"To be true to one's faith, one must be true to themselves"
A Basic View of Paganism or Bambi Paganism
by Summer Woodsong
"You people are all so nice! I like the idea of Paganism, but I don't think I could be that nice all the time." The writer was genuinely perplexed and driven to ask me if it is really possible that Pagans, Witches and Wiccans really lived such wonderful lives. This is one of the increasingly common questions I am asked about Neo-Paganism.
Like any religion, Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism – whatever we call it – seeks to provide definitions of its tenets, ideals and general operating procedures. Since we are a religion that values independence, tolerance, creativity, appreciation for nature, self-reliance, etc. – this is what we write about when people ask for more information.
Wicca and Pagan beliefs are, in many ways, philosophies of pragmatism. We deeply believe that every person has the right to their own view, path and philosophy – until it interferes with someone else's view, path or philosophy. We also have an odd faith that every person, to some extent, experiences the things they do for some purpose – even if only to experience random chance – and learns from them. Whether or not that is by choice, well the jury is still out. Some Pagan practitioners assure you that you have chosen every sad, badly behaved, or horrible experience just to teach yourself something. My life partner, Robin, almost died in the hospital and a woman of our acquaintance asked him why he did that to himself? What did he have to learn? I don't go quite that far.
I believe that every person works within capacity. Some have more energy, intellect, social smarts, etc. than others. I think that the person who deliberately seeks to stir shit, or hurt others, is very rare. However, just because people may have their own motivation for actions, and the harm was not deliberate, they are still culpable for the consequences of their actions.
Witchcraft is made up of religious groups within an area which gather to observe the holidays and rituals of the year and nature. Covens. There has been a popularized theme of perfect love and perfect trust. OK, let's be real. There are many good people out there, but close exposure can bring us far too much information to indulge in perfect trust, perfect harmony. This could be an ex-lover. We may know that this guy OD'd regularly on drugs, but seems better now. Would we want to leave our kids with him – no. We may know that that person over there wrecked three cars in the last year – would we loan them the coven bus? No Way! How do we balance this out with perfect love and perfect trust? The only answer I can provide is that within the circles we construct and design for our ritual, we seek and offer perfect love and perfect trust. Within our celebration of nature and the gods, we seek and offer perfect love and perfect trust. The practitioner of the Craft is a priestess or priest of the Gods. They are not patsies or dupes by religious design.
There is a huge difference in a religion such as Paganism with its open-minded definition of content and standards – and other religions with strict standards of belief, behavior and acceptability. Because Pagan religions include acceptance for such a broad array of gods, beliefs, behavior, rituals, celebrations, etc. it is very difficult to imagine how we would set rules for what to do with those who don't measure up.
I mentioned pragmatism earlier, and self-reliance. These are two very important aspects of the Pagan religions. In many traditional religions people are considered bad from the start, inherently flawed and expected to fail. Because of these negative traits and the acknowledgment of them, folks rally together, form a worship group and placate their God who has made them aware of their flaws and loves them anyway. If they work hard at apologizing for their mistakes, flaws and inherent sinfulness, they may have a shot at redemption and attain a favorable afterlife.
In some ways you could say Wicca and Witchcraft are both much easier and much harder on folks. We do not have a central book to refer to, but we do have some broad rules. "An it harm none, do as thou wilt." and "Whatever you do, shall come back to you – threefold." Now, you probably ask "just what does that mean?" We consider each person on the planet as much a mirror of the gods, as the gods are a reflection of us. In essence – you are divine. Your decisions are the product of your purpose, and we would not willingly interfere, even if we don't like your decisions, so long as it does not interfere with another's path or preference. How do I know what I'm doing is right? Well, I can't tell you that. I can share my personal strategies and measures, but do not mean to imply that you must use them, only that you are welcome to use them. What happens when people consistently screw up and don't measure up to these nebulous standards? Well, I mentioned this was a religion of self-reliance and pragmatism. You do what you have to do. Since we don't have hierarchical structure with layers of priesthood and laity, when a member of our religious group works in ways that are not consistent with our goals, we either put up with it, adapt to it, ostracize that person or go to them and explain that they can either conform to this group's needs or go away.
