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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The Three Centers of Paganism

I have found a useful tool for thinking about the Pagan community.  Most attempts to describe contemporary Paganism use lists of beliefs or practices.  Some of these lists attempt to be comprehensive, while others do not.  One problem with these lists is that they inevitably focus on those elements that the person making the list wants to emphasize.  Consequently, large portions of the Pagan community are excluded.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Thanks! I'm glad it will help.
  • Archer
    Archer says #
    I found this very useful--in any Pagan group there's always a lot of translating to be done, and this model will facilitate that.
  • Julian Greene
    Julian Greene says #
    John, regarding the positive and negative potentials of each, I felt pleased when I had "arrived" at what I considered a middle pl
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thanks for this column. I have recently been called as the Campus Pastor for a historically Christian Seminary in Berkley that is
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    My pleasure. I'm glad it helps.
You are a public face for Paganism at Conventions

I recently attended Convocation for the first time. I was having dinner one night at the restaurant and I talked with my waiter for a bit about the convention. She asked me if I thought that she and her co-worker would be accepted if they visited the vendor room to look around and I told her that I thought it would be fine (The vendor room was open to the public as far as I knew). I thought about that conversation later on and how in that moment I was a public face for Paganism. And how at any convention that is hosted in a space such as a hotel, all of us are public faces of Paganism, even if we don't realize we are. The public space we are in is not solely a Pagan space. It is shared space and the impressions we make on the hotel staff and other guests matter.

When I'm at an event or anywhere really, I behave the way I'd want other people to behave toward me. I'm courteous to the staff, acknowledge the work they are doing and do my best to be mindful of my behavior and how others might perceive it. Now it's true that I'm at a convention to have fun, but  I also want to make a good impression because the staff and guests will come away from those experiences with their own perceptions about Pagans. And likely they'll already have some assumptions and beliefs about us based on their own spiritual beliefs, etc. However I think that how we act in public is important.

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  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I agree it's important to be cognizant of the impressions we make on others, whether we're representing ourselves, our beliefs or
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Having worked a number of jobs over the year where I was retail, I always remember how people treated me and make the effort in tu
  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    Thank you. I have seen this point made many times but you made it *without stigmatizing certain groups some Pagans try to distance
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    I don't think it's helpful to stigmatize people. As long as all of can remember that we're in a public space and behave accordingl
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Excellent, rational advice which is so self-evident that I'm always amazed at how many people need to have it pointed out to them!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Are We Really a "Nature" Religion?

The organizers of Pagan political causes keep writing to me, asking (nay -- demanding) that I lend my support to various environmental protests, demonstrations, and campaigns -- on the grounds that we Pagans are supposed to be ‘stewards’ or ‘caretakers’ of Mother Earth -- and, as such, we have a religious duty to ‘walk the talk’ and engage fully in ecological activism.

Sez who?

More to the point -- who was the first to say so? And what was the process by which these beliefs (and demands) became the water in which today’s Pagans are swimming?

IMO, and FWIW, the people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it's true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed 'all acts of love and pleasure' as its sacraments.

Over the following 15-plus years, considerable thought went into the development of an ethical system in support of this effort. A new system, now called the Expressive Ethical Style, evolved to replace obedience or self-interest as the motivations for human behavior with an ethic of impulse ('follow your feelings'), self-expression ('let it all hang out'), and situational appropriateness ('go with the flow'; 'different strokes for different folks').

Replacing the goal of self-preservation with self-awareness, this new ethical style encouraged relaxed non-analytical attention to the present situation ('be here now'), in order to meet the newly reified obligations of universal love and mutual non-injury.

But then the 80s began. And some writers, new to the field, began making rather strident announcements to the contrary. First, if this was a religion that worshiped Goddesses, and if all Goddesses must therefore be one Goddess, then this one Goddess must be the Goddess of Nature. Veneration of the Maiden (romance) and the Crone (wisdom) was scorned in favor of a kind of feminist monotheism -- worship of the Mother -- Mother Nature.

Next, it was declared that all historical Goddesses (those about which something was actually known, and from whose myths ethical insights might be gained) were hopelessly tainted by 'the patriarchy', and that only those (imaginary Goddesses of pre-literate civilizations were worthy of worship.

Established Pagan ethical ideals (esp 'harm none') were acknowledged in passing, but deemed naive and insufficient. We were not to burden ourselves with such considerations, especially if they prevented us from enacting the emergency measures necessary to protect the (now sacred) environment from those who disagreed with our visions for its preservation.

