Pagan roundtable (non-pagans welcome!)

Several times, in various threads, the pagans here have made open offers to answer questions from non-pagans. However, I don’t recall seeing more than a few such questions. In my experience, a lack of questions can mean either that the “class” understands things, or that people are so lost that they don’t know where to begin asking :-).

So, I have an idea: Let’s we pagans start discussing our various paths, and let anyone else who’s interested jump in with questions as they come up. Hopefully, we’ll all gain by the process :-).

The only request I have at this point is, if a topic takes on a life of it’s own and begins to dominate the comments, please consider taking it to a diary of it’s own. That should help keep this one manageable.

I’ll offer this as a kick-off: How would you describe the differences between, say, wiccan, Wiccan (yes, the capitalization matters), and pagan? I’d add Druid to the list (and may yet), but I think I’m the only druid here and I’m still working that one out for myself :-).

92 comments

Tip jar (4.00 / 14)

I’ll be in and out, since I’m getting the Win98 box ready to add a second OS, but I know I can trust you guys to play nice. Right? ūüėČ

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 09:53:02 PDT

We-elll … (none / 1)

Werewolves *do* have sharp, pointy teeth and it’s in out nature to nip a bit when playful, but I’ll try not to snarl, OK ?

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 09:57:29 PDT

You’d better, (4.00 / 2)

Or this diary’s alpha female will bite back ūüėČ ūüėČ ;-).

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:02:30 PDT

did anyone bring (4.00 / 2)

steak?

by A Missionarys Kid on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:06:34 PDT

No, but I did bring my rolled up paper…nt (4.00 / 2)

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:17:06 PDT

Dog fight ! Dog fight ! (none / 1)

[Very Canine-Toothy Grin]

BTW – the image you posted is beautiful ! Did you take the pic ? If so, where ? Is that indeed a female ? Can I get a copy ?

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:20:48 PDT

Get a room. (none / 1)

<grin>

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:05:41 PDT

Silly ogre ! (none / 1)

Morgan is a woman, and I am a gay man !

Get a room – for *what* ?

[Canine-Toothy Grin]

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:14:08 PDT

Assume nothing… (none / 1)

And presume nothing.

Besides, and more importantly… never let anything get in the way of a good joke.

You could both be straight males and I’d not have let it pass.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:17:40 PDT

My wolf icon/avatar (none / 1)

I don’t remember where I got it — it’s been a long time :-). And I don’t know for certain the gender of the wolf, it’s just the one I’ve been using on LiveJournal and other places when I want a wolf avatar.

There are lots of good sites with free wolf images, so I’m sure you can find one if you go on the hunt :-).

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:08:34 PDT

big ignorant here (none / 1)

I’ll start

the word “pagan” seems very generic to me
as in “not christian or jewish or muslim”

(as I said, ignorant – please forgive me)

What does it mean to you? And to Wiccans and/or Druids in general?

by A Missionarys Kid on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 09:59:54 PDT

Excellent (4.00 / 4)

Ignorance is the beginning of knowledge; knowledge is the beginning of wisdom; wisdom is the awareness of ignorance. (William Rotsler)

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:47:16 PDT

Pagan (4.00 / 5)

to me denotes an earth centered faith.

What does that mean? My best take is that at a minimum it means that the faith’s calendar is ordred by natural cycles. That would be a bare minimum. Many Pagan faiths take it much further and feel that we are all interconnected and that that interconnectedness crosses from human to nature.

That would be the starting place for defining Pagan to me.

My Blog: Recovery, Spirituality, Politics and Kilts.What more could you ask for?

by Andy Ternay on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:47:52 PDT

Are You Sure? (none / 1)

Are you sure about that? Doesn’t that seem to exclude Hellenistic Recons and some other sorts of Recon?

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 15:49:16 PDT

How so?nt (none / 1)

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 17:52:07 PDT

My $.02 (4.00 / 4)

…And this is a hotly debated topic on “pagan” boards (some groups get touchy about being included or otherwise disagree), but I tend to use it as either a simple umbrella term for earth-centered religions, or as a term for myself when I don’t feel like getting into the definition of druid but don’t want to call myself a wiccan, either (which would also IMO be misleading).

I offer also the definitions at religioustolerance.org. It’s too long to quote here, but the short form is (who uses which varies widely):

  • First meaning: Pagans consist of Wiccans and other Neopagans
  • Second meaning: Pagans are people to hate (i.e it’s a “snarl” word)
  • Third meaning: Pagans are ancient polytheists
  • Fourth meaning: Pagans follow Aboriginal religions
  • Fifth meaning: Pagans are followers of non-Abrahamic religions
  • Sixth meaning: Pagans don’t belong to any of the main religions of the world
  • Seventh meaning: Pagans are Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, etc.

I generally use definition #1, with a bit of #4 thrown in sometimes, depending on the context. If I want to be really clear that I’m not using #3, I’ll use “neo-pagan,” but that’s only when I’m trying to be particularly precise :-).

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:16:40 PDT

History o’ Pagan (none / 1)

Pagan, along with Heathen, were catch-all terms for people who weren’t Christian or Jewish (and later Muslim, though for awhile they were classified as such). It denoted not just religious, but spiritual or superstitious rituals that weren’t Abrahamic in origin. So more rural folks would occasionally keep up with their older religious rites for crops or use what were considered “superstitious” home remedies, and thus those practices were called Pagan, even if the folks called themselves Christian. It is now considered to mean those kinds of older nature-based religious views.