There are those folks who don't stay in this community due to this kind of information. Such times are stressful for all people involved. But within our community, we have to take care of these matters ourselves. And Pagan, Wiccan, Christian, Buddhist, or American Indian – it doesn't matter – every group will contain people who don't measure up in the good-behavior department.
How do we explain this, with all the good hopes that we are so public about? We don't really. This is part of the nature of our people. We are no different from the general population. Pagans tend to be individualists who have claimed this path, separate and distinct from what they grew up with. We have as many heroes, wise women, children, indigents, insane, spiritual, hopeless and good, honest people as any other population or religion. We are not hampered by a religious philosophy that assures us we must take in those who won't behave. That helps. But it is still very difficult to confront those who must leave.
Another aspect is that religion is based on a set of values, which have been translated into ethics for these religions. Individual application of these ethics have variations in them to suit particular circumstances. But the base rules for any set of community-culture defining standards will be absolutes. So, what you have been hearing from Pagans are those absolutes that state what we value and what we hope our members are and will become.
As far as being nice, smurfy as I call it... well, I have personal goals. These include being rational, not inserting my preferences into other's paths and choices, never saying anything that is strictly designed to please my need for equity, not giving opinions that do not contribute to harmony. Do I make it? Maybe 70%. Having a partner whom I trust, who will listen to what I don't want to share publicly helps. I try my very best not to let out negativity on the world – if that world does not deserve it. There is also the aspect of necessary truth. Does someone need to know what happened and what I think? Will it do them any good? Can they (or the world) benefit from hearing what I think? I try only to share painful information if that information will do some good, and generally when it is solicited. However, in at least one instance I have drawn together a group, gone to someone's house and announced that they were unethical, unwelcome and no longer part of my coven. Do I still talk to these people? Yes. But they didn't speak to me for years. Sometimes, it depends on what they learn from it, if they continue the unacceptable behavior. Do I always restrain myself? No. But I've gotten better at it as I got older.
There is also another aspect to your question that the community generally doesn't talk about publicly. Those of us who love a good argument, and to endlessly discuss the reality of our world, have gone over it a few times. I finally have labeled it the black, white and gray of religion. One of the pet peeves of Witches is this whole thing about white Witches, and black Witches, good Witches and bad Witches. Are there really black or white Witches? No. There are people involved in Witchcraft, as a religion, who indulge in a wide variety of behaviors. If these behaviors are selfish to the point of harming another or aimed at harming another I would call that dishonorable or negative magick. Mere self-indulgence is not dishonorable – bubble baths, hot fudge sundaes and silk clothes are not evil, on the whole we need to be much nicer to ourselves than we are now. So what is white, gray and black about Witchcraft? The same as any other religion.
First the milk, the cream of our beliefs. All the wonderful, great, marvelous, truths and beauty that we want to share with newcomers and oldtimers alike. This generally consists of the rewards, with only cautions of any drawbacks. It speaks of fellowship, and how that particular religion is favored by its gods. It will speak of the power and the glory of that particular deity and how this favor will further the causes of the group and the success of its members. Pagans tell of respect for the earth and nature, respect for all things as an inherent part of the larger view of the divine, our view of our deities as representatives of our own divine nature, respect for male and females, nurturance and strength, veneration for the older members. Respect and tolerance for other's viewpoints, respect and tolerance regarding sexual and personal relations. These are all the portions of our religion we respect.
Then we proceed on to what we will call the meat of the religion – the solid, the gray. This is a little more work and not for the casual convert. In this phase the foundations of the religion are explored. The history, an in-depth look at those who have shaped the philosophy and the growth of this particular sect. Probably some discussion of the heretics and a touch on some of the differences of opinions which led to the current makeup of the organization. More of the responsibilities, not quite so sweet and light. Leadership. What do we do when someone in our religious community steals, infidelity, dishonor, how do we as a community deal with this? Concerns.
