This is the Folk Magic
We are at a crossroads here in the 21st century with magic, environmentalism and the future of pagan religions. There are many pagan-curious looking into polytheism and many come from the sphere of environmental stewardship.
As nature lovers and other people investigate what paganism might be, their first impression is generally that of the Wiccan religion. Green living people observe that pagans seem to know more about candles than ecosystems you observe, and when neo-pagans go outside, it’s usually about magical plants. I am saying that there are many earth religions to look into, and what Wiccans do is not what all pagans do.
Pagan Traditionalists seem to want to have a kind of a country club with initiated membership where people need to be trained or initiated. “Can I call myself a witch since I live so close to nature in my work and home life?” No I was told, I have to be initiated. I need to listen to someone else’s ideas if I want to become an initiated Witch or Druid. Truthfully, I don’t want anyone to interfere with the path I take, a path I claim lays somewhere between the Greenman and Greenpeace. What I refer to as, Progressive Eclecticism.
I disagree with traditionalists and Re constructionists, and I totally believe eclecticism I enjoy. We need teachers and clergy and experienced pagans to provide guidance. Not like the Church with its cowering masses and kowtowing hierarchy kissing each other’s rings, but more like the Unitarian Universalists, reality based morality. Remember the 6th principle of witchcraft and that's, "We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, and those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have given of themselves in leadership."
One of MY 23 gods, in my personal, progressive, eclectic pantheon, is Thomas Jefferson. He discussed his“ God of Nature” in the Declaration of Independence, but otherwise was curiously silent about exactly what he believed. To Thomas Jefferson, it was essential that religion should have no participation in politics in the new country being created. An individuals personal religion can remain private and there will be no state religion.
Many of the pagan-curious just want to tend their garden in peace and in harmony with the ecosystems. Planting as if nature mattered. My yard is a stroll garden and when I plant, I plant to provide for birds and pollinating insects. Now I'm gathering together pineapple bromeliads and looking forward to another season of gathering seminole pumpkins. This article tries to put words into our current reality of the greens mocking pagans, and pagans not being particularly aware of how ecosystems work as you might think.
I enjoy a simple life and a garden that is always evolving. There is a fascination to me that a lynx spider made a web, there was a special joy when cardinals made a nest directly over my stone display (altar-see top of page). The delight in seeing one colorful pollinating insect after another as you stroll through the garden is my motivation and not some "curb appeal" to impress passers-by. More like Goddess appeal.
The green pagan-curious are not spiritual or religious but they do feel something and they are curious about it. The Mother, the earth spirit, lies somewhere between perception and reality and many people are looking for some sort of link between spirituality and stewardship of the Earth. Deep green resistance meets the Gaia cult.
The pagan-curious would like to consider becoming pagan but are a little put off with costumes they see at gatherings or in the books. Pagan books seem to be all about spells and newbies end up busily trying to figure out the right candle color to use in which situation which is simply a distraction in sunny southern climates where we can go outside nearly any day of the year. I’m telling you that ecosystem stewardship should be the emphasis for pagans and greens.
I can understand smudging a place with sage and beseechments to the four directions, but does it really matter what colors you use for your candles? THAT'S ALL FINE AND DANDY, but shouldn't be what the pagan curious first encounter. Another Olympic long jump leap of faith. Of course as I like to say, no offense.
I have all the respect in the world for Laurie Cabot and how she teaches about healing light. When I met her she encouraged the idea of my enterprise. I wanted to write a history book about lesser known Pagans such as the Romuvans of Lithuania and pagan practices in Estonia Latvia and Poland. Pagans in Mecca before Islam. Laurie paused, properly reflecting my proposal, and replied. "Sounds like a GOOD idea."
There are regular folks out there and I think I know what they are looking for. I love myths and dreams and inspiration but logic needs to prevail. Where’s the folk religion for the majority of us?
High priestesses may know how to better influence universal flows, but, most people are like what I was, a nature lover looking for something a little deeper.
