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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Summer Fever: Revelry and Retreat

I think I am a little ill.

I've noticed my ailment when I have been visiting the shops recently (the local shopping mall, for those playing in the U.S.A). Rather than sneer or glare at the usual proliferation of Christmas decorations that are decking the halls and the delicious treats (Pfeffernüsse! Get in me) that are sitting on shelves in early October and November, I've been smiling to myself. Smiling! Carols are playing over the speakers and I don't mind at all. In fact, I'm trilling the yuletide carols. Where did the Grinch go of Christmas past?

I've got the fever. Xmas fever!

Christmas is an awkward celebration whichever way you turn it when you live south of the equator. For starters, those snowglobes become a little irrelevant and more than a few items from traditional Christmas iconography is rendered obsolete in the Australian context. I'll allow my dear readers to connect the dots and refer you to some of my previous blogs about the Summer Solstice and how it collides with Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere. Most Aussies grin and bear it. We throw a few prawns in the barbie, sit in the 40°C heat and whinge a little and carry on with the commercial abomination of Western Christmas over-indulgence. Many of us, including me usually, absolutely hate it. It's crass, it's inconvenient, and it's often overrated. The expectations culminate in a hangover of overeating, exhaustion, and familial resentment.

This year, I'm really enjoying it, and I'm really looking forward to Christmas. I can't pin down exactly why. After a year of largely stepping away from the Wheel of the Year, I'm ready to launch myself straight back into it, and I'm ready for a little bit of anarchy while I'm at it.

This is going to take the form of indulging a 'flipped' Wheel but spreading it thick with a little applesauce that only a Discordian can bring. Some demons are coming to the party and I am going to embrace all environmental aspects of the season. This includes the natural environment: the Summer Solstice, and the fey energies that are embedded within. An acknowledgement of the polar opposition within the Winter Solstice, and the time of turning inward and contemplation that this time of year brings. We live on one planet and to dichotomise things is starting to serve me no longer, and I am beginining to look at things from a more global perspective. The cultural environment, too, will play a significant role: my black Christmas tree will receive a heap of trimmings this year that are going to be a little unexpected but a whole lot of fun. Beginning with Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

My plan is to both observe and celebrate the opportunity for revelry and retreat that this time of year brings for me. Sumsol celebrations will be held at my home with my coven, and I am really looking forward to some dastardly plans that will be enjoyed with much merriment, a lot of the colour red, and maybe a little bit of sun, sand and surf.

Wish me luck as I move on from my self diagnosis and jump into the treatment that holiday fever demands!

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Pike, Thanks for sharing!

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

"Bunch of wanna-blessed-be's. Nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the dark ones." - Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Photo by Katie Tegtmeyer

I love that quote. It speaks to every judgment that can be made, one Pagan to another, that there is a right and wrong way to "do" Paganism, and that we all think we're better for our way. Not to mention how it characterizes non-Pagans...

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Joseph Bloch has invited us to participate in a July Blogfest by writing about cultural appropriation.

I'm a Jungian and an eclectic Neopagan, which means that I am doubly vulnerable to charges of cultural appropriation.  Jungianism and eclectic Neopaganism are criticized for their borrowing of symbols from other cultures for a variety of reasons.  First, the removal of religious symbols and practices from their cultural context may be seen as trivializing.  Second, the adoption of the traditions and practices of another culture may be seen as a form of cultural theft, and another form of Western colonialism.  In many cases, these charges are well-founded, but I don't think it is fair or accurate to condemn eclecticism automatically as either trivializing or as cultural theft.

The trivialization of religious symbols

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    I may not share your theological views, but as a Platonist I'm impressed with your rigorous logic and willingness to share your be
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Wow! Hadn't heard about the Lesbos lawsuit! Those are exactly the right questions: where do we draw the line? and who gets to de

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

The Goddess Gaia is alive
In this time and in this space
She speaks in sunrises
And waves against the shore
She sings with the wind
She dances in moonlight
She holds you close
Your heart beats in time with hers
A great, grand hope and possibility
For this planet.

