We are at a crossroads here in the 21st century with magic, environmentalism and the future of pagan religions. The pagan-curious are looking into polytheism, and many of them are active in environmental stewardship and land preservation. As nature lovers, greens and environmental activists investigate what paganism might be, and their first impression is generally that of the Wiccan religion. There are many gradations of belief between Priestesses and Tree Planters.
“Can I call myself a witch since I live so close to nature in my work and home life?” No I was told; I have to be initiated to call myself a witch. I need to listen to someone else’s ideas if I want to become a Witch or Druid. Truthfully, I don’t want anyone to interfere with the path I take, a path that lays somewhere between the Green man and Greenpeace. A path I refer to as, Progressive Eclecticism. So I am not a witch ...or a Druid, but perhaps like you, understand the peril of destroyed ecosystems and polluted oceans.
I totally believe in the big tent concept for Pagans, and I try to promote the freewheeling eclecticism I enjoy. Sure, we need teachers and clergy and experienced pagans to provide guidance of course, but it can‘t be like the Church with its cowering masses and kowtowing hierarchy all kissing each other’s rings. It should be more like the Unitarian Universalists and their reality based morality and initiatives regarding social justice.
Remember the 6th principle of witchcraft and that's, "We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, and those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have given of themselves in leadership." Unity without hierarchy.
The pagan-curious would like to consider becoming pagan but are a little put off with the costumes they see at gatherings or in books. Pagan books seem to be all about spells and ceremony, and newbies end up trying to figure out the right candle color to use in ‘witch’ situation. A green living person will wonder why there is not a bigger emphasis on ecosystem stewardship in Paganism. Many Greens have been living as Pagans all along and not realizing they are. They appreciate the living relationship between the earth and sun and they see that Mother Nature could be perceived as Gaia, a goddess. On the other hand, many Pagans know virtually nothing about Nature, but trot out their certifications and who they studied under to authenticate their weekend witch status.
The green pagan-curious are not spiritual or religious necessarily, but they do feel something and they are curious about it. The Mother, the earth spirit, lies somewhere between perception and reality and many people are looking for some sort of link between spirituality and stewardship of the Earth.
I’m happy to walk outside to look at the full moon or praise the north wind or pray to the corn mother for a successful crop and feel no need to be initiated into any specific path. I made up my own religion as a prototype of how easy it is to be comfortable with the path you are creating for yourself. There are many solitaries like me who aren’t worried about any pagan or Wiccan absolutes.
I believe that earth lovers looking into paganism are put off with the ceremonial excess they see and often times turn away. The gardener, earth activist, or tree planting green would be considered, “just a tree hugger, you’re not a ‘real’ pagan.” Says you; Pagan is as pagan does, earth lovers are real pagans, not neo-pagans. So here I am, Martin Luther, creating a schism with pagans, but I’ll say it again--more trees and less candles, more organic vegetables and less skulls and demons. The near future will be less about ceremony and more about attaining full civil rights for Druids and Witches who cannot openly practice or talk about their religion in this sweet land of liberty and other countries.
Reality based morality will be about restoring ecosystems worldwide after 150 years of profit taking by industrial capitalism. The future will be less about candle color and more about creating new forms of governance and an economic model of sustainable capitalism to get us to the end of this century and beyond. Pagans will be there to replace war, violence and greed with passion and compassion, but there are bridges and rough terrain to cross and it won’t be as easy as using your broomstick to get to the Emerald City. “Did you bring your broomstick? Most people worship the golden calf, and walk that yellow brick road of greed behind the façade of the flag and the cross.
There is the classic pagan ceremony where a knife represents the male and a goblet of wine symbolizes the woman, and everyone takes it so seriously and here is where I part company with today’s pagans. Why do I need to do that? It’s just not right for me. It’s like kneeling and standing in church when I was a child; it seems kind of silly and uncomfortable. I kneel for no deity.
