tradition

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.

 

***

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.

Book Review: Forbidden Mysteries of Faery Witchcraft by Storm Faerywolf

December, 2018

Book Review

Forbidden Mysteries of Faery Witchcraft

by Storm Faerywolf

 

 

Author, Storm Faerywolf’s book provides the reader with an inside look at the workings and traditions that evolved from Victor and Cora Anderson’s Feri Tradition and are known as Faery Witchcraft.

I am always skeptical of books that infer that the teachings within are those which are not freely shared. It gives a certain layer of mystery and feeling that the reader is privy to practices that are only shared with the most trusted. I am not saying this as judgment as to whether that word “forbidden” or “hidden” should be in the title of any book, just simply making a statement relevant to my experience in that what is truly only for those with the appropriate training is never shared fully in a book. I believe that by having that bit of information, the reader can then make use of the material presented to the best of their means. And, so on that note, Storm has treated his readers to “just enough” information to whet the appetite to learn more of the BlueRose lineage of Faery.

I am familiar with his work, having read Betwixt and Between: Exploring the Faery Tradition of Witchcraft and having had the privilege of attending ritual and class with him at the Temple of Witchcraft “Templefest” event year before last.

I loved that he dedicated the book to Victor and Cora Anderson and acknowledged that all great works set upon the path are the result of collaboration and the impact of many teachers, students and others who support and encourage the individual’s practice. That was also true of my impression of him in first meeting, that this was a genuinely very nice guy who was passionate and dedicated to both sharing and evolving his teachings to be inclusive.

Unlike Storm’s first book, Forbidden Mysteries is a bit darker in its magick; really getting to the heart of practice, ritual and exploring those aspects of witchcraft that require courage and boldness. The appendices provide the basics of Faery practice, some beautifully written poetry and invocations for use and the role of the Divine Twins in the lore of the Faery. Additionally, there is a glossary, which is a wonderful addition, again, making the material much more accessible to those who do not follow this path of witchcraft and would be otherwise unfamiliar in understanding some of the concepts.

This book is chock-full of exercises of preparation, Rituals, spellwork and Chapter Five’s exercises move through the alchemical elements finding common ground within all practices of witchcraft, but most decidedly with Fae influence.

So, to begin with, the spelling of Faery in this title is explained in this way…

…. While there are many different legitimate spellings for our particular tradition in use (most notable “Feri”, though Faerie, F(a)eri(e), and even rarely Fairy sometimes appear) I tend to use the archaic “Faery” as it was the spelling used at the time of my introduction to the tradition, and I also feel it better poetically evokes the relationship between the practitioner and the fae; a detail of mytho-poetic practice that some lines of our tradition do not follow but is central to my own practice and my lineage of BlueRose…. (excerpted from the Introduction).

This simple statement clears up much misconception about identification of the Fae and the Traditions that honor them.

The book is separated into four parts, taking the reader through many topics that are the staple of any practice of witchcraft and carefully aligning them with communion and understanding of the world of the Faery. We are given fair warning about the true nature of witchcraft and the dangers that lay in interactions with any who walk those realms, but as the author states, not for the reasons stereotypically associated with the practice. The danger lay in what is revealed of ourselves in the process and whether we have the courage to embrace all parts of our being and the places that those aspects inhabit and interact with those who are of the greater Earth or even more distant realms of existence. These pitfalls are exemplified in the telling of stories of the descent into madness by those who wandered into the realms of the Dark Faery and were not prepared for the price to be paid. The truth of the witch’s path is one of facing the shadow of their being as well as the light and in so doing being able to reach into the darker abyss where those greatest allies and teachers of the Fae reside.

We learn that the Faery are not the whimsical winged beings that tales have provided, but are often in folklore associated with the darker nature of things, not much different than the many layers and types of humans we encounter. Each has a dark nature and depending on the situation shows it in its ferocity or lessens the sting in resonance to the finely tuned calibration of the human encountered.

Each chapter and section following gives the information necessary for those who wish to cultivate an understanding and relationship of sorts with those beings of the Faery. I found these offerings to provide a perspective of work and a tradition that encompasses nature in her wholeness. We are reminded of the darker aspects of all of our spiritual work and that greater knowledge of what we consider to be demons and goddess of primal origins are part of the entirety of our world and all others.

I could dissect each chapter and point you in the direction of specific rites or exercises, but to a large degree that would spoil the unveiling of what should be an experiential journey of your own devising. Storm provides you with the tools and what you make of them and how you arrive at your own conclusions about the Fae is yours, and yours alone, culled from your courage and your boldness. This book is definitely one to be added to any library of a practitioner of witchcraft. Not simply in adopting its tradition as your own, which may well be the case after reading and exploring further, but in keeping with the true definition of a witch-one who seeks knowledge of the natural world-and I would add… and in so doing, gains the greatest gift of all, knowledge of themselves in all of their parts.

Forbidden Mysteries of Faery Witchcraft on Amazon

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of (click on book titles for more information):

 

The Inner Chamber Volume One on Amazon

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the Spheres (Volume 2) on Amazon

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths on Amazon

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia on Amazon

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon on Amazon

Luminous Devotions

 

The Magickal Pen Volume One (Volume 1) on Amazon

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year on Amazon

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate on Amazon

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

 

Sleeping with the Goddess on Amazon

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection on Amazon

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

ÁLFABLÓT (The Sacrifice to the Elves)

November, 2018

Brief description

International teacher of sacred art and Northern European Tradition shamanism Imelda Almqvist describes the small Álfablót (Sacrifice to the Elves) Ceremony she performed on her land in Sweden on October 31st in 2018. This is the indigenous Scandinavian version of (or closest thing to) Samhain/Halloween.

 

ÁLFABLÓT (THE SACRIFICE TO THE ELVES)

One day even our children (and their children) will be ancestors…

Today Halloween is celebrated in many English-speaking countries. It originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain.

I was in a large supermarket, here in Sweden, yesterday and the first thing I saw upon entering the shop, was an abundance of shelves stacked with Halloween decorations and sweets. That is a relatively new development!  Halloween is not indigenous to Sweden and the phenomenon only arrived in the 1990s. For good for bad, we live in a global village…

In the car on the way home there was a story on Swedish radio titled “Bus eller frukt” (meaning “trick-or-fruit”) Apparently some children had gone trick-or-treating over the weekend (a bit early by British standards!) and received mandarins for their efforts – they were not at all pleased and they had responded with trickery!

