with what someone else may be seeking.

But I am getting off-topic of what I really wanted to talk about, which is art. Yes, crafting is art, but I mean meaningful art. The argument could be made that all art is meaningful, but I am specifically talking about art with a purpose. In this case, Shadow Books (or Books of Shadows/Light/Mirrors or Grimoires – whatever you choose to call them individually or collectively – I call them all Shadow Books because it’s easier and I’m too lazy/busy to make the distinction).  I love art journaling; I’ve been an avid fan for several years now. When I first started, it was just art for arts’ sake – nothing particularly meaningful behind it. But as I progressed, it took on new forms; I found myself working through personal issues through my art journals, and eventually that spread to my practice. CAM04037 (1)

I was looking back through a few of my old journals, and came across these – a couple of Shadow Books in art journal format. They’re both fairly old, from around 2012. The one on the left is a more personal reflections journal (Book of Mirrors) and the one on the right is more path-based (Book of Shadows). It was interesting to go back through and read what I had written. Some of the things in the Mirror Book were dream logs, which was fun to go through. I don’t write my dreams down as often anymore and it’s actually something I miss doing now that I have had the opportunity to read back over how detailed my log was – I don’t remember that much anymore!

There is a lot of drawing in both of these books – something else I don’t do nearly as much anymore. I just don’t have the time – more to the point, I am not making the time to work on these kinds of reflections that I used to.

CAM04038Over the next few weeks, I will be working on creating arts and crafts to offer to my local Pagan community. I do take pride in my work, and I put a lot of time and effort into making sure that anything I make that is to be used in practice is mindfully and intentionally made. I am grateful for both the skill and the opportunity to create beautiful things hat will serve its bearer well, and I love the thought that something I make might be passed down to a future witchling.  I think this stroll back through my older books is also a wake-up call that I needed as a reminder of what I loved and to make time for that style of reflection and note-booking. As a Pagan, I like having the progression of my practice – how it’s changed and evolved over the years, and I think it will be an interesting keepsake to pass down to my children one day.

For now, I encourage you to try art journaling as a way to take notes and record how your practice looks and feels. Even if you’re not particularly ‘artsy’, it’s still a really great way to convey more than just words. If you’re raising witchlings, art journaling is a great thing to introduce to them – something you can do together!

Brightest Blessings,

RH_med small

 

 


Pagan Parenting Part II: Beliefs

Introductionpaganparentingseries -2017

This is Part I of the Pagan Parenting Series. Raising children is hard enough, but when you factor in being part of a religion or spiritual belief system that falls outside the mainstream, there’s an added layer of difficulty. In addition to criticism by the mainstream, there is also a decided lack of resources for Pagan parents that deals specifically with the particulars of raising children in an Earth-based belief system. In the interests of full disclosure, I developed this series based on a discussion centering on the book, Circle Round: Elements of Spiritual Parenting, but you may find the self-assessment questions relevant even without the book. I looked for the original discussion, but could not find it to link. If this sounds familiar, and you have a source, please let me know and I will update the introduction with a link. However flavored by the original discussion, I have put my own spin on it for publishing here. In this series, I invite you to explore some of the topics and issues of concern centered on raising children as a Pagan parent.

Part II: Beliefs

All children eventually ask hard questions about the natural and supernatural world. What do we say when they ask about heaven or hell? Reincarnation? Deity? Do we pass our beliefs on to our children as ‘truth’, or do we want them to come to their own conclusions? Asking yourself these questions and others along these lines can make the difference between being prepared to answer or being blindsided when you’re not expecting them! As parents, it can be hard enough to answer those kinds of questions when you’re part of a mainstream religion, but when you fall outside of the norm, how do you answer? It can be very difficult to decide how much information is age-appropriate, or how much is ‘too much’. It can also be hard to find ‘traditional’ information to pass on to your kids.

