Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Intimidation Factor

Have you ever been part of a discussion where what was discussed went way over your head? Were there facts being thrown around and then jumped on by someone else to the point that not only could you not follow the current portion of the conversation, but the original point now was lost on you? Do you get intimidated in these types of conversations? If you answered yes, then you are perfectly normal. If you answered no, well then, congratulations, you're special (leave me your home address and I'll send you a cookie).

For those that answered yes, you are either new to Neopaganism and you just don't have the knowledge base to keep up quite yet or you are someone who just has no interest in getting that in depth with the facts. If you fall in line with the latter, then don't worry about those conversations. Just sit back and ignore them until the conversation turns to a topic you are much more interested in. There is no reason for you to be intimidated because in the end, you really don't need to care. You're wrapped in your security blanket of knowing what you know and not wanting to know what you don't, so be happy with that portion of your spiritual journey. No need to feel intimidated.

For all those new folks, you have a choice to make and I would make it fast or you might just find yourself packing up any interest because one person on some group somewhere called into question one of your statements, ruffling your feathers enough for you to begin believing that that one person is indicative of every person on that path and now you want nothing to do with it. Trust me, it happens every day and you could lose out on a fulfilling spiritual existence because you had one bad interaction with someone where you felt too intimidated to continue on this path and just gave up. So here are you choices; option 1 would be to let happen what I just gave you an example of in these last few sentences and walk away. Option 2 would be to become like the person I mentioned above who has no interest at all in learning anything beyond the topics that peek their fancy and sticking only to specific topics because that is, essentially, what makes them happy on this path. Then there is option 3, to embrace the intimidation and do something about it.

It may seem like I'm being a bit condescending in regards to options 1 and 2. With option 1, I am absolutely being condescending. Making sweeping declarations about a group of people because of a disagreement with one member of it is an informal fallacy, illogical, and, to be completely honest, absurd. If the interactions that you have with one or two people you disagree with dictate a propensity to give up something you want, then you aren't going to get far in life. With option 2, my intent is actually not to be patronizing at all. I do have a certain amount of respect for those who can easily walk away from discussions or debates because they are simply comfortable with not needing to know. There are definitely times when I wish I had the ability to do so, but I'm not a fan of succumbing to my feelings of intimidation and walking away without a fight and so we come to my point in writing this.

If option 3 is your choice, or perhaps like me, is just part of your nature, then here is my suggestion. Take inspiration from those who do sit back, but don't ignore the conversation. Take notes. Any time a key word is hit, or a name is brought up, or a book is mentioned, or an author's name is dropped, or a website is given, write it down. Any good conversation or debate can probably get you a list of four or five things. Then, go research. Go to your favorite search engine and start typing. Find out about the name that was brought up. Go out and find a copy of the book that was mentioned. Look up all the books written by the author that was brought up and try to find a copy of them. It gets simple from there. Read. If it doesn't make sense, read it again. Take more notes. Any names or places dropped in those books or websites, go look them up. Any books in the bibliography or works cited section, look them up and try to find them. Educate yourself. Be proactive.

Don't get involved in those discussions, get intimidated and give up. Look at those discussions, get intimidated, then get active. Learn everything you can. The more you learn, the more you can start basing your own opinions off of what you have learned. Then, as things progress, you will at least be able to follow the conversation from beginning to end. Before you know it, you'll be participating in those conversations yourself and others may come to you for help. Don't look at those moments of intimidation as moments to be ashamed of. Look at them as opportunities to learn and grow in your own spiritual quest. Eventually, you won't be so intimidated anymore.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reconstructionist Paganism: A Simple Introduction

What is Reconstructionist Paganism?

Also known as Polytheistic Reconstructionism, the specific origins of the concept are murky. The first mention in writing comes from Margot Adler's Drawing Down The Moon (1979). Some trace the beginning of Reconstructionist paganism to Ásatrú. While the term Ásatrú is an Icelandic term that is much older, the popularity of the tradition became obvious in the 1970s. Some could argue specifically with Ásatrú, that it was almost a reaction to other pagan traditions that relied less on historical information and more combining elements from many traditions, both old and new, to create traditions claiming ancient origins, but practicing ideas that may have been foreign to their ancient pagan counterparts. In the 1990s, more Reconstructionist pagan focused groups began to pop up to include Hellenismos (Greek), Religio Romana (Roman) and Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism.