As a mother of three I understand that children yearn for scary costumes and collecting candy but, actually, Scandinavia has a perfect valid tradition of its own, for this period. It is shame that this has (largely) dropped into collective oblivion – though Heathen people have always kept the tradition alive and many Pagan people have rediscovered it today).

My students of Norse Shamanism often ask: “Did the Old Norse people have a festival or ritual comparable to the Day of the Dead, at this time of year?” The answer is yes, the Álfablót, The name literally means “The Sacrifice (or offerings) to the Elves”. This requires a bit of explanation.

The Elves (or Alfar) in the Northern European Tradition are not “fairies” but the souls of male dead ancestors who live on as nature spirits. They often live in burial mounds, though we also find them under big rocks, in caves or in the mountains. We can still communicate with them and making offerings is a respectful way of doing so.

By making offerings we acknowledge that they too once walked the land and that they have now become part of the spiritual Weave of the land. They do not (necessarily or automatically) fit a term often heard in core shamanism: “helping spirits”, though they can choose to be helpful. By honouring them we ensure that they are “on our side” and that we have their cooperation and protection during the harsh winter months (remember that Scandinavian winters are harsh and severe).

In the Old Norse way of thinking every gift (gåva) required a return gift (gengåva). There is nothing cynical about this, it follows the spiritual law of keeping all exchanges balanced. (Today we often speak of the principle of fair energy exchange).

In the past on farms animals would have been sacrificed and their blood poured out as a sacred offering (the word blót is the old Old Norse word for blood) but today many practitioners feel that alternative offerings are acceptable (seasonal foods, drink, the favourite food or drink of ancestors we used to know in real life, or other – as guided by the gods and spirits).

Let me also explain that the Alfar are the male ancestors. The female ancestors (Disir) have their own special day in the Yule period (Modranatt or Ancestral Mothers’ Night) as well as a Disablott (Offering ritual to the female ancestors) in the Spring.

The fertility god Freyr (twin brother of the goddess Freyja) is known as the Lord of the Elves and his otherworld domain is called Alfheimr (the Realm of the Elves)

When we bought our house in Sweden I promised the landvaettir (spirits of the land) and the “tomte of our tomt ” (the spirit of our property, not to be confused with Father Christmas – who also goes by the name of Tomte in Sweden!) that I would observe the ancient festivals and traditions as faithfully as my own understanding allows.

Over the summer I was guided to build a small cairn on our property. I carved a Bone Woman from antler bone and dedicated the cairn to her. (This was inspired by the Icelandic phenomenon of the Beinakerling

https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/regina/laufskalavarda-add-a-stone-for-good-luck-before-entering-the-skeidararsandur-glacial-outwash

Today I waited for nightfall (which came at 4 p.m.) and made a small pilgrimage to this cairn. I brought my Rune Drum, a candle and offerings of ale and meat (the traditional offerings for an Alfablót).

I drummed and called in the Deep Ancestors (whose names we do not remember), the Ancestors of Place, the Landvaettir, the animals ancestors of all local animal species and the ancestors that live on in local memory and stories.

As a teacher (and lifelong student) of Norse Cosmology I also called in the great skalds and the writers of the Eddic poetry (including Snorri Sturlason, who gave us the Prose Edda!)

I drummed and chanted. I poured ale over the cairn and offered the food.

Odinn’s name literally means “The Spirit” (Odr + the definite article “inn”) and he is associated with the wind, sacred breath and The Wild Hunt.

The most powerful thing about my small blót was that every time I called in a round of ancestors – the wind responded by making a howling noise and curling around me.

I felt that my Álfablót was well-received!

Imelda Almqvist, Kärrshagen, Sweden 31 October 2018

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon in 2016 and her second book Sacred art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently in the editing stages of her third book “Medicine of the Imagination” and has started her fourth book “Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation”

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist (YouTube Channel with art videos and Rune Drum videos)

Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages on Amazon

 

 

The Kitchen Witch

October, 2018

Homemade Apple Pie for Samhain

I always make a sweet treat out of apples for Samhain. It is one of my long-cherished traditions. If I have the time and enough apples, I like to bake an apple pie. I have been baking apple pies for October 31 long before I celebrated Samhain. I used to enjoy a nice slice of warmed apple pie with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream melting over it as I waited for the doorbell to ring on Halloween evening. Trick’r’treaters don’t come to my door anymore nor do I celebrate Halloween like most Americans do. But I still enjoy a piece of luscious apple pie on the thirty-first of every October.

Apple pie is one of those things that I have been making for so many years that I no longer need to use a recipe anymore. That includes making the pie crust. I had to really think about what I was doing as I was making the pie this time, so I could write down the proper amounts for each ingredient, in order to write this recipe. You know how it is when you “just know” how to do something – you just do it. It’s good to really have to think about what you are doing and why are you doing it every once in a while.

The first thing I do when I am baking any pie is make the pie crust. I learned how to make pie crust from my mother. My mother always used Crisco shortening for her pie crust. I always hated Crisco. Not because of its bland tastelessness but because it was just a pain in the ass. It stuck to the measuring cups, to the spoons, to your fingers. I know that in terms of calories and cholesterol, using a vegetable-based shortening is probably the best choice when it comes to making pastry. But I just don’t like working with it.

I know people who swear by using lard; I used to work in a butcher shop and I would never use pig fat for my pie crust. However, I’ve eaten pies with crusts made with lard and they’ve been wicked good. But the only shortening I use is butter.

I have heard that it’s harder to work with butter than with a vegetable-based shortening – I have never found this to be the case. In fact, since you want all your ingredients to be as cold as possible when you are making a pastry dough, it seems to me that using butter really makes more sense. But to each their own.

The other thing is salted butter versus unsalted butter. Most recipes call for unsalted butter. I use salted butter and reduce the salt in the recipe. But again – to each their own. Some people might even use margarine (!!)

Pie crust is really simple. It’s just flour, a little salt, cut with tiny pieces of butter or some other kind of shortening until it’s uniform and then enough cold water added in to make a pliable crust.

I always put a cup of cold water into the freezer before starting to make sure that the water is as cold as possible. Remember – when you are making pastry crust, cold is your friend. I know people who have marble or granite counter tops because they stay cold. You can also get marble rolling pins. You can chill pie crust for up to three days in the refrigerator and a whole three months in the freezer! So you can make it up ahead if you need to and store it.

