Goth face

Epiphany

I had a path open before me last night thanks to a conversation with Beith and C.
A way that had previously been barred by tangled vines and broken trees became cleared and I was able to see the path clearly. The fog and darkness that had been plaguing my mind is gone now and I feel free.

We were talking about paganism and our different beliefs...as we often do... and we got on the topic of ecclectics and such. I mentioned that I haven't really been comfortable taking a step in any direction because I had grown afraid of inadvertently "insulting" or "showing disrespect" to the gods. This was a feeling/idea that I'd actually gotten through discourse with another individual who made me question a lot of my beliefs. For this I am grateful because it got me to look hard at what I was doing, make sure it was consistent, make sure I wasn't just following the herd. BUT it also damaged my beliefs in a way because of the way it was presented. It was presented in such a way that indicated the way I had previously been doing things was wrong, inaccurate and pretty much not something the gods would like. It took a bit of time to realize that this individual has taken his religious beliefs so far towards academics that he has lost (in my opinion) a lot of the personal, deeply spiritual, mystery of religion/spirituality. Even after I realized this, it wasn't enough to "fix" my own beliefs because I agreed with some of what this individual had said, but I couldn't figure out where the line was. How can I make sure I'm approaching these gods in a respectful way? Do I have to make sure I read up on each one of them and how they were worshipped historically, what they symbolized in the culture, etc? Last night I found my answer and finally feel ready to rebuild the bridges with my gods.

(this is my own personal gnosis and I don't pretend to believe it is the only interpretation):
Gods and Goddesses are much like us in a way. They are individuals and should not be used willy-nilly for ritual/spellwork etc. Kali, Innanna, Venus, and Brighid are NOT all the same Goddess (unless you mean they - and us - are all part of the greater whole of the cosmos - I won't get into this as it's my own personal interpretation of the universe). They should be treated with dignity and respect, just as you would treat your friends with dignity and respect. HOWEVER, this does NOT mean you have to know every little iota of information about them before ever approaching them. Just like a friend, you can meet them because you both like "ice cream". Because you know this about them, you are able to interact with that person and know that "going out for ice cream" would be an appropriate thing to do. You don't NEED to know that they also like "dogs" and "rollerblading" and "ice fishing" and "bananas" in order to begin a relationship with them. You CAN and probably WILL learn many of these things as the relationship grows. Your relationship will be enhanced with each new discovery, but again (yes I know I'm repeating myself) I is not necessary to know ALL of these up front before you ever say "Hi". In my opinion, it works the same way with the Gods. On the other hand, you wouldn't give that friend an "ashtray" as a gift before knowing whether or not they smoke. This can be applied to the Gods too, it would be wrong to just give offerings willy-nilly without any thought. I believe that you can find out what IS appropriate either through study OR through personal meditation/revelation from the Gods. I DON'T think that you should just assume that something is appropriate because you read it in a Wicca 101 book (because unfortunately a lot of those are horribly under-researched and tend to throw everything into the blender and hope that whatever comes out tastes good) or do something without putting any thought into it.

That's it, in a nutshell, and I have to say that I'm really glad that we had that discussion. It helped me so much.

In other news, I went to my first Roman ritual led by my roomie Eumulos. It was interesting and really good for his first Roman style ritual. A few bumps along the way, but that's to be expected. It was fun and I'm glad I did end up going. He was also really happy that I went, which made me feel good.

Today... I'm going to try to get more of this cleaning stuff done. Wish me luck! I'm sure I'll need it!
  • Current Mood: rejuvenated rejuvenated
A big problem in the pagan community...

Academics! You know, way back when historically speaking the followers of those Gods knew what they knew. They didn't brag about nor carry on about how much research they'd done, and that they'd been reading for 15 years, or how no one can possibly worship a God/dess without knowing everything ever written. They just did what they did. The experts were the clergy, and they knew it all, so the regular folk should they need to know something would go to the clergy.

Do you really believe that all the people in those ancient times knew everything? Hell no, they know as much as the average joe does today. They might have known a whole bunch about farming, or about making shoes, or whatever they did, but they didn't know everything about religion, yet they still had it, they still followed it, and they still did what they did.

Look at today, and take a mainstream. Do you think all Christians can recite the bible or even quote more than a handful of phrases from it? No, they can't. Does this make them less Christian? No, it means they talk to their clergy when they need an answer, and they point them to the right chapter. Maybe they look themselves, but not without the need to do it would they have.

