Arkadian Anvil: Hammering out a Pagan Future

Steel is tested and shaped on the anvil. Here, we try every Pagan idea on the anvil of history, hammered by insight and intellect, to forge a Pagan Future.

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Welcome Thinking Pagans!

This is the inaugural post of the new blog Arkadian Anvil.

For the last thirty years, my whole adult life, I have been living in and serving the US Pagan community. Since the early 1980s there has been a lot of change and growth in our community. The population has exploded, the literature has grown vastly, Pagan and Esoteric studies are now gaining acceptance by the academy. There is even a Pagan effort at a seminary.

When I completed my Golden Dawn education and became an adept of the tradition I realized that my education did not prepare me to care for members of our community spiritually, something I have felt called to do since childhood. To fix that I decided to go to seminary and studied at the University of Chicago and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, both while under the auspices of the Unitarian Universalists. Part of my motivation was to find work, or rather a livelihood, doing what I feel called to, namely serving the spiritual needs of a community. Sadly I was too Pagan for them and while they were willing to grant me a degree as a Master of Divinity, they were not about to hire me.<sigh>

However, the education was excellent. Liberal seminaries are very different from evangelical or even mainline ones. For instance, you are not taught theology in a Liberal seminary, you are taught how to DO theology, while learning a vast range of theologies that humans, mostly Christians, have previously created. In most seminaries what you learn is really just the answers to theological questions. Rather, I learned how to deconstruct theology, scripture, even the idea of religion itself and in so doing joined a rather small group of people who are engaged in the profound critique of religion that has been in process since the middle of the 1800s. Sadly, even though quite congenial for Pagans, we generally don't participate in the wider theological community since very few Pagans get seminary degrees, and even fewer become Masters of Divinity, the degree a minster would have. For me this was a problem in that no one 'spoke my language' when I graduated in 1993.

Without academic or ministerial job prospects, I decided to give up hope of support. Instead I found some employment, and returned to serving my local community, the Pagans of San Francisco Bay and environs. Priesting for Hermes, as I do, I was able to find IT work, even though I have no training in it (the advantage of working for the Lord of Information), and with my (now late) wife, Tara, bought a house with space for ritual. Over the next twenty years we built several communities and working groups and presented many rituals and workshops at our local festivals, Ancient Ways and PantheaCon. We even ran a festival, Twilight Gathering, for three years. Eventually, and quite by accident, I founded a Golden Dawn order (OSOGD.org) that has thrived since 2001.

<Grief> Death came to claim Tara, my wife of eighteen years, in 2008 after a futile and horrid struggle with brain cancer, to be followed by being laid-off two months to the day after her death. The loss of my partner ended futures long labored for. But inspired by a new and dear friend, I decided to return to the academy and study history. I have the tools of religious thought from seminary. Now I want the tools to understand the facts behind our Pagan history. Fortune was with me and I was accepted to study under the foremost historian of Paganism, Professor Ronald Hutton, Head of the Department of History and the University of Bristol, the third mostly highly rated university in England.

I mention these educational experiences not just to give my credentials but to explain why I am writing this blog. Over the years I have received several Wiccan or witchcraft initiations, and a Nath Hindu initiation. I've taken refuge in the Buddha and received many teachings and empowerments from amazing Lamas. I've been a member of the Caliphate O.T.O. since 1982, from back when Grady McMurtry was alive, and founded the Chthonic-Ouranian Ordo Templi Orientis (now Templars of Thelema in 1984 when he died). My Golden Dawn training ran from 1984 to 1989 in the order now headed by Chic Cicero. I was initiated a priest of Maat by Nema, 'taught' Chaos Magick by Fra PVN, trained in ritual, psychic skills and so much more by Oz Anderson, and learned from so many others. I've written numerous essays on our Way and been involved in both published and public conversations about Paganism and clergy, but mostly for the last twenty years I've served the local community, teaching our way and leading ritual.

