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?

1 comment:

spirite said...

Nice article. In my pagan world in southern New Mexico, I have a wealth of powerful pagan allies to draw upon for growth and learning. Our rituals are ever changing and we are growing as a community. I agree that there are tons of 101 books out there. I agree they need to be left behind for actual personal growth and community involvement. To me it is much more important just to pay attention to the world and cycles around me to get to a deeper place.