INTRODUCTION - PAGANISM 101 Paganism is a religion. In contrast to other religions, specif

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INTRODUCTION - PAGANISM 101 Paganism is a religion. In contrast to other religions, specifically Judaeo-Christian ones, Paganism is a natural religion, viewing humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of all life, rather than as something created and separate and "above" the rest of the natural world. Other religions seek to glorify man's special relationship to God and his conquest of Nature; Paganism emphasizes the harmony of man and Nature. There are and have been many forms of Paganism. All traditional "native" religions are Pagan, such as those of the American Indians, Africans, Celts, Norsemen, etc. The classical religions of the ancient Greece and Rome were Pagan, as were the mystery cults of the ancient world. The word "Pagan" comes from the Latin, "paganus" meaning "peasant" or "country dweller". As a religious term, it is used correctly by anthropologists to refer to the indigenous folk religions of particular regions and peoples and the historical religions of the ancient world. The word "heathen" is an Anglo-Saxon word for the same concept, referring to the people who dwell on the heath. Christians used these terms to describe people who held to the Old Religion because Christianity arose among the discontented poor of the cities. Its spread to the countryside was slow. Furthermore, when Christianity became dominant, and Christians set out to convert the remaining non-Christians and sly those who refused, non-Christians fled to their brethren in the countryside. It should be clear that just as a person cannot be a citizen of two countries, he cannot have two religions. A person cannot be Pagan and Christian at the same time, for the views of the two faiths are fundamentally different and in many ways diametrically opposed. When Gerald Gardner wrote Witchcraft Today in 1954, he tried to make it appear that one could be a Witch and still remain a Christian. He did so because he was writing for an essentially hostile audience. and he felt it was necessary to "sugar-coat" the pill. But the fact remains that Witchcraft is a form of Paganism and as such it is incompatible with Christianity. Witchcraft is thus one form of the "Pagan Way". It is not the only way, but it is the one that has survived in Europe. As such it is often referred to simply as the "Old Religion or "La Vecchia Religione. The word Witchcraft comes from the Old English "wiccian", (to cast spells, to work magic, or to predict). In the Old Religion of Pagan Europe, the shamans or medicine men were called "wicca" (pronounced Witche) if male or "wicce" if female. Witchcraft survived where other Pagan religions perished partly because of the courage of its adherents, who braved centuries of persecution rather than give up their faith, and partly due to the strength of the ancient tradition itself. For elements of Wicca, such as God and Goddess figures are found in prehistoric sites from the Stone-Age and modern Witches still regard the great stone circles such as Stonehenge as sacred places. By classical times, the strain of Paganism that became Wicca was already distinct from the state religions of Greece and Rome, for it had given rise, in late prehistoric times, to the so- called mystery cults of the Goddess such as the cult of Isis in Egypt and the Dionysian, Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries of Greece. The mystery cults inherited from primitive times a concern with light, fire, fertility and the importance of woman to which was added in historic times a philosophy of life and behavior which as Cicero put it, "made it possible for man to live with joy and to die with a better hope." For Wicca is a religion of Nature. It reflects man's basic concerns with the light that fades each winter and is born again each spring, with the fertility of the soil and of all the creatures that live from the soil, with the continuity of life, and with the unity and harmony of all Nature. For in Paganism, and thus in Wicca, man's place is in Nature, not above Her. In this Wicca is in fundamental disagreement with Christianity. For the Book of Genesis states clearly (1:28) "And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the Earth.'" Such a philosophy is alien to Paganism where the Gods are Nature's Gods, the good life is the life in harmony with Nature and the creatures of earth are man's friends and familiars. The Gods and Goddess of Paganism are the Gods of Nature. Chief among them are, of course, the two great Gods of Earth -- the Great Mother and the Horned God. The Great Mother is the personification of Earth and her daughter the Moon. She is a Goddess of fertility and of life. But she is also Hecate, Goddess of the crossroads, of death and of the underworld. Hence she is call the the three-fold Goddess and her three aspects, Selene, Diana and Hecate, are symbolized by the full, half and dark of the moon. As the Moon rules the tides, she is also Goddess of the Sea. So strong was her hold upon the mind of man that Christians could not do without her and so they renamed her Mary, the Mother of God, Star of the Sea. She is known by many names: Demeter the Corn Mother, Cerridwen the