With the history in mind, what is Reconstructionism? In the simplest terms, it is a method used to reconstruct ancient religious practices utilizing any remaining information we have, to create a tradition as close to what ancient societies would have understood while still keeping our modern laws and understandings intact. When one is reconstructing a tradition, they would utilize studies in ancient mythology, history, philosophy, language, rituals, and archaeology, along with any other bits and pieces that might be helpful. In some cases, that might include those practices that appear to have evolved into the modern society already, but possibly have ancient roots like modern folk traditions.

Reconstructionist Paganism: The Tradition with Homework

Ásatrú is sometimes known as "the tradition with homework." With everything that must be pieced together to get a fundamental understanding, anyone can see why this phrase would apply. While the need for individual scholastic study came under scrutiny within the Celtic Reconstructionist community recently, it seems to be pretty clear that most who identify with Reconstructionist pagan traditions would agree that in order for one to be a practicing member of any of their traditions, one must have an actual working knowledge of the above listed information in regards to their chosen culture of focus.

"In particular, the study of history, from ancient times to the present, is a profitable tool in one's understanding of the action of the Gods in human history.  If those who saw to your education left this area lacking, one must make an effort to educate one's self." Hellenismos: The Ancient Path of Aræti

"As with other forms of historical reconstructionist paganism, every attempt is made to rely on actual historical and archaeological evidence, and interpolations are made only when the primary sources are silent, and then we strive to be consistent with them." Religio Romana

Even within Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism -

"Reading is very important in getting started in CR. Knowing the history of the Celtic peoples helps connect us with those times and places, and gives us the background to understand what the Gods and Goddesses are telling us. Start with the introductory books listed here: Which books for someone totally new to CR? These are easily available and not overwhelming. Start working your way through the reading lists at your own pace, taking time to absorb and integrate the ideas as you begin to formulate ways to put them into practice in your own life." The CR Faq

Is study all that matters? Of course not. The point to the study is understanding the ancient societies to create a working practice that could as closely mirror what the ancient pagans may have done, while still staying within our modern understanding. To elaborate on "modern understanding," while ancient cultures may have taken part in things that were perfectly acceptable in those times, many societies have moved on from the ideas of both women and those of color (meaning anyone not of Caucasian European descent) being second class citizens, and most Reconstructionist pagan groups would never claim to support such ancient ideas as human sacrifice or slavery. That is what is meant by keeping modern understandings and laws intact.

Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy

A point of contention within some Reconstructionist communities seems to be a distinction in the ideas of orthopraxy being at odds with the idea of orthodoxy. Some will tell you that it is about "right practice" (orthopraxy) as opposed to "right belief" (orthodoxy) so I'll simply point to the statements made by the traditions themselves at the moment as each has a slightly different approach in regards to "belief" and "practice."

"When the belief system of Hellenismos is put into practice and organized into temples and ritual, this is called thriskeia (the organized worship and ritual of the ancient Hellenic polytheistic tradition).  To say that Hellenismos is merely thriskeia would be misleading being that Hellenismos is not creedal but philosophical, in the highest sense of the term.  In other words, Hellenismos is based more on the manner in which we live our lives rather than organized outward forms and beliefs. Hellenismos is more than thriskeia because it can exist independent of the outward forms; Hellenismos beats in our heart, our soul.  And the Gods exist independent of thriskeia, independent of religion, independent of our worship of them.  So we say that Hellenismos is both a religion and more than a religion because beyond the forms of thriskeia, we put our philosophy into action." Hellenismos: The Ancient Path of Aræti

"We hold that a Roman Pagan may be defined as a person who actively performs rites, rituals, and/or prayers to any or all of the gods and goddesses of ancient Pagan Rome as the majority of their spiritual involvement. We acknowledge also that individuals may at times work with Roman deities without considering themselves as Roman Pagans.