I don't agree with being misinformed on the priorities, ethics, and goals of a religion, or uninformed, or anything but perfectly clear on those things, but as for the history, scripture, and tedious inner-workings the more you know does not equate to how good of a follower that you are. (breathe terri... long run on sentences)

Anyway, I find that a pagan trap, I really do. As for what anyone does it's hardly my concern or for me to judge. I have a totally different idea of the way the universe works, so I don't go around wondering if I've pissed off a god, I wonder more if I'm meeting the goals of my own life in the greater scheme of things. I think that's more important, but then that's me. I don't look at it as god or gods wanting me to do things, I look at this life and this experience as a place where I must learn things in order to progress to that height. In my opinion, any god, old or new, that fails to understand human error didn't deserve to (and therefore wouldn't have) acheived their status. Again, that's just me.

So I'm glad you sorted out your stuff and released yourself from the pagan trap that academia is. Should you wish to have such knowledge then there's nothing wrong with pursuing it, but I think it's wholly unrealistic to expect it of everyone. Everyone must find their own niche, and their own purpose toward their goals, and I don't know, I guess I see the higher purpose of it.

You're a virgo sun - right? You're reaching to your polar piscean opposite when you ponder such things, and when you acheive it - you'll really appreciate the clarity that such ponderings bring.

I'm the opposite here, I'm trying to get the virgo perspective of mundania that is so foreign to me. *laughs* So perhaps we can help each other.

Sorry for rambling, you always bring up things that cause me to ramble on.
Re: A big problem in the pagan community...
No worries about rambling! I LOVE your ramblings! Usually gives me something to ponder and helps me solidify my own thoughts!

Yep, Virgo sun, that's me!

way back when historically speaking the followers of those Gods knew what they knew. They didn't brag about nor carry on about how much research they'd done...

-You know that was actually something that I'd realized a little while ago too! Of course one part of me had trouble just using that as a basis for my own worship/belief, as a certain amount of academia is important to me. I think the academic part of it for me is probably largely due to the other point you touched on...the clergy (or lack there of). I don't really have any clergy I can talk to at this point, so books have to do... AND personal gnosis!

On another point you mentioned... I also agree that THIS live is VERY important. In fact, my own focus tends to be very "this worldly". I focus on myself and how I live this life because frankly, there's no way to know/prove what comes next... so this is all we've got!

As for a view of mundania... I don't know if I'm the best person for that. Despite my virgo side I tend to be a bit of a dreamer! LoL
Re: A big problem in the pagan community...
Hey Valk,

The issue as I see it is that you need a certain level of information in order not to be 'misinformed on the priorities, ethics, and goals of a religion' when the religion that you choose to follow isn't the defacto mainstream one that you grow up learning about.

We all have an immense amount of knowledge about Christianity whether we've cracked the bible open or not because it permeates our culture, just like knowledge of ancient greek/celtic/egyptian whatever have you permeated their culture at that time. Sure the farmers didn't have to read lots of books to learn about it, because everyone just knew. It was in the stories that were told over the evening's fires, in the festivals they attended every few months, imbedded into all the cultural details from when and how to move the herds to the best times of year to clean the house.

In order for us today, living and breathing Christianity as our culture does today, to step away from that and try to put ourselves into a different mindset I think it requires a fairly immense transfer of knowledge and understanding. Doesn't have to be from books - honestly in the last few years I have done very little book reading - but I listen to the cultural information, stories and the myths told by others, I ponder what I've heard on my own time, and I salt lightly with what reading I've managed to find time to do.

In the end, I very much agree that religion is about spirituality, not how many culturally relevant facts you can spew. However, I have found that the discussing and reading that I have done greatly informs and empowers my spiritual quests.

So I don't see academics as really being the problem. To me it's more the narrow-minding thinking that only one way can be the right way. Or that somehow if you're not an expert you're inadequate.

I happen to like academics and find them valuable, but I fully understand that not everyone enjoys cracking ancient history texts the way I do. And I believe that learning is a journey that will last a lifetime. You'll never know everything no matter how much you read, so learn what you can, and do the best you can with it.

Also if you are following a religion like Wicca, I'm not even sure reading the ancient material is important at all because despite some claims to the contrary, Wicca is essentially a modern religion based on romanticized ideals. In that context, it's more important to read and understand the basic tenants of Wicca than it is to understand all the ancient source material. If you like what Wicca is saying to you, then good for you. Focus on that.

If, like me, you have a somewhat more reconstructionalist bent, then likely some level of academics are important. But they are certainly not the be all and end all. You can be an expert on ancient cultures and have no spiritual sense of them at all. You need to find some happy medium that works for you.

Beith
Re: A big problem in the pagan community...

I suppose my point was more along the lines of this: To me it's more the narrow-minding thinking that only one way can be the right way. Or that somehow if you're not an expert you're inadequate.