I maintain a daily spiritual practice of visiting the same sacred spot in the woods behind my house. I go to sit or stand on the large stones that rest there and I’ve found that when I open my mouth, poetry comes out. I’ve come to describe this experience as theapoetics: the direct experience of the Goddess through poetry in nature.

I explained my theory and experiences of theapoetics in one of my early posts for the Feminism and Religion project:

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  • Molly
    Molly says #
    I coined the word, actually, which is why you haven't heard of it! TheOpoetics has been around for a while, but theapoetics was my
  • Paola Suarez
    Paola Suarez says #
    I love that you coined the term theapoetics Molly. Goddess energy, love and poetry!
  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith says #
    Like Ashling unfamiliar with term theapoetics and this seems to be a good example. I look forward to future posts from Molly.

There has been a lot of very heated discussion lately about Paganism and Polytheism, with some people suggestion that there are certain practices or beliefs that one should hold in order to be able to call themselves a polytheist or pagan. Modern paganism being as diverse as it is, this has taken a lot of people by surprise, and accusations and name calling is happening from all corners.

I know this, and this only: I am a member of an organization that acknowledges "We are people who normally would not mix." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 17) But here we are--representing all sections of this country, all political, economic, and social backgrounds.  And-here's where I want you to pay attention--all religious backgrounds.

Twelve Step Programs are  spiritual programs.  It is demanded of us that we live a spiritual way of life.  It is also a WE program.  If you look at the Twelve Steps, you will see that "I" do not do the steps.  "We" do the steps.  So here we are, people of all religious backgrounds, beliefs and practices, being told we are meant to live a spiritual way of life, and that we are supposed to do it together, and that "love and tolerance of others is our code"? (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84)

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  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus says #
    I think it's important for people to know that there are 12-step groups where you don't have to recite the Lord's Prayer or in any
  • Hope M.
    Hope M. says #
    No 12 Step program requires you to conform to Christian religious beliefs and practices. Even groups that make us of Christian pra
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    It has never been my impression that serving as a role model had anything to do with 12-step programs. My understanding is that yo

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The meaning of Pagan

I have written much about my feelings of the word "pagan" on my primary religious blog, Of Thespiae.  I've written about how the use of the word in the pagan community has become so loose that it's meaningless for all practical purposes.  I've written about how, in spite of regular protests from the pagan community, the implicit "positive definition" of "paganism" ("positive definition" meaning "defining what something is"; whereas "negative definitions" define by what a word is not) is incredibly Eurocentric [2].  I've even mentioned how the "negative definition" of the word "pagan" isn't necessarily true, as the tradition of Christopaganism certainly makes it hard to say where the Christianity ends and the paganism begins.  I've written about the incredibly secular climate of the pagan community in current culture.

The word "pagan" is not one I've been terribly fond of.  Early on in my spiritual journey, earliest possible point being around either 1989 (when a nun at my old Catholic school gave me a copy of D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths and, I swear, I felt touched by Apollon in ways that Jesus and El Shaddai just never really could) or 1993 (when I first really started exploring ostensibly "pagan" paths), the word "pagan" was practically interchangeable with "Wiccan" or "witchcraft", or so it seemed  when trying to find any books on the topic; there was a minority of books about Heathenry, Celtic polytheism, and neo-Druidry, but there was no uncertainty to the dominance of witchcraft-based paganism, and frankly, that only barely interested me, and not enough to really look too deeply into it.  For a very brief time in high school, I practised a hodgepodge "Celtic reconstruction" of my own design, but I eschewed the word "pagan" because this didn't fit the common idea that most people had of "pagans" in the modern days, which was pretty much synonymous with "witchcraft", even if one knew that religious witchcraft wasn't as phantasmagorical as scenes from The Craft or even Practical Magic, they didn't really conceptualise it as simply "worshipping the gods of the British Isles", which is what I did, then.  Toward the end of high school, I just gave up on my self-made Panceltic religion, cos most of those gods barely seemed "real" to me, and I joined the Church of Satan briefly, which is adamantly not pagan, in its self-definition, and though most members describe Satanism under the definition of Anton LaVey as "atheistic", further reading into LaVey's later essays, and not to mention certain interpretations of passages in The Satanic Bible and The Satanic Rituals, suggest that he himself was better defined as Maltheistic (a word of earliest use in print traced to Usenet in 1985, and defining one who ostensibly believes in one or more gods, but deems It/(S)He/Them as unfit for human worship; see LaVey's "God of the Assholes", which appears in Satan Speaks! ©1997, for the most clear evidence of LaVey's maltheistic, rather than atheistic beliefs).  I was never a good atheist, somewhere in my head, I always believed in the gods of Hellas, and I was never maltheistic, either, because even if some deities don't want, need, or even deserve my worship, there are others that do, and by the time I was twenty-two, I basically outgrew the need for LaVey's church that I briefly had. But pagan?  To see if that word fit, I put a toe in the on-line pagan community for the first time in six years when I was about twenty-four, and at that time, I'd discovered a vibrant and thriving community of Hellenic reconstructionists, most of whom had mixed feelings about the word "pagan".  I pretty much only interacted with other recons for about another two or three years, and though I forget what ultimately teased me out, I had never really fully embraced "pagan" as a part of my religious identity.

Now, I say "religious identity".  This is important.  Though there are certainly a handful of people who describe their religion as simply "pagan" or "paganism", there is no single, positively-defined religion called "paganism".  The word "pagan" is generally assumed to be a collection of religions, generally of European or Mediterranean (including the Near and Middle east and Northern Africa, specifically countried along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea) origin, that either a) pre-date Christianity, b) attempt to reconstruct or revive said, or c) are newer religions that are at least somewhat influenced or inspired by said (like Wicca or Feri).  Prior Christianity, none of the local religions of Europe and the Mediterranean called themselves "pagan"; indeed, one's religion was usually just a part of the local lifestyle and was, at most, simply the way of worshipping the local gods --the ancient Greek dialects don't even have a word for "religion", the closest being "ta hiera", which is often translated as "the sacred" or "sacred things". "Pagan" is a thoroughly modern religious identity; similarly, "gay" is a thoroughly modern sexual identity, as in ancient times, most cultures didn't compartmentalise human sexuality with terms like "heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual" and sexuality certainly had less to do with the gender ofthe person one was attracted to than it had to do with the activities one engaged their sexual partners with.  These identities certainly exist, but they lose all meaning outside a modern context, and even within that context, are subject to change in their subtlety of meaning due to many factors, including time, location, implications by the speaker, and inference of the listener.

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  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I'm not saying Jesus is an archetype to Christians (from an Eric perspective). I'm saying Jesus is *archetypal* to Christians. (
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I meant "etic" not Eric -- damn spellcheck.
  • Ruadhán J McElroy
    Ruadhán J McElroy says #
    You mean autocorrect. Spellcheck just highlights or underlines the misspelled words.

It is one thing to sing of the beloved. Another, alas,

to invoke that hidden, guilty river-god of the blood. 

-- Rilke

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  • D. R. Bartlette
    D. R. Bartlette says #
    This is a wonderful post. I love your statement that NeoPagans are modern society's "shadow." I will proudly take that title! I al
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    I agree with everything you said about the Horned God. It's still true that the Neopagan Horned God derives from the Wiccan Horne

Libertarians have a long history with modern NeoPaganism. In the early years of our rapid growth science fiction writer Robert Heinlein ‘s Stranger in a Strange Land,   helped inspire creating the Church of All Worlds.  and the libertarian spirit and strong female characters in his The Moon is a Harsh Mistress  was popular with many.  Historically the connection between libertarians and Pagans is deep.  Today many Pagans are libertarians and still more are sympathetic to what they imagine that philosophy to be.

On the surface that connection makes a lot of sense because libertarianism’s ethical principle is remarkably compatible with the Wiccan Rede   Libertarians generally say no one has a right to coerce a peaceful person and our rede states “An it harm none, do as ye will.”

