Syllabus for Paganism & the Law

Paganism and the Law
Instructor: John Halstead

Register Here

Introduction

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”

“Die Early and Often”: Being Attis in the Anthropocene

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?

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ESSAY AT GODS & RADICALS, CLICK HERE.

Paganism: The Little Religion That Could Have Been

We’re going to lose the fight against climate change

and we’re probably going to lose badly.

(The fact that we think about it as a “fight” probably has something to do with why we’re going to lose.)

If you look at the numbers and you consider the realities of human nature and the intertia of late capitalism, the conclusion seems inevitable:

Human civilization will collapse and the human species will be lucky to survive.

Continue reading “Paganism: The Little Religion That Could Have Been”

The Real Pagan Deal

“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”

7 Types of Religions (or Why I Was Never Going Make a Good Pagan)

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)”

Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)

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)”

Why Wiccans Get Made Fun Of

An article was recently published at World Religion News urging people to “Stop Making Fun of Wiccans”. (The Wild Hunt reported on it here.)

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”

Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan

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”

Pagan with a small “p”

Pagan-Adjacent?

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””

5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up

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”

Size Doesn’t Matter: 5 Pieces of Advice for New Bloggers

 

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.


Continue reading “Size Doesn’t Matter: 5 Pieces of Advice for New Bloggers”

10 Books that Shaped My Spiritual Journey (Before Paganism)

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)”

Plagiarism is the Highest Form of Praise

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”

What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy

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”

The Shame of Being a “Non-Practicing Pagan”

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 and the Promise of Paganism, and Why One Looks a Lot Like the Other

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.

Continue reading “The Problem and the Promise of Paganism, and Why One Looks a Lot Like the Other”

Nothing to see here folks. Paganism is fine, really, just fine.

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.”

Why Contemporary Paganism Deserves to Die

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”

Pagan Reflections on Another Easter Passed

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”

It’s been 50 years. And what have Pagans accomplished?

(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?”

Eight Ways Pagans Can Celebrate Earth Day

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”

The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism

This post is part 2 of a 3-part series.  In the first part, I discussed how I had come to realize the ego-centrism of my earlier view of the Pagan community.

Celebrating Nature, Working Magic, and Honoring Deities

Imagine that the Pagan community has not one, but multiple “centers”.  Imagine each of these “centers” defines Pagan identity and authenticity differently.  To begin with there is what I will call “earth-centered Paganism”.  I realize this is a problematic term, because “earth” is a cultural construct and means different things to different people, but it remains a useful category, I think.  Earth-centered Paganism would include those Paganisms concerned primarily with ecology, those more local forms of Paganism that I would call “backyard Paganism” or are sometimes called “dirt worship”, and many forms of (neo-)animism which view humans as non-privileged part of an interconnected more-than-human community of beings.  The Pagan identity of earth-centered Pagans is defined by their relationship to their natural environment.  Authenticity for these Pagans is defined by one’s ability to connect with the more-than-human world.  Of course, there are many whose spirituality might be called “earth-centered” by this definition, but who reject the label “Pagan”.  Some of the rejection of the Pagan label by those who might otherwise be called Pagan is due to the association of the label with the other two groups (with whom they do not identify). Continue reading “The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: