N.C. Wiccans, Witches and Pagans, Oh My!!!

d68eb55500a375d9eae10f8cf932a9a3Soooo in my feed today was this article in Patheos by the lovely Gardnerian HPS, Thorn Mooney. It is a response to the often heard statement ” “I can’t find any insert your preferred term for modern Pagan here in NC”, which I have more to say about, of course, but please go read her article FIRST. “There are Fucking Witches in North Carolina”  Seriously… go ahead…. we’ll wait….

Ok ok settle down fellow Pagan clergy, in my state AND others. I do agree with her. I am originally from NY and when we moved to NC 25 years ago, I thought for sure I would never find another Pagan, let alone coven, here. Yet I was initiated into the EXACT very specific tradition I dreamed of, within 2 years of moving here, and my own hived coven (Clann Caladvwlch in W/S) is now over 18yrs old and still going strong. Now I will say that though Clann C has always been HIGHLY visible via our website, social media and many public platforms, most of our inquiries DO still come through Witchvox. So part of the “can’t find” problem may just be that people don’t know how to word their Google searches in such a way as to receive the results they want. That said………

Over the years, I’ve personally come to realize that the statement “I can’t find any “Pagans” in NC” doesn’t actually mean can’t find one AT ALL, it means can’t find one in a place “convenient” enough to pursue. To be able to practice with and be trained by the HPhood/lineage I wanted, I drove what was then an almost 2hr drive EACH WAY between W/S and my initiatory coven in Durham, 2-3 Saturdays a month, leaving my oldest, and then very young son, and hubby, (and later on my newborn son as well) behind to do so. When Path of the Moon was in its infancy back in 2000-01, we frequently had people come from HOURS away for our public rituals. But let’s face it, the average PRACTICING Pagan nowadays won’t drive over 15mins to buy their supplies from a local esoteric shop instead of AzureGreen, let alone to attend public ritual for Goddess sake; so are seekers going to? That said seekers, you really need to stop saying that you can’t find us, if what you really mean is that you aren’t willing to travel to where we are!

Ive also come to realize that “I can’t find a teacher/coven/grove/group” has little to do with not finding the specific TRADITION they are looking for either. Nooooo, “I cant find a coven” more often translates to “I don’t want to actually have to do the work.” Plain and simple. Now granted, mine is a degreed Kabbalistic based Western Mystery tradition coven, so it is a huge academic endeavor that is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I know plenty of Wiccan coven leaders who require far less, yet receive the exact same responses I do. It seems that today’s seekers, who have learned about Wicca / modern Paganism from fiction, or the Llewellyn section of their favorite bookstore, don’t even seem to know, let alone understand or VALUE, the idea of being “properly prepared”. They just want to be able to do it…. ALL of it….. RIGHT NOW! So fine… grab your book and go DO it, but don’t say you can’t find us if what you really mean is you can’t find a person/grp/etc who doesn’t have some expectation that you will read/study/train/etc with them FIRST.

Wicca/ Modern Paganism extends an immense privilege to our practitioners, one that MOST other religions/spiritualities do NOT – the ability to know, inside and out, the history and MEANING behind every item we wear, tool we use, action we take, words we speak/sing, and ritual we perform. And each and every practitioner of Wicca / modern Paganism is also afforded an honor no other religion/spirituality extends – the opportunity to, as a “layperson”, advance to carry the traditions/practices of our spiritualities beyond ourselves, and our own individual grps/covens/groves/etc into the future as Priesthood. But the spiritualities that were our forebears were not passive, easy Paths; they were demanding, arduous, and even perilous to take on; because NOTHING worth having comes easily.

So my dear seekers, we, the Wiccans, witches, strega, ceremonial magicians, Druids, Heathens, Asatru, Voduin, Yoruban, Santerian, priesthood, teachers, organizers, leaders (etc terms I have missed) of the colorful communities that fall under the umbrella term “Pagan”  here in NC are probably NOT going to make it any easier for you. We are going to continue be where we can be, and do what we can do. The rest my pretties, is ENTIRELY up to YOU!

