I remember when I was in high school and Indiana changed its license plate to include the phrase “Amber Waves of Grain”. It pissed people off. I mean, really pissed people off. Because in Indiana, we grow corn and soybeans, not wheat. While technically corn is a grain, it’s not amber. While the phrase was poetic, it just did not speak of “home” to the people of the Hoosier State. That’s kind of how I feel about Lughnasadh. Continue reading “Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again”
I love books. I probably feel more at home bookstores and libraries than I do in my own house. Books have had a profound influence on my spiritual evolution. In fact, I can mark certain spiritual transitions by the books I was reading.
This is the second of two posts about the books that have served as markers on the path of my spiritual journey. The first part consisted of the books that influenced me before I was Pagan. This list begins with my discovery of Paganism. There’s actually only a couple of books that are Pagan, per se, and one of them is a history book, which probably says something about my Paganism.
Note, this is not a list of my favorite books, but books that changed the course of my religious life. The dates below are the dates I read the books (to the best of my recollection), not the dates of publication. Continue reading “10 Books that Shaped My Spiritual Journey (Paganism and Beyond)”
Midsummer in the Shire
This year, the summer solstice falls on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and the apogee of the light. In the Neo-Pagan religious tradition, the summer solstice is called “Litha”. It is one of eight holidays on the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.
The name “Litha” is first found in the writings of the the 8th century monk, the Venerable Bede, who recorded that “Litha” was Anglo-Saxon name for the intercalendary time between June and July. But the reason why Neo-Pagans use the word “Litha” has less to do with an 8th century monk, and more to do with Hobbits.
I went to see Wonder Woman last night … for the second time. It’s not what I would call a “great movie”, but it is great fun. (And I have a bit of a crush on Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman.) If you want to a read a good review of the film from a Pagan perspective, check out Heather Greene’s article at The Wild Hunt, “Of gods and love: a discussion of DC’s new film Wonder Woman.”
Christian Revisionism in Wonder Woman
I have very few criticisms of the film, but one thing that jumped out at me was the characterization of the villain, Ares, the god of war. Ares’ backstory comes near the beginning of the film. We are told that Zeus created mankind righteous and good. But Ares, the God of War, grew envious of his father’s new creation and “poisoned their hearts with jealousy and suspicion,” encouraging them to war. That’s when Zeus created the Amazon women to influence men’s hearts with love and restore peace on earth. It worked, but only for a time, and Ares waged a war against the gods, killing them one by one, until Zeus used the last of his power to defeat Ares.
This might not be obvious to someone who is still steeped in a Christian paradigm, but to a Pagan like me, this is obviously a Christianization of Greek myth, with Zeus taking the role of the Christian God and Ares taking the role of Satan — making Wonder Woman a female Jesus. Similar Christian revisionism can be seen in the movie Clash of the Titans and the animated movie Hercules, in which Zeus and Hades (god of the underworld) take on parallel roles. Continue reading “How Wonder Woman Both Perpetuates and Challenges Christian Dualism”
In a recent post entitled, “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy“, I speculated that one of the reasons Neo-Paganism seems to be on the decline and Devotional Polytheism on the rise, is that the former no longer offers the experience of ecstasy or transcendence to many people, while the latter does. In response, Rua Lupa argued that “the search for transcendence or ecstasy in order to have a ‘deep religious experience’ is frankly hedonistic.”
I am sympathetic to the argument that pursuing “peak experiences” for their own sake can be problematic. At its most benign, “blissing out” may be “purely aesthetic”, but at worst, it can resemble drug seeking behavior. Nevertheless, I believe there are real benefits to seeking out mystical or ecstatic states. Continue reading “3 Reasons to Seek Out Profound Religious Experiences”
I am an atheist north by northwest.
But when the wind is southerly, I know a deity from a deist.
If you were to tell me your god is a person like you, I would tell you I am an atheist.
But if you tell me you believe in no god, I will testify the world is full of them.
If you were to tell me there is only one true god, I would tell you I contain multitudes.
But if you tell me your gods are many, I will tell you I have faith in an unseen unity.
If you were to tell me my gods are just in my head, I would point to the earth and say, “Praise!”
But if you tell me your gods are real, I will point to your head and say, “Behold!”
If you were to tell me your god is good, I would offer to sell you some more.
But if you tell me your gods are dark, I will remind you of the words of the oracle: “Know thyself.”
If you were to tell me you don’t know about the gods, I would call you wise.
But if you tell me you don’t care about the gods, I will not call you at all.
“Light though thou be, thou leapest out of darkness; but I am darkness leaping out of light, leaping out of thee!”
— Moby Dick, Herman Melville
The Summer Solstice occurs at almost midnight on June 20th in the Northern Hemisphere this year. It is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Summer finally begins here in the Midwest, both meteorologically—with the warming of the air and the increasing occurrence of sunny days—and socially—with the end of the school year. This is why I don’t call the day “Midsummer.” For me, “Midsummer” falls on Lughnasadh in early August. Continue reading “Worshiping the Dark at the Summer Solstice”
American Gods is a novel by Neil Gaiman, which has now been made into a (really good) TV series on Starz. The premise of American Gods is that the people who came to the American continent–including conquerors, slaves, and immigrants–brought with them their gods … literally. The gods now walk around disguised as human beings. But the old gods have weakened as belief in them disappeared, and they now battle with new gods, gods of the internet and credit cards and super highways. Continue reading “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy”
Yeah, we do it too.