Since the modern form of Paganism is loosely (for the most part, don’t need no Trad. Witches telling me I’m wrong) based on those nature practices or worship of the older or “dead” gods, modern groups are actually called NeoPagan traditions. Although, many of these NeoPagans will still claim Pagan as an interchangeable term (heck, myself included – too lazy to add that “neo”).

more info…

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri

by Devious Kitty on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 16:33:27 PDT

Oy (4.00 / 4)

Pagan and Neopagan are umbrella terms. ¬†Use of them revolves around funky and obscure debates about whether one’s including faiths like Asatru, which clearly was never exterminated by Christianity, whether various faith traditions are reconstructed/reconstituted (modern) religions based on ancient ones or are revivals from religious traditions that were maintained in small (mostly family) communities below the radar of inquisitions and lynch mobs… and of course, faiths that are openly modern constructions on ancient foundations or modern constructions inspired by ancient ways. ¬†Watch where you walk, there are occasionally unmarked boggy spots…

Wiccan refers to a specific subset of neopaganism. ¬†In its most strict sense it might have once meant (Gardnerian) Wicca, only… but it’s so long since it’s been understood that way…

It’s sometimes used to include almost all of neopaganism (poor usage, IMO, very confusing).

Druid… I’m not qualified to comment, but it’s going to be another specific subset.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:01:10 PDT

Speaking on “Pagan” (4.00 / 3)

It’s debatable what it means/ought to mean.

Does it only include faiths that are eurocentric/rooted (actually or mythically) in European tradition?  Does it include things like Native American faiths?

From the OED…

ad. L. pQgQn-us, orig. `villager, rustic; civilian, non-militant’, opposed to mWlUs `soldier, one of the army’, in Christian L. (Tertullian, Augustine) `heathen’ as opposed to Christian or Jewish. The Christians called themselves mWlitUs `enrolled soldiers’ of Christ, members of his militant church, and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers to all who were `not enrolled in the army’. Cf. Tertullian De Corona Militis xi, `Apud hunc [Christum] tam miles est paganus fidelis quam paganus est miles infidelis’. See also Gibbon xxi. note.
Cf. payen.
¬† ¬†The explanation of L. pQgQnus in the sense `non-Christian, heathen’, as arising out of that of `villager, rustic’, (supposedly indicating the fact that the ancient idolatry lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been generally accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire: see Trench Study of Words 102, and cf. Orosius i Pr√¶f. `Ex locorum agrestium compitis et pagis pagani vocantur’) has been shown to be chronologically and historically untenable, for this use of the word goes back to Tertullian c 202, when paganism was still the public and dominant religion, and even appears, according to Lanciani, in an epitaph of the 2nd cent.

Pagan(us) was a derogatory term (think “hick”) among the Roman military before Christianity. ¬†As Christianity rose… as the passage above notes, Christians used the term “soldier” (of God), and appear to have adopted the derogative to refer to heathen folk. ¬†It’s well established that Christianity spread well in urban settings, and was still being carried to rural folk long after Europe was deemed “Christian”.

So there are some who insist that “pagan” doesn’t refer to reconstructions of the urban Roman religion, some who are willing to ascribe it to only rural religious traditions (be they survivals or reconstructions) native/rooted in/based on Europe. ¬†

Meanwhile, of course, Christians have applied it to everyone else, (more recently, not to Islam, but traditionally, “paynim” was used to refer to Muslims too.) including Jews. ¬†In those mouths, it meant nothing more than “non-Christian”… often with the implicit “infidel.”

At least by the very early 20th century, it was commonly used to refer to nature worshipping faiths of pantheist character.

In both cases, it was still derogatory, to various degrees.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:16:12 PDT

Ogre (none / 1)

would you agree that earth-centric or nature based is pretty much at the core belief of Paganism?

My Blog: Recovery, Spirituality, Politics and Kilts.What more could you ask for?

by Andy Ternay on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:02:42 PDT

Not speaking for Ogre (4.00 / 4)

But IMO that is indeed one of the things which I think defines us. Some traditions emphasize it more than others, but I can’t offhand think of any group I might call pagan that doesn’t include a respect/reverence for the Earth/Mother Nature/etc.

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:19:09 PDT

A lovely pagan minuet… (4.00 / 3)

Those of us who’ve been around have learned carefully not to speak for others… unless we’re really, really sure of our grounds.

That said, I think that it’s an answer that’s correct. ¬†Now, in that form, it sweeps up a lot of religious traditions. ¬†I’m just not sure that’s as narrow as it could be made (nor am I sure it shouldn’t be left there…).

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:24:55 PDT

Um (none / 1)

What to call ourselves is such a can of worms, sometimes. ¬†I go by Heathen, or Asatru, and we’re not earth based. ¬†I mean, the argument could be made that a strong emphasis on landwights and the like makes it close enough, but it’s reverence for spirits of the earth, sky, etc, rather than viewing these things themselves as divine. ¬†Earth respecting, sure, but not nature-centered.

I don’t mind getting lumped as “pagan” but something like “ancestral faiths” seems to cover us better.

