Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yuletide Thoughts, Life and Death

Many a silvery moon has risen over the years as this old witch contemplates the lessons, which pertain to one’s spiritual endeavors. As the face of our sacred mother, casts her ancient glow over those who wisely embrace her. The mysteries of life silently unfold. As I stand before her loving gaze, thoughts of spiritual quests rise within my mind. Knowledge gained is but a threshold for answers yet to be met.
And so as a witch I find myself walking the edges of life like the thin blades of grass wavering back and forth in a quiet and forgotten glen. For one whom embraces the old ways, a way of life that has survived the hand of man, there will always are more questions than answers. Witchcraft is not the creation of humankind, but rather the mystical tools awaiting those who seek them out.
Magic is the energy that fuels the perception that one draws from their experiences in this realm. But how does one define the parameters of magic in a way that serves as a path of understanding and more importantly as a catalyst of desire to seek out those questions that heighten ones awareness of self and of one’s place along the road of spirituality?
This is a personal question with as many answers as there are pagans who seek to examine such goals within themselves. For me personally, such musings often wander to the ancient questions of life and death. As a witch I see the two events as forming an intertwining polarity of awareness and mystery, each concept and indeed reality, dependent upon the other. And indeed, as mysteries of life tend to be, any answer offered over the centuries are simply musings based upon the experiences of but one half of this spiritual conundrum.
As the migration of human beings travel through the tendrils of life, many are the religions, which have sprung up along the way, which claim to have the answers to such a profound mystery. But are they simply casting their eyes towards a limited source of light while the darkness that they fear stands at the ready just beyond their willingness to face such eternal unknowns? The fear of such darkness is based not upon any perceptible knowledge of that which awaits each of us regardless of personal belief, but rather upon a primordial lapse in the consciousness of our spirit. Can it be that the quest for spiritual growth has been stymied by the roadblock of ignorance and fear and has thus fallen to the wayside of spiritual quests by such folks?
The advent of Yule brings forth a telling of the God who has traversed both sides of the mysteries of life and death and then once again unto life as we know it. The divine mother, who stands deeply aware over all aspects of existence at all levels, awaits his return with a sure knowledge that he will re-appear. For she is the progenitor of the mysteries that serve as the challenges that we as individuals need to experience in order to draw closer to her whom we adore. Of course I use the term “mother” as an adjectival in order to provide form to that spiritual aspect in which I personally subscribe to. There are of course many descriptions which can be used to describe that entity which opens the gates to life but which in turn limits our understanding of what is just on the other side of the door.
And yet there are many rays of light that may serve to give us a glimpse into that which we perceive as the darkness or unknown in our annals of awareness.
For instance one may ponder, is life and death the only avenues available to understand the tenets of the mysteries of life. Or do we simply lack the inquisitiveness and individual courage to seek out these pinpoints of light that may well be emanating from the dark? For instance, many pagans and indeed those of other spiritual paths are adept at astral projecting. But where is it that that one projects their spirit to? Apparently we are not projecting into some physical vestige of this life and so are we projecting into locations found within the realm of death? Or perhaps we are projecting into realities that are totally unconnected to either our awareness of life or the hidden destinies of death?
Pagans are also adept at connecting with spirits who travel back and forth through the veil. And so I wonder, what forms our sense of fear in relation to death, a sense of dread, which these denizens seem to lack? Or do they convey a similar sense of fear when they travel to this side of the veil? And if so, why do we consistently seek them out, though we fear to extend our spiritual selves to their side of the realm?
When I think of life and death, I often wonder if such a cloak of darkness in relation to our limited awareness was intentionally erected. What better way than to test our spiritual resolve and to test the temerity of our belief in a supreme entity. And what better way to measure our desire to accept the challenges involved in our spiritual ascension, though in all reality we have no choice in the outcome of such a Chautauqua. Each of us will eventually be brought to the threshold and once there, cast through into even greater mysteries then perhaps that which we face within our current awareness.
Of course I do not seek to turn the handle to the door of death until it is my turn to do so. But the lessons of Yule triumphs over any unfounded fears that I may have incurred from the ignorance of our species while engaged within this realm. As a witch, I trust in a sacred knowledge that initiated the first step along a long and arduous journey back to the bosom of what I perceive as the sacred giver of life and knowledge at all spiritual levels.
I see death as a continuance of this forbidden knowledge. A knowledge that is hidden only from those who lack the courage to grasp those bits and pieces of wisdom, while in this realm, that eventually will reveal the true and beautiful tapestry of spiritual accomplishment. These are my thoughts about the lessons that Yule brings forth.
May you each have a very enlightening and spiritual Yule experience and may you find your own answers in regards to Yule and the experiences that it offers…

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In Search of Growth in the Neo Pagan community