Yesterday, I posted an essay about literal-minded polytheism. It’s likely to upset some polytheists (especially those who don’t read beyond the title), because they will read it as an attack on their belief. Actually, what I had intended in the article was to bracket the question of whether or not the gods are “real” and talk about the criteria we use to call something “real.” My thesis was that some polytheists (not all, by any means) have a very “disenchanted” way of talking about reality. By “disenchanted,” I mean they define what is real in terms of it’s level of disconnection from everything else.
But of course, the same could–and should–be said about many atheists as well. Disenchanted discourse is not limited to theists. In the same way that theists insist that their gods are “really, really real,” atheists insist that the gods are “really, really not real.” And what both sides seem to have in mind is a very objective–and hence, disenchanted–definition of reality. The assumption that both theists and atheists make in these arguments is that objective reality–reality in which the observer is separated from the observed–is somehow more real than subjective reality.
I remember when I left the Mormon church, I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I had been a less than perfect Mormon. You see, when you leave the LDS Church, the people who stay start looking for all kinds of reasons why you left, reasons which have to do with your own moral failings. They can’t admit that anything might be wrong with the Church, so something has to be wrong with you.
But I was a less than ideal Mormon. I didn’t obey all the rules, I didn’t pray as often as I was supposed to, and so on. Now I have the perspective and wisdom to recognize that nobody obeyed all the rules or prayed as much as they were supposed to. Well, maybe somebody did. But those people are scary. And they’re also a very small minority.
The same is true of Pagans, I think. I suspect that very few of us are practicing with as much consistency as we claim to. And that’s okay. Continue reading “The Shame of Being a “Non-Practicing Pagan””
Twice in the past month, capitalists have tried to extort my silence.
That sounds dramatic. But it’s what happened.
Note: I wrote this a couple years ago, but it seems appropriate to resurrect it now (with some revisions). Continue reading “Ego-Paganism and the Tyranny of Structurelessness”
Paganism is not dying. Paganism is NOT dying. PAGANISM IS NOT DYING!
Why don’t you believe me?
People who are telling you otherwise (like He Who Shall Not Be Named at Patheos) just want attention. Attention whores!
Believe me, Paganism is fine. It’s just fine. I mean, it’s okay. Really. Continue reading “Nothing to see here folks. Paganism is fine, really, just fine.”
Today is the official launch of NaturalPagans.com!
Contributors are Pagans from a variety of backgrounds, but all of whom have adopted a naturalistic approach to our spirituality. We celebrate the natural world, cultivate personal relationships to the land, and follow to the scientific method. We embrace explanations of the world that rely on natural causes rather than supernatural ones, and we practice a healthy skepticism towards such topics as deities, spirits, and magic.
While we may differ from many other Pagans in our attitude toward the supernatural, we are another one of the many varied and vibrant Pagan paths under the Pagan umbrella. We invite all Pagans to join us in our efforts to use evidence-based solutions to create a just, healthy and sustainable world for future generations.
Continue reading “Announcing NaturalPagans.com”
Does Paganism Deserve to Survive?
I don’t know whether contemporary Paganism is dying or not. But it’s definitely changing.
Contemporary Paganism is being squeezed by the same social, economic, and technological pressures that all other contemporary religions are struggling with. Generational differences with Millennials. Economic inequality. The internet.
Which got me thinking, why are we bothering to struggle? Why not just let entropy take its course? Continue reading “Why Contemporary Paganism Deserves to Die”
In spite of having left Christianity behind 17 years ago, I found myself at another Easter service this year.
I’ve been Pagan for about 15 years, but in recent years I have been drawn back to Easter and Christmas services … but not for the reasons you might think. It not because many of my friends and family are Christian. And it’s not because of any residual or resurgent Christianity on my part.
It’s because of the Pagan-ness of these holidays.
Continue reading “Pagan Reflections on Another Easter Passed”
(Image courtesy of Mike Mason, Pagan Pride UK, Nottingham, 2012.)
Happy Birthday Paganism!
Contemporary Paganism, as it exists today, began with the Counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Religious studies scholar, Sarah Pike dates the origins of contemporary Paganism to 1967, the year that Frederick Adams incorporated Feraferia and the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn was founded. That same year, the Church of All Worlds filed for incorporation as a the first Pagan “church”.
Which means that this year, 2017, is the 50th anniversary of contemporary Paganism! So let’s look back at what we have accomplished over the past five decades. Continue reading “It’s been 50 years. And what have Pagans accomplished?”
While the origins of some forms of contemporary Paganism, like Wicca and Druidry, go back further, the beginning of what is called the “Pagan movement” can be dated to 1967* — making this year the 50th anniversary of contemporary Paganism.
For many contemporary Pagans, Paganism takes the form of a nature religion or earth-centered spirituality. According to Religious Studies scholar, Michael York, a nature religion is one that has “a this-worldly focus and deep reverence for the earth as something sacred and something to be cherished.” Not surprisingly then, Earth Day (April 22 this year) is a holy day for many Pagans. Here are some ways that we Pagans can celebrate Earth Day. Continue reading “Eight Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day”