Discussion in 'Pagan' started by enlightenment, Jul 24, 2007.
In your own words, please...
Paganism, like beauty, seems to be in the eye of the beholder to some extent it seems...
from pagan -- Britannica Concise Encyclopedia - The online encyclopedia you can trust!
"The term pagan was also used to refer to non-Christian philosophers, and in the 20th century it was used to identify members of certain new religious movements.Any religion originating in recent centuries having characteristic traits including eclecticism and syncretism, a leader who claims extraordinary powers, and a “countercultural” aspect.
Regarded as outside the mainstream of society, NRMs in the West are extremely diverse but include millennialist movements (e.g., the Jehovah's Witnesses), Westernized Hindu or Buddhist movements (e.g., the Hare Krishna movement), so-called “scientific” groups (e.g., Scientology), and nature religions (see Neo-Paganism). In the East they include China's 19th-century Taiping movement (see Taiping rebellion) and present-day Falun Gong movement, Japan's Tenrikyo and PL Kyodan, and Korea's Ch'ondogyo and Unification Church. Some NRMs fade away or meet tragic ends; others, such as the Mormon church, eventually become accepted as mainstream."
Can't see much of a common thread...
There seems to be a link, deserved or otherwise, between paganism, pagan symbols, and the politics of National Socialism, for some reason?
Odin? That mean anything?
Enlightenment, there are a section of white supremacists who twist northern pagan traditions, rather than twisting Christianity, to fit their messed up ideals. One showed up on the forum on Paganism I'm a member of a while back and it was a shock to see how indoctrinated and narrow and hateful someone can become. The northern traditions often emphasise and revere the ancestors, which is used by these types as a reason to hate those of different ancestry (how one can tell for certain that one is 100% descended from Vikings, I have no idea...). Most Pagans (including, and perhaps especially, those of the northern traditions) view them as scum, same as most Christians view Christian White Supremacists as scum. http://home.earthlink.net/~wodensharrow/hah.html
My take on 'Paganism'...
'Paganism' is an umbrella term for pantheistic or polytheistic religions(and perhaps some other 'theisms' that are not monotheism). Often those modern religions called 'pagan' have a magical element. Some define Paganism simply as any religion that is not Abrahamic but I don't define it this way as it's defining us by what we are not, rather than defining us by what we are. Some define Paganism as 'an earth centred religion' but I know Asatruar who say they don't feel their religion is earth centred (I would agree with them). It's all a bit confusing, even to a Pagan Suffice to say Paganism isn't a religion in itself, but an umbrella term for religions whose followers have decided to term themselves Pagan.
This might help Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-
Hey, Impqueen, this was really interesting. thanks!
Very helpful page, Impqueen! I knew some of this (not all, of course), but this article puts the thoughts into words in a very clear way. I liked it so much I copied into a Word doc. so I can keep it for reference.
Impqueen's link is to one of the modern Pagan community's shining lights: Isaac Bonewits.
Bonewits is the founder of the popular Druid group ADF (Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship) which has its official website at http://www.adf.org
I understand that Bonewits has stepped aside as leader of that group but is still active as an elder.
I agree mostly with Impqueen's definition of Pagan, although I would point out that there are monotheist Pagans too. That's one of the reasons I tend to stick to the simple explanation that Pagans are not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist.
Actually, if you really want to confuse the (cough), white supremacists, go onto one of their forums, and actually get into an innocent chat with them about Christinaity, and a strange thing starts to happen.
Those in the UK will claim that Christianity is a 'Jew religion', and not European in origin, and therefore, not 'Aryan'....
Those in the US, they take great offence to that, and the end result, is that these great warriors and thinkers of the WS movement, such as it is, start to argue among one another, really badly!
At that point, I make a coffee, sit back, and watch it all unfold!
I'll bet as a kid you used to put shovels full of the black ants on the red ant hill....
Some general questions
1) To be a Christian and pagan would be a contradiction in terms, yes or no? I mean, did the former not essentially sort of steal many pagan festivals, including that of Xmas, not to mention the fact, am I right in saying that in history, Chritians often persecuted pagans, to use the generic term?
2) Bit confused about the Roman thing. As far as I have been lead to believe, the Romans went around doing their thing, conquering this and that, and sort of picked up bits and pieces of all religions, and therefore, they were not Christian, they worshipped many gods, indeed, they had a god for just about anything, is that right?
3) In what nations is Paganism most popular?
4) Do those who are Pagans believe in the power of magic, or are there those that just embrace nature, etc, and reject 'magic', as either folklore, or natural events that have been misunderstood?
Sorry if these questions seem a bit rudamentary, but you have to start someplace!
Were you standing behind me!
There are some Pagans who incorporate a lot of Christian material in their specific philosophies. Despite that, I think it is a bit of a contradiction in terms to say that one is a Christian Pagan or a Pagan Christian. Just like Wiccans who draw heavily on Egyptian myth are not really practicing Egyptian religion, but Wicca with an Egyptian emphasis.