I’m a gardener and I have a few knives around, like 15, and they have many uses. Cut open our modern impenetrable packaging, slice fruit, cut string and tape, tighten glasses, open up bags of mulch, carve pinewood derby cars and on and on. Do I really need an athame, a double-sided knife, one sharp and the other dull? I do have a favorite knife that has a compass in the handle and it's nice for outdoor ceremonies and orienting to the 4 directions, but my favorite use for it is to cut seed potatoes which I do every fall.
I have hope that potatoes can be my sustainable crop and I call the knife my potato knife. Books and practitioners say a pagan without an athame is like a mechanic without a wrench, a dentist without a drill: you absolutely must have an athame. My favorite potato knife is going to be my athame if I really need one, so does anyone have a real problem with that? Let’s loosen up a bit here and start setting up posts to make the tent bigger.
It’s time to discuss what aspects of magic are needed for the future. Why is it that New Agers are so into rocks, huh? Oh, stones; they’re not rocks, I’m told. I call them rocks so bear with me. Rock magic seems interesting and I do have a stone shrine indoors with some small but very interesting unpolished rocks…I mean stones.
A few years ago I found this shrine fit on my dashboard and startling things, mostly good and some bad, happened for three weeks straight when I placed it there till I brought it back in the house. Stone Magic happens more readily than you might think.
This is why I indulge in what I call Oxoheartsvoken, the as yet discovered folk religion of the Reindeer People, the cave painters. The magic of the people, for the people and by the people and in synch with the presence of the planet Venus, that planet we call the morning and evening star. Venus is visible far more often than the moon and helped early navigators such as the Polynesians and the Phoenicians and by now many know about the mysterious pentacle shape that Venus traces across our night sky every eight years.
Today, pagans think they are Druids, Priests or Priestesses and my point is that in every culture there was the shaman or priestly class and the rest of us who would prefer less ceremony. As you begin a journey into ritual and magic, you first have to question the books that explain about magic and its practitioners. Are they capturing what 90% of us did: the folk magic? Not everyone can be a Priest, Druid or pagan clergy.
Experienced pagans might rail against someone like me who has unconventional ideas and refuses to wear the fairy king costumes. As I like to say, ‘Halloween is my new year, not what I do all year.’ Costumes don’t seem natural and I know there are many people that agree with me on that one, maybe we really don’t need to wear robes. No offense of course.
Pagan Traditionalists have created too big of a wall that conservationists and environmentalists try to look over but only end up shrugging their shoulders and walking away because all they see is ceremony that is about connecting with the divine. Getting your hands dirty as a gardener or speaking at a town meeting in support of habitat restoration isn’t even on the radar of all those city slicker pagans.
Neophytes to pagan initiation may hear, “Your athame has to be blah blah blah” or some version of, “you’re just starting, you don’t know anything, ” which is highly insulting. In my opinion, Paganism needs to be more about planting trees and less about spells and candles and I think there are many people who would agree, and many of us have a lot to bring to the table and this is why I’m promoting the big tent concept of progressive eclecticism.
There are those that say you have to be on one specific path or another and you’re not a real pagan if you mix and match your deities from different pagan religions. I’m a real pagan in my view, although serious pagans would disagree with my notion of Progressive Eclectics and my iconoclastic pantheon of 9 goddesses and 23 gods.
Wicca may be the face of paganism with its Lord and Lady Ceremony, but in time there will be ten times as many progressive eclectics as there are initiated wiccans, so the sooner you open that barn door and let us all in, the better.
I’m trying to catch people before they abandon paganism and I want them to realize they can make it their own. It seems that if you have a simpler earth loving set of beliefs this is somehow seen as less than pagan in many circles. I’m telling you greenies, don’t kowtow to traditional, because we are creating tradition now and are rediscovering some of the ancient rituals intuitively which may very well outlast traditional which is, after all, little more than 60 years old since Gardner’s book purportedly revived witchcraft from the misty past.
