A bit of a conversation


Last January, I had an in-depth email conversation with a woman who came across one of my older websites. She was very intelligent and articulate, and I really enjoyed our discussions. I am going to post part of it, possibly more in the future, because I want to share two things. First, I want others who go through questions and experiences like this lady did to know that they are not alone, and second, to provide a clear and concise way to frame my own response and advice that I gave to her, as well as my explanation on these topics in general.

The letters are unchanged from their original format (including typos and misspellings) and I have removed her name to protect her privacy. I have never met this woman in person, nor spoken to her in any format other than these emails. I hope she is doing well and continuing in her search for what she seeks.

This is not the first letter or first response, so it might seem a bit confusing. Try to go with the points expressed and the concepts discussed rather than focusing on the fact that this conversation picks up somewhere in the middle of our discussion. She’s blue, I’m black.

I just thought of another reason why I never connected with Jesus. He was a wimp! He’s just letting people condemn him to die, and the best defense he can come up with is, “I can’t do anything about it?” If he was so big and bad, why didn’t he convince people to let him off? If it’d been me, I’d be kicking and screaming “I didn’t do it!” And he just lets people execute him, and he’s like, “forgive them for they know not what they do” like they’re a bunch of kindergartners who don’t know right from wrong and must be pardoned.

That’s why I must respectfully disagree with you on the forgiveness deal. I have a major problem with somebody hurting you and you just forgive them to heal yourself (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt). So all your anger is gone, the perpetraitor gets off scott-free and there’s no such thing as evil or punishment? You know how unfair that is? Are you kidding me? You really support that?

How about, “this action was wrong and the only way you’ll be forgiven is if you show true, authentic, genuine remorse?” Because you need to know that hurting others is just reprehensible. Look at the number of criminals who are forgiven (in a way) and let out of jail on good behavior. And they commit the same crime again, no matter how many victims heal themselves by so-called forgiveness.

I wouldn’t mind so much if there was some kind of universal law that said evildoers-must-be-punished-by-suffering-negative-consequences-until-they-are-remorseful but I haven’t seen any karmic justice enacted on earth, in my experience. I just think this whole new-age thing of “blame the victim” is backwards. Dr. Phil’s like, “forgive and if the perpetraitor receives a windfall of good fortune, oh well.” So you’re saying “life is unfair and forgive everyone and they’re not gonna have to answer to you or pay for what they’ve done to you?”

That’s the beef I have with the big JC. And on top of that, he’s like, “you all must suffer as I have suffered, and be glad of it, and I am a martyr because I will die for you.”

No way!!!

I talk to Morgan le Fay, not the Irish Morrighan, by the way. I knew they were drastically different because I just felt it. Had to put up with Pagans who ensinuated or implied I was wrong because it didn’t fit with the lore. I don’t listen to any lore.

The last spiritual experience I can remember was at a druid ritual a few years ago. A bunch of people went up to make an oath to the earth, and I didn’t want to be left out even though the oath was contrary to my heart’s desire. I mumbled along with the rest of the crowd, when all of a sudden, on the last syllable of the last word of the oath, it was like my tongue froze and I could not finish, which in turn prevented me from making an irreversible promise. I’m glad my entities were there. Wish I knew which one of them it was.

They helped me begin my long climb out of the new-age movement also. If you’ve never been involved with it, don’t start. It screws with your mind in ways you wouldn’t even begin to comprehend. I forgot about the indigos/crystals/starseeds/walk-ins. Let’s not forgot the new-age podcast I used to listen to. Turned me into a robotic zombie. Now I’m sleeping on a regular schedule again and I can function with a gradually clear head in my daily activities. I could function before, but my mind wasn’t on the task at hand (which is weird cause they insist you do exactly the opposite), and I kept trying to apply new-age concept into the mold of real life. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. You are extremely lucky never to have gotten involved in such things.

I’m glad to be out after 5 years. Now that’s freedom!
-A

Hello again, A!

I guess I wasn’t very clear before. 🙂 I’ll just start with: I classify my beliefs/religion as Pagan Religious Witchcraft. Sometimes I use the term Wicca when such is necessary, mostly because Wicca is the legally recognized name for Religious Witchcraft and I’ve had to rely on that for various instances in my life, but in general, it’s not my go-to definition. I’ve studied with and trained under various different Pagan traditions and Wiccan organizations, but what I do myself, what I teach, and what I hope to pass on to future students as a tradition is my own creation. So, here comes the standard disclaimer that I’m not speaking for all Witches, Wiccans, Pagans, etc.