Over the years, we’ve relied on literature, mythology, philosophy and religious studies to round out the kids’ knowledge base. Most Pagans I know personally don’t indoctrinate their kids into their path in the same way that other religions tend to assert you should. That presents problems for some; how do you teach them without forcing it on them? I think that has a lot to do with just exposure, and how you present things. My kids have always been welcome to attend Circle events and Ritual with me, and we’ve also taken them to other church services and allowed them the choice to attend, participate or opt out. We’ve always been open about XYZ being ‘one way to think about things’, or ‘this is what Mommy believes; this is what Daddy (or Auntie or whoever) believes’ with the approach that belief is a personal thing, neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’. Your approach may differ based on what your goals are.

One thing I know about my own beliefs is that they’re ever-evolving. There are ideas and concepts that I ‘like’, but don’t necessarily ‘believe’ and figuring out how to explain some of those things to my children has been challenging. Fortunately, if you’re interested in sharing your beliefs as a Pagan, or person on a more Nature/Earth-based spiritual path, there are some things online that can help to explain, or at least give you a starting point to start teaching your children. I have found it helpful to have a starting point, and for us, that was defining what it is that I believe in; what goals I am trying to attain as a person. Since we are somewhat secular, I was drawn to the 15 Guiding Principles of Secular Paganism as a teaching tool. I also appreciate the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru, and the Golden Rule as it is explained in other various religions. If you’re more traditionally Pagan or Wiccan, then The Witches Creed, The Wiccan Rede, or 13 Goals of a Witch might be more fitting, or have attributes that you want to include in your children’s education. As an eclectic practitioner, all of these have value for me.

In my practice, gratitude and mindfulness are two concepts that I am deeply attached to and so I try to incorporate those ideas and ideals into my life on a daily basis. While this doesn’t involve ‘giving thanks’ to a deity figure,  it does involve being mindful of the good things in my life and focusing on the positive. Depending on your feelings about and/or interpretation of Deity, you may include prayers, devotions or other ‘little rituals’ that are meaningful for you and your child(ren). We have Goddess and God and Sabbat candles in the kitchen that are lit almost daily, and directional/elemental candles that are lit for various reasons. Other things, ‘traditions’ that are rooted in belief and practice have their place as well: decorations (besom, Witch Balls, altars, ritual sweeping, smudging, etc.)… those things are just part of ‘our house’ and are normal for my kids. Other facets of your belief system will depend on your personal interpretation of your path and what religion and belief means to you. I like the Four Centers of Paganism as a model for understanding, and teaching as well. Defining where you stand, and how you interpret your path can make it easier to articulate and demonstrate to your kids.

In conclusion, I think the important thing is to prepare yourself for those hard questions, and not to leave your children out of the process of discovery. Whatever your approach, and whatever their path, the journey towards a personal style of spirituality and belief is interesting and full of self-discovery. Whether they agree with you, or take off on a completely different spiritual path, they’ll make it their own just like you have.

Here are some books and other resources that I’ve found both interesting and helpful at various times over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am not affiliated with the authors, publishers of distributors; the links are just for ease of locating them if you think they may be of use to you. Please feel free to comment with other books and resources you’ve found helpful, especially if they’re specific path relevant (i.e.: Druidry, Asatru, etc.)

Paganism For Kiddos: A Kids and Parents’ Guide to Pagan and Wiccan Practice by Jessica M. Hauptmann

Raising Witches: Teaching The Wiccan Faith To Children and Family Wicca by Ashleen O’Gaea

Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker, Anne Hill, & Sara Ceres Boore 

Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children by Cait Johnson & Maura D. Shaw 

The Pagan Family: Handing the Old Ways Down by Ceisiwr Serith

D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths & D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

Be sure to check out the other parts in this series:
Part I: Values
Part III
Part IV

What are your thoughts on sharing your beliefs with your children?

Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small


Pagan Parenting Part I: Values

paganparentingseries - 2016Introduction

This is Part I of the Pagan Parenting Series. Raising children is hard enough, but when you factor in being part of a religion or spiritual belief system that falls outside the mainstream, there’s an added layer of difficulty. In addition to criticism by the mainstream, there is also a decided lack of resources for Pagan parents that deals specifically with the particulars of raising children in an Earth-based belief system. In the interests of full disclosure, I developed this series based on a discussion centering on the book, Circle Round: Elements of Spiritual Parenting, but you may find the self-assessment questions relevant even without the book. I looked for the original discussion, but could not find it to link. If this sounds familiar, and you have a source, please let me know and I will update the introduction with a link. However flavored by the original discussion, I have put my own spin on it for publishing here. In this series, I invite you to explore some of the topics and issues of concern centered on raising children as a Pagan parent.

Part I: Values

In the first part of this series, we’ll start with some introspection. All of us, as parents, have core values that we want to instill into our children, and help them develop as they grow. As a Pagan, I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, ‘Where do your values come from’. It’s a question usually inspired by the belief that values are strictly a Christian commodity, and that the Bible is the source and guardian of all the Good Things, including behaviour and motivation, and that without them, you’re incapable of having a meaningful system of values. Obviously, that’s not so, but the idea and assumption that because you are Pagan you’re incapable of having a moral compass persists.

As a parent, this issue is compounded. Not only are you considered ‘less than’, but (clutches pearls) ‘think of the children’!! We parents have a great responsibility in raising the next generation to be productive adults. It’s worth it to take some time to consider what things in your spiritual history are worthwhile, what things you’ve abandoned, and what you’ve learned that you hope to pass on.

Some of the questions for this discussion are:

How were you raised spiritually?
What do you reject of your spiritual upbringing?
What do you still value?
What parts of your current spiritual path are new to you?
What are the essential qualities you want to give your children as they grow?

How were you raised spiritually?

No matter what religion or spiritual beliefs you were raised with, it left a mark on you – on how you think, on how your spiritual beliefs and practices evolved and grew. Whether you continued in a similar path, or found something that fit better, or forged your own path, your foundations matter. It’s common for the birth of a child to shake you a bit. It’s a huge change in life-roles, and it’s normal for every aspect of your world to be rocked to the core. It’s fairly common for new parents to revisit the beliefs or religions of their childhood, especially if those memories were happy ones. One advantage that most established religions have is community. The lure of a ready-made community is strong. As a new parent, your network of support may be fragile, or non-existent, and a religious community fills that void in a big way (at least it does in the US South – not sure if it’s the same in other places). If you live near family, then there may be great pressure and/or temptation to return to your foundations by family or friends.

If that happens, it’s okay! Consider it a learning experience. Go – enjoy what you can from the experience. You may find that it fits now in a way that it didn’t before. But if your beliefs are dramatically different and/or incompatible with how you were raised, then don’t be surprised if those temptations are fleeting, or you feel out-of-place relatively quickly. That’s okay, too. Considering the possibility that this may happen to you once you have a child is, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.

What do you reject of your spiritual upbringing? What do you still value?

This is a multi-faceted question, and interesting to explore. By getting a good idea of what you reject and what you still value,  you can form better ideas of what you want to pass on to your child. In the context of religion and spirituality, if a Creator story is important to you, then finding resources that embody your current values may be something you want to look into. If the idea of serving the community is important to you, then finding stories and histories that illustrate that idea would be important. If celebrating special events and Holy Days as a family are important to you, then you’ll want to figure out how to incorporate that into your family routine.
What parts of your current spiritual path are new to you?

I firmly believe that one of the best things that parents can do is ensure that their children know that they’re still learning. Life is made up of one learning experience to the next, and even as adults, we learns new things, make adjustments to our worldview and keep on growing as people. It’s completely okay not to have all the answers, and letting your kids know that you’re willing to study and learn something new with them creates bonds of communication and trust that last a lifetime. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be an authority in their lives; your life experience and book knowledge absolutely give you a broader perspective, but it’s totally okay not to know everything, especially when it comes to spiritual matters.

One thing I have noticed about Pagans is that many have a set of core-beliefs but that they also tend to be fluid with what aspects of their spirituality and practice are most important to them at various times. They’re also eager to learn about new ideas, concepts, methods of practice and mythology and willing to put those things into their own practice when they feel something strongly. As you learn new things, don’t be afraid to introduce them to your children. There are many Pagans who adopt a ‘family friendly’ approach after they have children, and even festivals, gatherings and some circles consider themselves ‘family friendly’.