And as for 'all acts of love and pleasure', well you can just forget about them. In this instance, 'harm none' was extended, and radically so, to disallow any behavior that had ever caused harm, or was believed even theoretically capable of causing harm -- especially to members of a new 'victimhood elite' -- those capable of concocting fictive (or, as Chas Clifton once put it, 'cheerfully ahistorical') narratives of past oppression.

From this point onward, there'd be no wine in that chalice. Nor would any wand or athame be welcome there either. So there!

I object. I have only the greatest reverence for the Goddess as Mother -- but as part of a polytheistic constellation in which Maiden & Crone are included. I have no argument with the sacral nature of Nature -- that Nature is imbued with the divine -- as long as no one insists that Nature (esp as 'the environment') IS the divine.

I want to see a return to our original Pagan spirituality, in which the genuine Pagan deities of the past are studied with reverence and care -- hopefully to provide us with insight into the polytheistic worldviews that predated the Abrahamic religions. And I’d like to encourage study of the concocted deities of the past couple of decades in order to better understand the inner nature of the political, spiritual, and psychological environment that produced them.

I propose a return to our roots. Those who wish to pursue environmentalism (or feminism, etc) are welcome, now as then. But they could just as easily find a home -- quite a comfortable spiritual niche -- in any number of mainstream religions. IMO, what makes Paganism unique, what distinguishes it from these other established religious paths, is its enthusiastic embracing of a sybaritic worldview -- along with the focus and energy to continue (or resume) work on an ethical system (see above) that would support such a way of spiritual life.

Anybody interested?

Raise your hand and shake your bells.

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  • Naya Aerodiode
    Naya Aerodiode says #
    This article, right here, is why I've stopped reading Pagan blogs for the most part. I'm really done with people attempting to def
  • Fritz Muntean
    Fritz Muntean says #
    I couldn't agree more, Lupus. (but where DO you kids get these NAMES -- haven't any of you read 'Lady Pixie Moondrip'?) Literacy
  • Fritz Muntean
    Fritz Muntean says #
    Good point, Sindra. I should have discriminated more carefully/clearly between Modern (aka 'Contemporary') Paganism -- a New Relig
  • sindra
    sindra says #
    I found a few issues with the overall post, though not many. Mostly the problems I found were in that it homogenizes Paganism into
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    Where did you hear that, Sindra? There were lots of polytheistic cultures that existed before Judaism...and, "Judaism as a monoth

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In honor of the Winter Solstice and Christmas I offer this story of the birth of a god recorded by Jung. In this selection from his Red Book, Jung describes in symbolic language the consequences of the death of his god. Jung is overcome by how his god is made small, like an egg which he can keep in his pocket. He is left disoriented by the loss of his god. So Jung takes the egg containing his god, protects it, nurtures it, while it gestates into something new.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Laissez les bons temps rouler

One of the things that I find particularly enchanting about this city is the music. It's everywhere, from jug bands playing on the sidewalk, to raucous zydeco coming from the bars on Bourbon street, to the lone musician or singer busking on the corner. From the moment we leave the hotel, there's music. It counterpoints the natural rhythms of the city itself, and all the spirits that dance and wander here. It connects me to the city, to all its many layers like nothing else. 

 

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  • jen z
    jen z says #
    I am sad to see this site as a book burner. Yes Kenny Klein screwed up, but to remove old blogs is wrong. Censorship in any form i
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    excuse me? I think they ought to fry him. At the very least his blogs and books should be taken down. He's filth. He didn't just "
  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    You write, "Magic is in the air here and there are plenty of people ready to capitalize on it." Maybe that very fact encourages p

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
City of Bacchus

 

So my partner and I are currently vacationing in New Orleans. Neither one of us had been to this city before but oh I am glad that we came. This is a city belonging to Bacchus if ever there was one! We've been here only about twenty four hours, and most of that time has been spent meandering through the French Quarter with no destination in mind. We have plenty of time to do cultural things and to shop. For now, we've been trying to get a sense of the city spirit, and a taste of the energy of the city itself. 

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  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    I like to comparison to Venice. In fact, I think I will steal it.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Magical Musings Podcast Interview

It's finals time, folks, as well as being one of the most intense Yule seasons that I can recall in a very long time. I"ve been swimming in work both academic and spiritual and so I must apologize for not posting as much here. That will change, I am sure, with the turning of the year. 

In the meantime, so y'all can see I'm not quite as much of a slacker as it may seem ^_^ I'm posting a recent interview that I did with Magical Musings podcast. We covered some topics that I think are tremendously important to the polytheistic community as a whole and Heathenry in particular and while the interview was close to two hours (not sure what the edited version here ended up being--I wasn't involved in whittling it into shape for airing) I had a hell of a good time. 

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