But things have changed. Besides the prevalence of the Web that permits blogs like this to be, our community has changed and grown into the millions. Ideas common in the 1980s are lost or drowned in a sea of opinions. Skills commonly shared are forgotten. But worst of all is the lack of self-reflection and critical vision that has permitted the growth of ungrounded and unfounded ideas about who we are, where and when we came from, and what we are doing and thinking now.

Bucky Fuller said, if you see a job that needs doing and you want to do it, and no one else is doing it, that means it is your job to do. And so we begin. . .

In this blog we are going to take any and all ideas and practices that are called Pagan, Magic[k]al, Esoteric or Wiccan, and subject them to the anvil. Like a new-forged steel sword being slapped on the anvil to test its mettle, we will examine ideas like 'nature worship' or 'earth-centered', like 'elder' or 'Pagan leader', or even 'Goddess' or 'God' and see if they will hold up under the strain. My background gives me unique tools for doing this. My unique perspective gives me standpoints that are not common in our community that nonetheless will provide insight into what it is to be Pagan today.

So! Let's get started with the word 'Pagan', itself.

In 1999 I published "Why I call Myself Pagan" in Reclaiming Quarterly #3. (It is also available at http://hermetic.com/webster/why-pagan.html) This is another take some thirteen years later.

I (still) call myself Pagan. I despise the term Neo-Pagan since there is no culture previous to ours that called itself Pagan. They were Hellenes (Greek), Romans, Khemitic (Egyptian), Gauls, Franks, etc, etc, etc. No one called themselves 'Pagan' or 'pagan'.

My best knowledge says that Pagan was a term originally used as slang by members of the Roman Legions to designate those who did not serve in the military. It was adopted by Christians, probably those who were in the Roman military, to designate those not in the Army of Christ, other wise known as atheists, I mean Galaleans, I mean Christians.

I would like to know the first person who used the term Pagan as a positive term rather than an insult. It might have occurred during the Florentine Renaissance when Plato, the NeoPlatonists, the Orphica, Hermetica, and many other ancient texts were found and translated into European tongues. While we can find no real break in the use of magic, it is in the recovery of the ancient Theurgic tradition that the contemporary Pagan movement finds its origins. The magic of that day had all gone Christian. But, Ficino, Pico, Agrippa all knew the origins of the practices that they espoused and which will become the basis for what we do today.

Please note that I capitalize the name of my religion: Pagan. Some folks use lower case 'pagan' generally, which is just insulting. (Trying writing 'christian' and see how folks react.) Some folks use 'pagan' to designate the set of non-Christian or non-Abrahamic religions, or the religions of the ancient world. (Prof. Hutton uses this approach.) I think this is inappropriate and leads to a distorted understanding of the past. There is no one thing that can be designated non-Christian or non-Abrahamic, as though all other religions than they are the same. Lumping them all together does violence to the facts and is disrespectful to the huge array of religions outside the (very small) box that is the Abrahamic world. But it is customary today, much like certain racial epithets used to be.

There is another problem with the globalization of the term Pagan. It make us (real Pagans) think we are like other traditional religions like the Hindu, Buddhist, or Taoist traditions, or the indigenous cultures like the Shuar, Cherokee, or Yoruba, among so many others. We are not.

Do you think the Earth is the center of the Universe?
Do you think diseases are caused by germs and viruses?
Do you know about more elements than four (or five)?
Has the scientific revolution touched you?
Do you think democracy is a good idea?

In traditional and indigenous society the valences of the above questions are reversed and we are in no position to go back to them. (Everyone in the room who is still alive because of antibiotics, raise your hand). In fact, these ideas are so important that traditional and indigenous societies are adopting them and adjusting themselves accordingly. Good for them, but these ideas are *native* to us. We figured them out, for the most part, and they changed us permanently.

