Imagine... What if Mother Goose was the ancient European Mother Goddess in disguise, hidden from the patriarchal, monotheistic church that took over Europe, appearing in print just as the Inquisition and Witch-hunts drove anything non-Christian underground? What if the Mother Goose “nursery rhymes” taught to children over the last few centuries were a way to pass on an encoded pre-Christian worldview? Are fairy tales the carriers of the Pagan values of ancestors who had to disguise them as “peasant imbecilities” to keep them in cultural memory in a stratified society, of which the hierarchical authorities wanted to eradicate their egalitarian, animistic, and earthy worldview?
On the Vanic side of my spiritual life, one of the most meaningful and nourishing things I do is also one of the most simple, something that may not look outwardly like a spiritual practice: going for walks.
In my last post, I described Neo-Paganism as a modern-day mystery religion. Historically, initiates into the mystery religions experienced a ritual death and rebirth. Some Neo-Pagan rituals follow this format. The idea is that we die to our old selves and awaken to a new, more expansive Self. In Jungian terms, the Self is the wholeness of our many disparate selves, conscious and unconscious. But to encounter the Self, we must let our old selves, our egos, die. This is a psychological death, but no less significant than physical death from the perspective of the ego. For the ego, the experience can be as painful as dying physically, and some people would prefer physical death.
As indicated in the introduction to this blog above, I discovered Jungianism and Neo-Paganism at the same time, through the writings of Vivianne Crowley, Margot Adler, and Starhawk, and the two have remained intertwined for me ever since. In fact, the first Pagan writing I ever read was an essay by Wiccan priestess and Jungian psychologist, Vivianne Crowley entitled, "Wicca as a Modern-Day Mystery Religion", in Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman's Paganism Today (1994). Wouter Hanegraaf has written that Vivianne Crowley’s Jungian perspective “is so strong that readers might be forgiven for concluding that Wicca is little more than a religious and ritual translation of Jungian psychology.” And, in fact, that is exactly what I believed. Even after realizing that that Paganism is far more diverse than I had originally thought, Crowley's vision of Wicca has continued to influence me.
I'm going to contend that paganisms are preeminently religions of land, lede, and lore.
Land. Paganism is local, intimately related to specific places. Pagans are by definition the People of the Place; when peoples change their place, they bring their mythologies with them, and those mythologies naturalize to the new place. While the term “nature religion” is problematic on numerous levels, the paganisms direct themselves largely to this-worldly concerns, and engage the environment and the non-human beings with whom we share that environment as a matter of primary spiritual course. There are no universal paganisms; or, rather, the paganisms are at their most universal insofar they are most specifically local.
It is, for many of us, a language that we are still learning to speak. We may have been speaking this tongue for many years--decades, in some cases--but it is still, nonetheless, not our mother tongue.
This fact has implications. We may have mastered the grammar and have a large vocabulary. We may, over the years, have become fluent speakers of Pagan. But we are still not native speakers, and we never will be.
Today's Watery Wednesday focuses on community news for Pagans, Heathens, polytheists, pantheists and all our allies! North Carolina Pagans in the spotlight; Pagan interfaith progress; a new book on devotional polytheism; real vs "fake" names on Facebook.
It's October, the season when mainstream culture focuses on Paganism. This week, the Tarheel state seems to be in the focus. Kelley Harrell describes contemporary Witchcraft in this piece at a Raleigh website. The Asheville Citizen-Times highlights an unique program that includes Witches (like H Byron Ballard) in a program that shares various religions in a once-a-year program to local high school students.