We affirm that the spiritual duty of the Roman Pagan Religion is to restore, maintain and promote the worship of the ancient Roman Goddesses and Gods. We seek to rebuild their influence in the world, and through piety and action preserve the sacred link between the ancient deities and humanity."  Declaratio Religionis Romanae

While Ásatrú (at least in regards to the Asatru Alliance, to which not all Ásatrú practitioners are members) do consider themselves to have “mandatory ritual observances," they do state, “We are polytheistic. That is, we believe in a number of deities, including Goddesses as well as Gods…

Some qualities we hold in high regards are strength, courage, joy, honor, freedom, loyalty to kin, realism, vigor, and the revering of our ancestors. To express these things in our lives is virtuous, and we strive to do this.” About Asatru

"As polytheists, we worship a number of Goddesses. And even some Gods!CR ethics are grounded in traditional Celtic virtues which should be embraced, adopted, and integrated into one’s daily life. This approach is known as a “virtue theoretic ethical system,” as it sets forth multiple positive guidelines for behaviour.Like any other spiritual path, we have rituals for life’s passages. We celebrate handfastings, child blessings, burial rituals and adulthood rites. Additionally, we have seasonal rites that usually involve feasting and offerings, and are held at the turning points of the year." The CR Faq

As is pretty evident, belief by the practitioner in the deities is just as important as the actions in honoring Them. For my personal view on Orthodoxy vs Orthopraxy please read Action Without Understanding Is Pointless.

Self taught vs Mentor taught

None of these traditions specifically state one should be self taught over mentor taught. As mentioned above in regards to Hellenismos, if one doesn't get a complete education when being mentor taught, they should seek out self study. It's also pretty obvious that each tradition acknowledges that there may not be a local thriving community to learn from and each tends to give seekers a place to start, as in their websites, which give the fundamentals of the traditions and some tips on starting practice, as well as by handing them a book list so they can self teach.

What you'll find on most of these reading lists are a large selection of books that are scholastic in nature, meaning they aren't written by your "average joe off the street." Reconstructionist pagan traditions tend to focus on books written by professors and experts in their fields to include history and archaeology. When speaking about mythology, generally the books include the list of direct translations by those who would be considered academics in their field as well as books written by scholars that analyze the myths and legends through an educated understanding.

In my personal opinion, if you are mentor taught and your mentor expects you to follow them blindly without actually them openly utilizing scholastic information that you can go back to and trace yourself, then they may not be teaching you much of worth. That, of course, comes down on you to decide what you trust and don't trust or if you feel you need to supplement with self study. Regardless, any good house of worship is built on a strong foundation of knowledge.

Asatru Folk Assembly

The CR Faq Reading List

Books on Hellenismos

Religio Romana Book List

Friday, October 26, 2012

NeoWicca Is Not Wicca?

I was trapped in a time warp earlier today. I was stuck in the late 1990s where a group of people actually felt the the word "NeoWicca" was so blasphemous that the mere mention of it brought about threats of being removed from an internet forum. Of course, in my usual fashion, you threaten to kick me if I don't adhere to your (ignorance inducing) "rules"? I'll take that challenge my good sir, and I'll raise you my middle finger.

What I found most amazing about this entire encounter was that this particular group was apparently a facebook adaptation of a group that was started many years ago and it was quite obvious that their "rules" had not actually evolved along with the evolution into the new format. Why is it that such a group couldn't possibly fathom the idea of "moving on with the times?" Was it that scary for all the "olden pagans" to step away from their ancient ideas? In this case, the idea that NeoWicca isn't "real" Wicca.

I will preface this with, personally I'm not a fan of "make it up as you go along" pagan traditions to include NeoWicca, however there are a few flaws in the above argument. The first being that "NeoWicca" has been around for a while now. Despite many considering it's origin with Scott Cunningham, I could argue it actually started with Raymond Buckland who began writing in the 1970s and was the first American initiate of British Traditional Wicca by Gerald Gardner himself. It was Buckland who first wrote about "self-initiation" in Wicca in 1986, but obviously would have had such ideas prior to the book.