If you're interested in blendings of Christianity and Paganism, you'll find a lot in ceremonial magick. The system of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn for instance is a good example. You can also look in pretty much any classical grimoire to find obvious blendings as well.
Yes, the Romans were pretty liberal in adopting all sorts of Pagan religions into their official state religion. And they did persecute the early Christians, before the Roman emperors (and therefore the Roman empire) converted to Christianity. I think the reasons for persecuting the early Christians likely had more to do with politics (i.e. things the Christians were doing, and the Christian tendency to declare that all other religions were false) than any automatic rejection of Christianity necessarily. I'm sure that historians can clear that up much better than I can.
You might be a bit confused about the Roman attitude towards the actual word Pagan though -- it did originate in Rome, but it was used essentially to mean "country bumpkin" and was an insult. Today we use the word to refer to a group of religions without the pejorative overtones.
I'm not sure if there are any nations today that are officially Pagan. Paganism is openly tolerated in some places though -- I think Iceland for instance is pretty accepting of Pagan faiths. You'll find all sorts of Pagan religions being practiced in most countries around the world.
The website WitchVox.com provides thousands of listings for Pagan individuals and groups around the world -- at least English-speaking ones. I'm sure it's only a small sample of the numbers that are actually out there. Many Pagans prefer to keep their religious affiliations private in order to protect themselves from those who would do them harm. (There is still a lot of discrimination -- even open violence -- towards religious minorities in many places around the world.)
Some Pagan religions, such as Wicca, incorporate magick as an inherent part of its system. Others might not consider it inherent, but don't forbid its use among the faithful. Many see magick as essentially the same thing as prayer -- it's a way to ask for things you want or need. Magickal rituals just involve more concerted and conscious efforts to send out the request.
Pagan religions though do not necessarily embrace either magick or nature. Many do, but it's not universal. Some Pagan religions are more scientifically based or at least aware than others. And some are very "mainstream" in many of the attitudes and ideas that are taught -- they just happen to not be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or atheist and so often get classified as Pagan.
And for the record, I'm Wiccan.
Thanks for those answers.
Now, you say you are Wiccan.
Clearly, I could use the internet to give me a flavour of that, yet, I am old fashioned, I would rather just ask you, what is it to be Wiccan, how does it differ from being Pagan, what are your core principles, etc?
Wicca is a modern religion that was first promoted (and perhaps invented) by an Englishman named Gerald Gardner as early as the 1940s. It's based on English witchcraft lore with generous borrowings from ceremonial magick, freemasonry, and classical Pagan sources.
Worship usually focusses on two deities, an evenly matched God and Goddess, who are referred to by various names depending on the group or even specific Wiccan. Autonomy of groups and even individuals is inherent in the system -- we don't have a central authority structure like a Wiccan Pope or Wiccan High Council, and no central scripture. Most Wiccan groups and even individuals have what we call a Book of Shadows which is our personal (and often idiosyncratic) collection of ritual, lore, spell recipes, etc. Material for one's Book of Shadows is often copied from that of one's mentor or initiator but everyone is encouraged to make the Book their own.
Since there isn't a central authority to dictate what must be present to be considered Wiccan, it's hard to identify any idea or practice as mandatory. Many things though are common among Wiccans (such as the idea of worshipping a God and Goddess). One of the common ideas is the ethical statement known as the Wiccan Rede: "An' it harm none, do what you will." It's not a commandment though like those found in other religions; Wiccans see it as a guiding principle, something to strive for.
Many Wiccans also recognize the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief, which were drafted in 1974 by a diverse gathering of American Wiccans. They are listed in many books on Wicca. You can also find them online, including at this helpful website. Personally, I find the Principles to be a pretty good description of my own Wiccan belief.
As a Wiccan, I strive to commune with the Divine as it manifests in all its forms (including in everything in the physical realm -- many Wiccans are panentheists). Working to attain a healthy dynamic balance in all things is another goal. And being based on the lore of witchcraft, magickal work is also very much a part of my practice.
I've got lots more of my own writing about Wicca and witchcraft on my own website at WitchGrotto.com
Didnt think it was as new as the 40's.
Thinking out loud here, I wonder, if you and I, as a social experiment, and for whatever motive, went off and created a new religion, borrowing here and there, from this and that, adding our own bits and pieces, I wonder how long it would take before such a thing would take off...
Anyway, tell me more about these spells.
Give me an example of one, an uncomplicated one, that someone could put to the test.
Do you beleive these spells work?
Must you have faith for them to work, or can they work with no particular faith...?
Witchcraft has been around forever but Wicca, which is a specific religion drawing on witchcraft lore, is relatively new. Some people claim Wicca is an ancient religion but so far the historical record hasn't backed that up.
If you're interested in new religious systems or groups you don't have to speak hypothetically about it -- there are new groups springing up all the time. Within the modern Pagan community there are new Wiccan denominations being started up all the time. Some draw on historical material, while others are openly new creations apart from some basic Wiccan ideas and practices which they've adopted. There are also all sorts of other Pagan religions outside the Wiccan framework which are new.