The whole Jesus thing gets into a theology I don’t practice, so there’s not really much I have to say on it other than I get what he was doing or saying. I don’t follow a belief system dealing with sin or salvation, so to me he’s a teacher and humanitarian. He did what he had to do. Not my thing either, but I can respect him for it. I understood a lot more about Jesus when I worked with a Buddhist, I’ll just say that.

I never said anything about not seeking justice or punishment for wrongs committed. I just said that forgiveness isn’t for the sake of the wrong-doer, but for the sake of the one harmed. The idea that forgiveness should be withheld until the perpetrator shows remorse is kind of pointless. Nine times out of ten, they won’t care if they are forgiven or not. So it’s a fallacy to think that it permits the victim to have some sort of power over them by not forgiving them. The perpetrator isn’t the one suffering in this case. It is the victim who holds onto this pain. If they don’t feel guilty, then what would it matter that the one they harmed won’t forgive them? No skin off their teeth. If they do feel guilty, then forgiveness is nice, but it won’t really absolve them of those emotions. Guilt doesn’t go away just because the victim says they forgive you. If guilt and remorse are truly felt, then forgiveness is nice, but again, kind of pointless for the person being forgiven. So, again, it’s for the victim’s well being, not the perpetrator’s.

The bigger picture I think is that we don’t always know everything about what’s going on. Not saying that it’s an excuse for the behavior performed, but I do think there are patterns at work in life and while there is some wiggle room, fate does exist to an extent. It could be the wrong-doer’s purpose to have committed the action they did, when weighed on the cosmic scale of things. So, in situations like that, it’s not really about personal justice or seeing the perpetrator get what’s coming to them. You or I may have to settle with never knowing if they got what they deserved. I think that hope and belief in hell is partially (a large part) born out of humanity’s need for justice and fairness. Since life doesn’t always seem to give it, somewhere the balance has to be made… so if not in life, then after life. Maybe… Maybe not. My mind changes depending on the circumstances and I don’t have a solid viewpoint one way or the other. I take each situation as it arises and try to make the best decision I can, like whether to cast a hex or curse, pray for justice, or simply let it go.

Also, justice and retribution aren’t necessarily tied to forgiveness. I still seek justice and retribution for wrongs that have been committed. I offer forgiveness once I’ve worked through the anger to the point I can do so and be sincere, and I never said that the person who harmed me or someone under my protection gets off scott-free. Nature is red in tooth and claw, and so am I.

I’ll digress a moment to explain that a bit more.

Most of the Pagan community doesn’t really understand what the “Wiccan Rede” actually says or means. They think that it means one cannot do harm. For beginners this is the safest mentality to have, and I’ll always encourage it in new students of mine because it keeps their backsides out of hot water. Though a the commonly touted interpretation of this phrase has two things wrong with it. First, it is impossible to come up with an objective definition of harm that permits us to exist as reasonable, healthy, functioning human beings because we don’t exist on happy thoughts and don’t survive by eating air. Everything you do can be interpreted to mean harm for someone or something else. Second, the Rede (which means ‘advice’ not ‘law’) says, An it harm none, do what ye will. Meaning: If no one is harmed, you are free to perform your chosen action. On a deeper level, it involves what is known as the Will (specifically with a capital ‘W’) — meaning your higher purpose or the calling you have in your life, but that’s another topic entirely. What it DOES NOT say, though, is anything about what to do or not do if an action DOES cause harm. There is nothing in the rede that forbids harmful action. That is where your own personal judgement and acceptance of personal responsibility comes in. Witchcraft doesn’t rely on a system of strict ‘do’s and don’t’s. It expects you to study, be mature, weigh all things considered, and act accordingly, always with a mindful attitude and a commitment to accept the consequences of your actions. No running off to God/Jesus and asking forgiveness cause you messed up. You did it, now you deal with it. If you think a curse or hex is justified and perform it, that’s on you. It’s your responsibility to deal with it and with whatever actions result from it. No ‘three times bad will come back on you if you do such-and-such…’ neither will three times good happen to you if you are all sunshine and unicorn farts all the time. You make your own reality, yes, but you also have to exist in the one made by others. The goal is to find balance — something new-agers fail to conceptualize completely.

Anyway, back to the original topic. Forgiveness is not an instant cure that makes all the anger suddenly evaporate. Anger must be worked through like any other part of life. However, I can say from personal experience in my own life that when I employed forgiveness, I experienced the difference and was able to heal from it because I no longer had to feel the emotion bound to the hurt. It doesn’t erase what happened, that would be a very naive concept, but it does permit the ability to look back on the experience without revisiting the pain or other feelings brought about by the harm that was done.