Even if we trace it to Cunningham, we're still talking early 1980s with his first book and late 1980s with Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner. Regardless, it's 2012, which brings me to my second point. Like it or not, today the majority of "Wiccans" are, in fact, NeoWiccans who base a lot of their beliefs and understanding on books like Cunningham's or Buckland's or even, dare I say it, Silver Ravenwolf. They are also the most well known tradition outside of the pagan community. Without them, most people would have no idea what paganism is. In fact, most people come to paganism through some form of NeoWicca. With that in mind, it seems a bit strange to alienate an entire group of people because they don't happen to be initiated.

Another disagreement is on whether or not NeoWicca can actually be considered Wicca. Since I have never actually had any initiate state in my presense, that what is taught by the likes of Buckland and Cunningham is not outer court, it is actually Wicca. It might not be the inner court, but it is still the fundamentals of the tradition. It is still what most dedicants learn prior to initiation. It still contains the foundation. It may be only scratching the surface, but it is still the same surface that even dedicants to initiatory traditions begin with.

The simple fact is, I remember having this same debate when I entered the "pagan community" back in the late 1990s asking the question "what is your lineage?" To know that there are still groups that haven't at least learned to accept that NeoWicca isn't going anywhere and is just as legitimate of a belief system (do it yourself or not) as any other Neopagan tradition isn't really a shock, but is actually pretty sad. Isn't it time to evolve and focus on more important things?

While it's not my first choice of discussion topics, NeoWicca is a "gateway" pagan tradition. Those who practice it should be accepted as part of this community because they are. Does that mean not educating them on other traditions if they haven't figured out that there are such? Of course not, but it's time for the olden pagans to get over themselves, embrace the change, and start focusing on education in the vastness that is the pagan community. No one is saying "we all have to agree," but the simple fact is, NeoWicca is a form of Wicca. So in closing, please get over it!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Minority Religions and Community

Let's face it Neopagans, we are a minority. There are still some who live in fear of repercussions if it were ever to get out what their religious calling may be. Assuming we are discussing those who are serious in regards to the various Neopagan traditions and not the fly by nights that come and go, we dwindle in numbers in comparison to the Abrahamic, Buddhist, and Hindu religions. Then when we get into the individual traditions within Neopaganism, we could be talking about only a few thousand in a world of billions, that actually believe and practice as we do. Finding a local group to practice with, especially with some of the more obscure traditions, can be near impossible at times. It is the simple fact and so, I write this for all those Neopagans who have never been able to experience a face to face community of like minds, but find their understanding from the depths of the internet realm.

Prior to the ability to globally communicate in seconds, some local areas had Neopagan communities that fostered a decent number of people from time to time. This all depended on if you knew where to look to find them. Usually the specialty new age store was a good place to find local newspapers that had listings of ways to get in touch with others of like religious tendencies. There might even be the occasional cork-board where others could put out word of the groups they were looking to start.

In the early days of the internet, a person had to already know what the web address was to get in contact with others of that tradition (or so one of the "Elders" of my tradition told me), limiting the number of people who would see such postings. Eventually social networking sites broadened the horizons of many people who may have never realized that there were others of like mind to communicate with. In the early days of email groups and chat rooms, Neopagans began finding their teachers and mentors or just those groups where what they believed finally "made sense." Sites like livejournal, then Myspace, and now Facebook gave people the opportunity to find their internet cork-board to ask their questions, find their groups and discuss their beliefs. Those who didn't even know there was a larger community, now had 24/7 access to information to help them on their way.

We look at this progression and we see a shift in understanding. We have many "Elders" who have taken advantage of the wide array of communications networks available that weren't available 20 years ago. We have young adults that now have very easy access to not only information, but people to discuss that information with. And, unfortunately, we have those who dwell on the idea of "well in my day, we didn't have all this new fangled technology, so if you don't do it the way I did, then you're doing it wrong."

While those latter particular folks may embrace the internet social networks from time to time, they only see it as a way to kill some time. When they were starting out, either you found a local community or you suffered alone. Maybe you were lucky enough to find some self addressed stamped envelope correspondence course, but those were few and far between. You sat in solitude with your books and you did it all by yourself. The earlier mentioned folks didn't get the luxury of an easy to reach group of people until this technology became available, so they can't seem to fathom the idea of anyone on the internet considering themselves part of a community.