Buddhists don’t consider themselves pagans but they are, and Native Americans didn’t realize that the basis for the faith based genocide by Europeans, was because they were viewed as pagans, plain and simple. Today they don’t call themselves pagan to honor their part in the history of pagan civil rights that involves 4,000 years of oppression beginning with the Levites around 1800 B.C.
In previous years I had been calling myself agnostic, when I wasn’t an atheist, and now I realize many “agnostics” are actually pagans and I am speaking to them also. Progressive Eclectics accept every phase and gradation of belief and thought across this American Prism. Hail to our first amendment; our Freedom of Expression along with a hardy fellow well met to you.
Gnostic is not agnostic: Gnostics believe that the old testament god is an imposter, a poseur who took advantage of the Jews. For some reason the Christians have dragged this old testament god around and even Islam embraces Abraham from the Bible. It’s all too useless and crazy to me and suspiciously, it's all from a very small part of the world. They are angry, middle east oriented, fire and brimstone regional religionists. Islam and Christianity arm in arm, pretending to oppose each other on what I call The Holy Rampage of Conquest.
Both religions had always used violent, forceful conversion and a preaching style similar to a pitch by a car salesmen. These are people that hold grudges for thousands of years with their endless cycle of atrocities and reprisals. What happened to ‘turn the other cheek?’. Gnostics believe in Jesus just fine, and believe salvation can be achieved without the middleman, priest or preacher. This makes them dangerous.
Our 1776 ancestors were suspicious of superstitions and were too intellectually nimble to embrace the nonsense of Adam and Eve, and Noah and the seven dwarves. Below is the goddess Minerva consulting with Ben Franklin and other historical figures from our inventive past. Poseidon in his protective mode as George Washington above is sitting in a circle with 13 High Priestesses. Lady Liberty waits for her sons and daughters to reclaim pagan power spots in Washington D.C.. Libertas holds the lamp.
Many Greens are highly tuned into natures rhythms and yet any yokel can be initiated into Wicca and would be considered a Wiccan. The gardener or earth activist or the tree planting green would be considered, “just a tree hugger, you’re not a ‘real’ pagan.” Says you; Pagan is as pagan does, earth lovers are pagans, not neo-pagans who are fixated on spells and candles. If you love all the people and all the animals and plants, then that is your religion.
So here I am, Martin Luther, creating a schism with pagans, but I’ll say it again--more trees and less candles. More organic vegetables and less skulls and demons.
BACK TO MAGIC, OUR MAIN TOPIC: First of all forget card tricks and being sawn in half, we know that isn’t magic but snarky parlor tricks. As I’ll explain, the traditional meaning of magic is simply working with the forces of the earth and universe. I believe that earth lovers looking into paganism are put off with the ceremonial excess they see and often times turn away.
I’m happy to walk outside to look at the full moon or praise the north wind or pray to the corn mother for a successful crop, and feel no need to be initiated into any specific path. I made up my own religion as an example of how easy it is to be comfortable with the path you are creating for yourself. It’s also time to discuss what aspects of magic are needed for the future. I’ll attempt to explain myths and why it is that New Agers are so into rocks…….huh?,,,,,,,oh, stones; they’re not rocks I’m told. I call them rocks so bear with me.
Back in the seventies, the Book of The Month Club offered many occult books, and I bought a batch of them, and what I learned is this: don’t mess with these things unless you’re ready. Mysterious and unexplainable at the time, I let it go. Soon after that my new girlfriend took me to Pentacostalist meetings and I looked askance to hide the shock of what I saw: definitely a WTF moment with the congregants talking in tongues and rolling on the ground. One time I took a crack at speaking in tongues: but there was nothing at the other end. “The holy ghost is not here. Please leave a message.”
Duh, gotta have faith, and I ask, Is faith magic, or the absence of reason as Ayn Rand states? It did occur to me recently, that maybe these Pentacostalists were summoning demons. Imagine? In the imaginary world of most religions, there are invisible demons influencing things that we can actually see. There’s a demon making you eat cake. It was a demon that makes you act improperly. It’s a Evil Kanevil leap of faith for sure on this. Really Reverend: demons are possessing me because I don’t believe you? Really, You ARE POSITIVE ABOUT THIS RIGHT?
