Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 3, 2011 — 61 Comments

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://twitter.com/PaganMomBlog @PaganMomBlog

    I just want to put out there that Mrs B is now receiving death threats. I have been fortunate so far but it sickens me that some people feel the need to go to the lengths that they are going. So whether you vote or not, please say a prayer of protection!

    • elnigma

      I hope she contacts the police.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I'm willing to report on that, if Mrs B would like to contact me about it. Are any of these threats posted online?

      • http://mypaganworld.blogspot.com Kallan

        Hi Jason, she received them through private emails and comments on her blog which are moderated. She knows what to do in regard to the police. I posted about this on my blog: http://mypaganworld.blogspot.com

    • Boohousegal

      This probably could use more than prayers, just to be safer. Sad state of affairs that some would use a blog on *motherhood* to express their hate, but I have the impression a few doughty houseguests wouldn't go amiss.

    • http://celestialwitch.blogspot.com/ Delphi01

      Mrs. B has my full support. I can't believe how hateful some people can be…it's a BLOG for goodness sake. Anyways I would love it if she one…but #2 is catching up pretty fast only a few hundred votes or so seperate the two. Will say prayer for her and I will continue you vote for her as I have from the beginning.

  • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

    Thank you again Jason for passing on the message on these important issues. I'm still shaking my head about the chaplaincy denial.

  • DanMiller

    Been a busy week at WH it seems. Great thing about Jason's blog, is that I most always come away with lots of food for thought afterwards. Though the whole Pagan-label discussion is starting to make me feel a bit woozy, lol.

    • http://twitter.com/PaganMomBlog @PaganMomBlog

      It's a hefty subject that is for sure!

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    For anyone genuinely interested in what the word Pagan means and has always meant (about which there has never been any real doubt), I am in the process of putting together some basic works by modern scholars who specialize in studying, and writing about, the people who were first called "Pagans". (First installment here.)

    In the meantime, those of you who prefer to just make up new words, and/or make up definitions of already existing words, please carry on as you were.

    • sarenth

      No usage of a word is completely static. As an example, sacrifice, in its use means different things to different people. Sure, it may still at its core mean "to make sacred" but the use of the word changes over time. Whether or not I agree with the scholars here, Pagan has and probably will change over time. Some people reclaim words, some people bring others back into vogue, and some twist them completely around from their definition.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

        Hi Sarenth. How is it that the meaning of Pagan has changed, in your opinion? Do you think it has changed in some special way that is not found in other religious traditions? Otherwise this is a non-issue. We continue to speak matter-of-factly about Buddhists and Hindus and Taoists and Confucianists and Sikhs and Zoroastrians and Christians and Jews and Muslims (etc) although no one (or hardly anyone) would claim that any of those religious traditions have remained "static" over the centuries.

        • sarenth

          I'd say that we've changed it insofar as it moved from just meaning an insult from Christian scholars or something close to "atheist" into an umbrella term for living religious traditions. Heck, even about 50 years ago the meaning of Pagan tended to mean (i.e. "Pagan babies" in Catholic usage) non-Christians. Catholics tended to use the term "Pagan babies" in reference to tribal or indigenous peoples' kids that missionaries were "trying to save".

          That we've shifted the word to actually include religious practices rather than being used in a totally pejorative term, to me, is pretty big. We've taken what usually was an insult, historically speaking, and turned it into a descriptor for a set of religious communities. Sure, not everyone agrees with the term, but it's use is here. It will probably evolve in its use over time as different communities differentiate themselves from it as a label with more force.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            Sarenth, you are far too selective in your use of sources. Any religious designation becomes an insult in the mouth of the opponents of that religion. No? To me, the word "Christian" is about as foul an insult as any I know. And to many Christians throughout history no word was more hateful than "Jew".

            But "Pagan" has also always been used to refer to the great artists, writers, builders, scientists and philosophers of antiquity, and more broadly to all of the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And the "Pagan" literature of Greece and Rome has remained at the core of the "Canon" of western culture down to this day. And the so-called "Scientific Revolution" of the 17th century was nothing more than a revival of ancient "Pagan" learning. And the same is true of those other major advances in modern western culture: the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Whereas Christianity is most closely associated, historically speaking, with the Dark Ages, the Fall of Rome, the Inquisition, the Witch Hunts, the Wars of Religion, Slavery, Colonialism, etc.