One of the key signs that a particular religious system might survive in the long run is whether it continues despite the loss of its founder (either the founder dies or moves out of the leadership role.) Gardnerian Wicca is a perfect example -- Gerald Gardner died in the 1960s, yet his Wiccan denomination is still going strong. Alexandrian Wicca is another example. It was founded in the 1960s by Alex Sanders. Sanders died in 1988. There are plenty of Alexandrian covens still operating quite happily around the world.
On the Druid side of things we have groups like Isaac Bonewits' ADF, which he founded in 1983. That group is still doing well despite the fact that Bonewits has stepped out of the leadership role.
From a more magickal point of view (as opposed to a more religious one) the loose magickal system known as Chaos Magick and groups related to it such as the TOPY came into being in the 1980s and are still pretty popular. They are very loosely organized and seem to have staying power despite not having an authoritarian hierarchy to dictate dogma to followers.
With regard to spells, I do believe they can work, but in the same way that prayers can work. It also depends what you call a spell. For instance, some would say that drinking a specially prepared herbal tea to help get over a cold is a spell, while others would say you're practicing herbal medicine. In the case of a herbal medicine even if it's administered as part of a spell its effectiveness might not have anything to do with the belief of those involved. A spell that involves chanting certain words though might not have much effect without belief.
Some types of spells are attempts to develop or employ psychic talents. If that's the type of thing you're interested in, I'd suggest you check out the articles at PsiPog.net : Science is Evolving as they provide a good foundation in psychic work but without any particular religious overtones.
I heard Asatru was an official religion in Iceland, alongside Christianity.
Personally I think magic is unlikely to work if you don't believe that it will. It's not just a matter of doing the actions, but focusing will or energy. I don't do it very often at all. The things one tends to do spells for are rather unmeasurable... for example one of the few spells I have ever done was to bring my dad's company some success. A while later he is enjoying a period of success, but there's no way of showing that my spell had anything to do with it. Luck and/or his determination are just as likely to be the reasons, if not more so. I rather like the book Spells and How they Work by Janet and Stuart Farrar.
Psipog rocks, shame it has become just an archive site.
Right, I added that to my fav's, for later reading.
Some other random questions.
1) Do Wiccans have any views or leanings on the subject of eating meat?
2) Do Wiccans, in general, beleive in ghosts, or a heaven and a hell, in some form or another?
3) What are your views on Buddism?
4) Do Wiccans have a general view about life on other planets?
Different Pagan religious groups have had varying degrees of success being legally recognized in a number of places around the world. I know there are a surprising number in the United States, for instance. It's usually just a matter of registering the group as a tax-exempt religious group for instance in some places.
I don't know of any countries though that declare a Pagan religion to be the official religion of the country.
I agree that many spells are a matter of focussing energies and what is essentially psychic abilities. And many spells really are just fancied-up prayers, so belief would be necessary for them as well. (Oh, and for those looking up the book Impqueen mentioned, the author's names are Janet and Stewart Farrar. Lots of people misspell Stewart's name.)
There are lots of great books available on doing spellwork. I just saw one by Judika Iles in the store the other day. It's called "Pure Magic: A Complete Course in Spellcasting" and if it's like her excellent "Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells" it should be good.
I also really liked Nancy B. Watson's "Practical Magic" as it's a solid nonsectarian introduction to magickal work.
There's a saying that if you ask a dozen Wiccans a question, you're likely to get fifteen different answers. With no central authority structure you'll find that there are always disagreements and exceptions to any statement that starts "Wiccans believe..." or "Wiccans do..."
There are some Wiccans who are vegetarians of some variety or another, but there are many who are not. There is no specific diet that is generally prescribed among Wiccan denominations (although it wouldn't surprise me if there were a few out there that did.)
Many Wiccans do believe in what are essentially invisible realms and invisible beings. However, it's not a required belief so I expect there are some Wiccans who don't believe in what is not provable in the physical realm. Many Wiccans believe in a form of reincarnation (with lots of variation on how it's explained) with some sort of otherworld that is used either as a resting place between incarnations on the physical, or else as a permanent home once a soul is done with physical incarnations. But again it's not necessarily a universal Wiccan belief. We generally don't believe in hell specifically -- we see the other realm more like a different version of the physical one, where we make it a personal heaven or hell depending on our viewpoint and efforts. Tied in to that it is very common (but again not universal) for Wiccans to believe in some variation of the Karma idea.
I don't know enough about Buddhism to be able to comment on it, or how it might relate to Wicca. I'm sure there are some Wiccans who can, and probably some Wiccans who incorporate Buddhism into their Wiccan practice.
Life on other planets isn't a topic that I've really seen discussed among Wiccans apart from the typical discussions that any random group of people might have on the topic. Many Wiccans are actually very interested or involved in science and technology (lots of us work in IT or in the medical or education fields for instance) so discussions about life on other planets would tend to reflect that. But there is no real standard dogma on it.
Separate names with a comma.