©RavenHarte 2017

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Mercury Retrograde. Yes its a thing!

mercury_retroSIGNWhat exactly does it mean when a planet is said to be retrograde? A planet is described as retrograde when it appears to be moving backwards through the zodiac as we view it in the sky from Earth. Mercury retrograde is perhaps best known of all retrogrades, and to take the “mystical” out of it, basically you just have to think of it like this. The moon, planets and sun are all generating many different types of frequencies and vibrations of energy all the time due to such things as the natural disruptions of the body itself (volcanoes, quakes etc), their odic mantles (the atmospheric field around the celestial body), their temperatures, gravitational forces, and even just the motion of the body through space (because come on, even the smoothest riding car vibrates when in motion vs not). Combine this with the fact that as they move, they also disturb the molecules that we consider “space”, in much the same way a boat does as it cuts through water and creates wake. So because the Earth is within the same molecular soup that is solar system, it isn’t a leap to assume that these energies are received on Earth, and do affect us in some way. And because each of these celestial bodies is very different in size, shape, and temperature, with different types of phenomenon occurring upon each, and each moving at different speeds with varying proximities to Earth at different times of year, it doesn’t take a degree in astronomy to deduce that each body in our solar system would affect our planet very differently. Soooooo, just as the moon affects the water on this planet (the tides of the ocean, the growth of plants and animals, the estrus cycles of mammals etc) for thousands of years humans have recognized that the other celestial bodies in our solar system have areas of effect as well, with impact depending on the size of the celestial body, and where they are in space in relation to the Earth and the other planets (is a planet blocking “line of sight” to earth, so to speak).

That all said, what has been “observed” for a few thousand years now is that the planet Mercury seems to affect “flow” on our planet, how things “stream” from one person/place to another. The areas of communication, travel, and the transmission of information in various forms are the impacts most readily observable, including the way we listen, learn, teach and speak. Perhaps Mercury influences the way the synopses in our brains fire or how new connections are formed, how electricity moves through equipment like computers, electronics and phones, or even within and above the Earth, who knows, but when Mercury goes retrograde, and the energy that reaches Earth changes in whatever way, these things are affected, sometimes adversely, sometimes for the better, but generally speaking in an opposite or perceivably different manner than when Mercury is direct.

Now, during this period of Mercury Retro (Jan 21 – Feb 11) what can you expect? Computer and phone issues, internet, cable, really all manner of “wiring” disruptions, and difficulty with forms of communication of all types are going to be your first and BIGGEST clues…. like hmmmm your company gets hit with a major virus, LOL.  Misunderstandings might happen because you aren’t being heard, or not being understood the way you mean something to be. Logic seems to go out the window, or maybe you just flat out don’t tell someone something or they don’t tell you.  Technology issues manifest in things like mis-sent emails,  texts or other electronic posts are misinterpreted, delayed or just don’t go out at all (check your sent folders people). Electronics like phones, tablets, controllers are suddenly not charging, computers crash, your check engine light goes on and off and on… you get the idea. In addition, travel and transportation is also affected.  It could be as simple as a traffic jam because the signal lights are not working, but it can be as bad as your car breaking down in the middle of traffic affecting everyone else’s flow. Also because Mercury rules the astrological signs of Gemini and Virgo (meaning it has a prominent position in the sky in relation to the Earth at time of birth), these people often show noticeable changes in their personalities. Sometimes its mild, like they feel or act “off”, but sometimes it’s a complete Jekyll and Hyde transformation. My best friend, and my hubby, both Virgos, get downright PMSy…. I am NOT kidding.

So what can you do? While it’s happening, use active listening skills, ask questions for clarification, explore all angles, and use the system of RE:  by taking the time to use review, reword, revise and reexamine because if you don’t it’s going to mean repeating, rerouting, and REWORKING. Don’t sign contracts, make business deals, do anything with legal implications because invariably you will find errors later, and not always in your favor, and give other people a break when THEY seems to be having trouble communicating or understanding. On the positive side, it is a great time to reorder the areas of your life you’ve been wanting to, revisit something that you put aside, or reconnect with people you’ve been missing.  Sometimes we need a break from our electronic lives, so RELAX as well.  And for those less skeptical, wear amethyst and/or put a piece of it on electronic equipment, like your CPU, to help. If I had to go science on this, I’d say there is probably a vibration that the particular collective of molecules and atoms we call amethyst gives off that interferes with or filters whatever vibration Mercury flows towards us… but whatever…. I like it, and it HAS worked for me when *Ive* used it during meetings/conversations or placed it on my computers. Hmmm I might have to bring some with me to work!

