Archive for October, 2015
One recent search term that brought up this blog was “Is Christo-Paganism safe?” I’m guessing that was in reference to concerns about the use of magic, or possible punishment by YHWH or other Gods who may not get along with him. I’m going to take a step back from this first-
Why do you want to combine Christianity and Paganism? What is your understanding (not your parents/guardians, teachers or ministers- but yours) of Christianity, its teachings, how the Bible should be interpreted, the nature of Jesus and so forth?
What is your understanding of Paganism? Don’t worry at this point how broadly, or narrowly Paganism should be defined- after all, I’m a longtime Pagan, and I’m not really sure on that either! What aspects of Paganism interest you? Are they things that also can be found within Christianity?
I’m not asking any of these questions because I want to get you to stay “within the fold” of Christianity, become a full-fledged Pagan (however defined) or combine them in some way. But I have met a lot of folks over the years who became Pagan that had a rather narrow understanding of Christianity based on their upbringing. In order to see the Divine as feminine as well as masculine, find social/spiritual gender equality, view sexuality and the body as positive, or view nature or the Earth as sacred or divine, they felt they needed to become Pagan. Many of them remained Pagans, and lived happily ever after. For a few others I’ve known, Paganism was a sort of gateway that led to more options- liberal/feminist/ecological Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, atheism. Others I know have a Pagan practice that includes elements of Christianity.
Now, since I’m not a Christian, I am not going to tell this or that belief or practice is theologically and Biblically OK or not OK. There’s a zillion individual personal and institutional interpretations. You’ll have to decide for yourself what and who is a trustworthy authority about these questions.
More questions you might have- (assuming you are an independent adult who is free to make these choices) I may write something more specifically for teenagers, with the understanding that I cannot directly advise you via e-mail or in person without parental or guardian permission.
Should I still go to church if I’m exploring other religions? If you feel comfortable doing so, then sure. Depending on what church it is, there may come a time when you need to decide if some forms of participation are still appropriate- such as reciting the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed or taking Communion (particularly if you are Roman Catholic or Orthodox)
OK, I’m stopping this for now because I realize my answer to every question is “it depends on the church”! To be continued…
Hey, y’all! I have moved this post to my Witches & Pagans blog, Way of the Sacred Fool. I realized something rather odd. It seems when I specifically set out to write a post for W & P I end up getting stuck, but then I’ll fluently write out something for this blog. I think I need to *just write* without worrying which blog whatever I’m writing fits into and then publish accordingly!
Meanwhile in the Otherworld…during the early Revival Druid era…
Morrigan on phone: Damnit, Goibhniu! This is not about human ingenuity. I know you and the InterPantheonic Council of Smith Gods are all about human creativity and not interfering with it. Well this isn’t creation…these discoveries will lead to destruction, yes I know I’m usually into that sort of thing, but this is too much, even for me! The Manhattan Project will…Yes, I know it’s decades from now, but you know about the time differences between our world and theirs. Stand up to Hephaistos and worse, Prometheus and tell them we mean business! If you don’t, I will make sure Ireland stays out of that war!…Slams down phone.
Cosmic switch board worker: “My lady?”
Morrigan, sighs and leans back “Yes?”
“We’re getting a lot of calls for a goddess by the name of Danu, Danann, is it? Doesn’t that sound similar to one of your titles?
Morrigan looks at switchboard “Great balls of Dagda!” Those are a lot of calls! I think this is yet another error by those monks. Once, again we have to clean up their messes. I’m already taking calls for “Black Annis” seriously beneath my dignity…alright, give me some of them, and some to Brighid. I know she’s busy, lil’ Miss Jill of all Trades, she is (though somehow a lot less show-offy about it than Lugh!) but maybe she can get some of her little saint buddies to help out. Maybe even bodhisattvas…she’s also on good terms with Guan Yin.
So, regardless of origins, somebody out there may be answering your prayers to Danu…we’re just not sure who!
Early Celtic scholars- we need a coherent genealogy for the Tuatha De
Medieval Irish texts: Ha ha! That’s not gonna happen
Early Celtic scholars- We need a mother goddess. A mother of the whole tribe of gods.
Medieval Irish texts: Eh, that’s not really there…lots of ladies of sovereignty, river goddesses
Some scholars be all “Vedic everything! Indo-European studies! Everything Celtic must have a Vedic connection!” So Danu, the Vedic river goddess- her name is linguistically connected to the Danube river, and the Welsh Don
Medieval Welsh texts: Don, who’s also an abstract motherly figurehead?
Early scholars- Shutup, texts! We get to decide how to interpret you. So we’re going with it, Tuatha De Danann, people of the goddess Danu. We also need a daddy figure- this Bile guy will do.
Other scholars- Or is that People of Skill/Arts- as in the Aes Dana, the skilled class? Bile who?
Revival & Neo-Pagan Druids- Eh, we’ll go with it! We need, like a Celtic Gaia.
Goddess-worshippers- All Hail the Great Mother Danu! Who is also Brighid, the Morrigan and any other strong female character in myth we think is cool.
Later scholars- There’s a mother of the three sons of Tuireann- Brian, Iuchar & Iucharba, the Gods of Skill- Danann.
