When I first become a Pagan many years ago, I tried to find theological studies of What It All Meant within our literature.I found many discussions of rituals, magick, and how Witches were correctives to patriarchy. But beyond some brief (and good) discussions in Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and the Farrars' The Meaning of Witchcraft,there was almost nothing on the underlying meaning of a Pagan reality.As I learned more about the broad Pagan tradition I began exploring literature discussing African Diasporic and Native American Pagan religions. Here to, by monotheistic standards the pickings were remarkably thin.
In Brazil I learned most Pagan literature consisted of spell books and details about rituals.Among the traditional Crow people in Montana, individuals had different interpretations of their practices’ deeper meaning and of the status of figures like Coyote, but no developed theology.Within my own coven I learned my coven-mates had different beliefs about who the Gods were. Classical Pagan religious writing was rarely sectarian and the major one that could be so described, The Golden Ass, was more an adventure story than a treatise on the Gods.Pagan cultures were not particularly peaceful, but I know of no adherents to a Pagan religion waging war on those of another for not worshiping the right Gods. Unlike the monotheisms, unity of belief didn’t seem very important in the Pagan world.
This weekend, which is a holiday long weekend north of the 49th Parallel, Pagans from all over the vast expanse of the Canadian landscape will be meeting in Gatineau, Quebec (which is just across the river from our capital city Ottawa) to discourse on what it is to be Canadian and Pagan, exchange ideas, study workshops, exchange chants, review scholarly works in our field, and of course, socialize. It's called the Gaia Gathering (the Canadian National Pagan Conference,) and I believe this to be the most exciting thing currently going on in the Canadian Pagan community. I made an epic journey to the 2010 conference in Montreal to present at a couple of panels, as well as one of their first workshops, and it was a life-changing experience. This year, I am unable to attend but I was able to interview "Winnipagan" Dominique Smith, the current Chairperson, via Facebook about this outstanding event:
Question: So from your perspective, what is Gaia Gathering all about?
A constellation is not an object, it's a pattern of objects visible from a certain perspective. Look from a different perspective, and the pattern disappears.
That's what's going on right now with the raging controversies over the meaning of the word "Pagan." From some perspectives it makes sense, from others it does not. And since no single perspective has authority, neither does any single definition.
Joseph Bloch has made an interesting case that Pagan religion cannot always be labeled a “nature religion” because historically most weren’t. Instead they were concerned primarily with human affairs. I argue here that he is wrong, and do so in three steps. The first two explore crucial concepts he ignores. The third looks at errors of fact.Grasping how he is mistaken deepens our understanding of what Paganism is and how we relate to the world today.
In my previous post, I discussed why I thought identity was an essential principle of magic and explored what magic as an ontological practice might look like. In this post, I want to unpack identity further so that we can learn what makes up identity and how we can work with it as a magical principle. Some of what I discuss below can also be found in my book Magical Identity.
Your Family is one of the foundational elements of your identity. Your mother and father, and siblings (if you have any) provide you the initial experience of the world, as well as modeling behaviors about how to interact with the world. They pass down both their functional and dysfunctional behaviors, both in terms of how they interact with you and around you. It's fair to say that your identity is shaped by them for your entire life. I'd argue that your family is one of the more influential elements of identity and one that needs to be carefully explored in order to change a lot of your own behaviors. Your family also models financial and health skills to you. Even if they never explicitly discuss finances or health, they nonetheless provide you with standards that impact how you handle both throughout your life.
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.