The next thing I do is measure the flour and salt into my sifter and sift it into my bowl. For a two-crust pie, I use two and a half cups of flour and one-half teaspoon of salt.

Then I take the butter out of the fridge and I cut it up into tiny pieces. I never used to do this – I used to just chop the butter into quarters or eighths or whatever. But over the years, I have found that cutting the butter up into tiny pieces before adding it to the flour-salt mixture makes it easier to cut in with the pastry cutter.

Put the pieces of butter into the bowl with the flour-salt mixture and, using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like small peas. This takes a while and some might complain that it’s tedious work but my attitude is that it’s meditative and spiritual. Working with any kind of dough makes me think of the various grain goddesses and how vital breadstuffs were to the people who worshiped them – so much so that Isis, for instance, was called “The Lady of Bread”. Bread was life.

When the butter is cut into the flour-salt mixture properly, it should look like this:

Now you want to add the water that’s been chilling in the freezer. You want to add a tablespoon or two at a time, no more than that. I know it seems like there’s barely any water being added to the butter-flour mix at all but believe me, if you add all the water at once, the dough will be tough. You also want to mix the water in quickly and with as few strokes as possible. Add the drops of water around the butter-flour mixture, always dropping them on the driest parts of the dough before mixing quickly.

This is what it looks like when the water is half-way mixed in:

The last thing I do before putting the pie into the oven is cut slits into the top crust to let steam out while it is cooking. Since this pie was being made for Samhain, I made a triple Moon on the top crust. I am not much of an artist, obviously!

The oven is always preheated to 425 degrees. I always put a pizza pan on the rack below the pie, in case the pie drips over during the baking process. This has saved me a lot of cleaning hassle in the past. I leave the pie in the 425 degree oven for five minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for the rest of the cooking period. It will take about an hour to bake, depending on your oven and the amount of apples you put into your pie and how dense they were. You’ll know when the pie is done. The crust will be golden brown and the apples will be glistening inside the slits you made. And the aroma! There is no mistaking that heavenly smell!

The finished pie.

I waited as long as I could and then I cut myself a nice big piece – you know how the first piece never wants to come out in one piece! – and then added a nice scoop of French vanilla ice cream on top of it. OH SWEET GODDESS HOW YUMMY IS THAT?

So. This is my Samhain Apple Pie. I hope you like it and maybe will try it for yourself. I personally think that this turned out to be one of the very best pies that I have made in a long time. The crust was to die for. I never used to be a “crust person” but now I could eat the crust and leave the filling! I just love that buttery, flaky crust!

Until next month, Brightest Blessings and happy cooking!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

 

 

Gael Song

May, 2018

The Wild Rose of Druidry

The Celtic path is unlike any other, unique in ways that mean so very much to me. The first blossom of this path is that it imposes absolutely no restrictions, except that one should not harm another (which seems like quite a sensible restriction to me!) In the Celtic pagan tradition, all paths are good, and everyone has total freedom to be, to wander into darkness and shadows, if one wishes, then out again into light. I searched for many years for a spirit tradition that would allow me the freedom I longed for, going through Congregational, Presbyterian, and Quaker phases over the past thirty years, dabbling in Buddhism and Sufism for brief periods along the way as well. But the formal Christian, Buddhist, and Muslim religions impose definite dogmas and expectations on their adherents, worshiping in very specific ways, often holding up their own paths as (far!) better than the rest (this one turned me off every time!). Even Quakers, who are accepting of all religions and impose no dogma whatsoever, have subtle restrictions, such as being quiet, no singing during meeting, wearing clothing that isn’t loud. I love the gentle acceptance, honesty, and social activism of the Quaker tradition, but there are mornings I don’t feel a bit drab or quiet! And God/Goddess are neither of these, ever! I want the freedom to sing in ceremony, to dance and laugh, to wear fairy wings if I feel like it! Ha. That would turn Quaker meeting upside down! (Now that I’ve thought of it, I think I’ll just have to try this to see what happens!) The freedom call of druidry draws my heart so strongly, like the wind across the moors in the Oak moon (June) or the hint of fairy flutes in the wood at dusk. Why can’t I be anything I feel like, as long as it harms no one at all? No other path I’ve ever seen holds out this wild rose promise to be whatever one likes.

And second, comes the complete druid acceptance of whatever folks may be going through in life. In the Christian tradition I’m most familiar with and still love in many ways, there were definite restraints on the expression of anger or sexuality especially, specific qualities that were held up as better than the rest (oh, not that again!),not to mention their utter horror of my pagan leanings! But I have wonderful friends who can be a bit volatile, who want to howl or drum half the night in their pain, who clam up, perhaps, or talk non-stop when they are stressed. I want to love them all, especially in their difficulties! I just can’t stand imposing goody-goody nonsense on them. And the druid tradition does not. It brings patient understanding that says challenges must be faced and walked through, the wisdom of knowing all is ordered from above for good reasons that will someday flower into the deep embodiment of truth that is far more precious and permanent for having been earned through hard experience. During my long years as a therapist, I watched clients turn early traumas into career choices time and time again, with hearts that held far more passion and determination for turning things around in the world as a result of those early difficulties in life. There is a reason for the darkness that comes into every life. Every druid knows this. I confess I can be a bit judgmental underneath of folks who seem loud and rough, but the druid path has taught me not to do that, or far less than before. The standard of accepting everyone onto the path just as they are is druid, held high, and I will follow it with my whole heart, inspired by the breadth of love it carries.

The third blossom of druidry is being deeply grounded in the earth, loving the sensual gorgeousness of this world; the upside down mirror in each raindrop, the softness of birch bark in the rain, the sweep of clouds twirling across the sky at dawn. At light healing school, we were often in the clouds ourselves, meditating and drifting for whole days at a time. And those hints of heaven are intoxicating and bring through shifts we probably couldn’t manage any other way. But some folks thought that passing over to the Otherworld would be just lovely, too, and focused on this end-of-life passage a lot of the time. Others forgot to look down again at the end of the day. Oh, goodness! Give me druids every time! I want to run my fingers across rose petals for a whole lot of years to come, make eye contact with real people, wriggle my toes in the mud! Earth is fantastic! Sensuality is phenomenal! And bringing all those dreamy changes into real work in the world is best part of all!!! This is what I love most, putting what I’ve learned into real effect in my life. I just adore that. It’s my coffee in life, truly. Other traditions are action oriented, too, of course, but none that I’ve tried have the earth-loving, sensual, vitality of druidry.