What are the essential qualities you want to give your children as they grow?

Part of being a parent is guiding by example. Whatever your children see you doing – good or bad – they’ll imitate. Many of those things will become patterns of thinking and action. I think one of the best ways to teach is to show them. Whatever you want your children to do, start now. As a family, get involved in activities, or routines that instill something in your children that you want to see grow in them.

Feel free to explore these questions on your blog, and comment with a link so I can read it!

Part II: Beliefs
Part III
Part IV

Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small

 


Good Witch, Bad Witch

good witch bad witch

I know, I know – totally cliched and overdone, but the question itself just begs for this image, dontcha think? Image links to Zimbio quiz.

Probably every person who admits to being Pagan gets this question at least once. I’ve never addressed it here, so I thought it might be a fun way to kick off the new year. The question of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is a hard one to answer, in my opinion. Not because what I do or don’t do in my practice is questionable, but because of the very nature of black and white thinking. Categorizing something as either/or leaves out a vast canvas of grey, which I think most things could be said to be. There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether something is good or bad, not the least of which are intention and perspective.

Morticia Addams said it best, ‘What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.’

Take healing spells, for example. Most people would say that the intent of a healing spell is to help someone who is ill or feeling poorly. Few would argue that the intent of a healing spell would be classed as ‘good’. But if the person you worked a spell for feels that anything to do with Pagan practices is ‘evil’, and you knowingly violated that person’s belief/preference, would that still be classed as ‘good’?

There are those would would argue that all witches are evil. Quoting the bible, Exodus 22:18 says, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ That’s pretty damning, most would say. But surely all witches aren’t evil? I don’t consider myself to be evil, or even mostly bad. Short of swearing and a little social drinking and smoking every now and then, that’s about the worst of my vile habits. Even in my spiritual practice, I am cautious when it comes to affecting change in a way that might be destructive.

Many people who have an inkling of familiarity with Pagans may think that all Pagans are Wiccan, and as such, follow the Wiccan Rede, which states, ‘An it harm none, do as ye will.’ That’s not so; while Wiccans are Pagan, not all Pagans are Wiccan. Wicca is a specific style/belief/practice set within Paganism, and even though it has different ‘flavors’, that’s only a small part of the larger Pagan community. I’m not actually Wiccan, so I wouldn’t follow Wiccan dictates any more than I would follow Catholic ones (though those two particular religions have practices and ‘rules’ that are remarkably similar to one another, but I digress). That doesn’t mean that I take the idea behind the Rede, or even the Christian sentiment of the Golden Rule, any less seriously. Most cultures and religious or philosophical maxims have some version of it; I think it’s because at their core, most people strive to be good – to do good and be well thought of by others in their community. Even the concept of karma, and ‘the rule of three’ emphasis that what you put out there is what comes back to you.

For myself, I choose to strive to be good. My version of ‘good’ may vary slightly from yours; for example, I enjoy firearms as a sport, and other weaponry. While my interest in them does fall towards ‘sport’ and less towards ‘protection’, if pressed, I wouldn’t have an issue protecting myself or my children with force. I believe that doing so, even should it result in injury or death, would still be ‘good’. That’s more pragmatic than many ‘fluffy goodness and light’ Pagans might like, but I believe that there is more than just black and white; good and bad.

morticia - normal

In light of recent world goings-on, I have had many discussions with my children about how ‘good’ and ‘evil’ develop, particularly within the political realm. While current politics don’t hold my interest the way that history does, I can see alarming correlations between some of the American Presidential candidates’ positions and policies that historical figures that we almost universally categorize as ‘evil’ once held. But to truly avoid repeating those same mistakes, we can’t dehumanize the villains in those accounts. They were men; not monsters from a fictional story. They were men who, through charismatic, enigmatic and persuasive arguments and speech, appealed to fear, a need for safety and an idealized (but unattainable) ‘better’. And people flocked to them. They came running, willing to set aside their personal values and concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in order to work towards a goal that someone else imposed upon them. And there are those who would unequivocally say that those leaders were ‘good’ men. Chaos for the fly, indeed.

