christians

Go a Wassailing

December, 2018

Go a Wassailing

The ancient tradition of wassailing has pagan origins intended to bless the coming year’s orchards’ crops and protect them from evil spirits. Later, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. Wassail was the alcoholic beverage of choice.

There are many traditional carols that are clearly for Christians, but there are a growing number of songs appropriate for pagans celebrating Yule. Some are original songs by pagan and wiccan musicians honoring the winter solstice; others are new lyrics set to old standards.

Here is a sampling that you might enjoy this winter.

Santa Claus is Pagan Too” by Emerald Rose

“Wiccan Wonderland” by Karina Skye

“Jingle Bells, Cast Your Spells” by Karina Skye

 

 

Cast that Spell” by Kyrja

On Midwinter’s Day” by Damh The Bard

Hail the Holly King” by Inkubus Sukkubus

Silent Night, Solstice Night” by Karina Skye

Whisper in the Darkness” by Adala

Solstice Evergreen” by Spiral Dance

The Longest Night of the Year” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Solstice Carole” by Wyrd Sisters

 

 

Solstice Song” by Backwater

We Three Witches” by Karina Skye

And, of course, “Here We Go a’wassaling.” This is one of many versions. Some change the lyrics to be more pagan, such as changing god to gods,

https://tinyurl.com/y942kkkg

I hope you’ll share your favorite solstice songs.

 

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About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Pagan Theology

August, 2012

The Christians and the Pagans

 

Something that tends to distinguish me from my fellow Pagans is that I do not believe that “Christo-Pagans” are possible.  That goes against the general openness of Paganism.  And it flies in the face of our Pagan historical and cultural norms, which tell us to accept just about as many Gods and Goddesses as we can cram into a theology and still have room.  Thus a theological bias against Christians in general and Christo-Pagans in particular tends to irritate the Christo-Pagans and embarrass the regular Pagans (it has no effect on the observant Christians, they think we’re all crazy).   So now you are either irritated or embarrassed, and for that I apologize.

 

Unfortunately now I have to tell you I’m halfway wrong.  In considering this rather complicated problem I believe there is a place for those who follow Jesus to find a place within Paganism.   I don’t believe that makes any sense, but it is not a theological fallacy either.

 

Let me explain.

 

The biggest misunderstanding of my criticism of Christo-Pagans is the tendency to believe that I am saying that followers of Jesus cannot or should not be Pagans.  That is not what I claim.  Instead I claim that they cannot be Christians, nor can they identify with Jesus as the Christ who has fulfilled the Jewish prophecies [1].  The idea of being both “Pagan” and “Christian,” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” for that matter, just does not make any sense.

 

Of course compatibility is all in how you define things.  My definition of “Christian” is the one commonly used by those (Christians) who have large organizations devoted to the subject.  Sure, you can define Christianity as something completely different, the art of kicking a ball around a field perhaps, but then we have a disagreement about semantics and not religion.  The thing that is typically referred to with the denotation “Christianity” cannot be Pagan, not because Pagan’s won’t have it, but because Christians won’t have us.

 

The argument separating Paganism and standard Christianity can be made very quickly.  We do not have an apocalyptic eschatology, we view time as cyclical not linear, we do not believe in salvation, sin, or that the Gods and Goddesses are all perfect.

 

Most importantly:  Paganism by definition does not claim exclusivity for its Gods and Goddesses [2].  Abrahamic religions do.

 

I could also argue that we should be careful about blurring the lines between Christianity and Paganism.  But that is a political, not theological, argument.

 

The problem with Christians as Pagans is that there is a fundamental, theological, clash between the two faiths.  In fact the clash applies to any Abrahamic religion.  These religions all share a unique and radically important concept:  exclusivity.  The Hebrews first hit on the concept early in their history.  However their exclusivity was a tribal one, unless you were born as part of the chosen people, born into the tribe of God, you were not in the faith.  While this was somewhat unusual at the time it was mostly harmless as the Jews were a relatively small tribe that lacked power.  And their exclusivity meant that they would have a hard time growing anyway.

 

But in the 1st – 3rd centuries a new idea, Christianity, emerged out of Judaism.  It said that, while anyone could join, it was the god that was exclusive.  All other religions were invalidated by Christianity.  This is the Pauline interpretation of Christ’s teachings, one that eventually “won” the long (400 year) struggle between the other various Christ following sects of the time.

