I came across this chart, which comes from the book Deep Green Resistance, along with the explanation below. It captures perfectly my issues with popular Paganism, by which I mean 99% of what you find on the bookstore shelf and 95% of what you see at Pagan conventions, festivals etc.Continue reading “Why Paganism Failed (in one chart)”
I am an atheist and a religious naturalist, which means that I don’t look for supernatural explanations of natural events. But I use other words to describe my spirituality: “pagan” or “animist.” While there are pagans who believe in the supernatural, there are others like me who try to bring together an atheist rationality with a pagan sensitivity.
One part of my personal spiritual practice involves pouring libations. This is an ancient spiritual practice which involved pouring some kind of liquid onto the earth or onto a stone. The liquid might be water, or wine, or olive oil. To the ancients, this was an offering to the gods, made in exchange for blessings. Because since I am an atheist, the libations serve another purpose.Continue reading “Animism for the Religious Naturalist”
This post from a friend came across my Facebook feed today, about some controversy in the Pagan community. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have dived into it. Now, like my friend, I couldn’t care less. But it did prompt me to look back and review how I got here.Continue reading “R.I.P. Paganism”
I’m happy to announce the publication of Neo-Paganism: Historical Inspiration and Contemporary Creativity. This book the the culmination of 15 years of research and direct experience with Neo-Paganism. Continue reading “Neo-Paganism: Historical Inspiration & Contemporary Creativity”
Please go and read Dayan’s entire essay at Atroposian Musings. Here is a short excerpt:
“…the [Pagan] movement has not prepared most people involved in it to step beyond their personal self-healing/comforting in order to grapple with larger issues….
…We are meant to be a healing balm for our ancestors and our modern cultures, going forward. We are meant to make peace with a tortured past so that institutions might be restructured. We are meant to be the chorus of the dead, for those beings that pass without notice. We are meant to give voice to those that yet remain, and affirm the relational bonds that weave the Immanent Divine.
With every calling of Mother Earth, great and bountiful Gaia, we are meant to assert the irrevocable obligations life makes upon life and all other beings of Nature. We are supposed to make kin with beings whose lives are our fortune and live in ways of mutual benefit. We are meant to teach this way of living–more than just a way of believing–to a world much in need of it. By creating little and grand rituals, we are supposed to reaffirm the belonginness due to every human….”
Paganism and the Law
Instructor: John Halstead
This will not be a typical “Know Your Rights” class. Instead, we will be taking a critical look at the American Legal Tradition from a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective. For the purposes of this class, a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective is one that sees community as interconnected, biocentric, and cooperative, rather than mechanistic, anthropocentric, and adversarial. Continue reading “Syllabus for Paganism & the Law”
Yule: The first day of what used to be called winter. In an age of melted polar caps, snow is just a memory. Continue reading “A Wheel of Year for an Age of Climate Change”
In yesterday’s post, “‘What If It’s Already Too Late?’: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene”, I faced the fact that we are … well, f**ked. Our civilization is rushing toward its inevitable end. And it’s going to take out a big part of the biosphere with it.
Cap and trade is not going to save us. Renewable energy is not going to save us. Nuclear energy is not going to save us. Carbon capture is not going to save use. The politicians are not going to save us. The scientists are not going to save us. The activists are not going to save us.
We are not going to be saved.
For so many reasons, we are going to fail … and fail badly.
Once we come to terms with that fact, the question becomes …
So What Do We Do Now?
We’re going to lose the fight against climate change
(The fact that we think about it as a “fight” probably has something to do with why we’re going to lose.)
Human civilization will collapse and the human species will be lucky to survive.
“Religious morals, in a healthy society, are best enforced by drums, moonlight, f[e]asting, masks, flowers, divine possession.”
— Robert Graves, “Food for Centaurs”
I’ve been to my share of public Pagan rituals in the last decade or so. The vast majority have ranged from disappointing to excruciating affairs. (See “Gods Save Us from Bad Pagan Rituals: 10 Signs You’re Half-Assing Your Mabon Ritual” and “Lowered Expectations Is Not the Answer to Bad Pagan Rituals”.)
I have been fortunate to have participated in some notable exceptions. I think Reclaiming rituals tend to be on the better end of the spectrum. I would attend any ritual led by Thorn Coyle or Shauna Aura Knight. The Kali Puja which Chandra Alexandre and Sharanya led at Pantheacon is truly exceptional.
But the absolute best pagan ritualist I have ever met is Steven Posch. So, I was very excited to receive Steven’s invitation to the Grand Sabbat held at Sweetwood Temenos in Southwest Wisconsin this past weekend. It was not a festival, at least not like others I have attended. There were no workshops, for example. Rather, it was tribal gathering, a gathering of the Tribe of Witches. Continue reading “The Real Pagan Deal”
Over the years that I have been writing online, I have been accused many times of retaining some elements of Mormonism, my religion of origin. Some of my meaner critics like to call me “Mormon”, as a way of refusing to recognize my claim to be pagan. Those criticisms never made sense to me, but there is one way that my former faith has continued to influence me: the idea that the world needs to be change and that we human beings have the power to make that change happen. This is one of the ideas which has frequently brought me into conflict with other Pagans. Continue reading “7 Types of Religions (or Why I Was Never Going Make a Good Pagan)”
Note: What follows arose out of a discussion in the comments to a recent post entitled, Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions, in which I described my growing disinterest in most Pagan discussions and the change in the questions that most concern me now. One of the commenters, Phil Anderson, challenged me to continue to be “a purveyor of sense and reason in the paganosphere”. His comment prompted a long response from me, which I have edited and reproduced here. Where important for context, I have reproduced parts of Anderson’s comment here.
