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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in theology
The Theological Aftermath of PSG: A Flood Narrative For Modern Times

"Twelve hundred years had not yet passed

When the land extended and the peoples multiplied.

The land was bellowing like a bull,

The god got disturbed by their uproar.

Enlil heard their noise

And addressed the great gods,

"The noise of mankind has become too intense for me,

With their uproar I am deprived of sleep." --Atrahasis Epic

 

It is hard to make your way in our modern world without at least cursory knowledge of flood narratives in some form--whether that is the story of Noah and the Ark, Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, Metamorphoses, or many others from multiple cultures around the globe. Indeed, there is an ongoing relationship between man and the divine that involves water particularly as a cleansing agent. This particular post is not going to delve into the deeper meanings of punishment inflicted on humankind by the divine use of water. Rather, I'd like to take a look at theological implications for the Pagan community in the aftermath of one of the most significant natural disasters of this decade. 

I was a prime observer of the 2015 Pagan Spirit Gathering deluge. I showed up on Sunday afternoon, and after a harrowing few days evacuated the area on Wednesday afternoon after having drove thirteen hours from Maryland to get there. During that short time period I witnessed marvelous acts of sacrifice and kindness--the kind that inspires me to continue doing my work as a minister in training for Circle Sanctuary. There is no question in my mind of the bond shared by our community, or the significance this event personified.

First and foremost, I have participated in and been witness to multiple conversations on creating intentional community. Many of us realized having our spiritual and emotional cup filled only once a year is not enough, and have begun seeking out like-minded individuals to either purchase land to live on or start some other form of community with more permanence. In this way it is possible to draw upon narratives like the Jewish diaspora for inspiration (not that I am comparing the Pagan community to the Jewish community). Having shared this particular experience as a whole, we carry our own pieces and memories of the loss with us, using it to fuel our search for something more.

Secondly, we are beginning to see more attention being garnered for climate change and its effects. It is a bit of bitter irony that while I am up to my knees in mud and we are pushing cars out of a lake, that California and other portions of the nation are still experiencing intense drought. This is only one example of how our weather is shifting in many ways due to mankind's involvement--highlighting a greater need to discuss remediation with our planet.

Lastly--and I'm throwing a hurt feelings disclaimer out there--events like the one we just experienced have large scale implications for "culling the herd." In mythology it's called cleansing the sinful. In today's society it's called where your heart lies. This event will have turned many off to the idea that PSG is worth their time or their money. We will see the numbers drop, but we will also see a strengthening of existing bonds in ways nothing else could have accomplished. For better or worse this event, this flood narrative of our modern time, has marked us as a people who love and work and sacrifice for each other. So for that I am grateful. #wearetribe 

 

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Pagan News Beagle: Faithful Friday, June 5

One of the primary aspects of many a religion is "theology" or the practice of studying and organizing the nature of the divine and other religious ideas. How then might theology be applied to Paganism? Or, as Gus diZerega asked recently, should it be applied at all? We take a look at theology and other forms of religious studies both within and outside of Paganism today, along with other stories. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle.

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Why Pagan theology is so unimportant among Pagans

When I first become a Pagan many years ago, I tried to find theological studies of What It All Meant within our literature.  I found many discussions of rituals, magick, and how Witches were correctives to patriarchy. But beyond some brief (and good) discussions in Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and the Farrars' The Meaning of Witchcraft,  there was almost nothing on the underlying meaning of a Pagan reality.  As I learned more about the broad Pagan tradition I began exploring literature discussing African Diasporic and Native American Pagan religions. Here to, by monotheistic standards the pickings were remarkably thin.

In Brazil I learned most Pagan literature consisted of spell books and details about rituals.  Among the traditional Crow people in Montana, individuals had different interpretations of their practices’ deeper meaning and of the status of figures like Coyote, but no developed theology.  Within my own coven I learned my coven-mates had different beliefs about who the Gods were. Classical Pagan religious writing was rarely sectarian and the major one that could be so described, The Golden Ass, was more an adventure story than a treatise on the Gods.  Pagan cultures were not particularly peaceful, but I know of no adherents to a Pagan religion waging war on those of another for not worshiping the right Gods. Unlike the monotheisms, unity of belief didn’t seem very important in the Pagan world.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    Can you see the irony in the fact that you've defined Paganism as superlatively permissive, but then have marginalized an entire f
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Absolutely no irony here at all. None. Beginning in your first paragraph you distort my argument. I wrote Pagan religion is room
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I will add one more point about thinking theologically about our own experiences as a way to deepen them and perhaps improve on ou
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I also tried to "like" your comment Macha, but it doesn't work either. So thank you!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Thanks, Gus. I think I'll print this for the men in the San Quentin circle.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Gods My People Swear By

I think it was Judy Harrow that told me this story. If not, apologies to my actual informant, whoever you are. As my father is fond of saying, “Age spares us nothing.”

