Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
A Living Legacy
The sacred legacy of the past is important, but the legacy that we gift to the future is a more loyal way to honor those that came before us. We are here because many of our ancestors did whatever they could in the name of hope for those that were the family they knew and hope for those that would be born past their dying day. I would honor their hope and their forward looking perspective by taking the torch of legacy and carrying the light forwards.
Most of the readers of this blog have heard statements to the effect that the various forms and traditions of Paganism are living religions. I would actually expand that to say they are living cultures of which religion is but one part. Often these statements are understood as an affirmation of the fluidity and creativity expressed in individual practices. I generally agree with these sorts of statements but I think it is valuable to think of them in broader terms. Paganism is alive in the same sense that individuals and populations of a species are alive. What we call Paganism today was born of numerous influences and various ethnic inputs and is heir to all of its ancestry, whether that is spiritual, cultural, or biological. The day will come when we are the ancestors and we should consider the work we do in our practices and communities in that light. I regularly measure my efforts by the standard of the legacy that I will gift to the future.
One of the tools I use to stay true to the work of adding to and preserving this living legacy is an awareness of the scale of my vision and my plans. No, this is not an exhortation to follow the principle of thinking for the seventh generation (about 170 years) though this is an admirable idea despite the probability that few have the wherewithal to do so. What I mean is an examination of how my choices play out in the microcosm, the mesocosm, and the macrocosm. I expand and unpack these levels as several sets of threes. This can mean, for myself, for those close to me, and for the broader community. It can mean, short range, midrange, and long range plans and actions. It can mean many other things, but it is always about considering the scales, parameters, and nesting relationships of things. This three-fold perspective applies not just to time frames but also the frames wherein meaning is woven from the threads of life. My understanding of my personal identities, affiliations, and roles is informed by how those are understood within the microcosm, the mesocosm, and the macrocosm that includes other beings. Self definition is important but what Self means varies with its scale and parameters. Self definition is as real as free will, which is a phrase that can be taken to mean many ways. It is also my way of saying that self definition is not the be all and end all unless it is more than me.
Some of you know that my magickal name is Panpipe though most people in the magickal community just call me Ivo since I have always been out of the broom closet. Please note that it is Panpipe and not Panpipes as it is the singular not the plural. I chose that distinction in my magickal name to remind myself that I am one reed, one note, in the instrument, and not the whole instrument. It is a reminder to work in relationship with others and an acknowledgment that the metaphoric music of my life requires more than one note.
In considering what legacy we leave for future Pagans, I think we must also consider the proper place for form and essence. Most people that come to the path of magick first walked the path of the religions of their family and that pattern is deep within them. Even those that come from a fairly secular upbringing absorb the root assumptions and cognitive infrastructures of the surrounding culture and as such they too come to the path with deeply ingrained patterns. Perhaps the most troubling of these is the tendency towards literalism and towards the conflation of the forms of things with their essence or their goals. Indeed, it often goes further than conflation and the forms tend to take precedence over essence in choices and debates on religious and spiritual matters. It is neither the chants, nor the beings invoked, the magickal implements, nor the order and the structure of the rituals or observances that determine a magickal path, tradition, or system. The map is not the territory nor is it the journeys that occur in that land. The use of a djembe does not require that a ritual be afro-centric, it just may be the right sounding drum for the ritual or the drum the drummer brought with them. If the Goddess Freya is invoked in a ritual that does not automatically indicate that the ritual is Asatru or Heathen or even necessarily in the Norse mode. Though some may argue otherwise, the use and the study of the Qabala does not particularly narrow down the range of possible religions or magickal work for its students and practitioners. Examining what is being accomplished and why it is being done gives better indications as to the essence and the nature and the identity of a person, a group, or a path.
It seems to me that we are in a time of accelerated expansion, exploration, and innovation in spiritual, magickal, and cultural matters. Many new things are being born and they will be tested by the times. This is wonderful, stressful, exciting, and calls for greater awareness and a sense of responsibility. I hope that you will consider well what legacy you are tending and which seeds you will save for future soils and climes.
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