Posts tagged ‘witchcraft’

February 8, 2012

Authenticity

An identity crisis has haunted modern witchcraft practitioners — a sudden instability turning into a search for validity. Surrounded by Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) that unfold from each other over thousands of years, there is a fear of inauthenticity.

While the history of modern witchcraft is still under discussion, practice as it is done today is not a direct descendant of the old religions. The early developers of Wicca created false histories to cover the newness, perhaps to intentionally garner a mysterious reputation depending on who we are talking about. While folk traditions preserved practices and imagery, and literature, myths, and art saved old ideas from extinction, we cannot escape it: an unbroken line is most likely not true. Contemporary manifestations have been influenced by cultural context and information access. At the current publication and distribution level, modern witchcraft is becoming something other than the ancient.

But this does not mean it is inauthentic.

The major religions, the Abrahamic, Buddhist, and Hindu ones, are also contemporary, co-created expressions. They have a more continuous and cohesive history, with sometimes a simpler range of influences. This does not award them an unchanged status; for example, Catholicism has adjusted for its audience and its generation, whether informally by absorbing local culture, or as formally as Vatican II.

Each worldview, religious outlook, or personal philosophy, is constructed; that is not a value judgement, only an observation. We are all inspired and affected by the external. The manifestation we take can be grounded in a particular faith tradition, we can even identify with a particular group or path. The danger is in suggesting that one is more “real” or “authentic” than another, that it exists objectively, externally from society and its practitioners.

I hope that the work can leave behind counting centuries for validation, and become seeking self-awareness and authenticity-from-within.

September 22, 2011

Responding to Troy Davis’ Death: Community Responsibility

The death of Troy Davis, a recently executed and very likely innocent man, has sparked discussion and writing from my friends in other faiths. But, as far as I can tell, no Pagans are writing about the situation.

Being un-organized is one of the Pagan community’s defining characteristics. Liberated from rigid perspectives, we can move intuitively, shaping a practice and our perspectives organically. With no system of transference, education and spiritual development must come from each of us – deeply personal by definition. We are responsible for ourselves.

So, what do we lose?

Although we are a diverse community, the importance of the Earth and the recognition that we are pieces of a whole – whether that whole is divine, biological, or some combination – is a common idea I find across modern earth religions. Theologically, the execution of a potentially innocent man (seven of the nine witnesses later recounted their testimony, and clemency was still denied) should spark outrage among furious Pagans everywhere.

And perhaps it did. Perhaps many of us, independently, signed petitions and challenged those around us to see the imminent injustice.

But what could we accomplish as a community? And is there anyone out there writing on the death penalty from an earth religious perspective?

So much of what I see online and in the average bookstore is focused on spells without much theo(a)logical grounding; and too often a false history. At best, you could make the case that most of that writing revolves around identity formation, which is a consequence of the lack of organization.

I won’t deny that I found the earthy path as a teenager. It took time to develop a religious understanding and identity, and that is important work. I don’t want everyone to think the same, or lose the potential and significance of the personally developed. But we cannot stop there. We need to move forward, grounded in our ideas and practices, towards social justice and community responsibility. We need to put our voices out there, calling for equality and humanity.

Because we are earthy. Because when you are a piece of the whole, a human on Earth, a soul in the Divine Nature, being responsible for yourself demands community engagement.

August 27, 2011

Building Community

Although many people who find themselves on an earthy path seem to work alone, perhaps because they don’t know anyone else (like me, when I started) or by choice, I think there is a particular strength in working in community.

Not only is there a combined energy in working together, there is also an element of recognition — I see you, I witness your work, I acknowledge your humanity and ability. We, as social beings, have many rituals that require a community. Weddings. Funerals. We have a need to be seen and understood, to know we are real and we make sense. Setting aside the intentional rituals that can be a part of someone’s practice, we all seem to lay patterns, enjoy being known by others.

At the moment, in India, I am lingering in H.H. the Dalai Lama’s home in exile. His presence draws foreign travellers from around the world; there are also many classes here, from yoga to music. Remarkably, I mostly meet other women travelling alone, and often run into people I know. The shopkeepers recognize me, I have familiar faces wherever I walk, and I am beginning some incredible friendships. And I’ve only been here about a week.

By stepping away from my life in Chicago, by coming to this radically different country, I am reminded again of the power of recognition. I am known here, I belong (in a simple way). Eventually, I will move on, continuing this journey through new places and communities. But it is worth building a small life here, because it brings renewal. There’s something powerful in community, especially those formed by women (sorry, fellas). There’s something deep there, some potential that can bring great healing and support.

Remembering how lost I felt in my early years of modern witchcraft, how disconnected, strengthens my belief that even if we enjoy the benefits of practicing alone, positive community involvement is somehow essential to our wellness.

July 23, 2011

What Makes it Earthy?

Usually when I say “earth religions” I am talking about traditions that have developed out of Europe, although you could make an argument for others around the globe. But I cannot speak for everyone, only from what I know. If you are reading this, you are most likely familiar with all these ideas, but just for a strong foundation…

Obvious part: earth religions focus on nature, even call it divine.

It is not that God is in nature, because that would imply separation. “God” is nature. And it is not as if I put a pebble up on an altar and worship it; one, because I am a nomad with no altar to speak of, and two, because to worship a piece of the whole would miss the entire point. “Nature” can be thought of as living matter, or that plus the rocks/planet/etc., or all matter and energy. Well, matter and energy are technically interchangeable, but that’s not the point. Yet.

All religions are invested in the planet: maybe simply because human beings live there, or because practitioners are working to release attachments to the material world. Nature is at the center of earth religions, but it is more than that – it’s the whole donut.

There is more to earthly experience than pure mechanics. I am taught that stars explode and re-form, that the universe is expanding at an accelerated pace, that our sun is in the medium size category. Being earth religious is not limited to an intellectual recognition of the complexities of the world. In looking at the night sky, I think of the science; but there is also that awe, the realization of the whole, our simple part in it — there in the experience, which makes all the difference. And when that awe extends to all things, when the sacred expands to include the universe, you touch on being earth religious. Then it turns back on itself, asking for ethical engagement. This is religion because it can be a body of thought, lead to a series of practices, and/or a lifestyle.

In practice, being outside is the easiest access point to the universal energies that can be felt if you are aware. Our manufactured products are like processed food; the computer I am writing on is still a part of nature, just indirectly. It may not be true for everyone, but my body feels best when I am eating raw, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. So, spiritually, being out in the land is a salad, and being in downtown L.A. is American cheese.

My experience of Wicca, and my own practice, is marked by nature symbolism. From holidays and moon rituals to guided meditation and workings, nature is drawn from and celebrated. Ultimately, practice is not meant to appease a deity, but to remember what we already know — that me, you, we are all part of nature. That although our contemporary lifestyles attempt to deny it with fluorescent lighting, air conditioning, and imported produce, every day is not the same. There are seasons in the year, and in life. To put nature at the center of religion is an attempt to engage the entirety of being, to truly live and feel.

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