 

So my objection has to do with a desire not to intermingle Pauline Christianity with Paganism rather than a desire to exclude Christo-Pagans.

 

Once you break free of the Pauline concept of Christianity you can begin to see how Jesus and his teachings could be included as an element in Paganism.  An exclusive view towards Christo-Pagans is both narrow and divisive. A real Pagan (whatever that is) would ask “how do we include followers of Christ as Pagans?”  Instead of seeking to exclude, perhaps we should seek to include.  In other words, perhaps a Pagan theology could help define some elements of the Christian faith that are compatible with Paganism.  And I’m not talking about Santa and Christmas trees and candles at Imbolc, I mean real inclusion.

 

At the most basic level we have to confront the issue of magic and witchcraft.  Both modern high magic and witchcraft have been clearly influenced by Christianity.  In fact I believe one would have been very hard pressed to find anything but a Christian witch or magician in Europe between the years 500 and 1800.  Magical practices have clearly been claimed as part of the Pagan community, whether they are derived from Christian or other sources.

 

We must include the Christian Witch, and Magician, because their practices are so fundamental to ours.  That sort of inclusion goes almost without saying.

 

Moving beyond magic we come to Judaism, of which Christianity is a part and a derivative faith.  The Jewish religion grew out of the religion of the Hebrew tribe, which is believed to have been Pagan long before it went with just one god.  Remember, the admonition not to have any other Gods before me is a plural one, accepting the idea that there are Gods other than Jehovah, just that Jehovah is the most important one.  Eventually this got ground down to the idea of a unitary God, but in the early days of Judaism there was the possibility of multiple deities.  In fact the idea of Sophia, the female Goddess of the Hebrews provides a great pivot point for many Christo-Pagans to begin to explore the polytheistic aspects of both Christianity and Judaism.

 

Next comes the question of exactly who was Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Bart Ehrman in his book the Lost Christianities:  The Battle for Scripture, says that Jesus could have been many different things:  rabbi, Jewish holy man with extraordinary powers, social radial and promoter of counter-cultural lifestyles, a Jewish magician capable of manipulating the forces of nature, a feminist, or a prophet warning of a coming kingdom (apocalypse) where evil would be overthrown?   Jesus as magician, feminist, or counter-cultural rebel fits right in with modern concepts of Paganism.

 

There is also the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Canonical Gospels.  For Pagans the idea of a transcendental place beyond this world is incompatible with the immanence of magic and deity.  Pauline Christianity developed the claim of a transcendental Kingdom of Heaven that we occupied after death or the apocalypse.  However much depends on which Jesus you listen to.  The radical Jesus preached the Kingdom of God was within you, and many of those at the time he preached expected the kingdom to arrive within a few years.  It was later that the idea got changed to a transcendent kingdom removed from this earth.

 

While modern Christians place an emphasis on Jesus as apocalyptic prophet and savior, we could easily change that emphasis to magician, feminist, trickster, and social radical to bring him more in line with Pagan concepts of deity.   We could see the kingdom of heaven as a place here on earth, that we create within us and around us, instead of a long-held promise that depends on redemption.

 

Instead of thinking about Pagans who follow Jesus as a thin wedge of Christianity into Paganism, we could turn this around and think of them as expanding the idea of what Jesus was and how he fits in with a radically different theology than Pauline Christianity.  When you say “Christo-Pagan” there are a lot of facile impressions and ideas that come up, such as the vision of blending Pat Robertson with Starhawk.  While that theology just won’t work, what may work is the idea of Jesus as the trickster prophet who had a vision that was both magical as well as radically inclusive.  While Jesus was clearly a Jew, there is also nothing incompatible about a polytheistic Judaism being included in the broad range of Pagan religious paths.

 

That said, I still don’t think that I’ll be calling on any Christian or Jewish deities anytime soon.  Christians have spilled too much of our blood, cut too many groves, and turned too many temples into churches.  Christians seek to convert everyone to their way, which results in their being aggressive about disrupting and destroying other religions in the name of salvation.  While our Christo-Pagans do not fall into this category, it makes it hard to fully embrace the concept.