Don’t get me wrong about magic because I do believe there is magic and the more in tune with it I get, the more readily it happens. But my approach is that you shouldn’t summon or call upon magic any time you want. To all psychics, sensitives, empaths and others: some of us don’t have these superpowers and the phrase “getting in the zone” is the sometimes the best us ordinary folk can manage.
I would next like to quote Scott Cunningham from ‘Earth Power’ as he explains his view of magic. “Magic was the first religion and that if you lovingly utilize the forces of nature to cause beneficial change, you can also become one with them. It is these powers that are personified as gods and goddesses.”
My vision is that we all find our own way as Pagans and a so-called “newbie” has life experiences to draw on for their pagan expression. In my religion there are no newbies. A newbie could have superlative insights when a traditionalist may have lost their focus, spending an entire weekend “driving 300 miles in the Lincoln Escalade looking for coltsfoot root.” I would much rather take a walk around the ’hood and imagine the tree roots and shrub and flower roots all touching and entwining themselves for hundreds of miles as I take a walk, and not be a slave to spells, ritual and ceremony. You love nature, then call yourself a pagan if you like. Let those Reconstructionists call themselves neo-pagans if they want. Don’t quote me, but I think it was the Celtic tradition many hundreds of years ago that used severed heads to ‘see’ the future. If Celt Reconstructionists can pick and choose what practices to take into their spiritual future, then why can’t I? No offense of course.
Native Americans didn’t realize that the basis for the faith-based genocide by Europeans was because they were viewed as pagans, pure and simple; and yet today they don’t call themselves pagan to honor their part in the history of pagan civil rights. The Great Spirit of the Indigenous People kept this hemisphere in balance, and they have respected the Mother for thousands of years here in the U.S.A. The Vikings created settlements on the mainland peacefully, but Christopher Columbus thought the Caribbean islands they landed on was the Garden Of Eden and it was his job to drive out the ‘savages’, or at least enslave them and take their gold.
Is there an ancient mother and are there goddesses? What have the Goddesses been telling us: maybe they want us that we must encode liberty, embed equality, ostracize criminality and vanquish cruelty Maybe Hecate wants you to plant willow trees instead of invoking her to help with your love life. Maybe Cerridwen would rather have you using your creative will to help craft a cap and trade program that makes sense in this polluted world. Sedena of the Inuit doesn't need prayers so much as She needs a solution to the invasion of her cold northern arctic by Bernie Madoffs with drilling equipment. Maybe Yemaya wants you to indulge your carnal side a little less and take care of your little creations better.
Jurate wants you to be aware that humans have killed and fished with a profit seeking rapaciousness that will leave future generations scratching their heads at the depletion of fishing stocks and the lack of earth stewardship, and the illusion of prosperity created by predatory capitalism. Maybe Freya is unimpressed with your double axe zipper pulls and wants you to raise your level of awareness about eroding topsoil and to learn how to certify organic growing conditions to keep up with the demand for clean food. The dragon tailed goddess Nu-Kua appreciates that you are beginning to understand about feng shui and Dharma, but would be happier if you understood more about the ecological devastation of war and the emotional toll on civilian populations.
Maybe the goddesses are trying to tell us to wake up before growing populations and shrinking resources reach a point of perpetual crisis. For now it may be more important to halt the degradation of our planet and I like to say 100 hands clasped in prayer cannot plant a tree. I wonder... is there a bridge that can be built between pagans and greens? Who can tell, because now all I see is a total disconnect.
In conclusion, I feel the less you use magic, the better it works. During a pagan pilgrimage to Salem I went jogging and walking to sightsee that way. I was up and down the multitude of brick sidewalks and roads because I got the notion that maybe I could capture a bit of the magic of this place in a broken piece of brick road. For 25 minutes I searched and found nothing. Jogging here, walking there and finding nothing I could use, but then something came over me. I did a secret ceremony to the universe and I heard, ’go here and turn there’ and sure enough 45 seconds later I found the perfect piece. I mean really, how does this happen?
Very simply, this is the folk magic.