In addition, Mercury also has a “shadow period” which is about a week+ before and after the actual retrograde, where the effects can be mildly seen as well. I mean think about it, these are big celestial bodies, and they don’t just BLINK into position, so of course there is going to be a gradual coming ON of effect and waning OFF of effect as the planets move, so factor this into your planning.  Good Luck!!!

©RavenHarte 2006-2015

The Ominous Bird of Yore – Karma

b0a46307128f15e000c08ab4513d10e5For the topic for Feb 2009, we were asked to explain from our spirituality’s perspective why we think “bad” things happen to “good” people. A question I think every human asks when the “bad thing” is happening to them.

PanGaea Revisted – Why Do “Bad” Things Happen on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte

“Why is this happening to me?” This is a question I am actually amazed that I hear as often as I do amidst people of my own spirituality – one that believes in the idea of karma, the “Three-fold Law” and/or work on Self. Usually this comes from an individual who as been working diligently on Self, living fully their chosen spirituality, attending ceremonies, correcting relationship mistakes, doing “everything right” and then something happens; they lose their job, or someone gets a grave illness, or their relationship ends, or worse someone dies. “Why me?” they ask. My first inclination is always to want to say “because that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I never do of course. Its not helpful to say that when I person is drowning in their own fear and pain, but for me it’s the truest statement I could make to them. I believe we are the sum of our experiences. Look back on your life, look at every “horrible” moment in it and then see what changed for you right then. What decision did you make, or not? What people came into or left your life because of that issue? How did your steps from that incident create the life you are living now? This is often how I begin the process of getting myself through those moments in life. I tell myself “this too shall pass” and know with all my heart that on the other side of tragedy, I will be able to look back and see the whys. I think about the tragedies of the past and how better able I am to handle the NOW because of the THEN, and that gives me the resolve that I will prevail.

My own faith that I can prevail doesn’t come from thin air though, and you cannot teach people how to have faith OR how to trust in their own ability make it through. They must build those qualities for themselves. Most people build faith and trust by experience. A situation occurs, they live through the outcome, so next time they have a bit more trust in themselves and greater faith. However this doesn’t help us through uncharted territory. For that, we must turn to what we each formulate within ourselves about why we are here, what we are trying to do in this life, and why “bad” things happen in general, let alone specifically to ourselves. We have to have an understanding within ourselves about what responsibility we feel for our own life choices, what we believe others should be accountable for regarding their life choices, and what “life lessons” are all about anyway.

My personal ideology here is an amalgam of different philosophies and spiritual ideas. For starters, I believe in a Kabbalistic theory that suggests each of us, as individual sparks of the Divine, are the Divine’s way of better understanding and thus re-integrating Itself. We accomplish this through reincarnation and transmigration; our core soul returning to a “mundane” existence over and over as different forms to experience life as “matter”, with and without sentience or consciousness. Along side this I believe in the concept of Soul Groups; individual souls that work together taking on different physical vehicles at the same point in time to manifest the roles which will facilitate the growth of all the individual souls in the group. I also believe in the Law of Return, which simply suggests that whatever energy we put out into the universe, we receive back again, which is similar to the Hindu idea of Karma as found in the Vedas (different Eastern religions define karma in different ways), or a myriad of adages such as: “We reap what we sow”, “What goes around comes around”, etc. Since I don’t believe in linear time, this means that the energy that one of my incarnations might put out into the universe can as easily return to that incarnation as any OTHER of my incarnations – all the incarnations being MY core energy.

So when something bad happens, I look at all I profess to believe, and from that can draw many different theories as to why this thing has occurred. Such as: #1. Whatever is happening was already agreed upon by my soul within its group to provide us all avenues for exploring Self and evolving our core souls. #2. My experience of an event, and working through it, is an avenue for the Divine consciousness to experience more of Itself. #3. One of my incarnations has expended an energy which has created an imbalance, and that imbalance is righting itself. #4. My current incarnation is experiencing an imbalance, and this situation (usually illness or accident to myself) is a signal I need to work on Self to find the root imbalance. #5. I am collateral damage, experiencing the ramifications of another’s soul’s imbalance OR the work another soul group has manifested. Etc etc etc. Then of course there is just the achievement of Light itself. Christians might call it “grace”. In Kabbalah it is a time where the work you are doing on Self begins to moves you closer to the spiritual path or vibration you are supposed to be on. You’ll recognize it when it happens because all of a sudden there is boon and blessing, though you won’t think you’ve done enough differently to cause it. The flip side to this “grace” is that the bright Light you shine does tend to start to illuminate your deeper shadows, revealing the next layer of work to do, and the events that crop up to present you the mirror in which to see and face them, are not pretty.