“As scientific knowledge advances, it does not mean that religious knowledge retreats.”
– horse69 on the bnet recon C&C board

by lonespark on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 16:32:29 PDT

One finger jammed deeply into my left ear… (4.00 / 3)

<pop>

Yeah. ¬†I think so. ¬†I can’t think of any version of the use of “Pagan” (other than as a hate word) which doesn’t refer to some sort of religious perspective which holds the earth as sacred.

This is holy ground.  All of it.

There are moments when I can feel that as literally as if I were lying on top of a searchlight and it were turned on.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:22:08 PDT

Commonly seen on pagan t-shirts: (4.00 / 3)

“I worship the ground I walk on.”

ūüôā

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:27:33 PDT

Hmmmm (none / 1)

but as a christian who does believe in the theory of evolution and big whuf …

I believe we are related to all living things, and made of the same recycled molecules ejected from the same stars.

So are we in some ways converging in beliefs here?

by A Missionarys Kid on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:29:41 PDT

Partly (4.00 / 4)

I think it’s a matter of viewpoint. Many Christians are respectful of the environment, but come at it from a stewardship angle. Pagans, OTOH, tend to come at it more from the PoV of “earth as divinity,” or that we’re all part of the same divine — collective isn’t the right word, but it’s the best I can do at the moment — and need to care for our “siblings” among the plants and animals. The end result of walking lightly can be reached by either path.

Oversimplification — I’m trying to catch up with a lot of subthreads at once, and the place is jumping (NOT a complaint!). ūüôā

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:34:35 PDT

I strongly suspect so. (4.00 / 3)

Chinese, Mexican, French…

It’s all food, and it’s all nourishing.

An individual may have an allergy, but it doesn’t mean that the entire cuisine isn’t food, or nourishment.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:37:46 PDT

this is probably not a well-formed question but… (4.00 / 3)

do Pagans understand their beliefs as referring to literal “entities” or energies, or do they understand what they believe in as metaphorical or psychological realities?

gretel

by gretel on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:16:43 PDT

Perfectly good question. (4.00 / 4)

The answer is “Yes”.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:17:48 PDT

True, ogre … (4.00 / 3)

… but you are *not* helping !

[Canine-Toothy Grin]

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:23:13 PDT

Ah, but I am. (4.00 / 2)

First, dissonance.

Then… harmony and explication.

And for one mythical creature to complain/chide about another’s behavior is… well… <big toothy grin> you still look pretty human to a misanthropophagous ogre. ¬†Capisce?

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:31:54 PDT

Explanation (4.00 / 6)

It depends on who you ask. ¬†Which may also depend on what faith tradition they’re in.

In trying to understand modern Paganism, you need to understand first that you’re dealing with a… movement that is larger than you imagine, and growing… and which has very few clear boundaries and definitions. ¬†It’s also — with a few notable exceptions — very anti-authoritarian, so there aren’t many authority figures to help define boundaries… and they tend to be figures who are raised up by their not-good-followers followers, and aggressively questioned and frequently dismissed as authorities by others. ¬†Imagine the fragmentation of Protestantism… done really finely.

There are groups and individuals who very strictly understand their deities as objectively real, in the same tangible sense that (most) Christians believe in Jesus-as-God who walked the earth. ¬†Then the spectrum runs–and runs very “widely” in order to include a remarkable breadth of perspectives and ideas–to folk who view their gods as archetypes, ideals….

There are people who believe their gods exist (and others don’t). ¬†

There are people who believe that there are lots of gods that exist… and these are theirs.

There are people who believe that these are their gods, that there are others… and that in some literally unapproachable way, there is a unity of all divinity that humanity understands–that the gods people have are all faces or facets of an ultimate source. (There’s a not uncommon leap by monotheists to say–ah! THAT’s where our god really is… which really misses the earlier point… and annoys…)

And so on.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:29:09 PDT

*NOW* you *ARE* helping ! (4.00 / 3)

Thanks – a very good explanation of something that’s very, very hard to explain.

*Werewolf Prophet offers ogre a very large Ogre Treat, but then sensibly backs off a bit …*

by Propheticus Lycanthroponica on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:37:19 PDT

Facets (4.00 / 3)

There are people who believe that these are their gods, that there are others… and that in some literally unapproachable way, there is a unity of all divinity that humanity understands–that the gods people have are all faces or facets of an ultimate source. (There’s a not uncommon leap by monotheists to say–ah! THAT’s where our god really is… which really misses the earlier point… and annoys…)

What about monotheists who say that their God is another facet/interpretation of the same ultimate source?

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:46:52 PDT

Here, come sit by me… (4.00 / 3)

Have a drink.

What about monotheists who say that their God is another facet/interpretation of the same ultimate source?

You’ll appreciate this article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henotheism

… henotheism is a term coined by Max M√ľller, meaning devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of other gods. It is derived from the Greek heis theos, “one god”. According to M√ľller, it is “monotheism in principle and a polytheism in fact”

There are absolutely Pagan monotheists of the henotheist variety. ¬†I’m suspect there are (but have not identified any yet…) Christians and Jews who understand themselves and their god in this manner (“no other gods BEFORE me…”).

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:53:28 PDT

henotheist? (none / 1)

mono and poly… what’s heno???

by A Missionarys Kid on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:56:40 PDT

buk-buk-buk… (4.00 / 2)

from kath heno theon – “one god at a time”. Henotheism is similar but less exclusive than monolatry because a monolator worships only one god, while the henotheist may worship any within the pantheon, depending on circumstances. In some belief systems, the choice of the supreme deity within a henotheistic framework may be determined by cultural, geographical, or political reasons.