The whole concept of hell as a punishment was always a laughable cop-out to me (according to Christian tradition) because it was all based on getting God’s forgiveness and had nothing to do with the act or acts that were performed. You could be the most vile, reprehensible being on the planet, but if you asked God to make it all go away, you were golden. So I also don’t really believe that punishment for wrong-doing happens in the afterlife — thus the absence or lack of a need for hell for evil people. I don’t particularly follow what is commonly thought of in the New Age community as Karma either — because like I said before, it’s grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted outside of Buddhist and Hindu belief. I understand their version of it, the real version, and think it makes more sense. Karma (or what people in the west think of as karma came around because of Victorian England’s occult community’s fascination with all things Indian. It was the crown jewel in her majesty’s empire, so what Brit worth their teacup wouldn’t want to know what was being done over there? It has no real place in my own beliefs, so it’s not my thing.

Good and evil are subjective and based on intention, they aren’t opposite of one another, but points on an ongoing scale. Murder — the willful taking of another human life — is considered evil. But what about when it’s not, depending on circumstances like self-defense for yourself or your loved ones? Everything has to be weighed and measured and personal responsibility taken for it.

Courage is a virtue, but too much courage makes you foolhardy, too little makes you a coward. It’s only a good thing, a healthy quality, if it exists in balance between those extremes. Likewise, if a wrong is done and if you believe an action is justified, then you accept the consequences for performing it. Consequences might not be a reward or punishment in after you die, just as you might not see direct results in the immediate future. What matters is your intention and your responsibility in what you are doing. Anything taken to one extreme or another can be good or evil — it’s only when such exists in balance, in the middle, that it can truly be helpful or beneficial.

Life is unfair. You aren’t guaranteed to get good things for being a good person. You aren’t necessarily destined for misery if you’re an asshole. People who have to have that sort of outlook — either that some beneficient and gregarious deity loves them and watches over them all the time, or that they can think happy-happy-joy-joy thoughts into winning the lottery or losing 20 pounds are operating outside of rational understanding. Sometimes it works like that, but it’s random enough to be considered either good luck or bad luck. Life is life. That’s why the Gods have given Witches the gift of magic to even out the playing field a bit, bend things one way or another as needed, and seek our own health and happiness.

My spiritual purpose or identity or whatever you want to call it isn’t based on being enlightened, achieving higher states of being, nirvana, or whatever. I don’t even necessarily consider myself a spiritual person or have a solid use for that phrase. If enlightenment or spirituality happens to me, it’s more of an after-effect brought on by doing what I do, but it isn’t the purpose or goal. My personal code is one of honor, intelligence, honesty, knowledge, and personal responsibility. My goal is education of and service to the Gods. If that aligns with ‘raising the planet’s vibrations’ well, good. If not, not really my problem, I do what I do and I’m happy and good at it.

I’m a Witch because I embrace a system of belief that sees this life and this world as sacred. I enjoy laughter, good food, music, dancing, the touch of my lover, the deliciousness of a really good Scotch or wine as it passes my lips, the feel of the sun on my skin or the wind as it blows through my hair. I’m a Witch because all of these things resonate with me and connect me to what I personally know to be divine. I understand and work magic. Not as a slight of hand or some fantasy performance, but because I understand and accept that on the very lowest (or highest) level, everything is made of energy and as long as that energy is moved in accordance with Nature (because nothing can exist or operate apart from Nature) that I can make things happen that often seem to be coincidence, but that I know goes deeper than that. I got into this path through studying history and science. I’d been fortunate to have always had a knack for Witchcraft, but didn’t know there was such a thing still practiced and understood, so the new-age stuff never really had any allure for me. I consider the path of the Witch to be the Walker Between the Worlds — that means, one foot in the mundane and one in the magical. I prefer to be grounded, not spacey, which is what most new-age things come across to me as. Thankfully, you made it out of the new-age claptrap.

When you participated in the Druidic ceremony with the oath taking… well, that doesn’t seem like it was handled the most responsibly on the part of the folks running it, if you ask me. An oath is a serious deal, and it was wise of you to clam up and not take it if you truly didn’t feel like you should. Good on your guardians in that case as well having the will to help you hold your tongue. Including an oath in what I presume to have been a public ceremony was something nice on paper, but not really the best idea. I would say that’s definitely an indication of some strong stuff and you should continue to go with that. I’d also suggest not throwing out lore, but you don’t have to follow it word-for-word as infallible doctrine either. Morrighan isn’t just Irish, and Morgan’s got deeper roots than Arthur. Like I said, they aren’t one-in-the-same, but they aren’t totally separate either. Keep talking to her. She seems to have an eye on you already.