            Besides, it is simply untrue that the word "Pagan" has stopped being an insult. Those who previously saw it as an insult, still do. But whether it is used as an insult (as can happen with any religious label) or used proudly as a self-description, the people it refers to remain the same. If the referent of a noun does not change, the the basic meaning of a noun doesn't change. In other words, the change is not so big after all.

          • sarenth

            Okay, I can agree that my sources are probably too selective. However, I did not say that it had stopped being used as an insult. I had said that "it moved from just meaning an insult from Christian scholars or something close to "atheist" into an umbrella term for living religious traditions." *shrug*

            All I was trying to say is that we've merely added another layer of meaning, one that doesn't reach back, but is in the present day in reference to living people and their living religion and community. The Renaissance saw a resurgence of Pagan ideas, sure, but an actual revival of Pagan practice? Not out and out worship like we have now. Maybe you could argue that the Freemasons and other secret societies were the forebears of such a revival, but probably not living traditions like what we have now.

            The extra layer of meaning means a lot, especially given how many people live with the term as a descriptor now.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            As far as the Renaissance goes, just exactly who was worshiping what is not a settled issue. We know for a fact that "dissimulation", lying about one's true beliefs, was a widespread phenomena at the time (and for reasons that are well known to everyone). And we also know for a fact that there was a very real Pagan movement that was clearly polytheistic and anti-Christian in Greece itself, and that the most prominent member of this Hellenic Pagan movement (George Gemistos Plethon) was greatly admired by and very influential among many people in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

            We also know for a fact that many of the people who were accused of being "Heretics" and/or "Witches" during this time were involved in magico-religious beliefs and practices that are part of an unbroken continuous lineage going back to late antique Paganism and coming forward to modern Paganism.

            So there.

          • sarenth

            *laughs* Good points. I'm not as widely read as I would like to be regarding the Renaissance or Middle Ages. The Renaissance is not my forte, nor is Hellenic Paganism, so I guess I have more research to do. Thanks.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

            Hell, I regularly hear the word 'Jew' used as in insult, in fact I just heard someone do that yesterday (and they were apparently unaware of my Jewish background since they did it right in front of me).

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I don't think the Catholic clergy has gotten the memo about "pagan" no longer being an insult. I've seen Andrew Greely use it that way just a few years ago, and ditto the current Pope and iirc his now-beatified predecessor.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The Nepalese regulation offers the opportunity to revisit a basic concept of religious freedom: Is evangelism properly included as a free exercise of religion as protected by the US First Amendment? Or should it be excepted under a common sense concept that "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins?"

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Valdez/100000652494019 Thomas Valdez

      The ability to disallow evangelism is like allowing people to write, but not to disseminate, their ideas. As much as Christian and Islamic proselytizing is aggravating, it is a central tenet of their faith. Banning proselytizing would be to violate freedom of religion. Also, how can one change their mind about their religious path without being informed about alternatives? While I applaud Nepal's efforts to protect their culture, this just is not the way.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Thomas, you restate here the common notion that evangelizing is part of the free exercise of religion, but is this what the Founders meant by it? What was their experience of evangelism? Did they mean for free exercise of religion to include it, or simply to mean the right of a Jew to be Jewish, a Catholic to be Catholic, etc?

        Note: I am not actually an original-intent constitutionalist but sometimes I play one on the Internet. ;-)

        • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com/ NorseAlchemist

          Ah, but Baruch, who gets to decide what "evangelism" is? The way that law was phrased, looked like it could be used to ban people talking about their religion at all. For instance, say I was in a school and mentioned a belief and that it was based on my religion of Asatru. Now, should someone wish to do so, they could make the argument that I was evangelizing my religion by mentioning it and putting forth a view as a "selling point" for that religion.

          Say for instance that I mention all who die in battle go to the halls of Freyja and Odin, to drink and feast the night away, and during the day, engage in epic battles to the death, only to be resurrected and the whole thing start over again. I've just put forth an afterlife with a rather nice set of perks (at least to some people) and thus done what many Christians do with their description of heaven.

          In fact, looking at the quoted portion of the law…It actually looks to be banning any religious conversion, be it for "perks" or without.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Alchemist, you have asked a question about boundaries and another about cirumstances, both worthy topics under this rubric.