Dateline: Chicago, 1993: the World Parliament of Religions. (This was the event at which the archbishop of Chicago used his political muscle to get the pagans a permit to do a ritual in a public park. Now that's what I call ecumenism.) It's the main event: religious leaders from all over the world are lined up on stage. The place is packed so full that they have to set up TV screens outside to accommodate everyone that wants to see. The pagans are all outside, watching. (There are, of course, none on stage.)

Some grandee gets up to talk. “Let us all be as one,” he says. “After all, we all worship the same god.” Nods, smiles, and knowing applause from the entire line-up on stage, including (shame on them) the Hindus. The audience eats it up.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • T-Roy
    T-Roy says #
    I don't name my Gods, they exist as identities, Hearth, Summer, Mother and so on but those aren't names, just labels. Not until
  • Lady Pythia
    Lady Pythia says #
    Delighted to share that the Parliament of World Religions returns to the States in 2015! We're not sure where yet. Andras will let
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Yeah, this is one story about one incident. Having seen my own thinking change on a number of topics over the course of the years,
  • Alison Leigh Lilly
    Alison Leigh Lilly says #
    "Nods, smiles, and knowing applause from the entire line-up on stage, including (shame on them) the Hindus." Do you find it at al
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    It was certainly not my intent to declare shame on Hinduism or Hindus generally, Allison. During revision, I thought: Maybe I shou

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Religion as Sacred performance art

 

My first essays tried to establish two important points about Pagan religion, and to some degree religion in general.  My third ties them together. 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Yeah, when academia gets involved there are costs as well as benefits, and expanding religious and spiritual terms to encompass th
  • Luan Makes Marks
    Luan Makes Marks says #
    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have observed the negative feedback on ritual only occasionally, but it exists in the dial
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Thanks Luan- I agree completely. When I first became a Pagan I worried about the 'messiness' of our beliefs. It was when I first
  • Luan Makes Marks
    Luan Makes Marks says #
    Gus, there were so many ways I was moved to respond to this, thanks for that. I used to say that my studies were positioned at the
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    I agree with you about the importance of having a teacher and the skills required. (When I was in grad school I felt every depart

My religious practice is mostly Wiccan.  Were I practicing a Heathen, Celtic Reconstructionist, or some other NeoPagan tradition, my examples would differ but I think my point would remain the same. 

Wiccans have a primary pantheon of two major deities, the Lord and Lady. We also have a number of mythologies describing these deities’ relationships. Taken literally they are not consistent with one another.  In some but not all Wiccan traditions She is viewed as having three guises: Mother, Maid, and Crone.  Sometimes She will have three dimensions but not as mother, maid, and crone, as with Hekate.  Sometimes She is treated as a single goddess.  The Horned Lord is sometimes seen as the Oak King and the Holly King.  At the solstices they engage in ritual combat, dying to be reborn.  In other Wiccan contexts and traditions He is treated as a single deity, and sometimes as an aspect of a more inclusive deity. 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Supernatural, not really…

The 'supernatural' is often considered the sine qua non of religion. Certainly the Gods and Spirits must be considered supernatural, yes? Well…not necessarily.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Richard Norris
    Richard Norris says #
    Aquinas, of course, based much of his work off of Aristotle, who was previously considered a kind of Platonist. Aristotle suggest
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    Richard, Thank you for your comment. There are a number of us working out a philosophical basis for our Pagan ways. Posts here, a
  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    never been one to use the term supernatural. if it happens it's natural. anyway. why can't 'matter' or the physical be independent
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Well said, Sam. It would be interesting to dive a little further into the concept of "the All" -- the oneness of the non-physical
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    Blessings, Diotima, I do some work on the All on my other blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganrestoration/2014/01/monist-how-a

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