It was in the milieu of these ideas that what we are arose. We took on the opprobrious name once used to condemn and wear it proudly: Pagan. But what we are is an entirely modern or post-modern phenomena. While we look to the past for wisdom and the knowledge of the old ways of worship and magic, we are a new people making a new religion of it. (PS: we'll talk about religion and spirituality (and magick!) themselves another day.)

This new thing, Pagan, has gone though many changes since the 1980s, never mind the 1500s. In our expansion, we specialized into various forms. Some are efforts at rebuilding ancient cultural practices. But most central seems to be the new duo-theism of Wicca. Amongst the most extreme are the Thelemites (like me) and the Dianics (like my late wife), each for their own good reasons. Some will include and others exclude the Magicians or Magi, the [Neo-]Shamans, Chaotes, and many other flavors of practice. My tendencies are inclusive.

What is important about the term Pagan is simple. It is the name for the large set of newly developed religious populations that draw on and are continually developing the stream of spiritual practice called magic today. Our community is now fracturing, but in the 1980s, it was as Pagans that we all came together.

While I have no desire to restrict anyone from crafting a name for themselves and their way, I have a very deep concern that we keep the name Pagan as the 'big tent' we can all be in together. We need a term of solidarity wherein we can come together in our uniqueness while preserving our diversity.

It is simple, if we don't all hang together, we will all hang separately.

So, what do you think of all that?
Please comment as you will, below. But, remember a few things:

1) I am a Thelemite, no matter how certain I am that I am right, that in no way means I think I have the right to tell you what to think or say or do. You can only do your will.

2) I am likely to offend you if you don't like Sacred Cow BBQ. I think they taste the best grilled, but you can bring your own tofu.

3) You are not alone when you post here. There are real people who read your posts and so it is a requirement that all discourse on this blog be civil, under the pain of banishment. All else is fair play.

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Sam Webster is a Pagan Mage, one of the very few who is also a Master of Divinity, and is also currently a Doctoral candidate in History at the University of Bristol, UK, under Prof. Ronald Hutton. He is an initiate of Wiccan, Druidic, Buddhist, Hindu and Masonic traditions and an Adept of the Golden Dawn founding the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn  in 2001. His work has been published in a number of journals such as Green Egg and Gnosis, and 2010 saw his first book, Tantric Thelema, establishing the publishing house Concrescent Press. Sam lives in the San Francisco East Bay and serves the Pagan community principally as a priest of Hermes.

Comments

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 19 July 2012

    Sam, there's so much goodness in your post, I will only pull out one point: the word "Pagan." You have nailed this issue -- "Pagan" is big tent language, and that's always been our goal. (Aren't you glad we didn't call this site "Witches&NeoPagans." (ugh, that sounds dreadful.)) I totally respect all those polytheists etc who are wanting to carve out their own identity, but for me "Pagan" really *is* the best word.

  • Gareth Storm
    Gareth Storm Monday, 23 July 2012

    Greetings, Sam!

    I hope this blog takes off and gets seen; the more your educated and well thought out ideas get out there the better, in my opinion.

    I agree in principal with pretty much everything you said. I rail against the idea of heretics and violators of dogma that some members of some traditions seem to need to create (see the Hierophant's monologue from early Living Tarot) performances). I also feel that all of us - Pagans of all stripes, under the huge tent as you call it - need to get together and realize that we're all after the same things. Heathen, Wiccan, Buddhist, Taoist, Shaman, Rabbi, Minister, Priest, Bishop... whatever, it doesn't matter in the end: we can work together if we really work at it.

    ...but that's enough for now; I could go on for hours ;) Thanks for starting this up, and peace be to all!

    Light and laughter,
    Gareth "SongCoyote" Storm

  • Kenn Day
    Kenn Day Monday, 23 July 2012

    Bravo, Sam. This is certainly an ambitious undertaking, and since I have a hard enough time simply adding regular entries to my own blog, I respect the commitment.