            But let's suppose those are decided on some rational basis, like preserving expression whose banning would deprive the Free Exercise Clause of meaing. The what about the basic question?

  • http://www.dianahurlburt.wordpress.com Diana B. Hurlburt

    Thanks for the Tampa link…I live in the New Tampa area but hadn't heard about this. I am cautiously proud of the county officials for not immediately talking nonsense about satanic sacrifice, Vodou or Santeria, and so forth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    I agree with Phaedra regarding the "Neo" prefix. I’m a youngster, but I embrace the “Neo-” prefix. I believe there are good reasons for reviving this term. For one, it may allow the more general term “Pagan” to become more acceptable to people like Drew Jacobs and other Recons, if Neopagans are distinguished as a subcategory of Pagans.

    The use of the prefix “Neo-“ distinguishes the forms Neopaganism which arose out of the American counterculture in the 1960′s and 70′s both from modern indigenous forms of paganism (which include Hinduism, Voudun, and others) and from modern reconstructions of ancient paganisms (both of which I believe Isaac defined as “Meso-Pagans” — a term which probably will not catch on). Unlike Reconstructionism and indigenous forms of paganism, Neopaganism is inherently and intentionally eclectic. It draws on sources both ancient and modern largely without regard for historical accuracy. It is a modern religion intended to meet modern spiritual needs.

    As David Waldron, in “Sign of the Witch” observes, its focus is not on historical authenticity to an ideal pagan past, but on creating a (Neo-)“Pagan consciousness”, which defines as a belief (1) that divinity is immanent, (2) that divinity manifests itself as masculine and feminine, (3) that we should live in concert with nature and (4) that we should individually and together pursue personal growth and spiritual fulfillment.

    I think it would be a good idea to embrace the term “Neopaganism” to describe what Waldron defines (which includes me) and then Drew and his folks might feel better about coming back under the “Pagan” umbrella.

    • http://www.americanneopaganism.com American Neopagan

      Pagan Princess suggests a the umbrella term “Pagan” be divided between “Neo-Pagans” (including but not limited to Wiccans) and “Retro-Pagans” (including Polytheists and Recons). http://www.paganprincesses.com/ruckus-in-the-paga

      • Zan Fraser

        I love the idea of Neo- and Retro-Pagans!

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      Two of the major forms of Paganism that came out of the 60s and 70s were (1) a reinvigorated, more public, less doctrinaire and "hippiefied" form of Wicca, and (2) a more Goddess-centered and explicitly feminist form of generic (ie, not specifically Wiccan) Paganism (including but not limited to Dianic Wicca). But neither of these were really new, and they both strongly identified with the idea of the Old Religion.

      Then in the 80s and 90s Goddess-centered Paganism became even more of a force in its own right, and another major development was the rapid growth of "solitary" and/or "do it yourself" Wicca, largely based on the books by Scott Cunningham and Starhawk. But again, none of this was anything brand new, and a great many (probably most) Goddess-worshippers, solitaries, and do-it-yourselfers also identify with the idea of the Old Religion.

      In other words: neo, schmeo.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        I have to disagree. While Wicca and Goddess spirituality both are inspired by ancient motifs and myths, they are very modern and/or post-modern in theology, paradigm, and praxis.

        As Melissa Rephael explains in "Truth in Flux: Goddess Feminism as a Late Modern Religion": “The characteristic which would most qualify Goddess feminism for the classification ‘postmodern’ religion is its eclectic, non-credal, laissez-faire thealogy. Contemporary thealogy constitutes a collage of images of the Goddess, none of which is held to be truer than another. [...] Thealogy’s frank eclecticism, perspectivism, individualism and pragmatism seems to signal the ‘postmodern’ move from transcendence to immanence. [...] In finding a myth of the Goddess to live by, there is only one criterion in such a choice: does it work for you? [...] The rule of the Goddess is that there is no rule and that therefore the only authority on which Goddess religion is based is derived from confidence in one’s own experience. [...] Goddess religion seems to be more confident of its ritual practices than its beliefs, which are optional. [...] Most of these rituals are typically ‘postmodern’ in often being written and used by individuals; in insisting that there is no ‘correct’ way to perform a given ritual, and in being practised in networks or webs of local groups or covens, rather than in authoritative institutions. [...] They are intentionally post/pre-modern in being a deliberate return to a world view both biblical religions and modern science would call superstitious. [...] "