Also, there’s a lesson that I give my students fairly early on when they study with me and I think it may be of some benefit to you with getting your own path and such defined. It comes from a woman named Judy Harrow, an elder high priestess who has written several books. This one comes from her book Spiritual Mentoring: A Pagan Guide:

On a sheet of paper, draw an outline of an equilateral triangle, then color it in. Make one point red, one blue, and one yellow. I recommend colored pencils. Blend the colors smoothly through the triangle area. Date the place where you feel you belong right now. Remember that no location within the triangle is holier or more accurate than any other; anywhere you place yourself is okay. Keep this sheet in your journal. Record your position again periodically, perhaps once a month. Notice how much your perceptions change over time. Try to identify the reasons for your changes. Here’s what the colors mean —

Red: The first of these endpoints is the orthodox deist position: the gods are personal, named, individual entities with whom one can communicate almost as one would with human beings. They may or may not be human-like. They exist in a way (“level”, “plane”, or “dimension”) that is far beyond human comprehension but their existence is objectively verifiable.
Blue: Deity exists. It is the Ultimate Sacred/Great Mystery/Source. It is so great, so subtle, so all-encompassing, that we cannot hope to comprehend more than a tiny fraction of it. Being ourselves human, we relate best to things that are human-like, and so we have “the gods”: human-like metaphors or masks that we place upon the faceless Face of the Ultimate, so that through them we can perceive and relate to a little of It.
Yellow: The gods exist only as constructs within the human mind and imagination. They are Truths—valid ways of making sense out of human thought and experience, personifications of abstracts that might otherwise be too slippery for the human mind to grasp—but they are not Facts; they have no objectively verifiable existence. Like other abstracts (e.g. Freedom, Democracy, Love, Truth), they enrich our lives and are worth believing in, but it is naïve to think that they have any objectively verifiable existence. It doesn’t matter that the gods aren’t factual; they’re true, and that’s what’s important.

If you feel like you’re a blend of the red point and blue point, make your mark somewhere in the purple, and so on. Do this exercise and keep it for a month, then do it again and see if your views have changed. I’ve been practicing Paganism and Witchcraft for almost 20 years and I can tell you that my own mark has moved all around the triangle, sometimes within the same day it will bounce back and forth, depending on how skeptical or experiential my thought patterns are. At various times in my life, I’ve felt more yellow in my connection with the gods, other times, more red. It’s an interesting exercise and will also allow you to permit yourself to have your mind change. You may or may not be suited to Pagan practices or traditions, so this will hopefully serve as a step in knowing yourself, which is what the root of all religion and spirituality stuff is about anyway. 🙂

At this portion, I am posting only my response to her, because I included the relevant parts of her email in my reply to specifically address what she asked about or spoke of. Her portions will be italic and blue, mine will be standard and black.

Thanks so much for clearing that up!

 I think the forgiveness thing where people seem to get off and it’s all about the victim healing themselves really does come from the new-age. Your version really does make more sense, so that clears it up a bit. The only qualm I have with personal responsibility (and yes, it’s a nice concept) is that your constantly correcting yourself, or suffering negative consequences (even unintentional ones), and that can get tiring after awhile. For example, let’s say you feel a curse is justified. Fine. But let’s say that unintentional negative consequences result from you having cast that curse. Your taking the heat is all well and good, but see what I mean? You’re constantly doing that.

 

In other words, there’s no successful “okay, you’re in balance.” You do a spell and there’s no negative consequences kinda thing. It’s like whatever you do, you’re gonna make a mistake anyway. You just get to a point where you’re tired of feeling negative consequences and you just want to do something, not right exactly but, something where you do an action, and no unpleasant consequences arise from it.

 

It’s like balance is this concept that you’re constantly striving for but you’ll never achieve. It kinda reminds me of being Christ-like, something (the church says anyway), that you’ll never achieve, but we don’t expect you to be perfect, just keep striving and we’ll keep correcting you.

Hmmm…

 

Who says balance is impossible? Life is a state of constant flux, but that’s life. Balance is a goal, and may seem ‘unreachable’, because that’s because life changes all the time, not because a person ‘fails’ at keeping balance. It’s being mindful of your life, being an active participant instead of a passive observer. It’s taking action. Sometimes you get tired, or frustrated, or lazy, or apathetic, but that’s not failure, it’s human. You just work around it and when you get your feet again, you keep going. It’s got nothing really to do with deity. It’s just accepting and understanding and working with the human condition.