    It seems a good thing to me to deconstruct the maps we use, in order to better understand them and to determine where they are - or are not - effective and appropriate represenatations of what is. I am hoping to do something similar with Sheya, and have tried, without e grounding you have, over the past several years. This has lead me to a deeper and fuller understanding of the teachings, which I hope will be the case as I continue to dig deeper.

    May the ancestors bless your efforts.

    namaste,

    Kenn

  • Christine L Berger
    Christine L Berger Monday, 23 July 2012

    I am very excited about this, great start to a wonderful blog. I forget sometimes that I have a chronological age, so realizing that I have identified as Pagan since 1985 is always a shock.

    I love love love the Sacred Cow BBQ. :)
    looking forward to following this....

  • winterjps
    winterjps Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    Glad to see you're starting a blog, Sam. I look forward to following your postings, BBQs included.

    93,
    Winter

  • Miss Lynx
    Miss Lynx Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    Well, this blog sounds promising - I'm all for critical thinking and questioning of dogma.

    But one point of disagreement with this post: I don't think that refraining from capitalizing "pagan" is necessarily insulting, nor equivalent to lowercasing the names of specific religions such as Christianity - because paganism is not the name of a specific religion. It's a catch-all category for a wide variety of religions, many of which have little in common with each other. Try convincing a practitioner of Asatru or Celtic Reconstructionism that they're practicing the same religion that, say, Wiccans are, and there's going to be blood on the floor. Many people would argue that attempting to mash a variety of different religions into one as if they were just minor variations on a single faith is what's insulting - not lowercasing an umbrella term like paganism out of respect for the integrity of the individual faiths it encompasses.

    I realize that all this is complicated by the fact that there are some people who identify solely as pagan and not as members of any specific pagan religion, though. Perhaps for those individuals, a capital P makes sense - or perhaps we need a wider variety of terms than we now have in order to avoid ambiguity. I don't know.

    Personally, I don't get offended when people capitalize paganism, or refrain from capitalizing it - I just find it tiresome when people automatically assume the worst motivations of anyone engaging in the opposite practice.

  • Kamakhya
    Kamakhya Tuesday, 24 July 2012

    This is great Sam. Really great. I have always been so impressed with your ability to navigate the many groups and ideas and titles and everything else in the Pagan community. We are vast and we are many. :>)

  • jason miller
    jason miller Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    WOOT!

    Great post. I will do whatever I can to advertize and support this venture. I will link it from Strategic Sorcery as soon as I get to a real computer.

    Jason

  • Editor B
    Editor B Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    Thanks for a very intriguing introductory post. I look forward to more. I shared your link with the Naturalistic Paganism discussion group because your post seems to indicate a naturalistic (or at least naturalistic-friendly) perspective. While most everything your wrote resonates with me, I am curious about magic. You seem to suggest that's an essential part of what the term "Pagan" means, and I'm not sure about that.

    Also, I agree with Lynna's ideas on capitalization.

  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    I guess we'll just have to disagree about the capitalization of word Pagan. For me, Pagan is the name of the collective of religions that associate with the name, much like Christianity is a collection of rather diverse religions, while 'pagan' has no referent to me, there never being any one thing to be referred to by the term. Better to call everyone not associated with Abraham as simply non-Abrahamic, or non-Christian, or so forth. On the other hand our community needs a term of solidarity: Pagan.

    It is interesting to see the issue of Magic being doubted as part of Paganism. If you are not interested in doing magic, you are welcome to cut yourself off from the Gods to that extent. Magic is both their gift in support of us, and part of how we continue the process of creation in alignment with the whole system of the Divine. In the pre-Christian world, and throughout most of the world today, magic is just operative religion and inseparable from it. As you might imagine, we'll be coming back to the Religion vs Magic question later. My problem is that I (and many scholars) can't find a meaningful difference.