And this leads to the sweetest, most fragrant blossom of all, sexuality. (Not that there aren’t distortions mixed in here, there are.) Every formal religion I’ve been involved with has imposed fairly rigid restrictions on sexuality in life, Sufism and Christian particularly. And while druidry does have that standard of not harming anyone, which carries some responsibility with it, no dogmatic rules are imposed on this aspect of life, either. Everyone is left to choose and learn and explore as they wish. I was raised by a wonderful Bostonian/Scottish mother, but she had unfortunate puritanical underpinnings. If I went outside skyclad as a young child, this would cause an utter uproar in the household. Thank goodness druids are not this way! Thank GOODNESS a hundred times over! I was so relieved and happy to find a tradition without a straight jacket in this regard! And then, sexuality itself is so exquisite. There are no adequate words at all here, it’s beyond them all. I think this acceptance of sexuality is the greatest gift of the druid tradition really, the shining starry pentacle. For I believe that God and Goddess intimately overlight all sexual joinings, that They move into each partner and send Their intense loving passion for each of us, very personally, into our skin and eyes and hearts in just this way. It’s how we can unite with God and Goddess in the most intense form on earth, the most sacred act there is. This is what I feel, anyway. So, all those religious/societal severe restrictions on personal sexual expression keep God/Goddess at bay in a very real way. Besides being sacrilege, those restrictions are all control energy, pure and simple. So again, thank Goddess for druidry! For it allowed me to break out of the heavy gridwork those puritan leftovers built around my very affectionate soul! So there!

And lastly, I just want to add that all these special qualities of druidry are identical to the qualities I have felt in the Goddess, the White Tara, Who has led and assisted me over all these thirty pagan years of my life. She has embraced me in my deepest darkness and does so with everyone (a breadth of love I WISH I could embody.) She rules the path of experience, teaching us all through life’s hard lessons and bringing forth the fruit of these later on. These are Her very children, these highest destinies in us all. And the Goddess is as sensual as roses, the tongue of the wind on the skin of the sea, ocean breakers gently caressing the shore. She IS the earth! It is Her very Body! And then, lastly, sexuality is Her middle name! For She is the inner teacher of intimacy, love-making, lifelong partnership in real love. And druidry is Her religion on earth. Of course, it holds up Her standards of love to the world! Thank Goddess for druidry!!!

***

About the Author:

Jill Rose Frew, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, energy healer, workshop leader, and author. She will be opening a school teaching light healing and the Celtic path of enlightenment in 2019. For information, please see www.CelticHeaven.com

She is author of Guardians of the Celtic Way: The Path to hurian Fulfillment (her name was Jill Kelly then), and Alba RebornVolume One Revised, and Volumes Two and Three.

Click on Images for Amazon Information

Moon Owl Observations

September, 2017

Handfasting

 

I recently got married, and while I was planning my wedding I decided to look into the tradition of Handfasting. I remember attending one a few years ago and thought it was beautiful. I had heard of them, but that was the first one I’d ever been to. I decided to look more into it to see if it was something my husband and I would want to incorporate into our day.

 

The first thing I wanted to find out was obviously the meaning behind it and the history. When the tradition was in its prime it was generally set for a year and a day. If the two people were still happy and wanting to be together after that, then the bond would stay in force. If, by that time the couple decided it wasn’t for them, they were free to walk away. It was also sometimes used to see if they would have a child in that time as well. It may seem kind of weird, but in a way it would save a lot of people from divorce. It was a binding of marriage before weddings became government or church functions, and the tradition involves the hands being bound together to signify the joining of their lives. It is the meaning behind “tying the knot”.

 

 

(This green Handfasting Cord is called Dragon Mother.  It can be purchased at Divinity Braid by ASV Weddings on Etsy.)

 

 

The two hold hands and a third person (preferably a priest or priestess) binds the hands together. Ribbon or small cord works best and the colours can be twisted together, or as most people prefer, the colours are separate and each one is woven individually through the hands. Most of the time around 3 or 6 colours are chosen. And I’m assuming most reading this know how much significance there is in colour, and on a day like your wedding, choosing the correct ones is something to think about. Below are the main colour choices of ribbon and what the meaning behind each one is:

 

Red: will, love, strength, fertility, courage, health, vigor and passion

Orange: Encouragement, adaptability, stimulation, attraction, plenty and kindness

Yellow: Attraction, charm, confidence, balance and harmony

Green: Fertility, luck, prosperity, nurturing, beauty, health and love

Blue: Safe journey, longevity and strength

Purple: Healing, health, strength, power and progress

Black: Strength, empowerment, wisdom, vision, success and pure love

White: Spirituality, truth, peace, serenity and devotion

Gray: Balance, neutrality, return to the universe without repercussion

Pink: Love, unity, honor, truth, romance and happiness

Brown: Healing, skills and talent, nurturing, home and hearth, the earth

Silver: Creativity, inspiration, vision and protection

Gold: Unity, longevity, prosperity and strength

 

 

(This Handfasting Cord is called PRIDE . It can be purchased at NamasteFreund on etsy. For more information read below*)

 

The actual meaning behind the word Handfasting comes, of course, from old Celtic traditions and wording. “Hand- festa” means “to strike a bargain by joining hands” which also refers to things like a basic handshake. It was popular years and years ago in Scotland and Ireland, and for a while it was viewed as almost an engagement, and for the most part once Christianity became more wide-spread, weddings became taken a lot more seriously, and due to the lack of clergy, most couples would hold a handfasting before the clergy would come around so they could be joined in union without needing to wait for someone to come around.

 

In today’s times some people still use a handfasting as a type of trial-marriage, or it can be incorporated into a full ceremony. Most of the time it is held before the legal paperwork. Other traditions that work well with a handfasting are a wine blessing and a unity light blessing with candles. Some aspects that may be a little bit different than a typical wedding would be that usually you want people to stand or sit in a circle around the couple, and there should be a blessing of the scared space beforehand, and a circle may be cast. Typically a mention of various gods and/or goddesses and also the various elements. Another tradition that may be incorporated is jumping over a broom and even a maypole dance. Because of some of the traditions talked about may not be accepted by family members or friends who are invited. Some people may also be confused so if you are going to have a handfasting or any other ceremony you may want to put something in with the invitation or program. I definitely suggest looking into finding a High Priestess or High Priest so it is done correctly, but you can even do some research and get a close friend or loved one to do it, especially if you live in a small community.

