Who bears the responsibility for training Pagan clergy? What happens when a Jewish woman tries to reintroduce the divine feminine into her culture? And how are death and darkness treated in Shinto vs. western Paganism? It's Watery Wednesday, our weekly segment on news and analysis from the Pagan community! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!
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"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last year this time I responded to an essay written by John Michael Greer titled, "A Bad Case of Methodist Envy: Copying Christian models of clergy is a Pagan dead end." His essay argued against the notion of payed professional clergy and my response was to argue in favor of professional clergy -- at least having the option of professional clergy. In this essay it is my hope to build upon the ideas I shared in last year's essay but also share further reflections on the subject of the evolving nature of Paganism in general and Pagan clergy in particular....
Twenty years ago, there was no Pagan community to speak of in the Okanagan Valley. My sister in spirit Rowean met a girl named Unruhe, and they started talking about forming a Yahoogroup for Pagans in the Okanagan. Rowean had come from Prince George, where a couple who had been trained by the Wiccan Church of Canada in Ontario had opened a shop and formed a community years ago; and Unruhe had moved up from the Coast, where there was a very large and established Pagan community; and they missed it. I was a solitary from the time I was 14 years old and the idea of connecting with other Pagans appealed to me. I knew a few others from the Society for Creative Anachronism and so I encouraged Rowean to call Unruhe up. We met in a coffee shop - I think a Tim Horton's, but don't quote me on that - and discussed the idea. Unruhe and her friend Perchta formed the Yahoogroup, I was the third person on it and Rowean was the fourth. We decided to meet for Sabbats and the first ritual was at my place, led by a Celtic Witch named Havoc.
Over time, the group split over the typical ideological differences that split Pagan communities, compounded by the fact that most of us went through the stuff that I would now, as a Witch, refer to as "Second Degree ego issues," all at the same time. There were hard feelings and bad blood. Some people bowed out of the community for a long time. Some spread rumours about other groups. Some bowed out entirely and disappeared....
Through a fellow blogger, I came upon an article about an author's loathing for the Pagan sellers of all the Witchcraft stuff one can buy. The post boiled down to saying that monetizing your faith takes power away from you, and simply buying your equipment will lead to hollowed out rituals. The post is here.
There is a long discussion in this from the Witchcraft perspective, but I'm not going there. I'm not going there because I left that path behind and the more I look back, I realize what a tangled--but beautiful--mess it is. Instead, I'm going to write about this from the Hellenistic point of view and take you back to Ye Olden Days when the Ancient Hellens still practiced their faith in their temples.
Religion was entwined with daily life to such an extend that you'd be hard pressed to find a pottery seller who had not depicted one or more of the Theoi on his work. Near just about every temple was a stand which sold small statues which one could sacrifice to the Theoi at said temple. Every temple complex had a treasury where the various gifts of the devoted were stored. Religion, back in the day, was big business--as it should be. It helped instill the presence of the Theoi in daily life.
It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)
Look, we all know that in most Western countries, Christianity is the major religion. This means that for many people in Western countries, 'religion' is synonymous with 'Christianity'. I suspect that in the modern Pagan movement, a lot of anger towards Christianity comes from this blatant disregard of two thirds of the world's religious people. In general, I can deal with the dominant Christian worldview. I may not like it, but I respect it. In my day-to-day dealings with those of the Christian faith, I can usually find the things we have in common within our religions and we make it work. This, however, does not mean that Christianity is the same as Hellenismos, and that a Christian chaplain--by origin a word applied to a representative of the Christian faith, now applied to men and women of other religions or philosophical traditions--could accurately guide me if I should ever end up in a hospital, the military or a prison.
While I'm usually very positive about Canada, I am not so positive today. CBC reports that the federal government is cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country. This doesn't mean just the 'fringe' faiths like Buddhism and Sikh--the Wiccan chaplain that got hired, got fired right away back in September--but also Judaism, Islam and the First Nation spiritualities. Why? Because Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't convinced part-time chaplains from other religions are an appropriate use of taxpayer money.
I would love to go caveman batshit over this, but Hellenismos has this thing about ethics and eloquent speech, so I'm going to try and actually formulate my opinion instead of reducing my power of speech to a Lolcat.
A couple of weeks ago—which partially explains my absence from this hallowed place—Mother Grove Goddess Temple ordained a group of women as temple clergy. The women—and in this case they were all women—were already priestesses but they went through a long process of study and practicum to make them clergy. They can perform all the rites of passage (including the legal one of marriage), can teach and speak on behalf of the Temple and its programs and philosophy.
It was a powerful ritual at a local herb school, because the Temple is small. There were candles and simple black robes. There were special guests and people making speeches. There was a choir and a reception. There was an audible gasp in the congregation when the women’s stoles were placed on their shoulders and they turned to face out. At that point, they were introduced one-by-one as “Reverend.”...