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

          But eclecticism, individualism, pragmatism, etc, were all part of the Pagan religious scene 2000 years ago. This is nicely described by James B. Rives in his 2006 book Religion in the Roman Empire, especially chapter six on "Religious Options", from which the following is quoted:

          "In the Roman world as in our own, different people had different tastes in matters of religion. Some found comfort in the familiar, and valued the practices and beliefs that were current in their communities and that they had known all their lives. Others, by contrast, were attracted to what seemed remote from ordinary life, esoteric traditions reputedly handed down from the distant past or imported from an exotic foreign culture. In the Roman world, as in our own, the two qualities 'ancient' and 'foreign' often went together, since Greeks and Romans believed the cultures of the Near East to be much older than their own (in many cases quite rightly). Yet the Greek tradition had its own ancient religious authorities, and they also played an important role …. anyone could pray and make offerings, and even interact directly with the Gods through oracles, dreams, and visions, [and] some people claimed a special connection with the divine that gave them insights and abilities unavailable to ordinary people."
          [p. 159]

    • Pitch313

      Adherents of this or that religious denomination or spirituality can call themselves whatever they please. If adherents individually or collectively do no want to call themselves "Pagans," then who's going to compel them?

      At the same time, I think that a typology like the one Bonewits offered makes sense descriptively. My Pagan consciousness and world view is clearly "Neo-Pagan." And I am just one person among many who shared in a diversity of social conditions and cultural influences who found the movement useful in living in the world.

      Now I don't mind feeling that I have things in common with a "Pagan" community, even when I also have differences. But I get that some folks may feel that differences are more telling than commonalities.

    • http://badocelot.com badocelot

      Off-topic, but are you the same John who runs the American Neopaganism website? I ask because (a) I notice that a comment almost identical to this one was posted on Phaedra's blog by americanneopagan, followed by a comment identical to the one below (about neo- vs. retro-) this one and (b) this may sound stupid, but I never managed to find a full name for the author(s) of the site, just "John" in one article.

      If so, may I congratulate you on composing an extremely interesting site with well-written, well-researched essays (even the ones I have quibbles with)?

      • http://badocelot.com badocelot

        Actually, let me apologize for and explain my rather unfriendly parenthetical.

        As you can probably guess, my largest disagreements with the essays on AmericanNeopaganism.com center on the rejection of magic(k). While I agree wholeheartedly with the de-emphasis on magic in favor of celebratory rites within American Neopaganism proper, and I find myself unable to take most of what I read about magic seriously (especially the part going under the name "witchcraft"… what a tangled mess that's become thanks to writers like Silver Ravenwolf), I still think that Neopagans should avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The Western occult traditions, encompassing alchemy, ceremonial magick, Qabalah, etc. not only preserves the connection between modern Neopagans and our Gnostic heritage, it's downright interesting stuff. :-)

        In particular, I find the argument of the article "Goats' Heads or Gaia?" somewhat wrongheaded. I appreciate the desire to remove the controlling aspect of magick, but it seems to me that, applied consistently, the article seems to imply that Neopagans be primitivists and reject all technology as attempts to control nature (that's what it is, after all). But if we can agree that there are appropriate technologies, then we should be open to the possibility that magick (to the extent that it has real effect) may be among them. (At the very least, most magickal rites have a significantly lower carbon footprint than major non-magickal technologies.)

        • http://badocelot.com badocelot

          P.P.S. If it isn't obvious, I only care because I otherwise recognize myself in so much of what I read on the site.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          Yes, I'm one and the same as http://www.americanneopaganism.com. (I'm not trying to be duplicitous; I just am not consistent with my logins.) Anyway, I very much appreciate your comments (not unfriendly at all), and I think I'll update the essay with some of your thoughts — probably a section entitled "Don't Throw the Baby Out". (I should note that there are a few essays on the site, including the one on magic, that do include a disclaimer that they are not representative of Neopaganism in general and are minority opinions.)

          Thinking about your comments, it occurs to me that "magick" is kind of a microcosm of the Pagan-label debate. We have some people who take issue with some aspect of Paganism to which they do not relate, and the question then becomes, "Can what each of us is doing be called the same thing?"