For a long time, I believed that a naturalistic* version of Paganism was the most genuine expression of contemporary Paganism. When I came to Neo-Paganism, I thought it was naturalistic at its core, and I thought the supernaturalism I saw was aberrant. It seemed to me to be an unfortunate consequence of a historical accident, the infiltration of occultism into the neopagan revival via Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. And there are several academics whose work support this notion, including Robert Ellwood & Harry Partin, Joanne Pearson, and Wouter Hanegraaff. I thought these strands–the occultist and the neo-pagan–could be separated, and so I set about trying to unwind them. Continue reading “Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)”
The author observes that “Wiccans can have a difficult time being taken seriously by mainstream culture.” That does seem to be true generally of Wiccans and other Pagans. (The author seems to conflate Wicca with contemporary Paganism.) Though, it should be said, I don’t think being mocked by Fox News is necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading “Why Wiccans Get Made Fun Of”
1. It’s not like in the books.
Like a lot of other Pagans, I read a lot of books about Pagans before I ever actually met another Pagan in the flesh. My first sources for my image of the contemporary Pagan came from Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (1999), Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (1979, 1986, 1996, 2006), and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (1979, 1989, 1999). The first was academic, the second journalistic, and the third rhapsodic. As a result, my pre-formed image of Pagans was somewhat idealized. (I once heard Margot Adler admit in an interview that the Paganism she and Starthawk described in their respective books as more of an ideal than a reality.) I have since learned that the best way to learn about a religion is not by reading a book about it, but by going and seeing the real thing. Continue reading “Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan”
I recently met someone who described himself as “Pagan-adjacent”, which I thought was an interesting self-designation. He was a (self-described) “angry atheist” who followed atheism to its logical end and was left wanting. He intuited that there was something else–something bigger and/or deeper–but no one seemed to be writing or talking about it. Then he discovered David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, which he experienced as revolutionary.
He told me that he knows “in his bones” that “the sacred is in the soil and the wind,” but he is turned off by a lot of what he sees in the Pagan community. By way of example, he told me about an encounter with a Pagan group where he heard one person talking about how great the divination app on her phone was. I know what he is talking about. What has a divination app to do with the sacred soil?
I’ve felt pretty much the same way for 15 years, for as long as I have been calling myself “Pagan” in fact. I came to the Pagan community because I thought here was where I would find that something bigger and deeper. But almost everywhere I look, I see the small and shallow. Almost everywhere I look, I see Pagans reproducing the disenchantment of the mainstream culture. Continue reading “Pagan with a small “p””
Paganism is at a turning point. It’s been 50 years since contemporary Paganism got its start. It’s time for Paganism to grow up.
Stages of Faith
Note that I didn’t say that it’s time for Pagans to grow up. Different people are at different point in their life’s journey. Childhood and adolescence are important stages of development. There are stages in a person’s religious or spiritual development as well. And, as much as most of us would have liked to skip adolescence, it’s not possible to skip stages. The same is true of spiritual adolescence. Continue reading “5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up”
I’m no stranger to conflict in Pagan circles. Over the years, I have noticed similar themes arise when I come into conflict with other Pagans. These themes can be summarized as five lies that Pagans tell themselves.
Continue reading “These Things Aren’t True: Five Falsehoods in the Pagan Community”
“There is another world and it is this one.”
My recent post “’You’re Not Fucking Gandalf’: 12 Movies to Remind You That Pagans Need to Grow Up” just hit the high mark of the most read post ever here on AllergicPagan.com. This prompted me to go back and pull out an old post about the fraught relationship between blogging and sensationalism which I wrote last year.
The Pagan Wheel of the Year bugs me. The timing of the cross-quarters bugs me. The meaning attached of several of the eight stations bugs me. And the names of most of the days bugs me. Right, now I’m just going to focus on Lughnasadh, though, since it’s right around the corner. Continue reading “Lughna-say-what? What to Call This Pagan Holiday”
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 at the time.
This is the first of two posts about the books that have served as markers on the path of my spiritual journey. This first part lists the books that impacted me before I discovered Paganism. 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 (Before Paganism)”
I once heard Aidan Kelly tell a story about attending a Pagan handfasting, where he heard words which he had written years before rehearsed by the ritual participants. But rather than crediting Kelly, the ritual leader said the text was ancient Pagan lore. It must have been an odd mixture of jealousy and pride that Kelly felt.
I felt a little of that recently when I perused John Beckett’s recently published book, The Path of Paganism. I will be writing a more detailed review in a subsequent post, but I wanted to quickly address something that popped out at me. In his book, Beckett writes about the “Four Centers of Paganism”, a model for understanding the Pagan community not in terms of a single center or core, but rather multiple centers: Nature, the Gods, the Self, and Community: Continue reading “Plagiarism is the Highest Form of Praise”
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”
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””
The Problem of Paganism
The question why I am “still” a Pagan implies that there might be reasons why I would not want to identify as Pagan any longer. And there are. I believe that Paganism has the potential to transform our relationship with the earth, with each other, and with our deeper selves—but a lot of the time, I cannot relate to other Pagans.
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.”
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”