So is being a Pagan a Religion or a Faith? Is it both or only a path to something else? There may never be a complete answer for these questions but I do believe we need to take a more open look at ourselves and others around us. To place judgment on others is just as bad when they place judgment on us. Pagan of this day means not belonging to a main stream religion yet we are looking to be excepted as such. Are we defined by these words or are we defined by our faith?
For myself, I want to know what my ancestors believed and I want to know what forms their devotion to the Gods and Goddess took. I want to adapt those beliefs and those practices to the modern world. Then of course one may ask then how do we do such in today’s modern world? I think we have to be reasonable and accept that there have to be some adjustments made. We no longer have access to temples, sacred groves and public spaces. This is one of the ways in which our modern world has changed and is no longer conducive to ancient practice. For us practicing our religion outside the norm, we face persecution if we do so publicly. We can't recapture the past in its entirety with all its beliefs and practices, and translate them completely into the present. We have to make do with what we have, and this will include introduction of some things our ancestors were unfamiliar with and adoption of others so that they fit into the modern world. For example, we will see very little animal sacrifice today. We simply haven't the means to carry on with this ancient practice. We would almost be better off going to our local grocery store and giving thanks there, then such sacrifice. So then what should we do you ask?
Sacrifice in other ways. In ancient times sacrifice was a way to show thanks for what was given to them. "The surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim." When you pour out the wine to the earth what are you really giving up? Customs and traditions of our ancestors are no longer relevant. For better or worse, their world is gone. We must find a new way to honor the Gods and Goddesses. Paganism is a modern religion with links to a past with borrowed concepts and practices from many spirituality paths. We owe it to ourselves and our children not to miss inform them , but to guide them on a path of true spiritualism and religion of faith. We can not deny any other deity any more then we can expect all of our own. How can we argue a belief and denounce another in the same breath?
There is a greater power at work beyond any understanding of a mere mortal. "God" is accepted as being all around us. In the Earth, trees, and water. It is there whether we call it God, Mother Earth , Isis, Bridget, Odin or any other God or Goddess name. Jesus walked the earth just as these others did. We are all children of the God and Goddess in one form or another. Most have forgotten how to tap into that power like Jesus did. It is the church that has corrupted the story and has "demanded" their way or else. We must look truly at ourselves and within to find that which has been lost. To truly be Pagan must we reconstruct the truth of what our ancestors really did? Or is it time to redevelop a path for an ever changing world? Many of us are looking for the freedom to personally delve into the mysteries of the divine and find our own answers. No central authority exists or any official bible. Experiences from others in myth legend and stories can help us find our ways but ultimately we follow our individual paths that we find true to ourselves.
What we believe has a significant influence on what we do. If we believe in justice, we are much more likely to act in behalf of justice. If we believe there is hope for this life, that belief will influence what we do and how we plan for the future. What we believe not only influences us, it influences our children and society. For my purposes here, I assume that what we believe does matter. Thus work on building your own theology. Do not depend on one source for wisdom and inspiration, and do not have a one-dimensional theology. Regarding sources for wisdom and inspiration, dip your bucket in as many currents of the spiritual and philosophical stream as you want. Sample what is offered by all the major religions and never feel compelled to draw from just one source. But with all that said, let me encourage you to eventually settle in with one primary tradition and to drink deeply, though not exclusively, from that well. Which religious tradition you choose as primary is a matter of personal preference. What is important is that you eventually find, or create for yourself, a religious tradition that gives you an adequate sense of religious identity, that helps you make meaning of life, and gives you a sense of a spiritual root.
Experiences from others in myth legend and stories can help us find our ways but ultimately we follow our individual paths that we find true to ourselves. Being polytheist we acknowledge other points of view without judging or persecuting we have endured in the past. Each path contains a different focus. None are completely right or wrong but are correct for the individual at a certain time in life. Religion, as a living transforming process, is alive in the forest and oceans, working for the healing of the earth. It is alive in the whole human family, working for the healing and reconciliation of our global village. Religion is alive in each of us, working to bring us into conscious awareness of our indivisible union with this one indivisible life. Be humble enough to stay open to new ideas, new realities, new paradigms, but have faith enough to follow with conviction your own reason and conscience. We all have faith one way or another even in our darkest times when we think there is not, is this not a faith of the worse? The simplest of definitions, and simplest of facts , faith starts with yourself. Faith is the acceptance of that which we imagine to be true, that which we cannot prove.
The crusher of dreams is our own self doubt. The true power is your belief in yourself. Find that path to this truth and then you will find your answers. Then you can look to the world about you and hear what it has to teach. If you can not hear yourself how do expect to hear anything else? Are we just listening but not hearing? Are we looking but not seeing? Are we touching but not feeling? Are we being honest with ourselves? We walk down this path of Paganism in hopes to find the answers at the end of the path. Yet such a path will never have an end. Such a journey, of research and development is an on going path with no end insight. Such is not suppose to be a feeling of never reaching a goal but to know you will always have a journey ahead of you. For such a path of growth and learning is never ending. Tear down your walls, look to your heart , mind and soul. Accept yourself for what you are, what you were and what you can become. In the end you will find no end but a path of greatness.
I never wished to preach a "religion" here. So much has been lost to the winds of history that such a "truth" may never be understood again. What I have tried to instill in you was an outline for you to use on your path for what ever that may be. I do believe Wiccan or any other religious path would be able to take these basic principles and fill in what is important to them. We are all part of this world no matter what we believe and what we do. Yet what we do contributes to this world and it is up to you to decided what you will give it. Religion is just one of many pieces that make us what we are. Society plays a large roll along with family and all other of the "influences" we are subject to. What we decided to do with it all is the truth inside us that must be found. I do not denounce any other beliefs or religions because anything is possible and just maybe they are a piece to this larger puzzle. I only wish not to be told this way or the highway. There are many differences and there are many similarities if we take the time to look. If we all find that common ground would not this world be just a little better place? Find your truth.. legend.. myth.. god.. gods.. goddess.. books and family traditions are all tools we can use to find that which we seek so desperately, answers to the questions we ask. Will we listen or ignore and continue to be lost? No matter the path taken , chosen or given, what truly matters is that you are happy and it helps fulfill yourself.
What does it mean to be Pagan in the 21st century? Well for many it means our "garden" is a potted plant sitting on our balcony. That between work and the family our "own" time consists of surfing the net or just sleeping. The closest wild life is the pigeon that pooped on your car last night. This "modern" world has separated us from the earth we so cherish and worship. This concrete world disconnects us from it and from each other. In this modern world I never have to leave the house to "connect" with millions yet never actually touch them. We no long have the village to rely on and the "priest/ess" to go to for our spiritual needs. Before you brought offering to them , (goat, corn, wine etc.) and they spent the time to do ritual and communicating with God and Goddess for us. Then we all came together and had a celebration.
A 21st century Pagan must find a new connection. Must be able to find their place in society and contribute to it positively. One must find was to improve them selves and the world around them. Believe in your own truth and acknowledge others truth as being theirs.
This is when it is time to listen to your inner voice, and decide the truth for yourself. This is a truth that only you know, and no one can ever take away.
Knowledge is the compass
Did you find your way?