On the flip side, we have examples of non-violent lifestyles taken to extremes. Some might say that inaction in the fact of injustice is ‘bad’, but who could argue that refusing to harm or kill another living being is anything but ‘good’. But if my child were harmed or killed through someone else’s deliberate inaction on their behalf, I’d probably fail to see how they rationalize being a ‘good’ person after that.

My point is that black and white thinking is a form of cognitive distortion (another subject that interests me greatly). When you categorize something, and more importantly, someone as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you box them, and yourself, into a corner. You tend to put ‘good’ people up on a pedestal, unable or unwilling to see their faults, and have the potential to grossly wrong someone by judging them as ‘bad’ simply because their perspective or worldview is different from yours. We all do it to some degree; it’s natural. But being aware of it is the first step towards questioning our snap judgement and perceptions and getting to the grey.

Then again, according to the quiz, maybe I am just here to tempt you to the Dark Side of the Force.

bad witch

So, are you a good witch, or a bad witch?
Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small


Religious Revival and Modern Compatibility

religion ancients compatible modernThis was an interesting question to me: Is reviving the religion of the ancients compatible with modern life?

At one point, I was very interested in Kemetic Reconstruction. It clearly wasn’t my path, because I could never quite get past the ‘research’ phase and into the ‘practice’ phase. Though the practice wasn’t for me, I found the reading and research fascinating and spent quite a bit of time amassing information on it.

The entire idea that people actually went to some length and great effort to bring that religion and practice – not an imitation or re-imagining of it, but the actual religion and practice (as much as possible)back to life is nothing less than phenomenal. I am sure others have done similar feats with other ancient religions, and their efforts are probably likewise striking – even though I don’t subscribe to those particular beliefs, it’s still pretty amazing.

However, the question remains – are those practices compatible with modern life?

In their ancient form, and for their ancient reasons, I would say no; they’re not – and here’s why.

In part, I think that religion was used as a way to explain the unexplainable. Things that you and I have adequate explanations for were incomprehensible to the ancient practitioner. Gods and Goddesses were called upon for everything, from illness to rain for crops, to staving off illness or plague. Whereas you and I both know that falling stars and eclipses happen on a regular basis, and we understand the ‘why’ of it from a scientific viewpoint (regardless of whatever spiritual significance we may individually attach to such happenings), they didn’t, and so appeals to the gods for protection from, or blessings in the wake of such incomprehensible events were commonplace. While many Pagans are moved to worship, or Observe in Ritual, on these occasions, we’re not plagued by ignorance or worried that their appearance signifies the wrath of deity and their impending doom.

Another aspect of religion was (and remains) control. Often, leaders of the day were viewed as ‘gods’; their word was Law and the people were bound to obey. We still see this in some religious and political contexts, but many people (especially in the US and other democratic nations) are no longer familiar with the concepts of fealty and duty to the ruler. Americans openly mock the President and those in power, without fear of repercussion. Jokes are even made at the expense of various reigning monarchs, also without serious repercussion. Ancient people weren’t granted that same freedom, and ‘religious’ rituals as a matter of state kept them in line.

Granted, there is no ‘ruling class’ of Pagans; we’re a rather motley crew, content to do our own thing as we are motivated. Even in a reconstructionist Pagan path, I wonder how long people stay in it if the ‘rules’ for practice are strict and binding. Most Pagans I know find that restrictions and rules chafe after a bit, and break off to go their own way. Many Pagans I know come from religious backgrounds (usually Christianity), and are just tired of being told what to do; they prefer to feel it out for themselves and move where they are called.

