Pagan Studies

Presenting the eight Festivals within an archetypal framework and connecting that framework to personal development and inner transformation.

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Of Antler and Wing: The Convergence of Paganism with the New Age

In the line of work that I do, I have many opportunities to attend trade shows and fairs, setting up my business information and a small array of books and such for purchase.  Many times, given the titles of books on display and perhaps my brochure outlining services and modalities I provide, I have found myself facing the question “Are you New Age?”  Though some of what I do and what I offer does touch on aspects that are considered New Age, it is not a tag I have felt resonated with either my personal path or work.  But the question has often caused me pause.  Stymied on how to respond, I have pondered: What is New Age exactly?  What constitutes New Age practices?  What is different about what I do?  And, if not New Age, then what am I?

 What defines the New Age Movement?

 There are so many elements that contribute to the thinking, philosophy, and practices of the New Age, it is a challenge to pin down.  Rooted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century philosophies of New Thought and Theosophy, the New Age Movement gained new form through the social consciousness and activism of the 1960’s, becoming increasingly popular and cemented with new nomenclature as a ‘movement’ in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  The New Age Movement tends to constellate around principles of ‘love and light’ and, in its strictest form, hearkens the arrival of Maitreya, the Buddhist bodhisattva who will teach the law of dharma to alleviate human suffering.  Its name is a nod to the concept of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, although astrologers do not agree on when this New Age will actually occur. Some calculations have it arriving several hundred years from now.   Regardless, the New Age movement overall tends to subscribe to the belief that we are moving into a new age of consciousness, bringing peace, acceptance and love to all beings on a global scale, prompted by individual consciousness-raising.  To facilitate this process, certain practices became associated with the Movement.

·         Energy work:  Eastern practices such as meditation and working with the chakras encourage a transcendent experience.  Though there had been knowledge about these practices in the West, specifically through the teachings of Helena Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society, the 1960’s and 1970’s saw the influence of the yogi Swami Sivananda and the exiled Tibetan Dalai Lama which brought these teachings wholeheartedly to the West.  Energy work has become increasingly accepted through the popularization of Reiki.

·         Channeling:  Teachings shared by high vibrational, non-physical beings and received by individuals while in an altered state of consciousness became popularized by the work of Jane Roberts (The Seth Material), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Lee Carroll (Kryon), and the best-selling series by Neale David Walsch (Conversations with God).

·         Crystals:  Prompted by association with the mythic ancient civilization of Atlantis, crystal use in the New Age Movement focuses on using their energetic vibration for healing purposes.

·         Angelic Beings and Nature Spirits:  A seeming extension of working with the non-physical realm is the highly popular practice of connecting with angels and fairies for guidance.

·         Extraterrestrial Beings:  The 1980’s brought a lot of information and interest to the question “Are we alone out here?”  Though many books at the time presented extraterrestrial encounters as unnerving and frightening, Shirley Maclaine’s Out on a Limb (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1983) epitomized the New Age Movement by bringing together the journey of self-discovery with Eastern practices, crystals and otherworldly experiences from the perspective of gaining higher wisdom and enlightenment.

Published in 1993, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (New York: Warner Books, 1993) was the best-selling novel that crystallized many New Age beliefs.  It was to the 1990’s what Carlos Casteneda’s The Teaching of Don Juan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968) was to the 1960’s:  personal development and spiritual teachings hidden in a first person narrative.  The Celestine Prophecy presents nine insights or teachings that start with the concept of synchronicity (Divinely-inspired, meaningful coincidence) and end with ascension (achieving such a high vibrational state that one physically leaves this planet).  It was the reading of this book that marked my break with the New Age Movement.  Having devoured every page, I found myself consciously rejecting the final insight with the thought “But I like it here on Earth.”  Transcending the ‘Earth plane experience’ did not appeal to me.  I see so much of beauty in the world around us.  Though there is hardship, challenge, and pain, I am in no rush to leave and when my time comes, I hope to have the courage and curiosity to embrace the mystery of the death process as opposed to “vibrating” my way around it.

Around the same time as reading The Celestine Prophecy, I happened one night, prompted by some unknown inner nudge, to attend a lecture in Toronto by Starhawk on the work of Marija Gimbutas.  The evening was capped by a performance by the Raging Grannies.  I remember leaving the auditorium in a somewhat shocked state.  So much of what was presented that evening struck an immense chord in me.  I was transformed.  I immediately acquired Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (San Francisco, Ca: Harper, 1989) and Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986).  Both presented a way of positioning one’s self in relation to the earth and the stages of life’s passage that struck home.  And one thing that stood out for me perhaps more than anything else.  This was a path that was not afraid to look at the dark.  It saw the opportunity for wisdom and potential in all experiences.   It is this that comes to the fore when I am asked “Are you New Age?”  My answer has perhaps a bit of a tongue-in-cheek flavour.  The fact is, in my exploration and deep commitment to a Pagan path over the past 20 years, I consider myself very much Old Age.   

What defines "Old Age"?