 

The idea of a new, Pagan, interpretation of Jesus and Judaism is both interesting and something that is compatible with Paganism.  But for me Paganism is a true religion.  The Gods and Goddess are real and have been shoved aside by modern culture and Christianity before that.  We need to restore them, their worship, and their presence in our lives.  Any Christian influences corrupt that work with ideas and theologies that remove it from the magical, physical, world where our Gods and Goddesses exist.  In the future I’ll be careful to listen to the Christo-Pagans and the case they make for inclusivity, but I still may not embrace it.

 

[1]  Paganism is quite accepting of many of the parameters of early Judaism.  Monotheism has a very long history in Pagan religions, so the idea of one, overriding, God is in no way foreign (e.g. Mithras, Ra of Akhenaten).  The Gnostic idea of secret knowledge is pretty much the foundation of modern magic, and Gnostic concepts run through much of modern high magic (and Paganism, I avoid a discussion of Gnosticism because that is a book in itself).  Jesus as a dying and reborn God can also be seen as simply another version of a common Pagan concept of cycles of deity.

[2]  Though you might be able to argue that by claiming inclusivity that we subjugate all Gods and Goddesses to Paganism.  Sort of like my Catholic friends who say my Gods and Goddesses are just an imperfect manifestation of theirs, we too can claim that Jehovah, Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all simply other Gods within our broad and inclusive Pantheon.  This then becomes essentially a linguistic/semantic problem.  It comes down to how we define what we are talking about, and how we use our ability to name things to structure and make sense out of the world.  If everything is everything else and the names we use do not distinguish one thing from another, then it becomes very difficult to have a sensible discussion.  Thus, Pagans are what we are, and Abrahamic religions are monotheistic exclusivists.  There is a difference because there is a difference.  (And I know Houston Smith’s arguments about all religions are merely branches of one root, at some level that is probably true, but here I’m working well up the trunk and not at the root).

Pagan Theology

April, 2006

Theology is for Christians

I can think of nothing more controversial, personal, or sensitive to Pagans than the topic of Theology. We can talk easily of sex, magic, and many other things without raised eyebrows or controversy (well…maybe) but what we believe, why we believe it, and how we reason about it can become a very touchy subject. Perhaps its because the Theology goes to the heart of faith, to the most personal and inner places, and thus it becomes so hard to have a dialog instead of a monolog.

So what better topic for a monthly column?

Ok, so there are better topics. Go read the sex magic column, then come back.

I’ll start off the column by answering in my own way some of what I see as the common complaints about Pagan Theology.

“But its a Christian term, and something only Christians do”

In fact the term is most often used in the context of Christian apologetics, or the justification and defense of the faith. Many people have had less than positive encounters with Christianity, and they don’t want to introduce anything into Neo-Pagan practice that smacks of Christianity.

Ok, but I’ll point out that the word’s origin is Greek, from “theologia” meaning an accounting of the Gods, or “theologos” “talking about the Gods”. Just because we can’t stand the term doesn’t mean that the concept of understanding our faith, and studying the Gods and Goddesses is bad.

We could substitute another term in order to distance ourselves from the monotheists. But then we risk the very real problem of nobody knowing what we’re talking about. I say its about time we reclaimed terms of Religion for our own uses (well, I’m actually following in the tradition of the Unitarian Universalist President William Sinkford who has called for Liberal Religion to begin reclaiming and using a language of faith, http://www.uua.org/president/030112.html). Monotheistic religions have no monopoly on understanding of faith, or of the terms we use in our quest.

“It will lead to doctrine, and we don’t like doctrine.”

At some point in the future we can discuss doctrine. Right now lets tackle the first part. Doctrine, in my understanding of the monotheistic concept, is a body of written understanding and statements that if you agree with, you’re in, and if you don’t, you’re out. Doctrine begets legitimacy, something that I will have a lot to say about in this column, it also provides a foundation upon which some important things can be built (like Cathedrals or pogroms). But I contend that theology does not necessarily beget doctrine, and I also contend that much of European Neo-Paganism is actually influenced by a kind of doctrine: initiation and esoteric knowledge.

European Neo-Pagans do have many different doctrines, and many different ways of excluding each other from various circles.