 

All- in- all it’s a pretty customizable and meaningful tradition. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and be a part of. There are a lot of options and traditions to look into when planning to get married.

 

*Rachel Young is the owner of NamasteFreund. She began making handfasting cords by making one for her own pagan ceremony. Five years later she continues to make a wide range of wedding cords, infusing them with her best wishes that a marriage can bring, & has shipped products to every continent. Her product line expanded to include besoms, wands, bookmarks, & more. She is also a licensed Wedding Officiant specializing in handfastings, inter-faith, & same-sex marriages. You can find her on NamasteFreund, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter.

 

GoodGod!

December, 2016

GoodGod!

Meet the Gods: The Horned God

goodgod

(PHOTO: Holly King

The Holly King by Raven Willowhawk)

Merry meet.

The Horned God roams the forests – wild, loving and protecting the Goddess and her children. He is the oldest of the Gods and perhaps the most common depiction of masculine divinity. Many pagans believe that the Horned God is the Lord of Death, ruling the underworld or Summerland, and is therefore the one to comfort and console the dead as they await rebirth.

Since ancient times, the Horned God has been associated with fertility, the forest, the field and the hunt. He is known by such names as Cernunnos, Pan, Herne, Dionysus and the God of the Wicca.

In some pagan traditions, the Horned God is seen as being comprised of the Oak King and the Holly King – twins, each who reigns for half the year, looses the battle between them and retreats for the next six months to nurse his wounds, reflect and gather his strength.

At the Winter Solstice (Yule), the Oak King conquers the Holly King, reigning until the sun is at its fullest on Summer Solstice (Litha). At that time, the Holly King returns to battle with the now old Oak King, defeating him, and ruling over the half of the year going into darkness. The Holly King represents death and darkness that have ruled since Samhain. It’s a time of reflection, or recognizing lessons, and the chance for rebirth. The Horned God is born as the baby Oak King, bringing a promise of new life. The traditional Yule log – which is made from oak from the previous year and adorned with evergreens symbolic of the Holly King – is burned to symbolize the birth of both the son and the sun.

As the wheel turns, the dueling repeats.

In some traditions, the exchange of power occurs on the equinoxes with their most potent points aligning with the solstices.

On Imbolc, the Horned God is said to lead a wild hunt

Both kings are portrayed as forest creatures, with the Holly King often looking like a woodsy Saint Nicholas, sometimes driving a team of eight stags. One of my favorite depictions of the Holly King was done by Raven Willowhawk. The Oak King is seen as the King of the Forest, often similar in appearance as the Green Man. Each exists as part of the horned God, so both have horns or antlers.

In my practice, I honor the role of both the Holly King and the Oak King at both the Summer and Winter Solstices, each taking turns symbolizing death and rebirth. I have both holly and oak leaves or acorns on my altar.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

Creating a Wiccan Tradition

December, 2015

We started out completely captivated by the dance of the Lady and the Horned God. Our hearts beat faster, life spinning with colours! A homecoming! Then as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months and years we tried to go deeper into the Mysteries of our awakening. The Divine is immanent; God and Goddess are alive intertwined within the Sacred Earth. The question we asked ourselves was how can we go deeper?

First we studied the books, any books, excited by the smell of incense in the Occult Book stores. We learned how to cast a circle, how to connect with the Elements, how to call them into the circle. We learned the names of the Pantheons and how to cast a spell. The books gave glimpses of the Mysteries and in our Circle things were happening. We went to Public Rituals and met other beginners; we formed study groups, joined the Women’s Circle, the Men’s Circle and learned new ways of doing things. We read more books and joined Wiccan correspondence courses searching for that wise Witch who could be our teacher. We studied Shamanism, meditation, yoga, martial arts, gardening and anything else that seemed to be part of the Mysteries. But still we did not feel the dance and the Mysteries eluded us.

Finally we met a High Priestess and eagerly bowed at her feet asking to be taught. Daily practice and study, learning the Tarot, casting circles, working with the Elements, reading more books! The years were passing and our quest was fifteen years long. Then the day came when we received first degree initiation, we started learning how to run a Coven and be Priest and Priestess, we received 2nd degree initiation and learned how to be Elders. Third degree initiation was bestowed and we were supposed to be Elders….the beginners were eagerly bowing at our feet asking to be taught. And still the daily practice and the study, reading more books, going to workshops and searching for the key to the Mysteries. Did we know anything? Was it real? But we could not find the Dance within the Tradition we had studied. Somehow we were not satisfied with where we had arrived.

In the Coven things were still happening, a Presence bringing joy and laughter. We didn’t want to leave the Circle and go home to our beds! Out of the muddle and chaos of all the books and the workshops and the teaching and the daily practice a pattern was forming. The pattern solidified and we realized that all the things we had learned created a spiral path and at the center was ourselves. Then we finally understood that what we were searching for was within us all the time and that the Goddess had been with us since the beginning! Could we map this path and teach it to others? In the Coven each Witch seemed to be learning his or her own lessons although we were studying the same thing, but there was a brightness to it all and we were changing. It seemed our bodies were becoming light and our hearts were becoming ecstatic. Shadows came and went and the learning was deeper and not from books. Inspiration was our guide now and we felt the truth.

We decided to make a test, to try and teach the pattern to others and see if they could move into the brightness and the joy with us. At first it seemed as if we weren’t teaching them anything, that they were just remembering things. It was as natural as breathing. Some of the people that came to us left when the Shadows on their paths appeared. Some battled and befriended their Shadows and learned from them. Some of them started to see the Pattern that we had created and touched the essence of what we had learned in our hearts. One day we woke up and realized that we had created a Wiccan Tradition, different from all the other Traditions, and yet with the same resonance. We cast circles, like other Traditions; we called the Quarters and we invoked the Lord and Lady; we danced and raised power and did magick and laughed a lot! We saw the people walking the pattern we had created were becoming brighter and their hearts were becoming joyful. It seemed we were evolving into a new kind of being and we felt the Presence and it brought tears to our eyes. We started to see our Life’s Work…the need to send peace from our Circles into the world. Could we really change anything?