Most likely more than one of these theories is true for me. However all of these postulations provide me with the same opportunity, to use the situation to facilitate my own growth, whether that growth is within my own human psyche or my soul as a spark of the Divine connected to all. So when a “bad thing happens” I am provided with a choice. Do I make a conscious decision to “walk my talk”, accept that any one or more of the postulations derived from my belief system could be in place, and hold onto that to see me through the hard work. Or do I “woe as me” and do nothing, by which I sink further into imbalance? Personally, I think you can’t say you believe in karma until something “bad” happens to YOU. You have to own your own beliefs and apply them even when the chips are down. So when the “worst thing” has happened to me, sometimes THAT is the only thing that sees me through; my stubborn resolve to continue to “walk my talk” and not just pay it lip service.

Darkness There? Then SOMETHING More!

generosity

For the topic for Dec 2008 we were asked to explore generosity – what it is; what it isn’t, how it blossoms and how its many petals are displayed. I could save this one for this Dec, but the whole point to my article is we need to be generous ALL the time, not just during the “season of giving”. So Im putting this one out now, especially since in Sept the Compassionate Games begin for Compassionate cities like Winston-Salem. http://compassiongames.org/

PanGaea Revisted – Generosity on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte

‘Tis the season of generosity and altruism. The one time of year we as a collective human spirit consciously shift focus on the giving to others. Why do we do it? Because giving makes us feel good. Whether we are giving a present to someone, or food to the hungry, helping a friend move or just offering a tired cashier a warm hello and a smile, by our sharing of something we have, we feel better. We feel connected. We feel hopeful. Not hope that something will come in return usually, but rather a hope that the feeling will spread.

Human nature drives us to want to make connections to other people. We want to be close, we want to form bonds, and we want to be of help. The problem is the more a society’s technology increases, the less emphasis that society places on its upclose and IRL (in real life) social connections. So as an advanced technological society, for most of the year we Americans forget how much connection and contact make us happy. We forget how much other people matter to us. We forget how much we need others, and therefore forget how much others might need US too. Then the holiday season falls upon us, a time to reconnect, take stock in our lives, and be thankful for what we have, which I think is the key to generosity.

Generosity by definition is the ability and readiness to be giving in abundance. Well the only way people are open to giving, is if they already have a sense of fulfillment. You give time, if you have time; you give money if you have money; you give love if you have love. If you have any sense of lack, you will hoard, and our society constantly points out to us how much we lack. We aren’t thin enough, don’t wear the right clothes, eat the right food, drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, blah, blah, blah. The marketing media is constantly teaching us to want, want, want and so we consistently feel a lack, are never happy just right where we are. However during the holidays the gears are shifted and we are reminded how much OTHERS lack, how much we actually have, or how far we’ve actually come, so suddenly during the “season of giving” its easier to think of, say, running a canned food drive for the homeless or giving toiletries to a nursing home.

So how do we maintain a generous spirit throughout the year? How do we generate an altruistic nature? I think we grab every opportunity we can to share of ourselves. We purposely look at the areas in our lives where we feel fulfilled, and parlay that into an act of giving. If you wake up happy, smile and greet people, share your joy. If you are feeling particularly pretty/handsome, compliment how others look, share your confidence. If you saved $5.00 on groceries, buy that $5 bag pre-packed for the food bank, share your good fortune. It’s easy and it only takes one act, because the sense of interconnected happiness that comes when you have shared of yourself WILL snowball; and right now, during the holiday season people are more receptive to spontaneous giving and random acts of kindness and more willing to pass along the sentiment.