Martin Luther, who started the whole Protestant Reformation, said there were demons in clouds and in sheep and maybe…..the witches cat!!!
DEMON CATCHING BOX
Fundamentalist Christians talking in tongues seem spiritually irresponsible when I note how shamans are very careful with their rituals and magicians are very serious, YET people talking in tongues seem flip and superficial, assuming they have found a connection to their deity. However, they may be responsible for negative emanations coming to our plane: demons if you will, and every day new evil entities begin to possess some of these simple minds. “All I really did was unlock the forbidden” ( ICP ). Let the Christians bear all the false witness they want about pagans, but it is THEM that are possessed by demons.
The topic of magic contains the greatest curiosity factor so let’s explore this together. You put power, energy and wishes and most of all compassion into an object with positive results. Today in 2012, pagans think they are Druids, Priests or Priestesses and my point is this; in every culture there was the shaman or priestly class and the rest of us who would prefer less ceremony.
As we begin our journey into ritual and magic, I first have to question these books that explain about magic and its practitioners. Are they capturing what 90% of us did: the folk magic, not everyone can be a Priest, Druid or pagan clergy.
The Wiccans have a strong form of rituality and it works just right for them but I feel that it is not for everybody. To be a pagan means you can do what you want, don’t let any book tell you there are absolutes. An elephant can be your god and you can collect elephant icons as a focus of your spirituality. Or just go out and not be aggressive and competitive but helpful and uplifting. Then you try to do some book learnin’ and looking on the internet to find out what paganism is about and read that there is something called an athame that all pagans have. This is your ritual knife, and books and practitioners say it’s like a mechanic without a wrench, a dentist without a drill: you absolutely must have an athame.
There is the classic pagan ceremony where the knife represents the male and a goblet of wine symbolizes the woman, and everyone takes it so seriously and here is where I part company with todays pagans. Why do I need to do that? It’s just not right for me, it’s like kneeling and standing in church when I was a child, it seems kind of silly and uncomfortable. I kneel for no deity and frankly, I don’t even want to do indoor ceremonies, except during winter solstice. Here in USDA Zone 9 Florida, it is rare for a day to get ruined by rain and outdoor activities seem natural.
Rock magic seems interesting and I do have a stone shrine indoors with some small but very interesting rocks…I mean stones. A few years ago I put this shrine on my dashboard and outrageous things, good and bad, happened for three weeks straight and I decided to keep my rocks in the house. I learned stone magic happens more readily than you might think. I realized once again that you have to be careful with what you do magically.
I have a collection of black panthers and red Siamese cats that guard my rocks now, safely in the house, but no athame in sight. I’m a gardener and I have a few knives around, like 15, and they have many uses. Cut open our modern impenetrable packaging, slice fruit, cut string and tape, tighten glasses, open up bags of mulch, carve pinewood derby cars and on and on.
Do I really need an athame, a double sided knife, one side sharp and the other dull that I can dangerously swing around during a ceremony? I have a favorite knife that has a compass in the handle. Sharp. Big. Nice for outdoor ceremonies and orienting to the 4 directions, but my favorite use for it is to cut seed potatoes which I do every fall in one of my very few ceremonies. Plant corn with respect to the Corn Mother and plant potatoes with ceremony. I have lots of hope that potatoes can be my sustainable crop and I call the knife my potato knife. My favorite potato knife is going to be my athame if I really need one, so does anyone have a real problem with that? Let’s loosen up a bit here.
Does every pagan need an athame and does every pagan need to do the Lord and Lady Ceremony? I keep my potato knife clean for cutting fruit such as star fruit or sometimes oranges for soccer games and now and again I’ll trim candle wax with it, never letting it touch anything artificial or plastic.
Experienced pagans might rail against someone like me who has unconventional ideas and refuses to wear the fairy king costumes. As I like to say, ‘Halloween is my new year, not what I do all year.’ Costumes don’t seem natural and I know there are many that agree. Neophytes to pagan initiation may hear, “Your athame has to be blah blah blah” or some version of, “you’re just starting, you don’t know anything,” and is simply insulting.
In my opinion, Paganism needs to be more about planting trees and less about spells and candles and I think there are many people who would agree, and many of us have a lot to bring to the table so this is why I’m promoting the big tent concept.
A lot of psychics and people who are gifted in that way also dominate pagan/new age forums . Not many of us have these superpowers that mystics and psychics claim to have, and most of us folk are skeptical of their claims, although many are entranced by the good psychics. So I created a pagan Unitarian religion that is based mostly on what we intuitively feel, and a structure that mostly relies on reality. This is the basis of the Pagan Reform Temple---all pagan faiths and even atheism are welcome, all of us busting out of the Reconstructed or Traditional box.
Then there are those that say you have to be on one specific path or another and you’re not a real pagan if you mix and match your deities from different pagan religions. I’m a real pagan in my view, although serious pagans would disagree with my notion of Progressive Eclectics. (ancient hand gesture here)
Wicca may be the face of paganism with its Lord and Lady Ceremony, but in time there will be ten times as many progressive eclectics as there are initiated Wiccans,
so the sooner you open that barn door, the better.
Is there an ancient mother and are there goddesses? What have the Goddesses been telling us: we must encode liberty, embed equality, ostracize criminality and vanquish cruelty? Maybe Hecate wants you to plant willow trees instead of invoking her to help with your love life. Maybe Cerridwen would rather have you using your creative will to help craft a cap and trade program that makes sense in this polluted world. Sedena of the Inuit doesn't need prayers so much as She needs a solution to the invasion of her cold northern arctic by Bernie Madoffs with drilling equipment. Maybe Yemaya wants you to indulge your carnal side a little less and take care of your little creations better.
In conclusion, I feel the less you use magic, the better it works
I’m trying to catch people before they abandon paganism and I want them to realize they can make it their own. It seems that if you have a simpler earth loving set of beliefs this is somehow seen as less than pagan in many circles. I’m telling you, don’t kowtow to traditional, because we are creating tradition now and are rediscovering some of the ancient rituals intuitively.
I have 9 goddesses in the pantheon of the religion I made up, and an ancient mother who encompasses all the living things on, above and below the earth. I also have fun with my 23 gods-some are myths, but most are men who lived and died and were chosen for one exceptional skill or another, or symbolize something about our spirit. Giles Corey died instead of lied so he was crushed by rocks, stones?, in Salem in 1692; he is one of my gods. Jesus’ father Joseph is a god now and as a matter of fact, so is Jesus and 20 others. Svarog and Priapus along with flesh and blood men such as John Proctor and Thomas Jefferson. George Carlin is my newest addition to the list.
It is widely believed now that the cave painters were the first to have religion and as I researched to find the most ancient religion I thought I had found something really old with the Romuvan tradition of Lithuania which is still found in outlying areas today. An old Baltic tradition, Lithuania was settled at least 9,000 YA (years ago) and before agriculture there was a bird goddess the Lithuanian Balts revered. People had been migrating in many places for ten of thousands of years.
The way of the birds it is called and I feel I have found a path I can explore and this is the fundamental goal in my religion. The simple joy of being on the path to enlightenment is all you really need. Kneel to no deity. The Way of the Birds.
Tradition today is only 60 years old officially, with Gardners book that began the Wiccan religion in 1948. Most pagans are well read and welcoming and helpful but traditionalists are trying to limit our range of expression with too many should and shouldn’ts. Tradition today adheres to accumulated knowledge and reconstructing what can be gleaned from archaeological speculations and ancient texts. The Traditionalists claim to have a lock on magic but you need to suspend logic in too many cases and there are a great many people turned off by that vacuum of reality.