          Certainly, if magic is defined as the "art of changing consciousness", then I have to agree with you that magic is essential to Paganism as I understand it. I also agree that the more theurgical practices like ceremonial magic etc. deserve a great deal more respect than the Barnes & Noble 365 Spells for [Fill in the Blank] books. My problem (and again I recognize I am in the minority) is with practical magic. I want to identify as Pagan, but the association of Paganism with practical magic is a strong one and one that I just do not understand.

          I just took a course at Cherry Hill entitled "Why Magickal Think Isn't Crazy" by York Dobyns to challenge myself. It was interesting, but the magic at issue in the class was really psychic phenomena. Whether or not psychic phenomena is real or verifiable, I just never associated it with Paganism myself. And yet it is associated by many people, Pagans and non-Pagans alike. I understand why Wicca and witchcraft are associated with magic etc., but Neopaganism and Wicca are distinct.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I think defining "Pagan" is all about breaking down what kind of "non-JCI" we are:
            1. We look to pre-JCI cultures, myths, and religious practices for inspiration.
            2. We're not monotheist — which leaves poly-, heno-, pan-, panen-, duoo-, animists, and even monists.
            3. We don't see divinity as transcendent — in some sense the gods/spirits (however we conceive of them) are immanent, present rather than absent.
            4. We're not patriarchal — women should share religious power equally, and if divinity is to be conceive as male, then it is conceived as female also.
            5. We don't have a subdue/master relationship with the earth — replaced with stewardship/care model.
            6. We don't have concepts of a fall, or of sin or salvation — replaced with concepts of healing and compassion, renders a pro-body and pro-sex ethic.
            7. We don't see time as leading linearly to an final apocalypse or heaven (some heathens who believe in Ragnarok may disagree — but even Ragnarok is followed by a new creation) — instead we emphasize the cyclical nature of time (whether or not this translates into literal transmigration of the soul).
            There's been a lot of bashing the "not-Christian" or "not-JCI" definition of Paganism, but I think there is value in it once we break down just what that means.

          • Nick_Ritter

            "3. We don't see divinity as transcendent…"

            I would argue that some folks, like me, see divinity as both immanent and transcendent. It is probably the case that no Pagans see divinity as purely transcendent and not immanent, although I could be wrong (Platonism springs to mind).

            "7. We don't see time as leading linearly to an final apocalypse or heaven (some heathens who believe in Ragnarok may disagree — but even Ragnarok is followed by a new creation)…."

            Eschatology often occurs in the myths of cultures with a cyclical sense of time, so I don't think that Ragnarok poses any real difficulties.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            You're right on both. Regarding #3, I should have said "we see divinity *at least in part* as immanent." I myself am panentheist, which includes both immanence and transcendence — but I am more interested in the former.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            As amended (reflecting Nick's input) JHH's breakdown of non-JCI characteristics is an excellent complement to Phaedra's short and sweet version.

            But once we start looking more closely at the details, I think there is justification for teasing Judaism away from Christianity and Islam. I do not think that either Christianity or Islam has any legitimate claim to actually being "descended" from Judaism, or having any other genuinely "familial" relationship with Judaism. Most Jews, I think, do not accept these two religions as their spiritual kin. In fact, they have every reason to see them as their deadly enemies, with essentially all other religions as their potential allies.

            Historically speaking it is a fact that Judaism has, for whatever reason, been capable of coexisting with polytheistic religions in a way that neither Christianity or Islam is able to. And ancient polytheists often expressed (albeit sometimes begrudging) admiration for Judaism as a truly ancient religious tradition deserving of respect and even worth studying.

            Judaism also has played a fascinating and highly complex role in the preservation of ancient Pagan religious beliefs and practices throughout the long-dark-tea-time of the European soul during which theocratic totalitarianism reigned for century after century, with Judaism as the only (if just barely and often not even that) accepted religious alternative to Christianity.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            There is a reason they are lumped together. Judaism (or the Yahwism that it developed out of) is credited with (#2) being the first monotheist religion [after the Babylonian exile], (#3) being the first to conceive of god as transcendent [again, after the Babylonian exile], (#4) giving textual justification for patriarchy [in Genesis], (#5) giving textual justification to the dominance-relationship with the earth [again, in Genesis], (#6) developing a new concept of sin [guilt culture is different from shame culture], and (#7) inventing the concept of linear time. Now, maybe Judaism doesn't deserve all that, but I think there's good reason for including the "J" in the JCI. That's not to say there are some traditions that belie all these characterizations. For example, check out this beautiful Judeo-Pagan site: http://telshemesh.org/

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I should also add: 8. We don’t hold any scripture or book as infallibly authoritative.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            That's overstepping. Ancient Mystery Religions had sacred texts, as do Hindus, Taoists, Zoroastrians, etc.