If we go back to what community originally meant, we find the word "common" at the source. Farthest back tracing we see, "from Pre-Indo-European *ko-moin-i- "held in common," compound adjective formed from *ko- "together" + *moi-n-, suffixed form of root *mei- "change, exchange."* Depending on the definition, you'll see a mix of "those who share a common place" to "those who share a common idea." When looking at these definitions, is an internet community actually a community?

If we can consider the intangible, in between space of everywhere and nowhere, known as the internet a place, then yes, those who come online to discuss various topics, do indeed share a common place. In the sense of this discussion, do those who get together to discuss Neopaganism, or even religion in general, share a common idea? Absolutely. That's the point of those people seeking each other out, to discuss the common ideas and beliefs that bring them together in the first place.

So how does one go about sharing a religion when we never look each other in the eyes? True, a picture is worth a thousand words, but I can still paint a pretty decent picture with words, in less than half of that. Otherwise, what is the point of books? Think of the internet as an interactive book, except your questions are answered immediately. How do I create an altar? What are the stories of the Gods? What types of rituals should I try? And, getting into more mystical discussions, "I had a vision of a deity today and this is what I learned from it. Does that make sense to anyone else?"

With greater connecting technologies coming that will allow real time face to face discussions over the shared computer screen, the possibilities seem to be growing on how one can connect to a community through the net, which they are possibly lacking in the immediate area. The possibility of having interactive rituals in real time that could bring about a communal experience for people in different countries, in different time zones, at the exact same time, is becoming a real possibility. Imagine if that ritual experience moved on from words, to an actual shared experience. How amazing is that possibility?

Is such a thing a replacement for a living breathing community that, in that moment shares the exact same piece of land, fire and food? No. And no one is saying it should be, but the bigger picture is that we are a minority, many times reaching out for a community. No one in today's society, with today's technology, should be left out because of the limitations of the past nor denied a place in modern Neopagan traditions because of their location on the planet.

Should the goal be a working local community? In my opinion, yes. Should the lack thereof be a barrier because one doesn't have such a thing? If one isn't working in a mystery tradition, then absolutely not. It's time for people to embrace the possibilities and accept that not everyone will be able to foster a face to face relationship with those of the same tradition. Even when other Neopagans find each other, there can be a vast array of traditions mixed together. It is time to put the "this is the way I had to do it" mindset behind, respect the technology, and be appreciative of "community" where ever it can be found.

*Online Etymology Dictionary

Two other worth while blogs on the subject:

Community on Sinnsreachd Life
CRP The Next Generation...Or Not

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Religion, Faith, and Worship...Oh My!

Add dogma and doctrine to the list of words that seem to be taboo in some Neopagan communities. Many have come from Judeo-Christian households or areas and have deemed these words to be negative, restricting, or down right offensive. What confuses me is how some pagans can have a full conversation about why magic is neither bad or good. How black and white, in regards to magic, hold no purpose because magic itself is neutral and yet, place meanings on words that are just as neutral.

It seems almost alien for someone to be able to embrace the idea of magic in the first place, let alone discuss it in such depth as to explain that such an abstract concept is neither good or bad, negative or positive, but can't seem to fathom the same for concepts that are extremely easy for anyone to grasp. The social implications of terms like religion, faith, worship, dogma and doctrine far reach any one particular religion. The words themselves are benign and harmless, and yet can invoke such rage in some people.

I have heard, "I had 'religion' shoved down my throat" or "my family hates me because I don't follow their religion." Terms like dogma, faith, and worship ride the same horse when it comes to the offense some take at the implication that they take part in such things. Let's look at these terms individually and objectively.


Earliest etymology comes from the Latin religionem/religio meaning "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods." Yes, you read that right, the term is actually as old as polytheism itself. Even the Roman Neopagans call their beliefs the Religio Romani. Even in simplest terms, religion is defined as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

I can't speak for all Neopagans of course, but I find that if I simply stated the definition without telling them it is for the word "religion," most would certainly agree that definition is part of what they, as Neopagans, contemplate and take part in. Many honor the eight sabbats, some honor the four fire festivals, some honor days specific to their deities that can be way more than eight festivals (the Roman and Kemetic calendars come to mind). As most pagans take some inspiration from the polytheistic communities that once existed, the above listed are all things they believe and take part in.

