Lord Shepherd, guardian of roads,
Keeper of the lands between,
Let your hand guide my path
Along this unknown, empty road,
As a shepherd guides his weary flock,
Paxuson, walk ye by my side.
Lord Shepherd, guardian of roads,
Ritual done last night, today I write down what I noticed of how life continues, possible changes, interesting coincidences, and so forth.
I usually do a rite once a month on or around the Full Moon. Since Wednesday I had a meeting, and Thursday was Thanksgiving, I chose to do the ritual tonight. This post is concerning the practice and the thoughts I have of it after.
If you know anything about me, you know that while I support reconstruction of pre-Christian religions, such as Celtic Reconstruction, Heathenry, Hellenic Reconstruction, and yes, even PIE Reconstruction, I don’t participate in them. There are a few reasons for this. The first and simplest reason is that this is not that time period. I find it fallacious that people assume they can reconstruct a religion from a thousand or more years ago and still have it be completely relevant to the modern era. Now, I’m not just talking ritual and pantheon reconstruction, I’m also talking about beliefs and practices, which sometimes includes prejudices and problems which do not match modern sensibilities. I’ve talked about ergi before, and how this aspect of Germanic society has impacted American society, but this is only one of many problems with trying to reconstruct an ancient religion in a modern society. What do you keep in? What do you leave out? What do you push for in the legal system, and what makes sense to leave behind?
I’m just going to jump right in. This particular post is both a reminder to me of making sure I understand these concepts before continuing, and an explanation for anyone who is reading the blog.
I began this blog to keep a journal of my musings as a member of a Neopagan religion, as a Celtoi-Norse Polytheist and Animist. The phrase has always been misleading. Sometimes I call myself a Heathen. Sometimes I call myself Vanatru. Sometimes I call myself a Neopagan Animist. All of these are true, and all of these are somewhat misleading. I am not just a Heathen, I am also Druidic. I am not just Vanatru, I am Celtoi-Norse. I am not just Celtoi-Norse, I believe in multiple pantheons, each their own set of spirits, each with their own personalities, desires, and agendas. I have worked with Apollo, with Zeus, with Veles, with Thor, with Nit, with Wepwawet, with Djehuti. I have worked with other Pagans who worked with Kuan Yin, Tsukuyomi, and Astarte. While I have, up to this point, considered myself primarily a Northern Germanic practitioner with Celtic leanings, I have done things and helped out in ways that I could probably be considered a member of any of a number of religions within the Pagan umbrella, as well as Gnosticism.
I’m not good with keeping a journal, and a year’s hiatus from a blog that was supposed to chronicle my on-going journey shows that flaw in my practice. I love to write, but some days, the words to put to pen seem to escape me. Like anyone, I have work and projects that attract and even demand my attention. So allow me to start by stating that while the changes chronicled in this post may seem sudden, they are the product of a year of confusion, research, practice, and change.
Been a while since I have posted to this blog, been a busy year. Haven’t really had access to this particular blog for a while. Hmm, need to finish the Virtues posts…
Inspired by this post on the New Civil Rights movement site.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a straight ally of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. A friend of mine posted the above link to her Facebook, and at first, it was simply another in a series of pastors bashing gays for being gay, and trying to come up with reasons and excuses for why they should not have the right to marry, or even in some cases the right to live. Then it took a turn, and I decided that I wanted to rant.
There is often an assumption from outside observers that Neopagans are nothing but hedonistic freaks, willing to indulge any desire or participate in any depravity they wish. We are often portrayed as crazy or even criminal. One of the first questions I’m asked when I tell people I’m Pagan (as opposed to saying “heathen” or “animist”, to which people say, “Huh?”) is, “Do you sacrifice animals?” Sometimes they’ll even follow up with, “You don’t sacrifice people, do you?” I deal with some real winners in life, let me tell you.
The fact is, while Pagans tend to be a little more lax when it comes to bedroom etiquette, this doesn’t make us necessarily hedonistic or immoral. No, we do not sacrifice people, and most of us do not sacrifice animals. There are groups that do, but they do so cleanly and respectfully (we’ll touch on this in a later post). In general, we Pagans are much like those of other religions: we go to work, work hard, come home, tend to families and friends, go to worship services (like others go to church or temple), and simply live. Our values are somewhat different, but as we are recreating our religions in modern society, our religions include values that are quite compatible with that society.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Pagan values and more mainstream ones is that many in our community tend to emphasize virtue rather than discouraging vice. That which one should not do is often seen as something relegated to society, to government or to its laws, and we focus instead on what we should do, what is right to do. This is a view we certainly have worked hard to cultivate in Neopagan Animism.
The concept of world view is important in Paganism of most stripes, because we have so many different world views represented within the Pagan umbrella of religions. From Celtic Reconstructionism to Asatru to Wicca, the world view of the adherents strongly shapes their practice. We have already seen examples of this in Neopagan Animism, chronicled in previous posts, yet we have not defined what a world view is or how it affects what we do.
Broken down, a world view is very simply an understanding of how the world is composed and how it works. In short, it is how the adherent views the world. Simple, no? Yet the concept stretches as far as the concept of *ghosti, to touch on and influence every aspect of one’s practice.
“What is a God?” This is a question that is important to ask in any deific religion. “What is a Spirit?” In any animistic tradition, it is good to define this as early as possible. “What is an Ancestor?” In any religion that recognizes and honors those who have passed, this is a worthwhile question to ask in the earliest stages of discovery.
“What is a God?” We have been hinting at the Gods’ existence since part 1. We have sheaves and sheaves of notes and chronicles of the Gods that populated Europe before Christianity. Of course, most of those were chronicled by Christians after the fact, but we’ll get into that later when we talk more about lore. We have some idea of what the Gods were viewed as, especially considering most of them are portrayed as often in, er, compromising situations as in virtuous ones. We have some idea as to the power some gods were viewed to have, such as the lightning of Zeus and Thor’s Mjöllnir hammer, or the shape-shifting powers of Gwydion, Loki, and Artemis. But what is a God?
We can speculate until the end of time at what our ancestors conceived a God or Goddess to be; the fact is, we will never know, because we have no unbroken line of practice and worship back to that time. Let me say that again:
We have no unbroken line of practice and/or worship back to Pre-Christian times.
We have traditions, sure. We have old poems and half-remembered charms, certainly. We even have full sets of spells and incantations that come to us from that ancient world. However, we do not have anything that is untainted by the religion that conquered and superseded it. Christianity warped and changed much of the ancient views of religion, and even those that practiced both Christian and Pagan ways could not stem that tide completely. In the same manner, Pagan ways did influence and change Catholic religion, though that influence was much more subtle. As an aside, anyone claiming an unbroken line back to Pre-Christian times is likely lying, misinformed, or misrepresenting their tradition. So we have no certain way of knowing what exactly the ancients thought the Gods and Goddesses were.