            In fact, sacred literature is a ubiquitous feature of Pagan religions, even (or even especially) when that literature is oral. There is nothing non-Pagan about writing such oral literature down. And there is no clear dividing line that tells us which texts/stories are considered "infallible", or even really what "infallibility" means, especially when all religions with texts, including the Abrahamic ones, recognize the need to interpret those texts.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I disagree. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic attitude toward textual authority is unique. Even the Hindu Vedas or the Tao Te Ching do not compare. And the appreciation of the interpretive nature of reading is really a modern or post-modern phenomenon. Of course Pagans have always had texts, but you will not find the kind of bibliolatry in Pagan religions as you do in the so-call "Religions of the Book". This attitude toward texts was really invented by the post-exilic Jews and was continued by the Christians and Muslims. Neopagans (in contrast to Retropagans or Recons) in particular avoid placing the locus of authority in texts.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            I agree that the monotheistic view of their supposedly sacred texts is unique. But the fact is that many Pagan traditions also have sacred texts, and this includes purely oral traditions which often lay great emphasis on the meticulous preservation of "oral texts".

            As is usually the case with monotheism, it is not really the attitude that they take toward their own texts that distinguishes them, but rather the attitude that they take toward all other sacred texts. Put another way, what distinguishes monotheism is not that they view certain texts as sacred or even as infallible, but that they make all such claims exclusively for their own texts.

            There are several dead ends that people go down when trying to capture what it is that distinguishes monotheism from paganism/polytheism. This question of "sacred texts" is one of them. The danger is that these dead ends result in improperly lumping important non-monotheistic traditions in with monotheism: such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and even classical Greco-Roman Paganism (all of which have sacred texts).

            The difficulties involved in getting this right are illustrated by the fact that Jan Assmann, who has made some very significant contributions to understanding monotheism, nevertheless claims that Buddhism is a monotheistic religion! This is because he insists that if a religion has a "founder" then it is automatically monotheistic. But the Pagan cults of Dionysos, Asclepius, and Hermes Trismegistus all claimed to have been "founded" (by Dionysos, Asclepius and Hermes Trismegistus).

            Assmann is actually partly right, because if a religion claims to have a specific historical starting point, then that is, if viewed properly, one of the hallmarks of monotheism. But the "if viewed properly" proviso is important. The "founding" of a monotheistic cult absolutely must entail the rejection of all other currently existing (at the time of the "founding") cults. This is because monotheistic religions are, in their essence, really "counter religions" that take as their starting point the rejection of all other religions. But such a rejection is not to be found in the "founding" of Pagan cults. Once again it comes down to the exclusive nature of monotheism's claims and attitudes.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Regarding magick. IMHO it's not about belief. If you have something within you intended for a person at some distance, such as a healing for an ill friend in a distant city, traditional magick is a format for expressing it. Doesn't matter if you believe in it or not. Likewise if your Tarot or runes speak to you, you can believe they are magickally imbued, or that they are punching up your unconscious to get the mental clutter out of the way of what you know but don't know you know and need to know.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I understand what you are saying about belief. It works whether you psychologize it or reify it. But the question remains: can a person cause physical changes in the material environment merely by focusing their will/desire? Healing is the easy case when discussing magic — because of the mind body connection. Let's talk about something more difficult — say bending spoons with your mind (to take an example from the film "American Mystic"), or if you prefer a more pagan example, how about weather magic? And more importantly, at least for me, is the question: If you can cause physical changes with your willpower, then what does that have to do with Paganism?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Once I was teaching relativity to undergraduates and at a pause one student asked, "But which ruler is actually longer?" The proposition "the question remains" strikes me in the same way, something that seems to have more substance than it does by the way language is constructed. All we can say factually is that things have happened that some people involved regard as material change by the mere focus of will. I don't have to agree with the construction of the cosmos by those to whom it happened to listen to that construction with interest and, if our systems of reverence overlap enough, do ritual with them.