White Goddess, Cybele, Astatre, Artemis, Vivien. She is Diana of whom St. Paul's audience cried out "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." On a more philosophic plane, she is the all-embracing Earth Mother, giver of life. And she is the cool light of hope in the darkness of night. Her consort is the Horned God of Earth, the other half of the duality of life. In his aspect of God of life and of all living creatures, he is Pan the Goat-foot God of Arcady. But He is also God of the crossroads and hence Mercury, God of Commerce. And he is Pluto, Lord of the underworld. His picture in stag's mask and antlers appears on the walls of Stone-Age caves. In many primitive religions, He is the Corn God, born in the spring and slain in the fall. As such he is the son of the Earth Mother in spring and her consort in the Autumn. Seen in perspective, Christianity is merely one of many cults of the dying and rising God. But Christians were not content to be one of many cults. They had to be the only one, the worshippers of the one true God. And so they set out to destroy the God who was originally theirs. They created Satan, the Devil. They modeled him after the Horned God images of Pagan cultures, such as Pan of the Greeks and Baphomet of the Persians. Satan is a Hebrew word meaning "adversary" or "obstructor." It is related to the Egyptian Set and the Roman Saturn, both Gods of the dead. Translated into Greek, Satan becomes "Diabolos" (slanderer) from "diaballein" (to throw across, to slander, to mislead). In the Witch trials of the Middle Ages, whenever the defendant spoke of the Horned God being present at the Sabbats, as he was, in the person of the High Priest who costumed himself in a horned mask and assumed the role, the word "Satan" or "Devil" was substituted by the magistrates, for to have written the word "God" as spoken by the accused would have been considered blasphemous by the Christian court. Not all Pagans see the Gods on such a personal level. A Pagan is one who worships the Gods and Goddesses of Nature by observation, study and love. He may not choose to call on them by name, considering this fanciful, but he recognizes them as personifications of the powers of Nature which can be loved and understood. For as Harold Moss put it (Green Egg #55, Midsummer 1973), "The Gods as we perceive them are the rules of the game. For dead matter they are gravity, say or electromagnetism. For living beings they are more personal, more emotional. But our emotions are merely our perceptions of the universal forces that govern all existence." In a political analogy, the Christian world is a tyranny where laws are handed down from above; the Pagan world is a republic where laws are fashioned by those they govern. It follows that one of the proper occupations of a Pagan is the study of Nature. But unlike Christians, Pagans study Nature to better understand and love her, not to rule her. If post-Renaissance man had been Pagan instead of Christian science would never have created the debacle it has created in the modern world, for it would have have been practised as an end rather than as a means to power. Pagans would never have misused science as Christians have done, because Pagans are inherently more ethical people than Christians. Such a statement perhaps seems strange to people brought up to believe that Christianity6 rescued the Roman world from the sin and depravity of Heathenism. It is true that the Roman world had become depraved, but the fact that people do not practice their religion does not invalidate the religion. In fact, Christianity was able to succeed, not because it was more ethical, but because it was less ethical. For Christianity has no ethics to speak of. It has a rigid set of "Thou shalt nots". And if you obey them you do not have to think of ethics at all. Paganism has only one rule of ethics: "An ye harm none, do what ye will." But that is a very difficult rule to follow because you have to think about it and you have to make decisions. There are no absolute standards of right and wrong. Anything that brings happiness and causes no one or no thing to be harmed is good. What does harm or renders the soul disharmonious with Nature is wrong. It is thus wrong to let your child starve because you can only feed him if you steal. Right and wrong have to be evaluated in each and every instance. And if you do wrong it will come back to you -- three times over the Witches say. It will not, however, result in you condemnation to Hell for all eternity. For the Christians, lacking an innate feeling for ethics, had to invent a system of rewards and punishments to keep people in line. Pagans, on the other hand, usually believe in some form of reincarnation, whether it be a personal rebirth in successive lives or a dispersal of the soul into the world soul and its rebirth in new forms of life. For Paganism is a Nature religion in which life is a continuum and the artificial distinctions between here and the hereafter is meaningless. Nothing exists except what is on Nature and Heaven and Hell are not of Nature. But rebirth is of nature. It was a Christian who said "The resurrection is written in every grain of corn," but the sentiment is Pagan. Morgana Silverthorn


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