And I see the next question coming, so…

Monolatrism forms a type of polytheism. Its adherents believe that many gods do exist, but these gods can exert their power only on those who worship them. Thus, a monolatrist may believe in the reality of both the Egyptian gods and the Ugaritic Pantheon, but sees him or herself as a member of only one of these religions. The gods that he/she worships and feels membership with can affect his/her life, but the other gods cannot.

Bonus definition:

Kathenotheism is sometimes distinguished as follows: a monolatrist worships only one God during their whole life (assuming they do not undergo a conversion); while they accept that other Gods exist they do not worship them. A kathenotheist worships one God at a time, depending on their locality or the time.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:18:07 PDT

shorter answer (4.00 / 3)

“Mono” is Latin.

“Poly” is Greek.

“Theism” comes from Greek “theos”.

“Monotheism” is thus one of those bastard terms… it should have been henotheism. ¬†But Muller has used the term to allow us to make a distinction in meaning.

Monodeism, however, isn’t available, it’s used to describe a distinct viewpoint of deism.

In the case of Monodeism, God creates then steps back and observes.  In this viewpoint, God is passive and is involved in the universe but not in a direct fashion.  An analogy would be that God is a scientist and the universe is the experiment. God observes but does not intervene in the process that has been set in motion.  Essentially, God is mentally involved with the universe but not physically so abandonment has not occurred.

Nor is polydeism…

Polydeism is a polytheistic form of Deism encompassing the belief that the universe was the collective creation of multiple Gods, each of whom created a piece of the universe and then ceased to interact with the universe. This concept addresses an apparent contradiction in Deism – that a monotheistic God created the universe, but now expresses no apparent interest in it – by supposing that if the universe is the construct of many gods, none of them would have an interest in the universe as a whole.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:25:57 PDT

completely wrong on the Greek. (none / 0)

monos is Greek for alone, only, single, etc. Nice try, though.

Join the battle against cosmic evil!

by gzt on Thu Jan 19th, 2006 at 14:23:19 PDT

Correction on language (none / 0)

“Mono” is Latin.

“Poly” is Greek.

“Theism” comes from Greek “theos”.

“Monotheism” is thus one of those bastard terms… it should have been henotheism.

“Mono” is also from the Greek. It means “only”. There’s a big difference between the ‘one’ God and the ‘only’ god, especially in mindset.

Hey, I was a classical languages major for 4 years, gotta get some use out of it besides crossword puzzles… ūüėČ

Sarah G

by SarahG on Fri Jan 20th, 2006 at 05:55:42 PDT

Henotheism (4.00 / 2)

There are absolutely Pagan monotheists of the henotheist variety.I’m suspect there are (but have not identified any yet…) Christians and Jews who understand themselves and their god in this manner (“no other gods BEFORE me…”).

That would sort of be me… I believe that there’s one infinite God, but that, because humans can’t comprehend the infinite, our interpretations of it wind up being filtered through our perceptions. So my God and your Gods are products of our limited perceptions, but are also real. We’re all trying to get at the same thing, and we’re all seeing things that are there, but none of us are seeing the full picture.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:17:34 PDT

The description I’ve heard of this (4.00 / 2)

–from my teacher–

has that “Source” reaching out to humans–who can’t fathom or grapple with it. ¬†And humans reaching out, trying to fathom and understand “all of it”. ¬†The gods–all of them, then–are BOTH our creation and divine. ¬†The Source makes them real and infuses them with what they are… but we put the masks and personalities and character onto them and into them.

To me, that neatly deals with the clear fact that we humans DO seem to “create” our gods. ¬†It’s observably true. ¬†But what we create are “molds” for these beings… and the Source fills them and makes them objectively real, in order to be able to reach us through Them.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:04:47 PDT

Similar, But not Quite (none / 1)

I’d disagree that it’s “observably true” that we “create” our gods. I don’t see how you could observe that. (Though I am be curious how you think that could be observable) I think we’re seeing things that were already there, but there could well be an active component on either side.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 14:47:53 PDT

Well… there are gods who don’t appear (none / 1)

to have existed at all until historical times.  Even modern times.

Now they have worshippers.

Did they pre-exist and were just waiting billions of years to make themselves known?  Or did they arise out of human need?

Apply Occam’s Razor. <g>

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 17:55:02 PDT

Gods and Occam’s Razor (none / 1)

First off, Occam’s Razor is a poor tool in general. It’s trivial to construct systems that, to observers within the system with no external knowledge, violate it. (In fact, I’m using one right now to type this post.)

As for those gods… The way I’d interpret it is that it took that long for someone to look at the Divine the right way.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:23:13 PDT

You go to debate with the tools you have… (none / 1)

not the tools you’d like to have.

And Occam’s razor may be a leetle bit dull from use, but it’s certainly still useful.

In fact, I’d love to see the masses (especially right-wing) use it a little more frequently!

Your post just above this… pardon me, but could you explain it a little more simply?

by princembm on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:47:20 PDT

Which Post? (none / 1)

I’m not sure which post you’re talking about. Could you quote the text you’d like me to explain?