    However, I see that you are raising the issue of magic with respect to a notion of naturalism, which uses the Christian framework of natural and supernatural to distinguish itself. Sadly, as those ideas derive from such a source that sees magic and the Gods as 'supernatural' and thus, for a naturalist, as false. I prefer the Neoplatonic idea of the supernatural meaning the unborn or uncreated. Magic to me, like the Gods and information, are part of the bornless structures of the world and so are 'beyond' nature.

    So, for theological, technical and historical reasons, I see magic as integral to Pagan religion. YMMV
    Cheers!

  • Peregrin
    Peregrin Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    Thank you Sam,

    this is an excellent first post. I wish you well in this blog and all your endeavours. Your intentions are wise and noble and I will share and link away to this wonderful new blog :)

  • Elissa Rich
    Elissa Rich Friday, 27 July 2012

    (Hmm, I just registered at the site, but the comment box says "Guest"... just in case it doesn't end up displaying my user name: Hi, I'm Elissa Rich.)

    I read about the blog at The Wild Hunt, and was definitely interested in reading - I like hearing about serious exploration of our diverse spiritual paths and considering meanings, how we conduct ourselves, our future, etc. I enjoyed reading this introductory post, and I largely agree with what's been said. You make some good points. I too agree with Lynn on capitalization, but I see where you're coming from, so my attitude is "toMAYto, toMAHto." To me, the most important thing is that we are able to communicate our meanings and understand each other's point of view, and discuss and argue on those particular grounds.

    I am also a bit leery of language like "Real Pagans" - it starts sounding like "no true Scotsman" arguments. It implies that there's a gatekeeper who gets to say who is [P/p]agan and who isn't, other than our own personal opinions. I'm comfortable with anyone wishing to label who they are and what they do as "Pagan" regardless of my opinion of who is or isn't, so long as they're not appointing themselves as speakers for the community without some kind of consensus and support.

    But again, I believe I understand your intent and support it. I'm simply being a stickler for language. :)

    Blessings upon you and this blog. May it thrive and we all benefit thereby!

  • Constance Tippett Chandler
    Constance Tippett Chandler Friday, 27 July 2012

    Hello Sam,
    Glad to see you trying to peacefully herd us together, and I agree we must hang together. It is time for respectful discussion about our differences and similarities, so that we don't turn on each other in petty niggling. The "enemy" is not fellow Pagans.

    Much love and hope for the future

  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn Monday, 13 August 2012

    For me, Pagan is the name of the collective of religions that associate with the name, much like Christianity is a collection of rather diverse religions,


    I am in complete agreement. If Paganism is to be taken seriously by those unfamiliar with who we are and what we practice, we need to take it seriously ourselves. I am one of those who, though in my second year of study under a High Priestess of Gardnerian leanings, has not aligned with any specific path (as of yet) . . . still finding my way, as it were. Born into and raised by a Christian family, I meandered my way through Catholic school, then closely observed the Baptist faith, followed by Lutheran. I also have a better than passing knowledge of the Jehova's Witness faith (as my brother was a convert). While they all have their common roots in Abrahamic teachings, they diverge on many counts - yet they are Christian faiths, with a capital C. And we are Pagans with a capital P.

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Friday, 28 December 2012

    Note to Sam Webster: You do not get to redefine the terms Pagan and Paganism. These terms have always been used to refer to two very clearly defined groups of people:

    1. Those people who were blessed to live prior to the rise of Christianity and who, therefore, were free to pursue their natural religious inclinations in whatever way they saw fit.

    2. Those people who have lived (including those now living) since the rise of Christianity but who nevertheless resist the (ongoing) coercive processes of Christianization and Islamization and, therefore, continue to pursue our natural religious inclinations in whatever way we see fit.

    Your biggest problem is your inability to recognize the coherence of ancient Paganism as a valid religious category. Once this is recognized then it is rather easy to further recognize the continuity between ancient and modern Paganisms.