Sometimes there was conflict between Sisters and Brothers in the Circle and darkness clouded our minds. We cried and felt guilty and angry. But we held onto one thing: if there cannot be peace in our own circle, there will never be peace in the world. As above, so below; as within, so without. The conflict between us was another Shadow and maybe even a test! We worried that we would lose what we had learned; lose the brightness and the joy if we did not tread carefully when holding each other’s hearts. Then we understood what an Elder was…the Witch who can love without judging and judge lovingly at the same time. Witches who nurtured the hearts of the beginners so that they felt safe in Circle and could dance the pattern of the Tradition; Witches who held people while their Shadows beat them and shaped them into something completely new. Transformation is birth and it can be painful! We were the ones who did the dishes and cleaned the toilets, sacrificing our time on the altar as our hair turned grey and our faces became lined. We learned that only sacrifice can bring us deeper but the sacrifice was joyful.

Now our quest is twenty long years, the Book of Shadows a thousand pages, and more Witches dancing the pattern of our Tradition. But where do we go from here? Is the pattern set now or is it organic and growing, metamorphosing like us? What will happen to us when we have finished all the inspired work that has been given to us heart to heart from the Lord and Lady? We have found the Presence in the Circle and discovered that we were the doorway. Each day seems a ritual as the sun lights the windows and the wind makes the willow tree dance. We wash dishes mindfully and we feel we could love everyone. We ask: Is this real? Will it last? We have become as simple as light and as elusive as the moon. Where will the dance lead us now?

******************************************************************************

Meri Fowler was inspired to start the Greenwood Celtic Shamanic Wiccan Tradition with special help from Ronin, Hawk Oberon and Setanaya. Also many thanks to Highland Coven and Anam Cara, Red Hawthorn Coven, Tuatha de Daanan Coven, Cauldron of the Yew Grove, Silver Hawk Coven, Tre Stelle Coven, Willow Coven, Willow Moon Coven, and Misty Meadows for your love, dedication and support. For more information on the story of the our Tradition please see www.thewicca.ca

The Enchanted Cottage

December, 2014

The Magic of Tradition

 

cottage

 

As the last remnants of Autumn color the Earth, my family prepares itself for the coming of the cold, brutal Winter we know awaits us. It is at this time that our most memorable family traditions take place. There is something magical about these yearly traditions. The anticipation of our excursion leads to mounting excitement as we recall the memories of the years past. We go to the Pumpkin Patch in mid-October, Downtown Christmas the week before Thanksgiving, and the We Care lights in mid-December. Sadly, this was the last year for our favorite Pumpkin Patch. Next year we will go on a magical adventure to discover another to takes its place. These traditions have been something my daughters and I look forward to every year. My hopes are that they will continue to find the enchantment in these little family adventures for years to come and that they will share them with their families in the future.

 

cottage2

 

Having traditions, whether with family or friends, is a wonderful way to get through the bleakness of the coming months of Winter. Stories by the fire-side with mugs of hot cocoa deliciously seasoned with cinnamon, decorating the home with Holiday cheer, Thanksgiving dinner cooked lovingly for family and friends, and Yule morning snuggled on the couch watching loved ones open their special gifts. These are all traditions that bring a smile to my heart and magic to my home. The enchantment of frost covered windows and snow covered trees, the warm glow of the hearth fire, watching our favorite Holiday movies, and the scent of cookies baking in the oven—this is the magic of the Holidays and the cold, dark Winter months. I am blessed in the fact that I am able to share these moments with my family and make new traditions with those I love.

It saddens me to think that there are those who cannot celebrate these time-honored traditions. Death, war, and homelessness play a huge factor in the inability to enjoy what we sometimes take for granted. While I am enjoying the festivities of the season, I try to remember those who can’t. A donation of canned goods to the local pantry, a toy here and there in the toy drive bin, change in the little red kettle, and a warm smile to those who seem to have lost their Holiday cheer. I work in retail, so a smile and kind word can go a long way as people rush about trying to buy the things that they are struggling to afford. It breaks my heart to know that there are people and who are hungry, cold and alone. Of course, let’s not forget about our four-legged friends. Helping a cold animal in need and donating to a local animal shelter will help these poor, vulnerable creatures.

As we are celebrating this Holiday Season, no matter what custom we celebrate, remember that there is as much magic to be found in the smile of a stranger and the sharing of cheer as there is in the gifts we give. Enjoy your traditions, and if possible, make new ones. The most memorable moments are those unexpected instances that love to pop up. Just ask my daughters about the mashed potato incident. I think it may be their favorite Holiday memory yet! I’m sure they would make a tradition out of it if they could.

Have an Enchanted Yule and may the Old Gods of Winter protect you and yours…

Pagan Theology

October, 2009

Pagan theology short:  religious tradition

Is Paganism a religious tradition?

The sensible answer is “of course”.

But lets think about this a little be more.  First, I guess it depends on how you define “religious,” “tradition,” and “religious tradition.”  In some sense this is the same as asking if Paganism is a religion (which common sense again says it is) [1].  But I’d say its also more than simply asking if Paganism’s a religion, it also asks whether Paganism has a connection through time.  Not sure exactly what its connected through time to, but a connection nonetheless.  It could be a connection to a historical tradition, or it could be a repetitive series of actions or beliefs that exist through contemporary time.

First, lets look a little what the people who think about this professionally say.

Technically neo-Paganism doesn’t fall into the category of what would be considered a “Religion” at all.  That term is generally reserved for the globe spanning, teevee prechin’, bureaucracies that uphold conservative social values everywhere.  Instead it’s what’s known as a New Religious Movement (NRM) [2].  There are a lot of debates as to what, exactly, constitutes a NRM, but generally it needs to have come about recently (after World War II) and be different from other, existing, religions.  This term is used by scholars of religion to distinguish newer movements from existing, global, religions.  Of course the arguments come when you start asking what “different” means, and why Paganism, which claims a long tradition dating back before Christianity would be an NRM in the same category as spiritualism, theosophy, and the Unification Church.

Almost all neo-Pagan traditions fit into the NRM category because they are new, having been organized in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  And they are definitely different from established Religions.

From a standpoint of studying and categorizing religions, differentiating between “established” Religions that have a long tradition and new ones that may have been created yesterday in someone’s back yard makes sense.  The character of an established Religion will be different, it will have a rootedness in existing power structures and social groups, and it will have a heritage passed from one generation to another.  A NRM may, or may not, have some of these characteristics, but it most likely will not be as integrated into public and political life like an established religion.  This integration between the religious and public political power structures is one way that some have used to distinguish religions from smaller units like sects and cults.