I agree it's not academics *itself* being the problem, but those that profess it is the only way to achieve one's spiritual goals. I think you've really clarified my points, and perhaps pointed out that I didn't express my points clearly enough. I realize that not all those exceptionally learned scholars do spew off the inadequacies of others, but I've run into my fair share of them and as it seems, so has she. I do also agree that you need to know and understand enough of the priorities, goals, and ethics of a religion in order to follow it - that's the pagan trap at the other end of the scale. The "hop on the bandwagon" types. You and I have most certainly heard that argument enough, I'm sure, and it's most always titled with the subject line "Fluffy bunny".

Kal was having an opposite problem though, and really it is opposite. It seems she was trying to hard not to be the bunny. You can't know nothing, but in the same respect, you shouldn't need to know everything. Clergy is another debate - and one that seems lacking in many pagan religions. Who can you ask when you don't know? Yes, books, perhaps... but there are drawbacks to that, especially with Wicca. Not so much with recons, because recon scripture is history, while Wicca as you've said, is most certainly not. In my opinion, those learned scholars should be there to answer pertinent questions instead of patting their own backs.

Me personally? I would guess my leanings go far more in an eastern direction although I don't follow any particular faith. I'm above all an astrologer, which sends me on hindu-like ways of thinking and my modern mindset tilts them over to the buddhist side at least in regards to the ethics part. Neither of those are pagan religions. I had to talk at length with pagans before I solidified my thoughts and idea(l)s, and that's where they landed up. The priorties, goals, and ethics of those faiths are highly different than pagan ones, though Wicca did borrow a bit from them...as well as the ones that reconstuctionalism is based. I'm not very inclined to give Wicca a great deal of credit on a personal level, though any who choose it need to understand that the "academia" issue is as poor and redundant as the "bunny" one, and as you said... find a happy medium that works.






Re: A big problem in the pagan community...
I agree totally about clergy. Personally I think any religion needs to concept of experts or elders or clergy or whatever you want to call them. I think they have to be picked carefully to be people willing and able to transmit knowledge and understanding and encourage others, as opposed to those who just want to increase their self-worth, which of course is hard and a whole 'nother topic. To me the problem of finding good clergy doesn't negate the need for them, but I know others feel differently.

I was drawn to the eastern religions as well, mostly because as a whole they are much more comfortable questioning their faith and what it's all about. I found the Christian answer that faith is everything, believe, do not question to be particularly frustrating.

However I didn't really find what I was looking for in Buddhism and Taoism. Both have at their core the concept of denial of the self, and that just runs so contrary to my gut that I couldn't get over it. I'm glad for those that it works for, but I'm not one of them. I've always had the belief that I am an integral part of the world, that the divine spark (for lack of a better word) exists in me as it does in all other things. Hinduism might have appealed, but it's kind of a closed game, and the early stuff appealed a lot more than the later. You could call me eclectic, since I honor Celtic and Greek god/desses as well as a Mesopotamian goddess. However I do my best to approach each within their cultural context. Do I know it all? Not even close. But as I learn I incorporate things, and so far no-one has swatted me hard .

Wicca doesn't appeal for a couple reasons - I'm not sold on the male/female duality, I don't believe in balance as an ultimate goal, and I particularly don't believe that 'and it harm none' is the highest moral goal. You can believe if someone came after me and mine I would happily harm them and feel quite ethical about it. ;-)

Anyway, nice chatting with ya. I'm quite pleased if my ramblings can help you clarify your own.
Re: A big problem in the pagan community...
Hehe... that's why I said "leanings" rather than a proclaimation of faith. Many of my ideas and ideals look a lot like eastern religions, but there is no way on this green earth or any other green earth that would cause me to actually lay back and practice those religions. For instance, I believe that life here is a goal toward merging with the forces of the universe. That it is done through many incarnations. It is not about pleasing gods, but essentially about - becoming one (or part of THE one) and that is fairly in line with hindu basics. When we get to the methods from a hindu corner, then my hand is down.

Instead of continuing here, I'll try to post up in the next few days what exactly my thoughts and considerations are in terms of religion.

I do like to comment on pagan problems though, because I've travelled in the circles well enough to have a good knowledge of what they are - but as I don't follow any of them then I have no personal stake in the arguments and the benefit is my own understanding. Like I said, if someone proclaimed astrology a religion, then that would be what I am, until then I don't call myself anything but a curious student of life and human society. Religion fascinates me, but from a very objective standpoint if that makes any sense to you.
Re: A big problem in the pagan community...
Religion fascinates me too..but that might have been obvious since I'm majoring in Religion in school! ;) It's Hinduism that I plan on focusing on with a bit of Buddhism thrown in for good measure!

I'm interested in reading your post on religion! Your own leanings fascinate me too! :)
Re: A big problem in the pagan community...
Wow!! I never expected to start such a great discussion!! Thanks to both of you for sharing your views with me, it helps me solidify my own beliefs!

Beith...speaking of Mesopotamian Goddesses we really should chat about Innanna at some point! I'm quite drawn to her but know very little about her!