Yet, it also contains that which is attained through study and acquisition of knowledge of the religion's practices, rituals, holidays and ceremonies. Here is the investigation of history, both directly related to Paganism and to mythology. There are psychological aspects of our beliefs, the wheel of year, perception of time, perceptions of age, ethics, ritual, magick, definitions of all these things. There is the glory of joyful celebration of the gods, our sisters and brothers in Paganism, the comradery and fellowship of others of like beliefs, and the wonder, awe, joy and mystery of the holidays. There are all the reasons behind the holidays and how we make sense of our world. There is so much, there would never be time in this magazine to talk about it.
And finally, what we are calling the black, or shadow, of a religion. This is the area of danger for the faithful. This area contains all that might cause one to doubt, lose respect or fall away from the group. This would contain the reprehensible parts of the religion's past that we would prefer to forget. Leaders that made unethical – by their group's lights – deals, arrangements or compromises that furthered the group's cause, its philosophy and its formal structure. How do we explain such deep metaphysical and philosophical conflicts to our members, much less newcomers? Here we have to admit that we do not necessarily respect all those who call themselves Witches. Where we have to talk about the differences between European Paganism and what we in America are doing. These are issues of long standing concern, and can be deeply unsettling to even those who have studied and loved Paganism for long past. These subjects tend to be reserved for conversation with trusted friends and fellow philosophers who are already grounded in the many contributing factors which comprise the issue. Not for casual contemplation.
So, I think there – at last – may be the simplest answer. Those who are not deeply involved in a religion, are not yet exposed to its secrets and inner conflicts. They don't have enough information and background to understand, to comprehend the complexity. It would take too long to explain it to a newcomer, who may not stay around long enough to extend their understanding.
When visitors are coming, I don't show my dirty house to an unknown guest. I throw all that stuff in the closet. If the guest stays around long enough to become a friend, whom I trust, one day they will see the closet, acknowledge the confusion, have understanding, and perhaps help clean it up.
"There is no benefit in the gifts of a bad man."
Euripides (484 BC - 406 BC), Medea, 431 B.C.
Native American Section: Origin of the Buffalo
Long ago, a tribe of Cheyenne hunters lived at the head of a rushing stream, which eventually emptied into a large cave.
Because of the great need for a new food supply for his people, the Chief called a council meeting.
"We should explore the large cave," he told his people. "How many brave hunters will offer to go on this venture? Of course, it may be very dangerous, but we have brave hunters." No one responded to the Chief's request.
Finally, one young brave painted himself for hunting and stepped forth, replying to the Chief, "I will go and sacrifice myself for our people." He arrived at the cave, and to his surprise, First Brave found two other Cheyenne hunters near the opening, where the stream rushed underground.
"Are they here to taunt me," First Brave wondered? "Will they only pretend to jump when I do?"
But the other two braves assured him they would go.
"No, you are mistaken about us. We really do want to enter the cave with you," they said.
First Brave then joined hands with them and together they jumped into the huge opening of the cave. Because of the darkness, it took some time for their eyes to adjust. They then discovered what looked like a door. First Brave knocked, but there was no response. He knocked again, louder.
"What do you want, my brave ones?" asked an old Indian grandmother as she opened her door.
"Grandmother, we are searching for a new food supply for our tribe," First Brave replied. "Our people never seem to have enough food to eat."
"Are you hungry now?" she asked.
"Oh, yes, kind Grandmother, we are very hungry," all three braves answered.
The old grandmother opened her door wide, inviting the young braves to enter.
"Look out there!" she pointed for them to look through her window.
A beautiful wide prairie stretched before their eyes. Great herds of buffalo were grazing contentedly. The young hunters could hardly believe what they saw!
The old grandmother brought each of them a stone pan full of buffalo meat. How good it tasted, as they ate and ate until they were filled. To their surprise, more buffalo meat remained in their stone pans!
"I want you to take your stone pans of buffalo meat back to your people at your camp," said the old grandmother. "Tell them that soon I will send some live buffalo."
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind Grandmother," said the three young Cheyenne braves.