For Ernst Troeltsch, an early 20th-century figure in the sociology of religion, “churches” were distinguished from “sects” by churches acceptance of the mainstream way of doing things, and their focus on hierarchy and external power structures [3].  Such organizations, like the religions of the book, are concerned with expanding worldly power, and dominating or “winning” as a religious faith.  On the other hand there are groups within the same movement that are more inwardly focused, more concerned, in the case of Christians, with building brotherly love and practicing the teachings of Jesus.  These more “liberal” groups form sects, which are distanced from the normal hubbub of the world and have little interest in dominating others.   In Christianity they general form as a result of the main church claiming exclusivity to the sacraments.  Those who call shenanigans on the boss church go get to form their own little one somewhere else and become a sect (or are killed or whatever).   The little ones that survive long enough get to grow big and strong and become denominations.  Or, if they are big and different enough, religions.

In many ways the idea of the sect as being inward focused on spiritual growth captures the neo-Pagan philosophy of “live and let live,” no proselytization, and organizational anarchy.   Definitions that focus on the world, like Troelisch’s, also would place neo-Paganism in the sect or movement category, reserving the term “Religion” for the dominant, global, religious organizations.

Why does all this matter for neo-Paganism?  Well, the first question that comes to mind is just how damn long do we have to practice our religion before it becomes accepted as a tradition? And how many of us does it take before neo-Paganism is accepted as a Religion in the same sense that other Religions are?  And when will we get to drop that stupid association with the New Age movement anyway? [4]

The key for Paganism, I believe, is not the tradition part.  We already have an established tradition, one that is consistent and accepted across the community.  Our history dating back to Gardner and the Pagan revival is well known and accepted by just about everyone.  Going further back than that, whether in the witchcraft branch of our ancestry or the reconstructionist branch, leads to a profoundly deep ancestry.  Even if all that is dismissed, Paganism sits squarely within the Western esoteric tradition, something with a rich, and colorful, history.

While individual traditions within the community have their own provenance, our respect for heritage and elders is a common feature throughout the community.  Perhaps because we are unsure of our place up against the “mainstream” religions, we lean even more heavily on learning about, understanding, and guarding our heritage and traditions.

The real question, I believe, is not whether neo-Paganism claims the mantle of “religion,” it already has, but how that mantle is perceived, and what we do with it.   Do we want to grow from a “religion” into a “Religion?”  Do we want a movement connected and interlocked with the existing power structures, but one that has more influence.  Or do we want to remain as an outsider, with all the risks and benefits that entails.

It is useful to first understand the challenges that limit neo-Paganisms scope and influence, because they determine how our religion works in the wider world.  I’m not necessarily advocating doing anything about any of this, that would be way too controversial, but I think some of the issues surrounding how we relate to the wider world are worth noting [5].

The first challenge is how neo-Paganism integrates into the rest of society.  I believe that the answer here is:  poorly.  Why is this the case?  The first and most obvious problem is that many neo-Pagan traditions are mystery religions and initiatory.  Anything requiring initiation is not going to be as popular as something where the doors and doctrine are open and available for all to see.  This initiatory and mystery tradition has given Paganism a false sense of exclusivity.  The idea that the Goddess calls you when you are ready is an interesting, romantic, concept, but if you look around she certainly does call from one predominate demographic more than anyone else.   And we all know who we are…[6]

What does this mean?  It means that Paganism as a religious tradition is relatively slow growing (despite the surveys) and will be destine to being a marginal social force.   If we keep bringing in people who look and think like we do we will not be as powerful a voice as we could be.  Why should we want to?  In times when there is a no-shit ecological and environmental crisis, for us to stay out of power is shameful. And I don’t mean going to our eco-action meetings, I mean speaking out on the teevee forcefully and righteously for the earth.  I mean growing Paganism so that there are more voices out there speaking for the earth.

The second challenge is the “no proselytization” rule.  This is a fundamental part of our theology, and violating it would violate the actual idea of Paganism as being tribal and local as opposed to global and catholic (small C).   But it limits our influence and ability to grow as a religion.  One would think, and I do, that given the interest in magic, witchcraft, and sorcery amongst our youth we wouldn’t need to recruit.  Posting a flyer at Borders [7] would be sufficient to garner an ever-increasing number of new Pagans just looking to participate.  That does not seem to be the case.  And I speak from experience as I am affiliated with one of the larger neo-Pagan groups in a large metropolitan area.  Sure we get some drop-bys, but few stay, and those that do are older and mature [8].  Of course that could be us, probably is, but I don’t see the kids that don’t show up at our rituals showing up at other Pagan events in the numbers I’d expect.

What does this mean?  It means we’re doing something wrong.  Kids are naturally magical.  There is a tremendous interest in many of the elements of our religion.  We even have the second biggest holiday of the year (Samhain) after Christmas (Yule), but we cannot convert that into members, influence, or new covens.

Why should we care?  We should only care if we think we have a message that counteracts the prevailing one of the earth being subject to Man’s rule.  We should care if we want to counter the mainstream Religions in their treatment of the Earth, gays, women, and knowledge.  Religions, as we have discussed, are linked to the larger political and social forces that shape history.  Sects, and NRMs, tend to be less plugged into how society works, and have less influence.  Of course there is a danger, Jesus message sure does get lost in the bureaucracies and dogma of the Christian Religions.  Ours might too.  But it seems like its seldom we actually get around to talking about these options and trade-offs.

The third issue is the tendency we have of not seeing our religion as a family tradition, but a choice.  What I’m talking about is the overwhelming pressure that’s placed on kids growing up in Protestant or Catholic (or Muslim) families to adopt and believe their religious traditions.  Now many of us (I am not one) grew up in traditional religions and have probably vowed to never inflict that crap on our kids.  That is probably a wise thing, but the lack of a strong tradition of passing our religion from one generation to the next hurts our ability to sustain us as a tradition.

Reinhold Niebuhr [9]  in his concept of how religions, sects, and denominations differ from each other saw sects facing a challenge after the first generation.  Those who remain in the sect after the first generation of founders generally do so for very different reasons than the first generation.  Initially the sect is attempting to differentiate itself from the main religion which it has broken off of, but with second generations social and economic forces, including rising incomes of an expanding membership, tend to push sect members into taking on a more integrated view of their role in the world.