As with the New Age Movement, the rebirth of Paganism in the West encompasses so many elements with much diversity.  It is impossible to define the Pagan path in a way that speaks true to all the variety of expressions.  But there are certain key philosophies that mark a Pagan path as separate from a New Age path.

·         Gods and Goddesses:  Whether seen as reflections of archetypal energy that are more readily accessed through personification or from a more intimate, devotional perspective, all Pagan paths recognize the power of the ancient myths and stories of various deities and/or pantheons to make a difference in one’s life.

·         Practice of Ritual and Ceremony:  Whether practiced alone as a ‘solitary’ or in the context of a larger group, Pagans love ritual.  There is something about setting sacred space, whatever that may look like to the individual or group, and entering that space to engage in conscious change (otherwise known as magic) that makes a Pagan heart soar.

·         Acknowledging Cycles:  Based on ancient agricultural customs, many traditions found in Pagan paths are rooted in the planting and harvest cycle - the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.  Many Pagans also follow the cycles of the moon, recognizing that each phase offers a particular quality upon which to draw for inspiration and guidance.

·         Honoring of the Earth:  An offshoot of acknowledging the cycles is the Pagan bent towards seeing humankind as intimately connected to the Earth.  Our survival depends upon the health of our planet and this is reflected particularly in the sense of Gaia consciousness: the Earth as our Mother.

There are many other aspects to particular Pagan paths, but one could argue that, as divergent as many of the paths are, they can all agree upon the above philosophies.

The Dance of the Old and the New

Over the past several years, it feels there has been an interesting shift in both the current trends of 21st century New Age-ism and Paganism.  I have been lucky enough for the past two years to attend two separate (and very excellent) Pagan conferences: PantheaCon in San Jose and Paganicon in Minneapolis.  I have become aware of elements at these Pagan events of which I have not previously seen to any great degree – the incorporation of New Age type elements.  In 2015 at PantheaCon I spent a wonderful few minutes receiving an energy healing session from a Reiki practitioner in and amongst rituals honoring the old gods and goddesses.  At Paganicon, I was very interested to see workshops offered in yoga and energy scanning alongside those expanding on cauldron use and how to align with the natural world of plants and animals.  Old Age meets New Age. 

The gift of the New Age is transcendence.  Rooted in Buddhist philosophy and Spiritualism, it tends to look to the stars, to mindfulness, to rising above, to the belief that intention is everything and that we can learn from higher vibrational beings.  The gift of Paganism (or the Old Age) is its groundedness in our presence and experience on this Earth, the sacredness of the Land and the power of activity or ritual to pull intention into our bodies.  If one is of the stars, the other is of the earth.  Together they form the taijitu, the ancient Chinese Yin-Yang symbol in Eastern reflection or the vesica pisces of Western reflection.  They can be seen as opposites which each contain their particular gifts and teachings.  And, though there has certainly been some crossover in the past, it seems increasingly that the two worlds are coming together. 

In the dance of our search for meaning and guidance as we travel this human path, two figures step into the circle of a wooded canopy that opens to an indigo night sky dotted with pinpoints of crystalline light.  Stepping majestically, trailing fronds of greenery, the antlered god holds out a hand to the glimmering winged angel as she stands bathed in an ethereal, sparkling glow.  He brings the echo of hoof on ground as it cycles through seasons cultivating and nurturing the abundance that springs from its depth.  She brings the symphony of the spheres, angelic harmony and the timeless cycle of the celestial realms.  The Old Age of the earth and the New Age of the stars.

And the child of this union?  I believe antler and wing hold a very similar vision: that within ourselves we can feel acceptance, love and understanding; that we can honor differences amongst peoples, knowing that there are those elements that connect us all; and that beyond all this, there is an unfathomable mystery that cannot be understood, just experienced with awe.  Whether what comes of this convergence of the New Age with Paganism will be reflective of Maitreya born to bring the teaching of peace or the Divine Sun Child who is born anew each annum, it seems we are on the verge of discovering.  I hope it is twins!

 

(Thanks to Josephine Wall for her openness to the use of her exquisite artwork. Please do visit her website to see more of her work. Your eyes will thank you.)

 

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Tiffany Lazic (BAA, RIHR, RP) is a Registered Psychotherapist and founder of The Hive and Grove Centre for Holistic Wellness. She has developed numerous courses in the psychological application of intuitive tools and is author of The Great Work: Self-Knowledge and Healing Through the Wheel of the Year (Llewellyn, May 2015). "Be both of the Earth and of the Stars."

Comments

  • Courtney
    Courtney Monday, 25 April 2016

    Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed this article a lot. I find the immanence of Paganism much more appealing than what you find in Buddhism and the like. I don't want to die to self or extinguish the self or anything like that. I feel that is the cowardly way out.

  • Tiffany Lazic
    Tiffany Lazic Monday, 02 May 2016

    Hi, Courtney ~ Yes, there is something of great profundity, I find, in opening ourselves to the full experience of life. I appreciate what can be beautiful of other approaches as well - like the transcendence offered in Buddhism. And they do come out of certain cultures, circumstances, and even geography. But I too am drawn to, as you say, "the immanence of Paganism" :)

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