Now note I did use the words generous and altruistic and not charitable. Its not that being charitable isn’t a good thing too, sometimes being generous does mean being charitable, but charity, generosity, and altruism are different things. The word charity implies that the giving is directly due to a need the recipient has, its conditional. Being generous and/or altruistic is more an internal drive to care for, be connected and of benefit to others. Its something a person just is, regardless of the conditions. Its a larger quality to strive for, but one with much greater reward. So this holiday season, find the area of your life, the part of you, that you feel is rich, and share it. It’s the best gift you can give.

The Balm in Gilead – Refuge

Safe space

The question posed to us for this article was regarding the concept of shelter. What did we see as a place of refuge, of safety, of security – a constant in a sea of change.

Pangaea Revisited – Refuge on the Pagan Path – Thru the Eyes of RavenHarte

This is an amazing time to live, a tumultuous time, a scary time even, but an amazing one. As a female in our society, if I weren’t living in THIS country, during THESE times, I couldn’t be who I am right now. I couldn’t be an “out of the broom closet” Pagan female, let alone a Priestess and leader in my spiritual community. In fact, even in this same country at this same time, I couldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for constant and scary change – change both in our country and populace, AND change in myself.

I freely admit, I have not suffered the hardships many in our country have had. I have always had a home to live in, clothes, food. I have always been relatively physically healthy, and have always had a job good enough to help support my family and sometimes even my friends. I have been lucky. Some might even say I’ve had it easy, but NO ONE makes it through this life unscathed. I have suffered bodily harm at the hands of others, more than once. I have suffered bodily harm by my own hand. I have been betrayed. I have been heartbroken. I have had property loss, financial loss. I have lost people I loved dearly and would have given my own life to save, if I could have. But there is no unit of measure for pain. It’s completely subjective. What one person might brush aside as minor breaks another’s spirit. It is the same with stress and change.

So if we all process pain differently, experience stress differently, it follows that there can’t really be one place of refuge either, no one shelter that will work for us all. In fact, I don’t even have one shelter for myself. What I find comfort in for one issue may do absolutely nothing for me in a different situation.  For example: when I recently realized that many of my bodily ailments had to do with developed food intolerances to VERY common foods, my shelter became my love of research, knowledge and experimentation. I am coping with the stress of having to restrict my diet (which turned shopping & cooking for a family of 4 into a nightmare) by reading everything I can find on the issue, testing theories, researching new foods, logging, charting, you name it.

However what research and reading would have given me refuge when my father died? There is no such animal. For that I relied on friends who had also lost a beloved parent, people who knew the pain personally, didn’t just sympathize. I found shelter in shared pain, in the knowledge that I wasn’t alone, and by seeing that these people were where I was, I found balance as I waded through it.

When I was betrayed by the people closest to me, my shelter was a group of friends out of state who were not only separate from the situation, they weren’t affected by it, and thus only cared about ME, and what I needed. They were literally my refuge, the place I ran to to get away, to give me time to breath and think. They were the people who didn’t look at me with pity, or rage with anger, or judge me on my actions and reactions at all. They were just there, just for ME.

So as I’ve shown, different stressors have always required me to find different forms of solace. However that said, I do think that there are some constants in how I find my own peace. I found mantras to remind myself of them when I need something quick to “grasp onto” and so I present them here as places of refuge that might help you too:

#1. “This too shall pass.”  My spirituality is one that wholly embraces change. Pagans revere the cycles of nature and you cannot have the reaping without the fallowtide. The Wheel of Life ever turns.  So even when times are low, I know they will rise again eventually, but only if I embrace what I’m given and not fight against it.

#2. “The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are, for what we could become.” By my very “Aries” nature I prefer abrupt and explosive change. Give me The Tower in Tarot, Hagalaz in Runes, Gevurah in Kabbalah. My patroness is a battle goddess whose totems are ravens & crows. These are carrion birds, those who rid the world of that which is no longer needed.  I truly know that sometimes radical change, complete destruction, the sacrifice of what is outworn or outmoded is necessary to accomplish the greater good. We humans rarely grow through positivity and happiness.

#3. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I am the sum of all that has ever happened to and around me. I can look back at even the most horrible things that have happened and see what roads were formed from them. I can see where it all has led to the now, even if I wished some had never been. By the changes I have had to endure, I have been more effective at helping others cope, which in turn continues to allow me to cope.

And besides, “If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

Dogmas, Catmas, ummm RavenCaws?

Elements

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.

