Paganism 101

Last weekend my bruxa Tati and I had the privilege of being invited to a 2 hour discussion at MIT regarding the basic of Paganism.  The group was rather small and led by quite a character.  He had a great deal of Celtic knowledge and I’m very pleased to say I learned some new stuff!

We started the lecture by each saying what paganism means to us.  One quite read from the discussion leader was “Paganism is the affirmation of the beauty of life.”  I like my definition better, but tomato-tomahto.

We learned that the holiday Mabon (or “Pagan Thanksgiving” as it’s usually explained) has only been prevalent on the Wheel of the Year in the last 20 years.  I have a feeling it was called something else, but I haven’t had the time to research it.  Also, the modern Wheel of the year is a bit of a conglomeration from different culture.  For example, Beltane (which is a Celtic word) originally had to do with the Celts hearding cows around bonfires.  The Maypole tradition is borrowed from the Germanic culture.  Calling the four quarters and their elemental associations is some Scottish tribe’s tradition because there was more water to the west of their territory, more earth to the north, etc.  The host then described a ritual he attended that modified the directional associations of the elements because in Massachusetts, most of the water is to the east.  And since it’s that time of year, Samhain means Remember…as in your ancestors.

Someone in the group who was new to paganism asked about spells.  The host started talking about ceremonial magick and how it’s very similar to judaic mysticism.  Then someone brought up Mr. Crowley…She made a comment about him trying to be a “Victorian bad boy.”…That made me chuckle.  Specifically, we defined the difference between prayer and spell.  Apparently, prayer is when you depend on the deity to achieve your goal and spell is when you KNOW that YOU are going to achieve your goal -OR- when you kind of bribe/blackmail a deity because you have a special token that is significant to (insert corresponding deity here).  Or as the host put it, “I’ve got this amulet!  Do something for me!”

We discussed the term “neo-pagan” and from what I’ve gathered, unless you were a practicing magic before the Roman empire Christianized everything, you are technically a neo-pagan.  They defined it as “the innovation of modern paganism…And the term is mostly used by the scholarly types.  Personally, I find the “neo” irrelevant.  Everybody’s a pagan since we’re all born on Earth so I’m not sure if there’s even such a thing as “modern paganism”.  I feel that “born-again pagan” is more accurate because we’re going back to our historical roots.

We left off at casting a circle.  The discussion leader informed us that Druids don’t barricade themselves off from nature while casting a circle ’cause they think it’s rude or something.  I tend to feel that way, myself.  I understand the safety net of a circle and I’m not discouraging it, but I worry of walling oneself off from everything.  Call me a hedge witch. <|;^)

OH, and FYI!–Warlock, I guess, is a Scottish word that means “oath breaker” and Witch supposedly comes from  the word “wicce” which means “to bend”.


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