When the young hunters returned to their tribe with the gifts of buffalo meat, their people rejoiced over the new, good food. Their entire tribe ate heartily from the old grandmother's three magic pans, and were grateful.
When the Cheyennes waked at dawn the next day, herds of buffalo had mysteriously appeared, surrounding their village! They were truly thankful to the old Indian grandmother and to the Sky Spirits for their good fortune.
"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances. "
Martha Washington (1732 - 1802)
Triana's Kitchen: Chicken, Mushroom & Spinach Lasagne
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb. uncooked chicken cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz. plain flour
1 1/2 pints semi-skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt & pepper
Mushroom and Spinach Mixture:
1 teaspoon sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
12 ozs chopped mushrooms
12 ozs spinach
Salt & pepper
12 sheets green pre-cooked lasagne
2 ozs Parmesan cheese
190 C / 375F / Gas 5
Heat oil and cook onion until soft. Add diced chicken and stir-fry in pan or wok until cooked. In another saucepan melt butter & add flour - cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat & blend in milk until sauce is thickened. Season to taste. Put a third of this sauce into a bowl and leave. Add chicken to remaining sauce and onion. Heat oil, cook garlic, onion and add mushrooms - cook for about 10 minutes until liquid has evaporated. Cook spinach briefly in a large covered saucepan until just soft - don't add any water! Drain spinach well and chop. Add mushrooms to mixture and season. Lightly oil a deep rectangular ovenproof dish (12 x 7 inches) and line bottom and sides with lasagne. Layer half the chicken sauce, pasta, spinach, mushroom sauce, pasta and remaining chicken suce, pasta etc. Sprinkle with lots of Parmesan cheese and cook for 45-50 minutes or until golden.
Apple Cheese Crisp Recipe:
6 medium sliced, peeled apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place apples in ungreased 2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon and lemon juice. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup. In a medium bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, and brown sugar. Using pastry blender or fork, cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over fruit.
Bake at 375 degrees F. for 25 to 35 minutes or until apples are tender. Top with cheese; bake an additional 2 to 3 minutes or until cheese melts.
What is The Gaia Hypothesis?
The Gaia Hypothesis proposes that our planet functions as a single organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival. Formulated by James Lovelock in the mid-1960s and published in a book in 1979, this controversial idea has spawned several interesting ideas and many new areas of research. While this hypothesis is by no means substantiated, it provides many useful lessons about the interaction of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes on Earth. Thus, it is a good starting point for our study of oceanography, providing a broad overview of the kinds of processes that will interest us throughout the semester.
Throughout history, the concept of Mother Earth has been a part of human culture in one form or another. Everybody has heard of Mother Earth, but have you ever stopped to think who (or what) Mother Earth is? Consider these explanations.
The Hopi name for Mother Earth is Tapuat (meaning mother and child), symbolized by a form of concentric circles or squares, as shown below. These forms symbolize the cycle of life, the rebirth of the spirit, its earthly path, and, possibly, its return to the spiritual domain. The lines and passages within the "maze" represent the universal plan of the Creator and the path that man must follow to seek enlightenment.
A more imposing definition of Mother Earth might be found in the Hindu goddess Kali. She is the Cosmic Power, representing all of the good and all of the bad in the Universe, combining the absolute power of destruction with the precious motherly gift of creation. It is said that Kali creates, preserves, destroys. Also known as the Black One, her name means "The Ferry across the Ocean of Existence."
The ancient Greeks called their Earth goddess Ge or Gaia. Gaia embodies the idea of a Mother Earth, the source of the living and non-living entities that make up the Earth. Like Kali, Gaia was gentle, feminine and nurturing, but also ruthlessly cruel to any who crossed her. Note that the prefix "ge" in the words geology and geography is taken from the Greek root for Earth.
James Lovelock has taken the idea of Mother Earth one step further and given it a modern scientific twist. (Are our modern Mother Earth "hypotheses" any more refined than ancient Mother Earth myths?). Lovelock defines Gaia "as a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet." Through Gaia, the Earth sustains a kind of homeostasis, the maintenance of relatively constant conditions.
