Pangaea Revisited – The Tenets of The Pagan Path through the eyes of RavenHarte
How does one learn the teachings of your tradition?
In general, most modern Pagans (sometimes called neo-Pagans) can be “self-taught” through the myriad books now available on Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft and the like; or may learn through public workshops and classes if they cannot find personal groups or teachers.
For my specific Tradition, a Western Mystery branch of Paganism, and for many degreed Wiccan Traditions, one must be an initiate of a coven and learn the Tradition as is taught by that coven’s individual priesthood. This is accomplished through written lessons, papers, books, rituals, and practical hands-on training in my own coven, much of which comes from my Tradition’s shared Book of Shadows (book of rituals, poetry, prayers, meditations and stories).
Does your tradition accept an authoritative body or council? If so, how active are they in the every day life of the practitioner?
There is no ultimate authority or governing body over all modern Pagan spiritualties, no. However each individual Tradition (which is similar in concept to a Christian denomination) of modern Paganism or Wicca usually does have its own Priesthood or council who has direct and constant contact with their participants.
In my own personal Tradition, each coven within our clan does have its own priesthood who are the authoritative body for that coven. They are extremely active in the everyday lives of the individual practitioners because they are not only the leaders and mentors of the group, but friends & family to the practitioners, a CHOSEN spiritual family. Priesthood spend much of their time, social and spiritual, with their students, as most families do. The clan itself has an Elder body comprised of all the 4th degree High Priesthood, to whom we council with when matters cannot be handled at an individual coven level. This body has little to no interaction with ALL the individual practitioners, but does have routine contact with those in their own covens.
Does your spiritual tradition acknowledge a higher power? If so, what is the nature of this higher power? Is it a personal divine being or a non-personal energy or state. How do you refer to this higher power?
Most Pagans believe in a Divine higher power, though there are as many different ideas of how this Divine energy manifests Itself as there are Pagan spiritualties to believe in them. Most Pagans are pantheistic, believing the Divine is immanent (existing within the living world, including ourselves). Many are panentheistic, believing the Divine is both immanent and transcendent (existing outside of the mundane world and beyond). Many are also polytheistic, believing that the Divine energy manifests in a multitude of different forms, gods and goddesses, each embodying specific energies and attributes of the whole, IE a god of war, or goddess of love. It is through the polytheistic view that one will often find those who have personal patrons or patronesses – manifestations of the Divine as a god or goddess personal to the practitioner.
In my specific coven, I teach my students to view the Divine as one ultimate energy infinitely too complex for us, as humans, to understand in its entirety. So I suggest they see the human brain as a prism, like a diamond, and the Divine as one white light entering this prism at its crown, then fracturing into its myriad different colors, which we understand as the individual gods & goddesses. Each color is then a specific aspect/energy of the Divine as can be seen by a particular angle – but which is no less then the one white Divine energy itself. We then learn more about the Divine whole by understanding all the different “parts” as told through the different mythologies of the world – most specifically through the Celtic deities and Arthurian archetypes.
Our coven does have a specific patron and patroness, a god and goddess whose mythologies and attributes signify the traits we wish to learn from and strive for. Also practitioners might also have their own patron deities, ones whose mythologies “speak to them” on a personal level, or with whose energy they might be working on to understand a particular aspect of themselves. All are encouraged to find ways to relate to the Divine in whatever way is comfortable and natural for them.
In fact, in general no Pagan is limited to a specific understanding of the Divine, not even within a particular coven or tradition. We are each meant to view the Divine as is personally significant to us, and as such we each refer to this Divine in many different ways: sometimes generally such as “the Divine” or “the Gods”; sometimes gender specifically such as “the God”, “the Goddess”, “Lord & Lady”; sometimes by title or aspect such as “The Great Mother”, “Blessed Mother”, “The Horned Lord”, or “The Sun God”; but more often by the individual god/goddess name appropriate for the situation, prayer, ritual etc.
What is the relationship between Divinity and humanity?
Many Pagans believe we are in a working partnership with the Divine and most believe that we have no need of intermediaries, people who must speak to the Gods for us, or “lesser divinity” who we must pray to to intercede for us. My own Tradition teaches that the Divine is a part of us, working within us and through us to allow us to better ourselves, and life around us. When we speak to the Divine, we are calling to that which is greater than us, a part of everything, AND that which is within us, so that we can do what we need to do to shape our own Paths.