I say, if you’re going to give us something to achieve, don’t make it exceedingly difficult to impossible. Give us something we could easily accomplish. I take piano lessons, and my teacher gives me small pieces that are easily playable, slightly challenging, and quickly learnable. That’s what I wish religion/spirituality would do.

 

Course, if they did that and we accomplished what religion/spirituality set us, we wouldn’t need it anymore. We wouldn’t need to buy books or practice rituals or anything. Maybe that’s why it seems so hard, so people will stay there and keep coming back for more?

Then that’s what your religion or spirituality or practice should be about. No one says you have to take off more than you can chew. Somewhere in the bible (I can’t quote book, chapter, and verse) but it says: “Let there be milk for babes and meat for men.” in regard to spiritual practice or a relationship with God. Everyone starts where they are. Don’t compare yourself with others, because you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives. The person you see being uber-religious and deeply spiritual might be struggling with it and they just make it look easy.

In music, the goal is generally to be the best musician you can be, and in the competitive world surrounding music, it’s to be the best musician there is.  So, you work at it. You learn the music, the technique, you try to take the piece and play it with heart so that it doesn’t sound mechanical… It’s the same thing. It’s a goal of always practicing and improving because the practice and improvement is the reward itself. You do music because you love music, it is its own reward and because you love it, and love the feeling it gives you, even when a piece is frustrating the hell out of you, you keep doing it. Spirituality should be like that. Not everyone feels that way about religious practice, and not everyone should. That’s the point of us all being individual. Some people get that fulfillment out of science, others out of humanitarian efforts, sports, others out of cooking, etc. You find whatever gives you that fulfillment, and that in essence becomes your spiritual practice. Because it is what makes you happy and happiness is food for the spirit.

I had an interesting thought. I was sitting there, thinking of Brigid a few years ago, when all of a sudden I got this, “How do you think it makes you feel when you see people dancing around, praising you, offering things to you, singing songs and writing poetry/stories about or for you, all in your name and saying how great you are as some primal, primitive or triple force?”

 

I thought, “that would make me feel akward. You don’t need to do that for me.”

 

And I got “Brigid says, that’s how I feel.”

 

And I thought, religion/spirituality, whatever branch it is, is about the people, not the gods. It is for you. You *think* that’s what the gods want, that’s all. Maybe there are some egotistical deities out there who claim to need it or want it, or subtly guilt people into doing it by saying, “look at what nature does for you, don’t you want to give something back? Isn’t it only right and fair thing to do? (ensinuating that if you don’t think so, you’re wrong or should want to think like they do.) And ritual is just a combination of words/actions/songs/stories, in a certain order depending on the system you’re in, with props. You say or do certain things at certain times and the purpose is to have a transformative effect. But, my mind said, it is not for us. It is for you. We don’t need that. You just think we do.

Yup 🙂 Different gods want different things, and even between their devotees, they want different things from person A than they expect or desire from person B. It’s all subjective. Ritual is for the benefit of the person or group mostly, because it serves to provide a connection they can experience between themselves and deity. It’s been my experience that deities like to be acknowledged, but they don’t always have the same sort of desire for that acknowledgement in the same way.

A Brigid devotee and I were chatting, and I accidentally said that, and she got really mean. How could you say that, what are you talking about, and other rants I can’t remember. But she was thinking of leaving Paganism, too. She did, and is now new-age.

Maybe between she and Brigid, that’s what the relationship was like. I think if that’s the case, she didn’t understand that Brigid could want one thing from her and a different thing from you. Or maybe she kept carrying spiritual baggage from whatever religion she was in before embracing Paganism. Devotion to the gods in Paganism doesn’t necessarily mean ‘worship’ or doesn’t mean it in the same context that Christians worship their God. But Brigid could have been like, “Okay, that’s what you’re familiar with when you come to a God, so we’ll go with it.” It’s hard to say what was going on in that relationship. I hope she’s healthy and happy with whatever she’s got going on now.

I was doing great for about 6 months. Then something happened, and I slipped back into new-age again. Much longer climb out, where the first time it had been an overnight decision.

This may end up being an ongoing influence in your life that you’ll have to work through. It could be like an addictive behavior that gets revisited at different times. Not impossible, but something you’ll have to be aware of.