    One can approach it the other way around as well: first comprehend (as most modern Pagans do) that modern Paganism is a religious continuation of the polytheistic religious traditions that preceded Christianity, and then from there recognize that like modern Paganism, ancient Paganism is also a valid and coherent religious category.

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Friday, 28 December 2012

    Oh, and your sweeping characterization of modern White European culture as morally and intellectually superior to indigenous, traditional, and non-Western cultures is blatantly ethnocentric - and that is a very polite way of putting it. Just so you know.

  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster Monday, 31 December 2012

    Apuleius!
    Thank you for replying to my blog, at least I think you are, you are posting here. I will reply to post of your posts here. You may want to read with more care what I actually said, but a few points are worth making immediately. . .
    Of course I get to redefine the terms Pagan and Paganism!
    Besides my significant degree of education and training in the subject, besides my responsibility to my community to speak on issues of import as a priest and educator in that community especially on how we self-define, particularly as that definition is in flux, more important still is the responsibility of every thinking person to take control over the metaphors of their discourse. Who controls our metaphors controls our minds. I prefer to take responsibility for the terminology I use, examining and refining it as I proceed, and deploying it in the manner most true to me, while duly documenting my choices, reasons and process. This is, of course, simply the nature of educated discourse. On reflection, I’m sure Apuleius, you would understand that.
    However, you seem to be also arguing for a continuity between the ancient world and the modern. I would agree and my own researches are about documenting the exact character of that continuity. What we have is plenty of evidence for the complete destruction of the ancient world, along with its integral religiosity and in its place was imposed the Christian Hegemonic ideology and religion. Fortunately for us, various texts and some artifacts made the long journey through time to the Renaissance where they flowered and eventually lead to the contemporary Pagan movement. But, the people who reclaimed the ancient way were not Pagan like us or even ‘pagan’ like the ancient folk. They were Christians working to improve *their* religion. Only in the Twentieth really, or possibly in the 19th, do folks throw off the Christian coloration of their spirituality and strive to be Pagan. Because the continuity is broken, or better: highly-qualified, I argue this religiosity is a new, marvelous, and powerful religion, best named Pagan.
    As for the rest of what you have to say, this is where you would have to read me more carefully because I am not writing for your expectations. I have also warned that all sacred cows are subject to barbecue, or if you prefer: sacrifice. My research shows an enormous amount of cohesion in the ancient world from Spain to the Ganges, so much so that I refer to it as the Great Central Tradition. So many of the practices, so much of the cosmology and psychology (soul-theory) across the region is harmonious if not identical, and so much trade and information exchange provides clear avenues of transmission, that I believe such a designation to be justifiable. That doesn’t change the fact that none of those cultures, until Buddhism arose in the East and Christianity in the West, saw religion as a separate category from culture. I find this important in understanding what the ancients were doing and write accordingly.
    But as for your follow-up remark, Seriously? I have no idea what you were reading to give you that impression. I suspect you were reading-in, not reading-out, for you have in no sense represented my views in the matter. But, your comment gives me the opportunity to state that clearly:
    I find Terrans a fascinating species worth of study in all of their forms, and with my focus on ritual, I have studied and deeply appreciated the ritual modes present on all continents. Value the gains of the European Enlightenment, especially those of human rights, and transparent, accountable government. Likewise I enjoy living in a scientifically informed and technology empowered society. Of these social and technological advancements, I am very proud of the efforts made by early-modern Pagans to bring them about. However, as a student of history, religion, and culture, I hold a very critical view of modern society. It is no utopia. The narcissistic self-destruction, the locust-like consumption, the exultation of greed, the commercialization of art and cultural goods, the loss of civitas and the commons are all part of a long list of challenges we face as a planetary culture. I affirm that if we do not resolve these challenges our species is in peril. And, the ancient, indigenous, and traditional societies all have their own issues making none of them inherently superior to what we have today. I speak for and about our culture because it is the one we live in, and the one to which I am responsible to care for.
    Since you have chosen to read some other view into my writing, no doubt as part of your need to defend a non-evidentiary notion of historical continuity of contemporary Paganism with ancient religiosity, a position I too once held, I can only commend to you the same medicine I took to cure my ignorance: scholarship. It may save you from embarrassing attacks on the better informed.
    Thanks for commenting on my blog!
    Dear Readers: Stay Tuned! Coming out of this Holiday break, we will turn to The Gods. . .