The belief in one or more deities and honoring that belief by taking part in "devotional or ritual observations" are common place in most Neopagan communities. Many also honor a specific moral code because of these beliefs and practices. Some follow a list of nine virtues, some follow three, some follow the Wiccan Rede, while others look to karma for their moral code. Regardless, these are all things that most Neopagans would agree are part of what makes them who they are.


For the purpose of this discussion, I'll utilize the definition that has the closest context to the discussion. Because of that, the definition of faith, could be defined as "a belief that is not based on proof." As Neopagans, we tend to believe in the idea of deity in some way shape or form. Some believe in a grand deity that is beyond comprehension and some believe in a divine masculine and divine feminine. Some believe in a version of soft polytheism where there are a multitude of names for the same set of Gods and then there are those who are hard polytheists that believe that each God is distinct and real regardless of the similarities they may have with deities of other cultures.

All of these beliefs have one thing in common, a lack of proof. No matter how far deep down in our gut we truly believe that these deities exist, there is no proof. That is what makes it faith. We know our deities exist. We have nothing other than this confidence in how much we believe, but it is still belief. Because we have faith in a different idea of deity than the mainstream, doesn't make it less about faith. The old "I don't believe, I know" argument doesn't really work, when the next statement is "prove it." There is nothing there to prove. It is simply faith.


The term worship, when discussing with some in the community, tends to conjure the image of bowing down to a grandiose fear-mongering deity. Getting on one's knees to "worship before the almighty." Many Neopagans will tell you, they don't "worship" their Gods, they "honor" them. I hate to break it to those Neopagans, the definition of worship is "reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred."

Worship simply means to honor and respect that which is sacred. The term doesn't define how to do so. That is what the Gods define or perhaps, man defines. What is it that we do at our devotional and ritual observances? When we light our candles or sacred fire, give our offerings, and thank the Gods, what are we doing? Are we not honoring them for what they have done for us or what we hope they will do for us? Are we not showing them their due respect for providing for us and our families? Whether I bow down at an altar or stand at it, I am still using it to revere them. I can word it whatever way I choose, but honoring them or respecting them, I'm still worshiping them.

<b>Dogma and Doctrine</b>

As these two words, in regards to this topic, are essentially synonymous, I'll focus on dogma. The term comes from Latin describing a "philosophical tenet" and from the Greek dokein meaning "to seem good, think." By one definition it means an, "official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church."

In the simplest terms, the "dos" and "don'ts" of your chosen religious belief. The first tenet to come to mind? "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." You don't subscribe to that? Fine, "live with honor," "always treat others with hospitality," "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction," or simply "karma." These are all moral doctrines as dictated by our faith. We know what is "right" and what is "wrong" and most of us utilize our belief system as our guide to what we should and shouldn't do. Perhaps we feel we will anger the Gods if we do or don't do these specific things. Maybe we feel that we need to be role models for others. Or perhaps, we just "know" that it's the right thing to do. It truly is no different than the idea of the "Golden Rule." These are the ideals we live by and part of how we put our beliefs into action. We "live right," by honoring our Gods and "do right" because we believe those actions to be right as dictated by our Gods or the cultures we emulate.

We, as Neopagans, shun terms that actually give us common ground to stand on with other religious traditions. To ignore that we too have faith, dogma and religion, is to give the naysayers more ammunition to say, "they don't even consider what they practice a religion, how does the 1st Amendment apply to them?" How can we expect equal understanding, when we reject what makes us equal? Embracing the terms that all religions share is the way to bridge the gap and get the mainstream religious traditions to finally accept that we actually aren't that different, after all. If we start embracing our similarities, maybe they will stop focusing on our differences.

Author's Note: All definitions and etymologies came from

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"I guess I have always been a Druid in my heart"...(a rant)

"I guess I have always been a Druid in my heart .. Healer and Herbalist I was raised in the old ways and still keep it that way ..simple life and enjoying what nature has to offer."

