Note: The following comes from the Afterword of the newly-released book, Neo-Paganism: Historical Inspiration and Contemporary Creativity, by John Halstead. (If you’ve followed my previous criticisms of contemporary Paganism, you will have heard most of this before.) Continue reading “The Promise and the Peril of Paganism”
The Gospel of Compost
This is the sermon I gave today at the First Unitarian Church of Hobart, Indiana.
“Give me your moldy, your stale, your sprouting potatoes. Bring me that wilted, pitiful bag of salad you really meant to eat this time. Bring me your bananas too brown and mushy even to make bread with. Bring me your grass clippings and fallen leaves. Give me the wretched refuse of your teeming refrigerator, yearning to rot free. Give me these, and we will make life itself.”
Paganism Isn’t Where You Think It Is
Anna Walther is one of my favorite pagans. I say that because she consistently reminds me what being pagan is all about.
Most recently, it was in her essay, “Walking with my Dog is my Most Sacred Practice”. There, Anna explains that her most sacred practice involves no ritual paraphernalia, no casting of a circle, no calling the quarters, but simply walking through her neighborhood with her dog, Poe. Because she walks with Poe, explains Anna, she knows what phase the moon is in, when the trees are leafing and the flowers are blooming, when the birds and bats return, and what her neighbors are about. In short, she knows when and where she is.
“I experience a sense of place and belonging, when Poe and I walk through our neighborhood. I’m grounded, connected, and relating with intention to the human and more-than-human world around me. I’m aware that the very real world of spirits is here, right now, and not somewhere else, far away. This is it!, to borrow a Zen Buddhist proverb. To experience this world as radically alive, all I have to do is keep walking and pay attention.”
Anna reminds me that being pagan is about being here, now. But more than that, it’s about loving here, now. …
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”
Pagan with a small “p”
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””
My Religion is Rooted, Literally.
To polytheists, the gods are sacred. But atheist Pagans don’t believe in gods. What is sacred to an atheist Pagans? Some polytheists mistakenly assume that an absence of gods must mean an absence of sacrality.
I’ve had polytheists come right out and say that, because I don’t believe in gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to me. Implied in that statement is the belief that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods. I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.
Now, as far as I am concerned, you can be Pagan and a polytheist, or a duotheist, or a Goddess-worshipping monotheist, or a pantheist, or an animist, or a non-theist, or an atheist—if you want to call yourself one. I’m not interested in trying to push anybody out of the Big Tent of Paganism. But I do not understand a Paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or our bodies or in our relationships.