Words are often like frosting on a cake. Ideally they reflect the quality of the cake below but often fancy frosting covers inferior cakes. In my view such is the case with modern libertarianism. As it currently exists libertarianism in my view is deeply incompatible with Pagan religion in any form. It need not be, but it almost always is. Libertarian Pagans tend to confuse the attractive frosting with what it covers.

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  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Greybeard, I am intrigued that you never ever actually confront a single argument I make, preferring rhetoric no one can disagree
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    A growing number of Americans, including American pagans, are Libertarian on social issues and Conservative on issues of economic
  • Chris Sherbak
    Chris Sherbak says #
    I'm not libertarian but don't many of the arguments supporting things like "just get another job" presuppose a fairly extensive (a

UPDATE BELOW

Joseph Bloch has made an interesting case that Pagan religion cannot always be labeled a “nature religion”  because  historically most weren’t. Instead they were concerned primarily with human affairs. I argue here that he is wrong, and do so in three steps. The first two explore crucial concepts he ignores. The third looks at errors of fact.  Grasping how he is mistaken deepens our understanding of what Paganism is and how we relate to the world today. 

The issues he does not examine are what we mean by “religion” and how Paganism reflects the times in which it exists. 

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  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I just posted a discussion of how a Pagan perspective gives us insight into the nature of our protected wilderness areas over at P
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I just posted a discussion of how a Pagan perspective gives us insight into the nature of our protected wilderness areas over at P
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Dear Elani- The points you raise require more space to reply than this format makes comfortable for readers. I think I might do a

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Active Eco-Paganism

There is a conversation topic getting a much-needed dust-off in recent days thanks to both the inaugural speech by US President Obama and a recent blog post by Sierra Club Executive Director, Michael Brune; environmental activism. I've written about how I feel an undeniable stewardship of the planet because of my religious views, which include not only the environment as being sacred, but that as a matter of practicality and selfishness, this is the only environment we have and we need to do everything we can to keep it healthy enough to sustain us, which invariably means approaching our life choices as part of the system and not separate and superior to it.

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  • Editor B
    Editor B says #
    This is something I believe in. I helped co-found the Green Party of Louisiana, now sadly near-defunct — but there may be some new
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    I love what you're saying here. The way you make disposable plastic eating utensils against your religion, is to just do it. I don

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

“Not for a moment dare we succumb to the illusion that an archetype can be finally explained and disposed of. Even the best attempts at explanation are only more or less successful translations into another metaphorical language. (Indeed, language itself is only an image.) The most we can do is to dream the myth onwards and give it a modern dress.” (Collected Works, vol. 9, emphasis added).

I chose the title for this blog, "Dreaming the Myth Forward", because the quote above captures for me what Jungian Neopaganism is: an attempt to live the myth forward, in other words, an attempt to live a mythopoetic life.  The meaning of this is something I will explain over the course of several posts.  While I will attempt in this blog to explain the archetypes, the title is also a reminder to me that all such explanations must bow to the lived experience of the archetypes. 

My vision for this blog is to describe Jung’s ideas in a way that will be unfamiliar to many Pagans.  I will attempt to walk the conceptual tightrope that Jung strung between the dual traps, the Scylla and Charybdis, of reification or literalization of the archetypes, on the one hand, and the oversimplication and reduction of the archetypes to mere symbols, on the other.  I want to present an understanding of Jung’s ideas that might appeal to both earth-centered naturalists and to deity-centered polytheists.  And in so doing so, I want to exercise both my critical faculty and my intuition of depth, and I want to be true to my experience. 

To that end, let me tell you a little about me and how I became a Jungian Neopagan.  Both Jungianism and Neopaganism grew in reaction to the Christianity of their times, so it should come as no surprise that I came to Jungian Neopaganism in reaction to the Christianity of my youth.  When I was a Christian, I felt a perennial sense of powerlessness and self-loathing.  While this is not a necessary condition for every Christian, it was a condition which flowed naturally from my experience of Christianity. 