Now that Neo Paganism has been in place for about 60 years, one can look back and see the twists and turns which has led the Neo Pagan community to its current state of apathy. For those that have not been inundated by the plethora of 101 books generated by members of the Neo pagan movement; Neo paganism took root with the advent of the illustrious Gerald Gardner. It has been clearly established that this gentleman took elements of Catholicism, Masonry and the practices of the High Magicians of the Golden Dawn and created an embellished amalgamation of what he claimed as witchcraft. The truth is that nothing could be further from the tenets of reality, than his definition of such a time honored path known as the Craft. Before I go any further, this is not an attempt to bash Gardner, for he is not alone in perpetuating such a myth. When Gardner’s coven dissolved in the late 1950’s, several of his former followers stepped in and continued the myth that Gardner perpetuated. I can hear the jaws hitting the floor over this statement. But let’s take a pragmatic look at what Neo Paganism has brought to the concept of paganism. The first of course are the mind numbing trove of 101 books that has stymied any true progress in the mystical arts. How many times can such basic knowledge be regurgitated and presented as the next must have book? Apparently, such reincarnations have no end in sight, for once you have read one such book, you have basically read all of them. What purpose does it serve a fledgling pagan community to be kept in a constant state of ignorance? What happened to the intense curiosity and desire to evolve mystically and spiritually that pagans of yore subscribed to? The Craft offers so many mystical and spiritual rewards to those who seek them. And yet with the current Neo Pagan mindset, many folks are sadly unaware of such gifts. This is not to say that the old school pagans of the world have given up such a mindset in favor of the current lack of experience and knowledge which serves as pillars of Neo paganism.
This brings us to the next failing of Neo paganism.
Though Gardner traveled the world and was keenly aware of the fact that there have always been pagan folks around the world, when he created his self serving concept of paganism he created a mindset that ignored the world in favor of those of European descent. His claims of reviving a culture that had fallen to the wayside are pure bunk. And such blinders have closed the door to those teachers who may have infused a true sense of understanding the delicate balance of nature and the creative magic associated with such knowledge. Anyone who is not a member of Gardner’s vision is viewed with skepticism and is ignored as a fraud, though the true fraud is those who engage in this very mindset.
As we continue to take an honest appraisal of the Neo pagan movement, it is this very same mindset which has attempted to create an elitist class of so called pagans. There are those who claim to be better than everyone else because they claim lineage to a man who at best was simply an embellisher. And whose movement fell apart only to be revived a couple of years later. This same group now postures itself as the learning curve for paganism, though such a claim is hardly if at all recognized by old school pagans. You know; those pagans from around the world who were ignored in favor of the fledgling upstarts that we now know as Neo pagans. Probably the greatest accomplishment of neo Paganism has been the years of time and energy that has been spent forcing a symbol that belongs to neither those of the Abraham religions nor Neo pagans onto tombstones in what are primarily Christian graveyards. That symbol of course is the pentagram. This may come as a surprise to some, but the pentagram is not a Wiccan symbol, it has been in use by various belief systems for over 5,000 years. It can even be found within Christian churches and graveyards all over Europe. And for most of its existence was seen as a positive symbol of health and good will, among other positive aspects. In fact it was a former Catholic turned pagan; Eliphas Lévi, who first gave the pentagram a negative connotation. This was time and energy that may have been better utilized in actually building a viable Neo Pagan community. For the most part, this particular group has become a profit oriented organization which like its Christian counterparts even has missionaries who for a price will travel to and fro heralding the tenets of this recently formed religion.
This brings us to yet another erroneous assumption that Neo paganism has created. Paganism is not all about being a religion. Some aspects of true paganism such as witchcraft, shamanism and many other forms of paganism are about spirituality in which its members seek out the mysteries of life as individuals. Such folks do not need nor want the mind and soul numbing control that a religion requires in order to exist. Such an erroneous mindset seems to have been lost on such folks who see paganism as solely a religion.
And so you may ask, if this article is not about bashing a particular mindset, than what is its purpose?
The answer is that as on who has spent his entire life as a Traditional witch, my personal love for the Craft in particular and the pagan/Neo Pagan community in general, knows no bounds. And when one sees an ongoing problem, it is irresponsible to sit by and say nothing. If you had a child that needed help with a learning situation, would you not speak out yourself? And if one is too short sighted to acknowledge such a problem exists, and then there is no chance of ever finding a solution or perhaps a more comprehensive approach that benefits the many and not just the few. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the only right religion/spiritual path is the one that works for the individual.
But by the same token we should be wary of the tendency to create a one size fits all as preached by certain groups within the Neo Pagan community.
As an analogy, if you seek to learn a foreign language, which in essence, paganism is to many folks who were formerly of one of the Abraham religions, would you want to learn just a few simple phrases or actually learn to speak fluently? With the current state of Neo Paganism, the community is stuck on just a few phrases, repeated over and over again, if you will. As a community, we need to break free of the baby steps and seek out a more diverse and in depth knowledge of paganism that is sorely lacking at this point in time under the current mindset.
Every group/individual brings something to the table, but no one group/individual has all of the necessary answers for the continued growth of our community. When one group/individual takes the lead, we become stagnant in our magical abilities and spiritual growth. Perhaps it’s time to realize that there are in fact pagan communities that have been around for eons prior to the mid 1950’s and to seek out the wisdom that such enlightened folks could provide us, given the chance. But to entice such wise teachers to respond, the Neo Pagan community must first learn to put aside its inherent arrogance and ideas of self grandeur.
The Neo Pagan community must be willing to admit that the current state of stagnant growth in the mystical arts is un-acceptable. And that its members crave so much more. Wasn’t this one of the reasons so many folks left the Abraham religions to walk the path of paganism?