More drama has surfaced within wider Pagan community within recent weeks, particularly within the blogosphere between “polytheists” and “humanists”. I put those terms in quotes to blanket a lot of people under them, and because after all I’ve read regarding either camp, I’m not sure I understand what those terms really mean anymore.
It's probably no surprise that I'm a huge fan of parodies and satire, or the various "-ifications" on the net (yes, I know that's not a word, I'm using it anyway).
I really enjoy it when people get creative about their interpretations of things- the creative world is too broad and vast for us to get terribly proprietary over our ideas. Copyright infringement and patent laws and such really bug me. Of course, I like the reversal of such things, like Repo: the Genetic Opera, which is not even terribly tongue in cheek in its commentary on commercialism in health care.
The reason I enjoy these things, far beyond the satirical and political commentary holding people accountable through mockery, is the actual creative genius of world-building. Taking a simple trope or theme, like maybe a memorable scene from a movie or book, and recreating it as a sitcom episode with the cast of Friends, for example.
Yesterday was Walpurgisnacht, the night in which German witches are said to fly around on broomsticks and revel. Today is Beltane and my birthday. I was born in the early morning hours between Walpurgisnacht and Beltane, to a German mother and an Irish-German-American father in the birth town of the Grim brothers. It makes me think that magic runs in my blood, and yet this is the first year in which I will dance the may pole.
It haven't even walked this pagan path for a full year and a day. I am still a new witchlet and yet I am practically watching my theology come together - like pieces rising from the ashes of a puzzle destroyed in the fire. When my previous Christian theology went up in flames I thought agnosticism was the best the world could offer me. The resurrection of belief has been more than an intellectual delight, it has been a breath of new life. To not only disbelieve the old things but to believe in new things. I believe again!
In 2013 I plan to write more than I have in 2012, which was certainly more than in 2011. There is a growing interest in what one does on a "Pagan homestead", and what makes it magickal or Pagan. Today, however, I want to steer away from that to something I think many are very guilty of, even if you don't want to admit it. I'm definitely guilty of it, and this is my public proclamation to be better, to understand my worth and limits.
There is an often overlooked component to Paganism, it’s propagation, and the fostering of a tolerant environment in which it can, in its many forms, be fostered and actively encouraged to grow and flourish. That part isn’t the expected tolerance from others, it’s not the guaranteed, yet often unrealized, equality and freedom for those who have ‘alternative’ spiritual paths. It’s something closer to home.
O, yes, it is nearly Samhain. Oya is crashing north- and westward, Her winds clearing the path, driving the waters ahead of Her. And I am composing an invocation of the Morrighan and have purchased a perfect, fat pomegranate. It is so tempting to tear it open and taste the sweet wild seed-fruits, to quench my thirst as Persephone did and doom myself to a dual-life.
The lore surrounding Persephone's descent into the underworld has come down to us in some interesting ways. One is the abduction scenario--Hades rises from a great cleft in the Earth and pulls her into his black chariot. She leaves her mother Demeter behind, bereft at the disappearance of her only child. Persephone serves as Queen of the Underworld and in the course of her time below, she eats six seeds from a pomegranate. These doom her to a bi-coastal existence--six months above ground with Mummy, six below with her husband, the Dark King.
In our culture belief is the sine qua non of religion. We talk of ‘beliefs’, and ‘believers’, and ‘other beliefs’, as synonyms for religious doctrines, adherents and other religions. The problem with this is that only one religion on the planet actually cares about what you believe: Christianity. Most other religions relate to their doctrines or practices in very different and sometimes contradictory ways, such as having several unresolved and conflicting opinions in one person. For them, this is not a problem, but for Christianity it is. The history of Christianity is mostly about disagreements in doctrine and who had to flee, hide, fight, be killed, or submit to whom, about it. It is true that across human history religion has been an excuse for war or plunder, but that was usually about resources or dominance and not about technical points of theology. Christianity is different.
One of the things that I value about being a Pagan, is that my religion welcomes knowledge that comes from science. The research of astronomers and of archaeologists figures in my meditations and in my spiritual and magickal practice. I'm also happy that we have been called the people of the library rather than the people of the book. I have access to the myths, the stories, and doctrines of more cultures and ages than my spiritual ancestors could have imagined. I'm extremely grateful for the abundance of teachings that this represents as it gives great depth and breadth to whatever spiritual, magical, or religious work that I undertake. However there is a cost and a challenge that comes with every gift. With greater knowledge comes the possibility of greater doubt. Without a single book or body of teachings identified as the preeminent source of truth, there can be a weakening of the power of belief.
On the longest night of the year, science tells me the Sun will rise again and that the days will grow longer. On the longest night of the year, the myths that I hold true tell me that our actions determine our relationship to the Sun. When I see the glorious Moon shining in its fullness, I see a Divine light and I see a large rock held in the dance of gravity. When I look at the attributes and stories of a Deity across the lines of cultures and time periods, I see the lines of soft and hard polytheism grow blurry in a syncretic mist. I think you can find your own examples for the experience this dynamic in your life. This is not a blog about faith in the normal sense of the word. Nor is it a blog about belief in the normal sense of the word. The concern that I'd like to raise, is that one of the primary fuels of magick is belief. The knowledge that we have in the modern world can interfere with the process by which we create the power of belief. As it is, we live in a culture that discourages a belief in the power of magick so we already have one obstacle to overcome. And though I believe that more knowledge can result in more power and more effective practices, I also know that it can create emotional, cognitive, and spiritual dissonance.