One day, shortly before I left Christianity, I was reading Paul Tillich’s Systematic Theology, and I came across these words:  “Freedom is the possibility of a total and centered act of personality, and act in which all the drives and influences which constitute the destiny of man are brought into the centered unity of a decision.”  (I later learned that Jung and Tillich have a lot in common.  See, John Dourley’s Psyche as Sacrament: A Comparative Study of C.G. Jung and Paul Tillich.) These words were like a revelation to me: In that moment I realized that my sense of powerlessness derived from the fact that I was trying to overpower certain parts of myself (spirit over body, intellect over emotion, “good” over “bad”), thus dividing me against myself.  This division at my core was a recipe for powerlessness and concomitant low self-esteem. I realized then that personal power comes not from conquering the rejected parts of myself, but by integrating those parts, by finding a place and time to treat every part of me as sacred.  When I discovered Jungianism and Paganism, they both appeared to me as religious paradigms built around this idea of resacralizing the rejected parts of ourselves. 

I discovered Neopaganism and Jungianism at the same time, first through the writing of Jungian Wiccan Vivianne Crowley, and later through Margot Adler and Starhawk.  Wouter Hanegraaff has written that Crowley’s Jungian perspective “is so strong that readers might be forgiven for concluding that Wicca is little more than a religious and ritual translation of Jungian psychology.”  And, indeed, I thought that was exactly what Neopaganism was.  I was surprised to learn later that not all Pagans embraced Jung’s ideas (more on that in a future post). 

Neopaganism, as I understood it, was best described by Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin in their book Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America when they wrote that the unifying theme among the diverse Neo-Pagan traditions was “the ecology of one's relation to nature and to the various parts of one's self.”  The ecology of the various parts of oneself: that was a powerful idea to me, who had previously identified my “self” only with my consciousness and my intellect.  As Ellwood and Partin explain, in contrast to the Judeo-Christian tradition which teaches that the intellectual will is to have dominion over the natural world and over the unruly “lesser” parts of the human psyche, as God has dominion over man, the Neo-Pagan tradition teaches, on the contrary, that we must cooperate with nature and with the deep forces of the psyche with an attitude of reverence.  Neopagan morality, according to Ellwood and Partin, was based, not on imposing the will on the reluctant flesh, but rather on that “expansiveness of spirit which comes from allowing nature and rite to lower the gates confining the civilized imagination.”  In other words, unlike Christianity, which divided me against myself, Neopaganism seeks to break down those divisions and bring together nature and humankind, body and soul, light and dark.

I discovered a similar ethos in Jungianism.  Jung wrote that “life calls not for perfection but for completeness” (CW 12).  The goal of life for Jung is not to become saints, but to become more fully human.  To Father Victor White, Jung wrote, “A ‘complete’ life does not consist in a theoretical completeness, but in the fact that one accepts, without reservation, the particular fatal tissue in which one finds oneself embedded, and that one tries to make sense of it or to create a cosmos from the chaotic mess into which one is born.”  Creating a cosmos of the chaos of one’s psyche is what Jungian’s concept of individuation is all about.  But this is accomplished, not by “imagining figures of light”, but by “making the darkness conscious” (CW 13).  “There is no light without shadow, and no psychic wholeness without imperfection,” wrote Jung (CW 12).  “Without the experience of the opposites there is no wholeness and hence no inner approach to the [gods]” (CW 12).  In short, Jung taught me the truth of John Middleton Murry’s claim that “it was better to be whole than to be good, and that, therefore, to be whole was to be good, and to be good something different.”

Both Neopaganism and Jungianism offered me a path toward wholeness, healing, personal power that I did not find in Christianity.  These two paths complemented each other in ways I hope to share with you in future posts.  In closing, I leave the words of Hermann Hesse (a friend of Jung’s):  May you “treat your drives and so-called temptations with respect and love.  Then they will reveal their meaning — and they all do have meaning.”

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  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Thanks Elani! It's an honor to be here.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Welcome to PaganSquare, John. I look forward to your posts here.

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