The truly startling component of the Gaia hypothesis is the idea that the Earth is a single living entity. This idea is certainly not new. James Hutton (1726-1797), the father of geology, once described the Earth as a kind of superorganism. And right before Lovelock, Lewis Thomas, a medical doctor and skilled writer, penned these words in his famous collection of essays, The Lives of a Cell:
Viewed from the distance of the moon, the astonishing thing about the earth, catching the breath, is that it is alive. The photographs show the dry, pounded surface of the moon in the foreground, dry as an old bone. Aloft, floating free beneath the moist, gleaming, membrane of bright blue sky, is the rising earth, the only exuberant thing in this part of the cosmos. If you could look long enough, you would see the swirling of the great drifts of white cloud, covering and uncovering the half-hidden masses of land. If you had been looking for a very long, geologic time, you could have seen the continents themselves in motion, drifting apart on their crustal plates, held afloat by the fire beneath. It has the organized, self-contained look of a live creature, full of information, marvelously skilled in handling the sun.?
Thomas goes even one step further when he writes:
"I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is a no go...it is most like a single cell."
Dream Interpreation - Gypsy: Gypsies are an emblem of individuality, personal freedom, intuition. If you see a gypsy in your dream, you have an unconscious longing for freedom. Speaking to a gypsy is a sign that your assessment of a certain matter and approach was correct. If you dream of paying a gypsy for predicting the future, someone is making a fool of you. Listening to a gypsy music means that there is a romantic adventure in store for you.
Faery Section: Menehunas - Polynesia. These elves are similar to the leprechauns in that they also guard a pot of gold and will grant wishes if caught. They are benevolent to humans in need of help.
Herb Section: Bistort
Bistort root, when ground and mixed with Echinacea, myrrh, and goldenseal, is a great dressing
for cuts and other wounds. It is also a powerful astringent, used by mixing a teaspoon in a cup of
boiled water, and drunk several times a day, as a treatment for diarrhea and dysentery.
The same mixture can be used as a gargle for sore throats. Bistort is good to drive out infectious
disease, and is effective for all internal and external bleeding. Bistort root is one of the strongest
astringent herbs available.
Bistort is also an excellent remedy for diarrhea, even for bloody diarrhea, cholera, and
dysentery. The Cheyenne and Blackfoot Indians used the roots in soups and stews.
An amulet fashioned of the root of Bistort is carried when one wishes to conceive. Sprinkle an infusion of bistort around your home to keep out unwanted visitors of the mischievous variety, such as poltergeists, sprites, etc. Add to wealth and money incenses and carry in money sachets.
A Brief Look at Ninti: She was a Goddess created by Ninhursag to heal the ribs of Enki after he was poisoned by Ninhursag for eating her eight children. Nin-Ti translates as "She of the rib" and is the original "Eve". Of course she was about 5,000 years before the Christian, Eve came about. This is one of many examples of pagan beliefs being incorporated into a non-pagan religion.
Divination Section: Cephalomancy - This is divination using the head or skull of a goat.
Did You Know??? The Constitution of the United States was written in ink made from the Pokeberry plant.
Crick's Corner: Greetings folks: I realize that each of us has a bit of insecurity as part of our over all personalities. Each of us to a more or less extent then the next person. However I wonder why so many of us display these insecurities through our chosen religions/Spiritual paths? If we are secure in who we are and what religious/spiritual path that works for us; then why give a hoot what someone else thinks. This is not meant to sound arrogant. Its just that I believe that each person is an individual and that no one else should be empowered to make such a decision for us. And yet we as a people spend a great deal of time validating our religion to others. And this applies regardless of what religious and/or spiritual path that you look at. Need proof? Look around this world of ours and you will see religious influences permeated through many of the conflicts in the world today. Which leads me back to my original question. If we are secure in our personal beliefs why do we spend so much energy in validating our beliefs to others? Think of how much more pleasant this world would be if we spent that energy on spiritual growth instead.
Until next time Cailleach's...
"Síleann do chara agus do namhaid nach bhfaighidh tú bás choíche."
Both your friend and enemy think you will never die.
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