Archive for November 12th, 2009

Paganism Beyond the Occult

I was writing a fellow pagan in a Tennessee prison this morning. She described to me how pagan were treated there compared to Christians – much worse of course and with great skepticism. The roots of that being arrogance and bigotry but also of our own doing. There was a Nazi Ásatrú group in the prison that spoiled it for all other pagans. This is very common. I hear from prisoners all over North America. And the results of the actions of a few paint a very destructive view of the rest of us.

So how do we change this perception of pagans here in the States? We are perceived quite differently in Europe. I think we as pagans need to come out of the proverbial broom closet and let the world see who we are. We need to collectively demand equality. I am a pagan because Paganism’s ethics and practices go so much deeper than the revealed religions. It makes me a better person. This is something to celebrate, not hide away. The occult approach to paganism needs to go away. It doesn’t serve us well. Our history in America is dominated by occult magical traditions that came here in the 60’s and 70’s. These traditions keep teachings secrets. People have to pass through levels to get the next teaching. I see this as a dynamic antithetical to equality. I find the whole dynamic very troublesome. People love to have power over others.

Nature just doesn’t support this hierarchical dynamic.  There is no top of the food chain. That is a very crude and mechanised way of looking at Nature. In Nature, there is only interdependence. Which his higher, the lion or the Ebola virus? The hierarchy falls apart when you look past the surface and try to comprehend (and even more deeply, participate in) the relationships that Nature is built upon.

Those of us that follow “Nature-based” religions, need to let go of occult and hierarchical dynamics in our religious traditions. It isn’t helpful. I think there are so many pagans in the US now, we could be a political force if people were willing to stand up for their civil liberties and fight for the Earth. Many pagans feel this isn’t an issue. But I can tell you I talk to people every week in prison that are having their religious freedoms stomped on. Many can’t gather as a group, or pray over food, or celebrate ritual and holidays in any way that is visible to anyone else, and they can’t even receive pagan elders as clergy. So many of our brothers and sisters are suffering. Also, when I look at all the environmental degradation all around me, I feel like I have no choice but to stand up and say I am pagan and paganism offers a better way of being in the world, one that doesn’t destroy the Earth. I hope our community starts doing this more. The need is great.

I am not suggesting we proselytize. I only wish we would remove the cloak of the occult and focus on the ethics and our way of living in a sacred manner. This begins to eliminate fear and ignorance and build common ground. So the question for me boils down to this:

Why are we hiding our spirituality, the living expression of our human soul in relationship to the universe?

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