Night’s Plutonian Shore – My Pagan Path

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About 5 years ago I was asked to be the Pagan perspective on an interfaith “ezine” called Pangaea Revisited. The ezine series has since ended, but I loved the format that each edition’s questions came in, so to put that info back out to a new audience, I’ll be reposting my articles here over the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy.

Pangaea Revisited – RavenHarte’s View of the Pagan Path

Terminology we should know?
I actually have a page on my website that has all the terminology I use which might be “foreign” to others. I’ll try to be sure to think of that in my answers, but in case I use a word that you would want to have my own description for, and I don’t clarify it, here’s the website page http://www.clanncaladvwlch.com/ListOfTerms.html

What most attracts you to your chosen path?
I was attracted to the Pagan path during my original search for spiritually by the feminine aspect of Divinity. However I have continued walking this path for the past 20 yrs because of the freedom it affords me to examine my own ideas of the Divine and spirituality, without the dogmas and doctrines of others limiting my view.

What is the goal of your spiritual practice? Do you consider this the goal of life?
The goal of my spiritual practice is to continually find new ways of consciously evolving my own soul, while staying connected with the Divine within and without. I consider this goal to be the purpose of my soul’s journey, but I believe my goal in this life is to “Know Thyself”, by experiencing my humanity as fully as possible by living life authentically, learning from every part of it, and then passing on what I have learned to facilitate the process for others.

What is the predominant spiritual practice you use right now in your life and how do you see it benefiting yourself and your interactions with others?
The predominant spiritual practice I use is ritual. Unlike mantras, meditation, or prayers, ritual is a spiritual practice which is most often shared with others; and by that Sharing it inevitably becomes something more than it would be performed by me alone.  Even when I have written the ritual myself, so have visualized it in my own mind, it becomes more rich and alive when it is enacted with others. The emotions, expressions and Experiences of each person within the rite change it, and give it body, which benefits us all By our shared experience of the Mystery we are personifying. It also benefits us by providing us with a common ground for the exploration of our experiences of the Divine, which vary not only from person to person, but ritual to ritual.

What is the teaching or story from your tradition that has had the greatest impact on how you live your life?
The Pagan path I walk is the Western Mystery tradition, specifically Celtic Arthurian, so the stories that have had the greatest impact on the way I live my life have come from the many variations of the Arthurian legend now available. Specifically, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s book “The Mists of Avalon” was the most influential in my seeking the spiritual path of the Priestess, though I have always had a warrior’s spirit. It showed me that one can be, and often has to be, both Priest and Warrior.

In general, the Arthurian stories that have impacted the way I live my life all have to do with the codes of chivalry and honor. “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” in particular stands out for me because it is in this story that you finally get the sense that Camelot, and the way the court at Camelot functions, is an ideal and not a reality, even in their own world. It is something separate and apart.  The Green Knight and Bertilak’s castle both represent a more earth-based idea of what chivalry and honor entail. They show the reader, through Gawain’s realizations, responses and actions, that yes it is important to have ideals and to strive for them, but that the mortal world has challenges and perils which we can only face with honor when we are fully cognizant of our own faults and weaknesses, and thereby achieve humility.

What is the ultimate expression of the highest teaching of your tradition?
Paganism encompasses many different spiritualties, from many different cultures, so there is no one “highest teaching” which can be said to stand for all, therefore no one ultimate expression. As a practitioner of a Western Mystery tradition however, I think one of the highest teachings I constantly remind myself of comes from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, which is  “That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing.” Most people would know this statement better as “As Above So Below”. For me this statement means many things, however in the context of an ultimate expression I would have to say it reminds me of my belief that the Divine is within me as well as outside of me, part of my microcosm and the macrocosm as a whole.

So the ultimate expressions for me would be the creation of a ritual circle and Drawing Down the Moon. The ritual circle expresses the Hermetic axiom because it is a Divine space created from our mundane space, which was ultimately a Divine space anyway. Drawing Down the Moon is a ritual magic practice by which a Priestess connects her conscious mind with the energy within herself and all around her that is the Divine Feminine, then aligns that energy and alters her consciousness until she IS that ultimate expression of Divine Feminine in that moment. She is then both human female, and Divine feminine. Drawing In the Sun is the practice a Priest would use to achieve the same goal.

As Robert Heinlein says in “Stranger in a Strange Land”: “Thou art God, and I am God, and all that groks is God.