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:57:59 PDT

God and Occam’s razor… (none / 1)

by princembm on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 04:14:35 PDT

Occam’s Razor (none / 1)

Oh! Well, Occam’s Razor is a useless tool in general. It’s trivial to construct a system that violates it. In fact, you’re using one to read this post: a computer! From the perspective of an observer inside the computer, who has no knowledge of the external world, the entire system appears to be closed and to follow certain perfectly consistent natural laws. What we know are the inputs to and outputs from the system, they see as simply part of the natural processes of their world.

Things get even stranger, though. Let’s consider a program in a Unix environment. The way Unix works, a special file called “standard input” can either be hooked up to the user’s keyboard or to a file within the system, and it behaves identically in either case. So now we have a single “natural law” within the system that can either describe a process completely within the system or an input to the system. And our hypothetical observer within the system can’t tell the difference between occurrences of one case and the other.

In short, your computer violates Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation that fits all facts that an observer inside the system can discern is also completely wrong.

I think this may be generically applicable. I’mpretty sure that there’s no way to prove that a system is closed from within the system. And the only way to prove that it’s open is personal experience. It’s not a general refutation of Occam’s Razor, but it does show that there are situations where it doesn’t apply.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 10:11:13 PDT

“Gods”? (none / 1)

¬† ¬†I consider myself an eclectic Wiccan (not that this label establishes much ūüôā ), and I personally feel that there’s more or less one great “Divinity” that people tap into for magic/prayer. It’s much easier to “get things done” with that energy if the supplicant/magician/witch/priest/whatever has an energy form to work with… even better if that form is an omnipotent and omniscient god. I can’t personally believe in the literal existance of Jehovah on a cloud, or of Zeus living on Olympus. I will agree that collections of people believing and worshipping various “gods” will create energy forms that can respond to their worhippers needs or wishes… but I’m not sure that these energy forms are any more sentient than my computer. My computer does things what I ask it to do, but that’s because it’s been programmed to do those tasks, and I give it energy to do so (by plugging it in).
¬† ¬†Oh, and I try to avoid the ‘k’.

by Puma on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 21:20:09 PDT

Also… (4.00 / 3)

It depends on who you ask. ¬†Which may also depend on what faith tradition they’re in.

It may also depend on when you ask them :-). Sometimes the same person will see things in different ways at different points on their path.

I’ve only skimmed down-thread on this, but it looks like it’s been pretty well covered :-).

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:21:44 PDT

Rituals (4.00 / 2)

I’m curious about Pagan rituals. What’s done, what the significance is, and what the beliefs regarding them are. Pointers to online references or in-post explanations would both be appreciated.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:37:51 PDT

Too broad a question, really. (4.00 / 2)

It’s like asking what monotheist rituals are, what’s done, what their significance is….

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:41:04 PDT

That said (4.00 / 2)

They are generally rites in which divinity (often in plural form) is worshipped, and in many case, where there are prayers (sometimes as prayers, sometimes as acts of magic) are made.

Abstracted, religious rites have a vast commonality.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:43:54 PDT

Commonality (4.00 / 2)

I’m more wondering about common ones. Things like Samhain, etc.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 10:47:49 PDT

Ah! (4.00 / 2)

Ok, Samhain (“Sow’an” is close to the pronunciation, it means “summer’s end”) is the Celtic New Year–on Oct 31. ¬†The public bonfires and celebrations were the roots of some of Hallowe’en’s festivities. ¬†

Most all of ancient religion in Europe had a very strong element of ancestor worship/reverence, coupled with (like most religions, given human worries…) fear of the dead and death.

Rites in modern traditions that acknowledge Samhain (only those of British roots/influence) observe this as a festival that seeks to ward off the menace of death and decline, and to look forward to the returning of light and life in spring. ¬†Other Pagan traditions typically observe something similar, but by other names. ¬†Reverence and acknowledgement for ancestors (blood and spiritual…) is also commonly a part of such rites.

There are strong similarities–thematically and in terms of perspective–between these celebrations and the Mesoamerican practices that survive to this day in Dia de los Muertos celebrations. ¬†Feasting with/for the dead. ¬†Remembering the dead. ¬†Acknowledging and recalling loss. ¬†Celebrating life.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:04:57 PDT

Morgan actually did (4.00 / 2)

a public Samhain Ritual online if you want to read the diaries…

Her tradition is more Druidic (I think) and not Wiccan but the outlines are very similar:

Intro to Ritual

Ritual Outline

Ritual Tools

Actual Samhain Ancestor Ritual

Morgan did a great job with it. I hope she does some more online rituals for us.

I’m thinking of doing an online ritual for Imbolc [1] this coming February 1st.

My Blog: Recovery, Spirituality, Politics and Kilts.What more could you ask for?

by Andy Ternay on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:00:52 PDT

IIRC, (none / 1)

I cover the differences between what I call “wiccan” style and “druid” style in one of those intro diaries you linked to. I did druid for Samhain, and wiccan for the Full Moon ritual I posted last weekend.

Hopefully, that will illustrate the differences :-).

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:26:15 PDT

And for that matter… (4.00 / 2)

You covered a lot of what I’ve covered here in this diary:

And very nicely, too.