I loved learning about history certain periods in history, and I thought I might enjoy Druidry (they value scholarship, but they’re earthy too, and it’s scholarship of a different kind that my interests.) Anyway, just the sheer of people practicing their Pagan religion (even if they said they just lived their daily life, it was this separate entity that they set aside time for) made me think, maybe I should be doing something like that, even if I don’t want to. Maybe my entities will think me less spiritual unless I start a practice. Maybe they think me that way now, and are just too nice to say anything about it. All based on that reaction of that devotee, and the reactions of other Pagans who were *gasp* “you don’t practice? How dare you call yourself religious/spiritual! You’re just a dabbler/fluffy-bunny. The deities say religion is for them, we have to practice it.”

So I was like, okay. Whatever. People say you can have wisdom at any age, and then when you say something they don’t like, they jump all over you for it. Instead of saying, “I’ve never thought religion/spirituality weren’t needed before. I always thought it was an integral part of life, but maybe the gods don’t truly want us to do it. I will have to think about that. Wow, where did you come up with that? That is incredible.”

Instead, I get the condescending “that’s interesting.” thing. But you know people are never gonna exploe it. If they did, it’d be like a whole house of cards coming down.

People are people. Being a Pagan doesn’t automatically grant you some vast maturity and grasp of all things in the universe. It just means that you have this particular way of touching that elusive feeling of ‘a-ha’ that is a bit different from Christianity, or Buddhism, or Islam, or Shinto, or…

I know some extremely intelligent Pagans who still make a muck of things every now and then. I know some Christians who have such a solid grasp of the humanity of Jesus as well as his divinity that some of their compatriots are certain they’re going to hell on roller blades. You have to start looking at people as individuals and not necessarily as ‘representatives of this or that faith’. Maybe they’ve only read a single book. Maybe they’ve been to three rituals but were worried about who would see them there, so they wanted to act like they ‘got it’ so that the hot girl or guy next to them would be impressed. Maybe they’re a genuine seeker, trying things out and not sure where they fit in with all this, so if they get asked questions, they want to give the best answer they can, but really don’t understand what they’re doing, they just know that at this moment in their lives, it’s what they should be doing. Maybe they’ve studied and practiced for years and years and have a solid understanding on their own, but suck at being able to effectively communicate that understanding to others — in other words, the ‘teacher gene’ is totally absent in them and they come across as a condescending twit. It happens in all practices. Pagans aren’t immune because we have this messy thing called ‘life’ that we’re all trying to figure out.

The only feeling I got from Morgan in dreams is that she was an Avalonian healer, very, very different from deity to me. I never saw her as the primal, primitive goddess that so many make her out to be, with deep prehistoric roots and all that.

She was just a healer, just a regular woman. Maybe she was a fairy at one time, but that’s it. She’s just a person, like me. Everyone has roots, if you think about it, even humans.

Yup 🙂 But think of this too — is Avalon a real place in the physical world? It gets equated a lot with Glastonbury Tor, but is that where it is? Avalon means ‘isle of apples’ and in Welsh mythology, Ynys Afallon is another name for the Otherworld. Myths aren’t meant to be taken literally. They are a collective weaving of the story of humanity. This is what I mean by Morgan’s tale being older than Avalon and why I say Morrighan isn’t just Irish.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t a Welsh healer at some point in history named Morgan who was renowned for her skill and ability and maybe that’s the Morgan that became part of the Arthurian legends and mythos. But there is also a goddess named Morgan who comes from the sea… maybe the Arthurian Morgan is a blend of these two… It’s unknown where history ends and legend begins or vice versa. The value is in the story, not in the history.

It’s interesting that when I was researching which person to hang around with, I was never attracted to the Morrighan. Of course, her followers say she’s misunderstood in a “don’t be afraid but she’ll turn your life upside down. Isn’t it wonderful?” (no) kinda way. She was too warlike for me. She’s one of those popular rock-star deities among Pagan message boards and blogs.

I think it’s safe to say that is accurate, but here’s the rub — she’s misunderstood by Pagans more than she’s misunderstood by non-Pagans. Non-Pagans aren’t the ones who deal with her, so it doesn’t matter if they don’t know what she is and what she’s about, right? 🙂 Yes, she is a war goddess, but she’s also a magic worker, an enchantress, a seductress, and one who ensures the continuity of life because at Samhain, she makes love to the Dagda (a fatherly god in the Irish Pantheon)

Do you know how I have my “that’s it!” moments when it comes to spirits? I read a book and there name pops out at me. I was reading a children’s catalog, and her name popped out at me. It seemed so… gentle somehow, I can’t explain it. Something about the name on the page made me go, “yeah, that’s it.”

