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
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.
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.
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.
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.