The important thing, however, is the implicit link between theology and doctrine. Doctrine is a political process that describes the ordering and relationship between people. Doctrine forms the group, identifies the included from the excluded, the subject from the object. Which almost always leads to tears.

Theology, while it can be used to establish doctrine, can also be used for understanding. In the pursuit of theological understanding we work to understand what is within us, the nature of our belief. We give birth to doctrine as we try to impose our inner beliefs on the world, on others, and try and identify those who are outside of our beliefs.

Just don’t do it.

“But we already have a theology, we already have explained our faith”

Yeah right. While I will be nailed for generalities let me summarize the current extent of common thinking about Pagan theology:


  • Many Gods and Goddesses, but all drawn from one, unknowable Godhead. That is, if God and Goddess are mentioned at all, often in either the interests of inclusion or a genuflection in the direction of science they are often omitted entirely in favor of a humanistic theology.
  • The Earth is sacred.
  • Magic works.
  • We’ll be reincarnated.

And, lest we forget, the moral center of Neo-Paganism: “and it harm none, do as ye will” and “the threefold law”.

Ok, its pretty straightforward. But I’m not buying it. None of this answers any of the important questions, has anything to do with love or faith or any of the other thousand reasons why people come to religion. It begs one important question: “is this pretty much the extent of what we believe?”

And, more interestingly, what would historical Pagan theologians say about the concepts of life, love, death, and the existence of the Gods and Goddesses? One of the things I’d like to do in this column is explore this question.

“All this is unknowable, and its just a nice conceit, we really don’t actually believe this stuff is real”

One word we don’t see spoken much in Paganism is faith. Probably that association with monotheism again. But faith does not mean simple-minded obedience, it can also mean the deep-felt knowledge of the Gods and Goddesses as they come into your heart. If you open up your heart to the Gods and Goddesses you will know them in a way that defies reason.

In fact reason plays no role in faith. I repeat: reason, for you scientists and engineers out there (and I am one), plays no role in faith. Faith draws from the heart. Faith draws from a knowledge that does not submit to the same rules, logic, or proof requirements as reason does. That’s why its powerful, and dangerous. And that is why we should not ignore it.

The role of reason comes in when we start thinking about our faith. When we start considering the implications of what is in our heart for what is in the world. What does it mean? How should we act? What should we do?

“Ok, I’ve read this far, where are your really coming from?”

Ok, since I summarized my understanding of the depth of Pagan theology in four easy bullets and two statements, let me explain myself in the same way:


  • The Gods and Goddesses are real, they exist as personal deities that affect our lives and the world according to our belief.
  • The Gods and Goddesses are accessed through a deep faith and intuitive knowledge. They can be seen, felt, and engaged.
  • Magic works in proportion to our belief in it, and our will. Magic, like faith and belief, does not necessarily follow the same rules as reason, logic, or science.
  • The Earth is sacred in ways we do not fully understand or comprehend, we have moved far away from it, farther than we realize
  • History matters. It matters in telling us who we are, and gives us the perspective of many generations and thinkers better than we are.
  • But we should not be slaves to history, just because a practice doesn’t have an ancient lineage does not necessarily make it less true or powerful than one that does.
  • Paganism demands eclecticism and acceptance. Ancient Pagans were very adaptable and flexible in their acceptance of other deities and religions. There is no one set of Gods and Goddesses that is “right”, they are all “right”, and in fact our discovery of the ones that fulfill our faith are really the “right ones”
  • We speak too much of “do what you will” and too little of love, hope, charity, faith, and sacrifice. We must not be afraid of moral terms because they have been appropriated by monotheism. We are good, we are moral, and we faithful, we should claim those titles for ourselves as much as the monotheists claim them for themselves.

And, finally, we do not examine our faith enough. And unexamined faith is not worth having. Hopefully you will be willing join in a journey to examine our faith. If what I say does not appeal, figure out what does,. If my concepts don’t work, find ones that do. Its the dialog that’s important, not the answer. Our speech will create the Holy. And the Holy will be plural.

And as our understanding grows so will the power of our faith. Power to persuade monotheists to tolerance. Power to speak for the Earth and her creatures. Power to articulate a faith that is both personal, and part of a larger whole. Power to affect our lives and the lives of others.

What could be more fun, interesting, or Pagan than that?