 

In reading about other entities, including Athena/Morrighan/Artimus/Hecate/etc. I just glossed over them. No connection, never felt anything from those names. They’re incredibly popular figures in Pagan circles as well.

 

I got the same “I like name from Gwydion and Brigid” as well. But a druid said, “Gwydion is this. Look, he’s so much older, look at the similarities, they couldn’t possibly be different!” But I felt that Gwydion *was* different. I can’t remember who the figure he was different from was. It was another of those Morgan/Morrighan things where I saw striking differences, to the point where they weren’t even remotely related or similar.

All of the gods are much more than a list of attributes. Morrighan is more than a war goddess, Aphrodite is more than a love goddess, Athena is more than a warrior goddess of strategy and wisdom. Athena is also a goddess of healing — but you rarely hear that part talked about. These are just a couple examples using the deities who are popular. Some people really resonate with one aspect or attribute of a deity more than another, or they resonate with a god or goddess associated with something, but not with another culture’s god or goddess associated with that same thing.

Brigid has many associations. One person may latch onto her fire and forge attributes because they work in a car manufacturing plant. Another may latch on to her healer attributes because they are a doctor or nurse. Another may latch onto her attributes as a goddess of inspiration and poetry because they are a writer. It goes on and on. The problem is when the follower of Brigid’s forge butts heads with the devotee of Brigid the healer and thinks that she is what they see and not what the other experiences. Or that because she wants worship and offerings from them, she must want that from everyone she works with — otherwise, why do THEY have to do all that? It devalues their connection if it’s not the same for everyone… right?

If you think about it, everyone’s similar. If we both study music, for example, or play the same sport, I’m not gonna go “wow! We have the same roots! We’re similar! Let’s see how our connections line up!” I say, there are tons of seductress goddesses, war ones, love ones. I’m not going to go and study the history and draw connections. They’re totally different people. In humans, one finds generic similarities all the time.

I just stick with spirits I like.

You’ve got it! 🙂

Anyway, I’m so happy you’ve found something that truly fulfills you, heart and soul. Yes, I am familiar with Judy Harrow. She taught an acquaintance of mine, a very good ritualist who studied with her. Harrow equated coven with seminary or monastery, and I wish more Pagans would do that upfront instead of saying, “we celebrate holidays together.” Which makes it seem like a group of friends doing that, rather than a serious, focused study of the mysteries that so many groups proport to teach. They say that, and then go, “serious members only” as if the people who want to celebrate aren’t serious. I like how she says “there’s no right or wrong, it’s just where you are.” A lot of Pagans speak highly of the blue or yellow circles, and look down on the red. Or imply that red is somehow “wrong” though of course, they don’t say so.

In certain traditions (notably the British Traditional practices) Wicca is seen as a priesthood, so covens are necessarily seminaries because they are training in accordance to a specific set of practices. Judy Harrow’s roots are in Gardnerian Wicca — so she keeps this tenet. Not all Wiccan groups have this focus. Some are centered on environmentalism, some on political activism, some deal mostly with children and seek to raise their offspring in a safe environment and introduce them to practices, some are staunchly vegetarian or vegan, others see the Goddess as the huntress and the God as the sacrificial stag, others focus on magic, others on dancing and drumming, others on ___ . The list goes on and on. They’re all individualized because there is no one single belief in Wicca that makes it a cohesive faith. It’s the practices that will bind a group together. If you want to practice with people who seek the same things you do, then you have to find that sort of a group. You won’t be happy or satisfied in a coven that practices something that doesn’t resonate with you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Paganism is or isn’t for you, but rather that such-and-such group isn’t the right group for you to practice with.

I think the new-age is a mixture of pop-psychology, eastern mysticism, and narcicism. Maybe another reason why I couldn’t get into Pagan religion is because it was restricted, even if in a flexible framework. What if I don’t believe in reincarnation, or don’t want to reincarnate? Why would you want to stay in the afterlife, Pagans say. What if I want initiation without an ordeal? You can’t have that, it isn’t possible, Pagans say. Or they say, “it’s possible, but not with us. (where are the other groups who have what I’m looking for? Don’t see ’em.) Other Pagans believe in a permanent afterlife, but not us. (where are they, then?)”

Then you don’t believe in reincarnation, simple as that. There’s no set belief about the afterlife in Paganism. Because Paganism isn’t a religion — it’s a word to describe various collections of beliefs that have certain things in common. If you follow a Greek-bend, then the concept of the afterlife focuses on crossing the river Styx. If you follow an Irish bend, then you’re going to Tir-nan-Og. If you follow a Welsh bend, you may end up in Avalon. If you’re Asatru, then you hope to end up in Odin’s Hall where you get to drink and fight, hacking off limbs and having bawdy, drunken sex for eternity.