I knew I thought I’d seen much of this here already. ¬†But October is so long ago…

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:31:02 PDT

Thanks! (none / 1)

That’s exactly the kind of thing I was looking for. And an online Imbolc ritual sounds very nifty.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 15:32:26 PDT

Magick and ritual (4.00 / 4)

There is one area of modern paganism that I would like to find out more about: magick.

What is magick?  How is it used?  Is it believed to be literally effectual, and if so, how?  How does it differ from prayer?

The funny thing about me asking this is that my mother is Wiccan (not sure if she is wiccan or Wiccan; I never realized that there was a distinction). ¬†I’ve never discussed her particular takes on magick and ritual becuase I don’t want to accidentally come off as snide or dismissive. ¬†She would be less sensitive about it that her partner, however. ¬†I know that she is of the type that views the gods as psychological archetypes a la Jung.

by Betty Black on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:30:36 PDT

Depends on one’s definition of magic(k). (4.00 / 3)

I know you’re familiar with the UUs, so you’ll be familiar with their Sevent Principle, which is “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

It’s all one thing. ¬†All parts of it affect the rest. ¬†That’s an accepted reality in modern physics….

Magic’s just a way of saying that you’re trying to affect change (at a distance, probably, but not necessarily).

(That’s one take)

Prayer is asking.

Magic is taking action (often with the backdrop idea of “the gods help those who help themselves”).

Literally effective? ¬†Hmmm. ¬†Sometimes. ¬†It’s not a truly well understood technology. ¬†But there are times when it seems one’s found the “zone” and it’s like riding a wave… and working after working is effective and obviously so. ¬†Coincidence? ¬†Perhaps. ¬†But I’m very wary of the word “coincidence,” since it provides such a convenient rug under which to sweep data that make ¬†one… wonder. ¬†Having grown up among engineers, I’m not inclined to the airy-fairy… and I’m also not comfortable ignoring data. ¬†Leaving me neatly… uncomfortable.

So it goes.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 11:59:51 PDT

Many pagans have stories… (none / 1)

…of what I call “Bullwinkle moments,” as in the cartoon character going to pull a rabbit out of his hat and getting a lion (“Don’t know m’own strength!”)

I’ve had a few of those, but the one that comes first to mind isn’t on a subject that I can discuss in “polite company” if you know what I mean ;-). Let’s just say I did a “spell” for something I felt seriously lacking in my life at that point, and was answered quickly and abundantly (almost too abundantly, but not in a bad way).

Often, the results take longer and the results are more subtle and/or coincidental. I spent several years doing a variety of workings (spells and prayers) to find Mr. Right. I wanted someone who could provide what I needed and who needed what I had to give. You can ask Roland how well it worked :-).

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:43:25 PDT

Yep. (none / 1)

I know a fellow who, well, got what he asked for.

Poor guy. ¬†It’s not what he really wanted, and he was quite miserable as a result.

Part of the training of a good magician ends up being to really understand oneself, to get good at understanding others… and to think carefully about what one’s working for.

The end result being that many of the most adept workers of magic I’ve known have been very wary about working magic.

In part because they’ve figured out that you can’t change the universe without unforeseen consequences, and that you have to change yourself to create change elsewhere. ¬†Unless the change is seomthing you want….

Which leads to another aspect of magic–work on changing oneself. ¬†Which undoubtedly means that there are changes outside oneself as a result… a subject I’ve not seen anyone addressing.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:51:00 PDT

Changing (none / 1)

Which leads to another aspect of magic–work on changing oneself. ¬†Which undoubtedly means that there are changes outside oneself as a result… a subject I’ve not seen anyone addressing.

Somewhere else in the comments, I mention all the workings I did when looking for the person who turned out to be Roland. You remind me of an important part of that I didn’t mention: Changing whatever needed changing within myself so I’d be ready for him to come into my life.

Sometimes, I’ll go with a simple “Help me to reach my best and brightest potential.” It’s not asking for anything beyond my reach, but not selling myself short either.

And yes, we must always remember Uhura’s comment to “Mr. Adventure” in “Search for Spock” (not original to Trek, but it’s my favorite example):

“Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

ūüôā

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:59:47 PDT

Magick (4.00 / 2)

(A note on the “k”: some people use it to differentiate from stage magic, others think it’s pretentious, I use it to differentiate and because I like the way it looks :-))

The way I learned it, there are several types of magick, one of which is “intercessionary.” This type is, IMP, virtually indistinguishable from prayer.

I need to go do some research before I get farther into this, and it may deserve it’s own diary entry (if someone else wants to run with it, go ahead!), but I’ll get back on this one.

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:30:49 PDT

I just can’t stand (4.00 / 2)

“ick”.

So I avoid it. ¬†It’s icky.

Besides, there’s an ambiguous quality to the practice. ¬†There are elements of drama and even stage magic that work with and help in practicing magic (particularly with a group). ¬†It seems to make the mind run more fluidly towards making “real” magic happen. ¬†So…

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:33:56 PDT

True, (4.00 / 2)

but while we may use some of the same elements, we’re going for a change in reality, not an illusion :-).

Unless of course you’re looking at it as changing this massive illusion we all share in, but that’s another angle (would stage magic then be an illusion within the illusion?). ūüėČ

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:36:42 PDT

Mawwidge is a dweam (4.00 / 2)

wiffin a dweam….

I’m mindful of the Hindu philosophy in which it’s all seen as maya. ¬†Everything is illusion.

Which seems to be awfully close to some of the stuff that suggests that the universe is a sort of hologram. (Etc).

Real, illusion… sometimes changing the illusion results in a change in reality. Think yourself not afraid, and lo! It may become so. ¬†Magic? ¬†Psychology? ¬†Reality… where do the boundaries go (and come from)?

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:45:12 PDT

magick v. magic (4.00 / 2)

The first I ever encountered “magick” was here on SP; I though I was being Pagan-PC by using the term ūüėõ

by Betty Black on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 12:51:43 PDT

Weirdness of language (none / 1)

It is PC and it is preferred by most Pagans. ogre is the first I’ve seen who doesn’t like the “k”. I love the “k”, for “k” is a strong letter. “c” is weac (<-intentional :P).

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri

by Devious Kitty on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 16:47:45 PDT

Magic/magick/majik… (none / 1)

One context I have on this that I don’t think anyone else here shares is that of someone who was on the White Wolf Games forums for Mage: The Awakening when they went from 2nd edition to “Revised” (aka “Mage 3E” — gamer-geek reference). IIRC, they stopped using the “k” because too many people thought it was either “pretentious” or because it caused people to confuse “serious gamers” (oooooooh….) with “those silly neopagans.” You can bet the neopagan gamers set up a cry about that :-).

So I’ve seen arguments for and against from a lot of different angles, and except when I feel like using “majic” or “majik” on a whim, I stick with “magick” for the Craft of the Wise and “magic” for prestidigitation.

It really doesn’t help, the way the thesaurus lumps it all together:

abracadabra, alchemy, allurement, astrology, augury, bewitchment, black art, conjuring, conjury, devilry, diabolism, divination, enchantment, exorcism, fascination, foreboding, fortune-telling, hocus-pocus, horoscopy, illusion, incantation, legerdemain, magic, magnetism, necromancy, occultism, power, prediction, presage, prestidigitation, prophecy, rune, soothsaying, sorcery, sortilege, spell, superstition, taboo, thaumaturgy, trickery, voodoo, voodooism, witchcraft, wizardry

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 17:10:50 PDT

Gamers (Slightly OT) (none / 1)

Well, yes, but as someone who’s done freelance writing for RPGs, gamers will complain about anything. If you gave them the perfect game that everyone could get into and have years of fun playing, they’d find something to complain about.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 17:23:09 PDT

What lines? (none / 1)

I’m curious since Roland is also a freelance gaming writer, though work’s been scarce since the Bush Economy started cutting into people’s disposable incomes :-(.

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 17:37:57 PDT

More OT-ness (none / 1)

A couple of books for Dream Pod 9. (Some of which I’m very much not pleased with, for reasons I can’t get into without breaking NDAs) Though I’m now working on something for Spectrum Games’ Cartoon Action Hour line.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:26:47 PDT

As both a Pagan and a hardcore gamer (none / 1)

I actually prefer magic to be spelled without the k in gaming books. In my experience, there are a lot of anti-gaming crusaders who believe that gaming leads one to the dark side using the inclusion of magic as one of the main reasons. There are also people confused since they’ve heard that Pagans generally prefer the k, so they may dislike Paganism, but don’t see it prevalent in gaming. To add the k may break down that wall for those who are still confused about the evils of gaming and create more crusaders. I’m not saying that their opinions on Paganism is wrong, but the gaming community needs a break. It’s getting more and more crap these days.

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri

by Devious Kitty on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 09:07:59 PDT

woopsy (none / 1)

I meant “opinions on Paganism is right“. My bad.

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri

by Devious Kitty on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 09:09:03 PDT

Ogre is also (4.00 / 2)

a dyed in the wool (did you know ogres were woolly?) traditionalist. ¬†Oh, I know language changes and drifts and I’m fine with that. ¬†But I don’t generally )ickapprove of hurrying it to do so.

Besides, I like amb/pMagic is taking action (often with the backdrop idea of magick v. magiciguity.

I’ve also been accused (how unjust!) of being contrary. ¬†(I prefer… whimsical. ¬†And unpredictable.)

And, to top it off… “k” is redundant. ¬†We have “c” for that sound and “s” for the other that “c” is sometimes used for. ¬†Just scrap k, ‘k?

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 17:59:08 PDT

Hurrying? (4.00 / 2)

Crowley added the ‘K’ over a century ago now. How’s that mechanical abacus you’re typing — er, ‘scribing’ — on working for ya? ūüėČ

As for traditionalism, so when you perform ‘magic,’ you are practicing the ancient arts of the Zoroastrian priesthood? (The original Magi, from whom the word magic is derived.)

Sorry, my English degree is showing. I hate semantics, except when I dive into them unrelentingly. }sheepish grin{ Personally, I prefer ‘magick’ because it more or less has one definition. Ambiguity is fine, but no-K magic has been used for more things than a bucket full of Swiss army knives.

(Oh, and lest I forget — just because I think some of his terms and/or ideas are useful doesn’t mean I condone everything Crowley did. Disclaimer and YMMV and all that.)

(/) Roland X
Two contrarians pointed at each other over minutiae. Oy… }VBG{

by Roland X on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:26:39 PDT

Here here! (none / 1)

It’s a new word with a new definition. Just as NeoPaganism is the new idea of Paganism that doesn’t require us to go on boar hunts every Yule.