I know I’m a little late to the party in addressing Tom Swiss’ claim that cultural Appropriation does not exist from a couple weeks ago. While I do still stand by my comments that dread…
It can be hard to explain what all is included in Druidry & Celtic Spirituality- I found it more useful to describe some of the major influences (many of them of course are the same as those in other parts of Neo-Paganism and the New Age) It can be helpful to keep these influences in mind when looking at books and other sources!
Romanticism- reaction to the Enlightenment, urbanization and industrialization- emphasis on individual artistic genius, emotion over reason, folklore, fairy tales, nature, the “Noble Savage” (identified with Celtic cultures)
Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton nationalism (sometimes led by individuals from outside those cultures) Revival of interest in native literature and mythology- sometimes forgeries (MacPherson’s Ossianic Cycle, Iolo’s Barddas) and tampered manuscripts were added to drum up nationalist interest
19th century antiquarians who had interesting theories about megalithic monuments, ley lines, Druids as mystical “proto-Christians”, folk etymology like Beltaine comes from the name Ba’al
Gardnerian Wicca & Ceremonial Magic (Gardner was buddies with Ross Nichols, founder of Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids)
Goddess & women’s spirituality, matriarchal pre-history theories- Robert Graves, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel the Mists of Avalon, Jungian archetypes for female empowerment!
Looking to Celtic Christianity as a way to reconnect with nature, honor the feminine (actual historical Celtic Christianity may be disregarded!)
Arthurian Legend- Grail mysticism- legend of Joseph of Arimathea bringing Grail to Glastonbury
Environmental and peace movements- in U.S., U.K., Ireland and elsewhere- Hippie, Peace Convoy, and other countercultural movements
Indo-European studies (ADF)
New Age “awareness” and consumerism- workshops, conferences, publishing, alternative healing
Folk music & cultural revivals
Riverdance and related rise in interest in Irish dance
Opposition to destruction of sacred/historical sites, lobbying for access to sites
Michael Harner’s Core shamanism
Reconstructionism as a methodology
Fantasy novels and science fiction, medieval and Iron Age re-enactment
I encounter with relative frequency, individuals calling themselves shamans or having an interest in shamanism in both online and offline settings. I suspect most of them are not Evenki or Tungus Siberian folks, though there is the occasional exception. I would humbly propose to other well-meaning defenders of indigenous cultures that screaming cultural appropriation! at these New Age “shamans” is probably not the best approach, especially if they are not actually the ones leading the weekend sweat lodge retreats and publishing books on Shamanic Wiccan Druidry. Instead, let’s have conversations.
Is there a better word to use than shaman?
What are you trying to describe with the word shaman or the adjective shamanic?
A role serving a particular community as a spiritual specialist who does lots of intense spirit work, healing and otherworld journeying? What tradition do you work within? Are there more culturally specific terms?
A solitary path that involves intense spirit work and otherworld journeying? Spirit worker, mystic, hedge witch/wizard/warlock
A belief/worldview involving plant, animal and other spirits? Animist
Some Potentially Very Bad Reasons for “Deciding” to be a Shaman include…
Connotations of “Noble Savages” who are more “in touch with nature, what it Truly Means to Be Human etc.” in contrast to This Corrupt Urban Industrialized Disenchanted society that I still don’t want to leave cuz indoor plumbing and electricity are nice… Please unpack your cultural assumption baggage again- some books that might help:
Orientalism by Edward Said
Books, articles and classes on postcolonial theory, postcolonial feminism, anthropology, cultural area studies (American Indian, East Asian, African diaspora et al.)
You have what Western medicine classifies as a mental illness, chronic illness or other disability. Therefore, shaman *must be* your spiritual calling! You have a shaman-sickness! You are specially/chosen or “marked” by the Gods/Spirits/Ancestors! Your suffering, isolation etc. now has meaning and It All Makes Sense Now! OK, let’s slow down. I admit this one is a little close to home, as I myself qualify as neurologically divergent in various ways (autistic, epileptic, ADHD, etc.) I believe this *does* make my spiritual perceptions and experiences unique and different in various ways, but I’m hesitant to jump to the conclusion that This Means I Must Have a Special Cosmic Destiny!!!
For one, I know plenty of other people with the same conditions as well as other disabilities that do not have any such spiritual inclinations and get pretty darn irritated when they get the “You are Special Child of God” or the other extreme “You are possessed by demons!” crap from people or similar Pagan/New Agey versions- “You’re an Indigo Child”, “You did something bad in a past life, and this is your punishment”. There does seem to be a higher than average number of Pagans with various disabilities and medical conditions, how much of that is self-selection or by Higher/Lower Powers That Be is up for debate.
You are transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, intersex, asexual, kinky, yada yada…and once again this gives you a magical ticket to shaman-hood. In various cultures- yes shaman-type roles are often associated with gender-bending/blurring/fluidity and sexual “otherness”, though it’s important to remember that late 20th-21st century Western identities like I just mentioned above are different from alternate sexual and gender identities found throughout human history and contemporary cultures around the world. We can certainly find a lot of inspiration and ideas from these various identities, and learning about them can put into context how we view GLBTQ+ identities in our own cultural settings, and how they can have collective and individual spiritual meanings and roles. But likewise, a gender/sexual/romantic minority might see their identity in a completely secular manner, or see their identity as mostly incidental to their spiritual role and development.