In some ways Paganism is different, the founders, and the newer members, come to it for very different reasons than say members of a Christian sect would.  But at the same time those reasons, dissatisfaction with traditional religion, interest in magic, even being called by the Goddess, are reasons peculiar to America and Britain in the 20th century.  Whether those reasons stay relevant will determine how Paganism goes forward, and how it relates to the world.   How they change with the changing technological, social, and political forces may determine how many come to our tradition in the future.

Why does this matter?   It means that there are few families that show up to Pagan events (at least the ones I attend) when you compare that with a “normal” church [10].    Where is the religious education for our kids?  Its pretty well nonexistent, though some groups do try (such as spiral scouts) but in general there doesn’t seem to be that critical mass of kids in most areas to justify specialized curriculum and effort.

Why does all this matter?  Should people come to Paganism if they want to?  Shouldn’t we wait for them to be called as opposed to seeking them out?  Shouldn’t we avoid the pain in the ass behavior of traditional religions that indoctrinate kids instead of letting them decide on their own?  Sure.  But there are risks and consequences.

One of the biggest risks is the survival of Paganism as a religious tradition into the future.  While it has survived, and grown, since the 1950’s there are demographic changes, including changes in how people communicate and gather, that may affect neo-Paganism.  Likewise the beautiful environment we worship in now may change radically in the future.  A desert dustbowl devoid of large mammals may not be as attractive to worship as a balanced hardwood deciduous forest.

But the biggest risk is that if we don’t try, the other side wins.  Again.   By default [11].

Christianity won out originally because Paganism didn’t offer a path for the poor to see something better out of their lives.  It won out because some elements of society, women for example, were excluded from some of the mystery cults.  It’s winning changed the way the West worked for 2000 years.

Now I’m not advocating going out and thumping the Witches’ Bible or dragging people to circle.  What I am advocating is asking ourselves what kind of tradition do we have, and what kind of tradition do we want to make.  And how we can come together in a spirit of love for the Lord and Lady, under their protection and guidance, and build something that honors them, and saves the world.  Because, without more voices like ours there may be no hope for the earth.

That is the real question behind a discussion of whether Paganism is a religious tradition.  What kind of tradition are we, and what kind do we want to make?

[1] Throughout this article I’m going to use the term “religion” to mean several different things.  There is the “capital R” Religions who are the popular kids on the block that first come into mind when someone we know says “I’m religious.”  Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Shinto, Taoism, etc.  There is also the “little r” religion, which simply means a belief system that you accept and follow.  So we can legitimately say that the religion of Paganism is not a Religion.  Of course this requires a little more explaining than I’m doing here, which we will do later in the article.

[2] Christopher Partridge (ed.).  New Religions:  A Guide:  New Religious Movements, Sects, and Alternative Spiritualities, Oxford, 2004.  The whole idea of what “new,” “religious,” and “movement” means gets worked over again as you consider NRMs.  Many NRMs are “new” to one group, but “old” to another.  Take Zen Buddhism (please) for example:  its pretty well established in the Asian market, but its pretty new in the West.  Western esotericism, which is pretty much what we mean by “Pagan,” is perhaps the real categorical overlord in our discussion of Paganism as a religious tradition.  However that requires a thorough discussion of the development of the esoteric tradition in the West, something that we don’t have time for here.

[3] Malcom Hamilton.  The Sociology of Religion, Routledge, 1995, influential before 1920 in terms of theology, Troeltsch’s writings are still considered important in the sociology of religion.

[4] The tendency to lump Paganism in with the New Age movement is both understandable and tragic.  This is understandable, because the New Age movement and Paganism have many concepts, practices, and followers in common.  Tragic because the perceived narcissism and shallowness of the New Age movement taints Paganism with its stink, which is terrible for our serious and faith-filled intent.  I am not making an argument that the New Age movement is narcissistic, shallow, or stinks, I’ll leave that for others.  What I am saying is that the association between the New Age and Paganism is usually made by our detractors, and it doesn’t help us.

[5] I personally believe that neo-Paganism should work to figure out how to remain anarchic and diverse, while at the same time becoming a unified voice and community that co-exists within existing power structures instead of outside of them.  This may not be easy at all, and may entail brining in people to the community who are not like us, but at the same time I believe that the potential to do good through a Pagan perspective is huge, and much needed in the world today.  If nothing else there needs to be a powerful Western counter-weight to the religions of the book, something we should be providing but are not.

[6] While we can examine surveys and polls which show us clustered around the information technology and nursing/teaching professions, I think a more fundamental demographic is disenfranchised middle-class and white.  Of course there are exceptions, but it is the disenfranchisement, the sense that you don’t count or that the way congregants interact in mainstream churches, that really matters when thinking about the general demographic that comes to Paganism.  I am fond of pointing out that all the jackasses that run around in mainstream churches would have been the same jackasses, just Pagan, in the times before Christianity.  Just because Paganism today has a lower jackass to geek ration doesn’t mean it didn’t have a higher one when it was mainstream.  This is, in my opinion, the real challenge to any growth or expansion of Paganisms influence, how to deal with jackasses.

[7] Ok Barnes and Noble as Borders is pretty much a toy story that occasionally sells books.  Ok, what I really mean is lurking on the Amazon boards and posting because that is where people buy books now.

[8] Having had 50 people show up for a ritual I am thankful that only the committed few stay.  Otherwise this column would be talking about the problems of Pagan crowd control and managing large groups…

[9] Hamilton (1995).  I know I keep citing the survey work and not the original sources, but this is a short, and I’m not sociologist of religion anyway.   The idea of how to classify and distinguish between religions, sects, denominations, cults and whatnot has been debated extensively in the literature of the sociology of religion.  My focus in this discussion is in the basic ideas, not on the detail build-out on those ideas that would be necessary for a full discussion of how you define various types of religion.

[10]  My basis of comparison is a Unitarian Universalist church where approximately 1/3 of the Sunday attendance is children, and about 20-100 adults are involved in teaching the kids every day.

[11] My use of polarities and the language of conflict is simply a function of how I see the world.  In truth there are a large number of Christians, both liberal and conservative, speaking up for the environment.  Likewise the equation of “grow big, become inclusive = gain more influence” is not necessarily valid.  It is entirely possible that bringing more voices to the table would change the message, or disrupt it entirely.  I think the challenge is a delicate and difficult one: how to decide what direction the Pagan tradition should go in so that it keeps its diversity and fundamental values, but becomes a more decisive force in the world.  I do not pretend to have the answer, I’m just poking you with the question.