  • Freeman Presson
    Freeman Presson Saturday, 12 January 2013

    I have always had a habit of responding to rhetorical questions, so ...

    "Do you think the Earth is the center of the Universe?"

    I think my point of consciousness is at the center of my field of consciousness, and the place where I stand on Earth is the default locus for my experience of the Cosmos.

    "Do you think diseases are caused by germs and viruses?"

    I think health requires energetic, psychological, and spiritual balance. Pathogens get out of control and cause illness when this is absent.

    "Do you know about more elements than four (or five)?"

    Of course! I also know that the ancients didn't mean the same thing by the four essences that we mean by chemical elements. There is still a great deal of value in contemplating and understanding spiritual Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, and the Empedoclean forces of Philia and Neikos (or Bardonian spiritual magnetism and electricity, although I find his actual terms confusing, just as "element" is confusing here) which account for their mixture and transmutation.

    "Has the scientific revolution touched you?"

    Yes, in some mixture of good and bad ways. I am also shaped by my scientific education, but I don't think anything about that invalidates traditional forms of spiritual practice.

    "Do you think democracy is a good idea?"

    For any political unit larger than, say, Ashland, Massachusetts, no. But the Pagan Athenians were fond of it.

    "In traditional and indigenous society the valences of the above questions are reversed and we are in no position to go back to them."

    I, too, find this sentence puzzling if it is not simply ethnocentric. Fortunately, neither my relationship with my Deities nor my magical work require me to decline the use of vaccinations, antibiotics, or computers.

  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster Saturday, 12 January 2013

    Freeman, thank you for your comment.

    Perhaps the meaning of my post eluded you.

    The point is we have changed. Our world view is not that of the pre-Christian, or pre-Modern, or even pre-Scientific world. The questions were posed simply to highlight the changes in the way we see the world. And your answers actually support my thesis.

    As to that sentence being ethnocentric, that's just funny. Nothing in it invalidate or even criticizes traditional or even ancient cultures. It just points to the difference in world view. We can't unlearn what we now know and because of that we are massively different from the ancient peoples. We are likewise different from those we refer to as indigenous cultures, excepting of course those individuals in them who have made the shift into the 'modern' frame.

    Altogether, none of this should impact your spiritual practice. How could anything I have said invalidate any forms of spiritual practice? I am sincerely glad you have developed a relationship with your Deities. This is key to our maturation as a religious culture. As a priest serving a number of Gods I heartily suport your practice.

    What I cam challenging in my post is the understanding of that it is to be Pagan. Many have a deeply romantic relationship with the past. As a historian I share in this. However, I do not let my assumptions go examined and so came to the realization that what we Pagans are differs profoundly from the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Celts, Norse, etc. We do not and, except by estimation and projection, we can not view the world in the same was as those ancient and noble people did.

    Whatever we do, even if it were an exact reproduction of ancient or traditional spiritual practice, it will not be the same practice because the practitioner has changed.

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Sunday, 13 January 2013

    "As to that sentence being ethnocentric, that's just funny. Nothing in it invalidate or even criticizes traditional or even ancient cultures. It just points to the difference in world view."

    I don't really see how you can claim that. Either you acknowledge the fact that traditional and indigenous societies have made significant contributions in the areas of science and social progress, or not. You not only deny that they have made such contributions, but you insist that they can only participate in scientific progress and in democracy by learning about these things from "us".

    Which raises the old question: what do you mean "we", kemo sabe?

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