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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in theology

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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Perspectives on Deity

 

Perhaps central to Neo Pagan practices is the petition of Deity. The crudest of formulas for Neo Pagan ritual would be: create a sacred space, invoke deity, pay homage and/or petition, and dismiss. Though some petitions might be spontaneous and overlook some elements of space or decorum ( i.e. Penczack’s “instant magic”), the desires and force of will are almost always necessarily in conjunction with some form of request to a higher power. Linguistically, one could simply put it as; “to petition”, a subject must have an object to call upon.  Even in the instance of petitioning the self, drawing forth some sort of believed, hidden energy from the depths of the practitioners psyche, the petitioner is calling upon an “other” to change or work with the “self”.

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Gods! Hard or Soft or ???

Are the Gods individual Beings or Cosmic Forces or Psychological Archetypes? Or are we just sticking Them in Boxes?

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  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    heh, this compliments Ivo's offering here: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Culture-Blogs/paging-thoth-athena.html
  • Kalyca Schultz
    Kalyca Schultz says #
    This is such an interesting--and sometimes polarizing--discussion amongst the Pagan blogosphere, and I've been wanting to engage f
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Webster, Thank you for saying what needs to be said. I was thinking similar thoughts the other day, when I was reading a we
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    Hi Jamie, thanks for your comment. Can you help me with something: folks are getting down on monists in some kind of opposition
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Webster, I don't think this faction sees its members as getting down on monists in opposition to polytheism, so much as deman

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