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”

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