Also, I’ve seen ogre’s ideas of reality vs. illusion, and although I have no problem with it, it isn’t my idea of world. No prestidigitation for me unless I need a D&D character cleaned up.

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri

by Devious Kitty on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 09:15:33 PDT

“My” ideas? (none / 1)

I don’t know if I’ve articulated my ideas.

My father and uncle are engineers, eihter both mechanical… or one mech and the other electrical. ¬†My grandfather a self-made engineer who had been a carpenter, the son of a carpenter.

People who are/were rooted deeply in the thisness, the substance of the world, and dedicated to what works–and conscious of what doesn’t.

That really does inform my views of the world.  Has to.

I’m the liberal arts black sheep (though, I will admit that one of my regrets is that I didn’t discover architecture early enough to hear its siren call…) of… well… a few generations (I bear a heavy load…). ¬†But a fair bit of my reading for entertainment consists of things like Scientific American, and books on the nature of the universe as physics and astronomy are revealing it.

I’m not committed to illusion. ¬†I’m not even adept at any sort of presti… prestidigitation (there), unless verbal ones count.

But there’s something there.

What is clear is that the universe isn’t what it looks like to us. ¬†It’s not what we think it is.

by ogre on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 10:06:26 PDT

100% Agreement (none / 1)

What is clear is that the universe isn’t what it looks like to us.It’s not what we think it is.

I think we both agree on this.

“To make life easier and to be happy ended up being two different things.” – Arjuna’s Father, Earth Girl Arjuna.

by Egarwaen on Wed Jan 18th, 2006 at 10:13:15 PDT

Another aspect (4.00 / 3)

For most wiccanish pagans, everyone is considered to be a priest/priestess in their own right. Sometimes that doesn’t include new students, but sometimes anyone who’s dedicated themselves to the path is included.

Druids, at least neo-druids as far as I know, see a distinction between clergy and laity. Layfolk are those who honor the “old ways” but who aren’t ready or interested in training towards initiation.

I’ve read this put in terms of tribe vs. village, where in a tribal setting everyone knows everyone else and can work in the circle together, with the more experienced members leading things. OTOH, when you get more specialized, not everyone has the time to learn even the rudiments of dealing with spirit/divinity, and so those with the talent/interest lead the rest of the community in matters of worship and such.

I’m interested in other viewpoints on this.

by Morgan on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 13:31:27 PDT

My own tradition (4.00 / 2)

Presumes that anyone seeking initiation is intending to seek to become part of the priest/esshood. ¬†But there are those who haven’t achieved that, and there is provision for those who might qualify, but who are not ready/willing to serve others and the gods as priest/esses. ¬†They’re knowledgeable, adherent… not monastics, but sort of vaguely analogous.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 13:47:32 PDT

Interesting (none / 1)

Many Protestant Christians (I think going back to Martin Luther) assert “the priesthood of all believers.” Meaning more or less that the individual with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit needs no human intermediary to commune with God, and may interpret scripture according to conscience and minister to others.

by Elizabeth D on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 19:01:49 PDT

Don’t like the word (4.00 / 2)

PAGAN. My dictionary defines it in the old Roman sense as “backward, uneducated, rural.” I’m rural, but not backward or uneducated. I prefer the term “druid,” which in ancient times referred to a caste of people who were educated and in healing, law, and the priesthood. As I understand it, this included women as well as men.

I feel that I worship spirits, both male and female, who are deeply concerned about earth and its ills both sociological and ecological.

My special spirit is Queen Brighid the Bright. I have an altar to her in my home, just as many Catholics have statues of the Blessed Mother. (Not much difference in the two, if you ask me.)

I try to abide by the rule, “An thou harm none, do what thou wilt.” That first clause is a challenge!

Anne the goat judge

by Anne Johnson on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 13:58:17 PDT

No question really… (4.00 / 2)

Just that this is SOOOOOO much better than when I was in my twenties and still looking around that I’d end up in AOL’s Pagan Tearoom and have to sort through the trolls of the moment… to get any answers.
Morgan this was a beautiful idea, both in helping others to understand what alternative views are about at least to an extent.
Thanks.
(So that’s what the magic with a k is all about… hmn… :))

Our gift is Free Will. Infinite in Potential, limited only in Experience.

by R Elland on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 15:22:01 PDT

Oh, those were barren wastes, weren’t they? (none / 1)

Compuserve’s fora for religion and so on… so much drivel.

by ogre on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:00:13 PDT

Oh my yes (none / 1)

The fun happened though when we’d get the “But I’m trying to save your immortal SOUL!” types in.
AOHELL, they prepared one for the coming madness of today! Yaayy! Knew it was good for something.

Our gift is Free Will. Infinite in Potential, limited only in Experience.

by R Elland on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 18:53:54 PDT

Excellent diary… (none / 1)

it’s been ages since I’ve really read about the debates within the pagan community…it’s nice to catch up!

by Elise on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 21:21:43 PDT

really interesting discussion. (none / 1)

I took one of those online quizzes that let you know what religion you would fit into best, and I came out Pagan/earth centered. ¬†Big surprise to me, since I thought I tended toward Buddha Dharma/atheist. Don’t know that there are any “next steps” for me, but the subject is interesting.

gretel

by gretel on Tue Jan 17th, 2006 at 22:47:07 PDT


[1] Link originally went to http://www.celticspirit.org/imbolc.htm

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