What is the relationship between humans, animals, plants and elements?
Most Pagans believe that all life is comprised of the four elements (air, fire, water and earth) and imbued with Spirit or a “soul”, the sentient energy within that is eternally a part of the Divine. Stemming from this belief, many Pagans, also believe all life forms are interconnected, and not just through the “food chain” ☺, though that is important as well. As such most revere and respect the cycles of nature and life, and as the more “evolved” of the species of the earth, feel a responsibility for the stewardship of it.
In your tradition, is there a conception of matter and of spirit, and if so, what is the relationship between the two?
There is definitely a concept of matter, or the mundane, as being separate from spirit within Pagan spiritualties, but at the same time, there is also a belief in spirit dwelling within living matter as well, as I have already described above. The relationship between the two is very much the “as above so below” concept. That the microcosm that is our own bodies, or our own earth, even our own universe reflects that which is the macrocosm or our concept of the Divine and visa versa. Spirit affects matter and matter affects spirit.
In my specific Tradition we believe in the idea of matter as it relates to the creation myth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, that EVERYTHING is created from sparks of the Divine energy, and has the Divine within, not just the “matter” which we as humans believe is “alive”. Therefore every part of life is Divine and sacred, even those things we see as matter or mundane. All aspects of life have the capacity to help us evolve our own souls, and have a constant relationship with the Divine.
Is there something that stands out to you that people “outside” of your tradition misunderstand about your tradition. If so, please set us straight.
Where do I even begin? There are MANY misconceptions regarding the Pagan spiritualties. Here are the ones that come to mind right away.
A. As the above already illustrates, Paganism is not a GODLESS spirituality. We do believe in a force greater than ourselves, have many varied ideas of what that Divinity is, and respect and revere that Divine energy.
B. Most Pagans do not revere or worship any personification of “ultimate evil” such as Satan, or Lucifer. We believe that ALL sides of life, good and evil, happy and sad are necessary to allow us the lessons we need to learn in order to grow and evolve our own souls. For crops to grow healthy and strong there must always be a fallow-tide. Therefore all aspects of life are “of God”. Evil is a perspective of man, and to be honest many Pagans feel that personifications of Evil such as Satan are convenient entities other religions blame for the failings of man. Most Pagans who are consciously evolving soul strive to take responsibility for their own actions, and hold other humans directly accountable for theirs, so we have no need for scapegoat entities like Satan.
C. Most spiritual traditions of Paganism do not engage in animal sacrifice. As stated above we revere all life as part of the Divine and therefore do not believe in giving another’s life to obtain something for ourselves. Sacrifices are usually made figuratively; as in the giving of time or money, work on charitable efforts, etc. Sometimes an individual will make a personal “blood sacrifice” by donating blood/plasma/platelets to a blood bank, or sometimes by finger stick – but even these are not common Pagan “ritual” practices (though many Pagans are blood donors altruistically). I cannot however say that NO Pagan spirituality makes the literal form of sacrifice because most of the religions of Ifa, such as Santeria, do make ritual offerings of live animals as part of their practices, where it is legally allowed.
D. Most Pagans do not practice ritual naked. First of all, we tend to use a lot of candles in our rites, would you want to be naked in a room full of fire and hot wax? 🙂 Seriously though, while certain ceremonies in SOME Traditions might call for a level of brief nudity, in general Pagans dress in robes because the robes help with the psychological shift from “mundane” time to “sacred” time.
E. Most Pagans do not perform “sex magic” or use sex as part of their ritual practice. Though some of the originating Traditions of modern Wicca, and more indigenous or Reconstructionist Pagan spiritualties have in the past used a transfer of energy during sex as part of initiatory practices, during the past 20 years, especially since the rise of AIDS and other STIs, most modern groups have completely eliminated any “actual” sexual practices from ritual work. Symbolic forms of the sexual union, such as the blade to chalice, are now more the norm to be found within a rite for fertility, or for transfer of power.
F. Pagans do not proselytize. We are not trying to convert anyone to our way of thinking. Most of us have come from backgrounds in more conventional religions. We have done the research and work needed to find the spiritualties which speak to our own souls. We intrinsically know that spirituality is a personal experience, and there is no one spirituality that will suit all people. If left to our own devices, we generally will not talk about religion/spirituality at all because we are so often harassed ourselves.