            It has to do with Paganism if one is a Pagan and chooses to embed one's evident power in a Pagan cosmos. That could include use of Pagan symbolism to evoke and direct said power.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I guess I still too much of a materialist/modernist to see the question of whether material changes occur in the physical universe as a question of perspective or constructivism. In any case, I don't intend to resolve the question of the reality of magic here.

            But I do think there is more to the second issue than just choosing Pagan symbolism when evoking a neutral power. Most Pagans, I think, would say that there is something uniquely Pagan about magic, or at least that magic is an essential element of Paganism. Would you agree?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I would not agree with either proposition. Magick is found all around the world, not just in Paganism. And it is possible to be a practicing Pagan without engaging in magick. For example, instead of attempting to subvert another's will with a "love" spell one can use incantations to improve one's own lovability — quit being a wallflower, get out where there are people and mingle — to draw love to oneself by purely material means using pure psychology on oneself.

          • http://badocelot.com badocelot

            I also have a hard time seeing the association between psi and magic, although the connection goes back at least to Gardner's Witchcraft Today. The problem for me is that the results of parapsychological research are consistent in showing very small effect sizes. Except in a few categories like remote viewing, even moderate-sized effects are incredibly rare and hard to establish. (cf. "The Conscious Universe" by Dean Radin)

    • Nick_Ritter

      In Theodism, we used to use the terms Neoheathen (usually to refer to Asatru), Retroheathen (to refer to ourselves), and Paleoheathen (to refer to pre-Conversion Heathens). I think that a similar usage of neo-, retro-, and paleo- might be useful in this context.

      • Bogomil

        To be fair to Asatru, when this distinction was first formulated, Garman explicitly claimed retroheathen to include both Theodism and Asatru. It was always only certain extremely a-historical versions of Asatru that were tagged as neoheathen.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          I can see that the next debate might well be who is Neo- and who is Retro-. But at least we could share a common (Pagan) fire, as Thorn Coyle says.

        • Nick_Ritter

          I stand corrected.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Re: Nepal and conversion. First of all, CompassDirect.Org (the site linked to for this story) is, to put it diplomatically, not the most reliable source. Their slogan is "News From the Frontlines of Persecution."

    Second of all, the description of the anti-conversion law sounds like it is very much in line with similar efforts that have in the past been endorsed by both Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. Such laws are directed at foreign missionaries from wealthy western countries. And especially as long as the United States government continues to use taxpayer money to directly fund overseas Christian missionaries, I am going to defer to local populations as to how they wish to deal with these foreign agents of cultural genocide.

    • chuck_cosimano

      Look at it this way, in 1888 an American Protestant Missionary named Doane was detained in the Phillipines. The US sent a battleship and marines to look into the matter,to the great terror of the Spanish government who could not release the Rev. Mr. Doane fast enough. Now, does anyone think that the marines will be airdropped onto Nepal for the sake of the missionaries?

      (Of course when the Scientologists take over I would not want to be anywhere near a country that would detain one of their missionaries…)

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Phaedra's first-go at a "rough working definition" of "Pagan" is dazzlingly close to perfect:

    – not Christian, Jewish, or Islamic;
    – having historical roots in its cultures preceding the arrival of the above-mentioned monotheistic religions
    – if not polytheistic, at least henotheistic
    – meets at least two of the three points above

    As far as I am concerned the only real alternative to this very succinct definition is the dreaded Canons of the Council of Eugene.

  • Pax

    Jason,
    Thank you for spreading the word about this years Pagan Values event, your work here is one of the influences that encourage me to start the blogject and to try encouraging these conversations.

    Peace,
    Pax

  • aediculaantinoi

    Am I the only one who finds it a bit ironic that the Ethnikoi Hellenes, who often claim to have a certain cultural purity and a marked anti-syncretistic streak, are asking everyone to unite in celebration of the Unconquered Sun/Sol Invictus, when in fact the cult of Sol Invictus doesn't come about until the Aurelian period of the 3rd c. CE, as a revised/syncretistic revival of the Syrian cultus of El Gabal? I certainly don't object to anyone celebrating the Sun on that date, by any means (and I'll be doing so myself!), but this seems at some degree of variance with their stated intentions and professed identity…and, I suspect they're entirely unaware of this historical discrepancy.

  • Silv

    I'm personally of the mind that evangelizing= harassment and/or disturbing the peace. I think that there's a difference between freedom of speech, and "freedom to harass" and people need to get it straight.