Reincarnation comes mostly from observing the natural cycles. To Wiccans, time is cyclical, not linear. It moves in circles. The moon waxes, gets full, wanes, gets dark… over and over ad infinitum. The seasons do the same thing, time moves in circles. If you look at a baby, they have physical characteristics of their bloodline and genetic similarities to their parents… so in part, they are a continuation of their ancestry. The adults die and the children live on…

An acorn or seed pod drops from a tree, detaching itself from the life source. It sinks into the ground and somehow, takes root and grows. So, the earth gives life. Won’t the same thing happen if we bury the bodies of our dead? Won’t they also return to us in a different form? That’s where funeral rites come from. If you don’t gel with those concepts, then I don’t see why you should be expected to subscribe to a belief that draws its meaning from that.

I think the important lesson involving death is that it’s inevitable and should be faced without fear. How an individual person comes to those terms in their own life is on them. I’ll offer my thoughts, and I’ll tell what I think, but that may or may not be what clicks with the individual, and it’s not like I can say, “Well, I know this is what happens, so go with it.” I can’t. I have my own experiences, but they’re mine, and they don’t necessarily describe or dictate what it will be like for everyone. If religion and spirituality are so individualized and depend so much on where a person is at in their own growth and understanding, then why would the afterlife be any less varied and complex? Just cause it’s not necessarily ‘this plane’ doesn’t mean it’s simplified.

Anyway, thanks so very much for sharing your thoughts, worldviews and oppinions with me. I enjoyed hearing about them very much, and they cleared up some concepts. I am starting to seriously consider that Paganism as a whole might not be for me after all. I do wish the religion, when presented upfront, was as honest as you’ve been. They might say, “we love nature” when it’s actually more of a statement that nature is in their blood and bones, that earth is their home, that they feel the aching need to revere/honor/worship/deify the life-giving nature/sun/moon/stars. I wish they’d present covens as something more akin to “we’ll teach you how to becoming a priest/priestess of our tradition and lead ritual, and along the way you’ll experience these deeper cosmic mysteries” rather than a bunch of close friends who gather to celebrate rituals. As far as personal responsibility goes, that’s not an exclusively Pagan concept. I just think Paganism, the way you’ve described it, is a whole lot more than what people who advertise it upfront claim it to be. I think if it were truly thought of in this manner, it would do more justice to the faith and there wouldn’t be such an influx of people who’d turn away when they got into it and realized it wasn’t for them. If Pagans weren’t so judgmental, calling people Playgans or baby Pagans or saying, “fluffy bunny’s not bad. They just have to grow up and soon they’ll think like we will. They just need good teachers.” People wouldn’t feel so put-down, as if all the mature people were Pagans, or thought “earth life is great despite the bad side” and if you don’t think like that you’re seen as negative, instead of saying, “I can certainly understand why you might feel that way, and who wouldn’t want a better life than this is one came along? Unfortunately, I do not, and I don’t believe as you do, but you have a perfectly valid viewpoint, and there’s another belief system9s) that speak to that. Paganism is not one of these, however.”

That would be far more honest than the way it is advertised now, in my oppinion. Maybe people would still join and leave, but it would be on far better terms.

Thanks so much for all your help.

Most sincerely,
A

Depends on what group or individual you meet. Again — Paganism isn’t a religion, it’s a term used to describe various belief systems that have a few things in common. Covens and traditions are autonomous and may or may not be the ‘seminary/clergy training’ sorts of groups described.

I suggest looking into Spiritualism or the Spiritualist Church — that seems to have most of what you already intrinsically know about. Also, if you find yourself going back to mainstream Christianity, then find a group that maybe understands or at least doesn’t have issues with same-sex attraction. They aren’t all like that. There’s a group I belong to on facebook called “Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented” that was started because the founder came to an epiphany that what they’d been hearing about all those years in the Christian faith about homosexuality wasn’t the big deal it was made out to be. Or there’s always the third option — just keep doing what you’re doing and leave the labels out of it.

I’ve also enjoyed chatting with you and hope that you’ll keep in touch. Just cause you aren’t heading towards Paganism doesn’t mean we can’t continue 🙂 I also play the flute, and taught privately for several years. So there is a musician commonality there we could chat about if you get bored of or feel like the religion discussion has run its course.

Many blessings,
Serpent

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