In this edition of the PaganNewsBeagle (Air - Monday) edition we have three stories from Creighton University including Voodoo in New Orleans, how online social media reflects (and affects) religious behavior, and a study that concludes religious teachings create an inability to tell fact from fiction in young children.
It used to be simple. Wiccans and NeoPagans in general were polytheists in contrast to Christians and other mostly monotheistic religions.NeoPagan polytheists usually spent little time on theology and considerably more creating and practicing rituals.Most of us became Pagans by virtue of personal attraction enriched by our involvement with a teacher or a coven or similar group.
Today many NeoPagans first learn about our traditions from books or the internet.The net in particular has expanded easily available information about our religion but at a cost.That cost is to be severed from NeoPagan history and practice except as available through pixels or the printed word.Instead of starting with learning and practice with others and then studying written sources, many NeoPagans now go from the study of texts to practice. They hope to interpret experiences they anticipate having through the texts they have read rather than judging whether the text illuminates or contradicts the experiences they have had.
Recently Ivo Dominguez Jr published a thought provoking article where he discussed the lack of the literacy in magic in today's Pagans. While I found myself nodding in agreement with a lot of what he had to say (I've observed in the past that there is an increasing amount of emphasis on removing magic from Paganism because it makes Paganism less acceptable to the mainstream*), I also found his use of the word literacy problematic, and by extension it caused me to re-examine his article and some of my agreement with the article in a different light. As a result, I think it worthwhile to examine the concept of the literacy of magic, both in relationship to the word literacy and its variety of meanings, and also in context to the practice of magic vs the "literacy" of magic, which I'll argue are not one and the same (in part 2 of this series). In fact, part of the issue I have with the use of the word literacy is that conjures up the armchair magician, a person has read a lot of books on magic, but has done little, if anything, with that magical knowledge. I would locate the armchair magician on the opposite end of the illiterate Pagan (at least as that illiteracy applies to magic). However, as we'll see, it's simplistic to categorize anyone as literate or illiterate, because literacy itself is a loaded term.
I read a lot of blogs, go to a lot of conferences and festivals, teach a lot of workshops, and have lively discussions with friends related to all things Pagan and Magickal. Although I can say that ease of access to ideas through the internet, bookstores, and Pagan and Magickal events has increased awareness of many social issues, ideologies, religious and theological perspectives, and the vast amount of minutia related Pagan culture and fads, there is an increasing percentage of the Pagan community that is magickally illiterate and innumerate. I’m not saying that people are less serious, less devoted, or less committed to their path. Nor am I saying that the level of discourse has dropped, in fact in many ways it is much more sophisticated in exploring the development of Pagan culture. What I have noticed is that the technical end of things, magick theory, sacred sciences, and the like, are less well known. I've also noticed a trend towards focusing more exclusively on the lore and mythology of a specific people or a specific time at the expense of a generalized understanding of how magickal paths manifest in a variety of cultures and communities.
NPR reports on a study that confirms what many of us already felt, that poor people are more charitable, in how they think about community and as a percentage of what they have. So what's going on here? I have some ideas, not all of which could possibly be correct at the same time, and I'm even more curious about the ideas I haven't thought of myself.
Not surprisingly, "religion" is cited as a motivator for charitable behavior, but from what I can tell, that generic term as applied in the studies cited actually means "Christian religion" instead. It's understandable that researchers focus their efforts on the largest groups, but the rest of us must read between the lines.