It makes me wonder, too, why anyone would go to the lengths that would be necessary to become a leader in a reconstructionist path – and how they’d even get there. Without a practitioner to guide them, even reconstructionist religions are likely a ‘best guess’ rather than a true revival of ancient ways. Religion was often limited to inner circles – priests and priestesses and whatnot, and as the new religious/political faction took over, previous religions were banned, with all materials destroyed. Few ancient religions have text books or ‘So you wanna be a Priest of Anubis’ handbooks lying around. Even among more ‘mainstream’ Pagan paths, they’re ‘best-guess’ or purely made up as the individual practitioner follows his or her path. I am not deity-centered, so it doesn’t make sense to me why following my path and doing what I am inspired to do is any less valid than what someone else may feel inspired to do (not that I feel inferior or have even been made to feel so; just speculation).

On the other hand, religion and spirituality are an internal things for many; it is for me. Though I blog, and have outward evidence of my practice, it’s not something I flaunt or that you’d necessarily even know if you came into my house. My practice and spiritual path are for me; not the public. I do choose to practice with a group when that’s available to me, but even that has more to do with what I choose than what I’m told I ‘should’ do. I feel like reconstructionist paths are extremely interesting, and if they’re your cup of tea, then they’re absolutely valid as a spiritual path. I do think that much of the ‘why’ would be altered for a modern audience, but the ‘how’ may very well be adapted for modern life.

What are your thoughts?
Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small

 


Four Centers of Paganism

four centers of paganismI recently came across a post on Patheos by John Beckett, talking about the Four Centers of Paganism. I really liked the model, and have been thinking about how it applies to me, or more precisely, how and where my beliefs and practice fall within the model.

Basically, the idea is that rather than an institution, Paganism is a movement, and people fall closer or further away from the center of the model. Paganism, according to Halstead, has four centers around which the individual Pagan practitioner may revolve his or her practice. The centers are:

Nature:

Nature Centered Pagans find the Divine in Nature – their primary concern is the natural world and our relationship with it.  You may hear terms like “Earth centered” “tree hugger” and “dirt worshipper.”

Self:

Self centered Paganism doesn’t mean it’s all about you and your ego.  It means you find the Divine within yourself.  It means the focus of your religious practice is to make yourself stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and more magical, so you can be of greater service to the world.

Deity:

Deity centered Pagans find the Divine in the many Goddesses and Gods. Deity centered Paganism is mainly concerned with forming and maintaining relationships with the Gods, ancestors, and spirits.  Much of this is done through acts of devotion:  worship, offerings, sacrifices, prayers and meditation.

Community:

Community centered Pagans find the Divine within the family and the tribe – however they choose to define those groups.  Ancient tribal religion was (and is, in the few places where it still exists) about maintaining harmonious relationships and preserving the way things have always been.  Individuals are secondary to the family, and immortality is in the continuation of the family, not in the continuation of the individual. It usually includes some form of ancestor worship, and may include offerings to the Agathos Daimon – the “good spirit” or guardian spirit of the household.  Ancestors and family spirits are generally thought to be more accessible than Goddesses and Gods – a Heathen saying goes “if you feel a tap on your shoulder, it’s probably your grandfather, not the Allfather.”

These are just the most basic ideas; I encourage you to read the article in its entirety to get a better understanding of the model, but the definitions are enough for my purposes here.

It’s interesting to me that these centers are not limited to Pagan practitioners; there are many who revere Nature, or find their concept of the Divine in serving their community. There are even elements of self in praying for blessings to be answered or to be delivered from ill health or circumstance. And many other religious traditions center on the relationship with Deity over any other model.

For my personal practice, I think I fall mostly in the Nature/Self/Community spheres. While I enjoy the ritual associated with deity-centered styles of practice, they’re not my primary focus. I have often described myself as a ‘secular pagan’; my practice is more focused on becoming a better person, in sync with the natural world, celebrating the seasons and helping my community. One feeds into the other; I cannot give to my community without learning (and sharing what I learn along the way) to become a better person. Being a better person includes helping my community and honoring the planet we take nourishment from. I tend to think of deity as archetypes or aspects of Self; guides, teachers in metaphor rather than actual beings.

I do think that all four centers can have a place in practice, and that it’s okay to either focus on one area, or a couple at a time. Regardless of where your practice falls within those four centers, there’s always room for growth.

Where does your practice fall?
Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small