How does you "studying the old ways" and being a healer and an herbalist make you a Druid? Hell, how many Wiccans believe that same definition/information makes them a Wiccan?

As others have pointed out to me this seems to be a "fill" in the blank sort of statement with any tradition that one "feels" is correct. Neopagans seem to have lost their need to understand and they believe that as long as one "feels" something is right it must be despite the fact that by making such blanket statements they are not only disrespecting those who have actually dedicated themselves to the path they claim they are members of, but turning Pagans into touchy feely ignorant hippies.

In this particular case, this person makes a general statement about being a "healer and herbalist" and studying the "old ways." While that blanket statement might be fine in regards to justifying calling oneself a pagan, they are not at all being specific to Druidism. One could easily use that description for a Wiccan or any eclectic pagan path.

In regards to a tradition like Druidism, there are YEARS of study, followed by years of practice. Someone who claims a title like Druid and justifies it by such vague means is dismissing all the years of dedication, contemplation and importance of a such a role. Not everyone can be a Druid so making ignorant statements like above diminishes the role and disrespects those who have put in the study, time and responsibility taken on by those who truly do live the title.

*side note* There are/have been Druids in many roles and when I state that a Druid is a leader, advisor, and teacher I am not neccessarily refering to a Priest of sorts. In a modern society, I believe a Druid would have been someone whose years of study and experience would naturally put them in such a role because when one becomes so dedicated to their path and an expert in their field, they automatically enter a "role model" position. That is what is a Druid is/was of the Celtic society.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ancestor Veneration Doesn't Mean Just Pagan Ancestors

With St. Patrick's Day passing by in March, I found myself saying the above a few times in discussions. Ancestor veneration includes all those you consider ancestors regardless of their religious beliefs. Those beliefs don't make them any less worthy of acknowledgement and respect as any other ancestor one may have. While there is a struggle in the pagan community with this particular day for various reasons which I won't go into here, I did come to realize the extent of this sentence a few days after my own acknowledgment of St. Patty's Day. A discussion about the eight ADF high days would have me thinking even farther back in my ancestry than I would have considered prior. 

As ancestor veneration doesn't solely apply to our pagan ancestry, I have also come to realize that it doesn't just apply for my Irish Celtic roots either. In the Celtic sense, a shared gnosis between many Celtic pagans is that the tribes honored four main harvest festivals. Some local tribal celebrations may have incorporated other special days, but the four days that seem to run through all the remaining Celt specific information we have points to Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnassadh being honored (though the name may have varied by region). This is further addressed in the Irish legend of the Wooing of Emer when she states to Cú Chulainn,"No man will travel this country who hasn't gone sleepness from Samain, when the summer goes to its rest, until Imbolc, when the ewes are milked at spring's beginning; from Imbolc to Beltine at the summer's beginning and from Beltine to Bron Trogain, earth's sorrowing autumn."

Because of this, I was having a hard time reconciling adding four celebrations to my own calendar of acknowledgement because I am, after all, an Irish Celtic pagan. It was however, recently brought up that around 3000 BCE (long before the Celtic influence came to Ireland) the early Irish inhabitants built the megalithic mounds. The mounds, including Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, have been studied quite a bit by the archaeological community in the last 50 years. What the archaeologists have been able to understand is that these megaliths were built in their specific locations because of their correlations with the sun as dictated by the solstices and equinoxes. 

The theories range from ritual caverns to, at the very least, large seasonal clocks. Regardless of the usage, this early group of people felt that it was significant to build these mounds in these specific areas to alert them to the placement of the sun. When this discussion came up, it was almost as if someone was pushing my own words into my face and that little light bulb (or fire if you will) went off in my head.

With this in mind, I figure I can find some way to acknowledge the solar celebrations while specifically focusing on these early inhabitants. I'm still entertaining ways to acknowledge the solstice and equinoxes with those ancestors in mind, but I feel like I have at least broken the mold by deciding to "put my money where my mouth is." Ancestor veneration doesn't mean solely my Iron Age ancestors anymore than it excludes my Christian ones. Now to see where that leads me.