Tags: religion

The Most High God and Other Gods

I found this paragraph very useful and I agree entirely. "Many of these spirits are accustomed to being worshiped as gods. Some continue to expect such reverence, others not so much. Bible students will perhaps recall Psalm 82:6 (or John 10:34 for those Christian readers!), wherein the pagan gods are accounted as limited potentates who will, in their own term, be judged by God as are other mortals. In the scripture, they are called gods, and sons of god, but they will ultimately face judgment as men do, presumably to face total destruction or share the common reward."

I think there are gods of peoples, gods of places, gods of offices/functions, etc. The words "god" "goddesses" "angels" "demons" etc. have so much baggage. I like what St. Thomas said about angels: "angel" is an office (function), in this case, "messenger of the Most High" while their nature is "spirit." Daniel speaks of the Prince of Persia contending with Gabriel and others. The Prince of Persia was a spirit of a people (the Persians) and/or place (Persia). Michael was the spirit which was assigned to Israel and as head of the Heavenly Army.

IMHO, gods from Greek, Germanic/Norse, Native American, Celtic, etc. pantheons are the same. Some have never been human. Some were flesh and blood ancestors of an ethnic group who went through apotheosis. Some are anthropomorphized natural forces, elements, rivers, storms, etc. I think ultimate reality is probably even grander than any of us suspect. Some may live for so long that we conceive of it as forever. But others are born, exist and die, like us. Gotterdammerung.

My own evolving theology holds the Most High to be the Creator of All, whether Earth, the Stars, the Gods, the Angels, Human Beings etc. The Most High is beyond our knowing, the Ain Soph. Earthmaker. We only know of the Most High through His works, his creation, and his messengers. We may know of Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through His Prophets like Moses and Mohammed. But my understanding is necessarily human, thus limited. I'm just whistling and kicking a can down the alleyway of eternity :-)

Religion, Witchcraft, Mysticism and Anthropology

To me, as an anthropologist, "religion" is a structure which binds a community AS a community= communitas. It is structure, as opposed to antistructure or liminality. It may be emotional, but it is rational in the sense of being a binding human institution. It has rites, obligations, forms. A religion is a type of covenant, of order.

Mysticism has more in common with liminality, the irrational, antistructure, chaos. Religion and mysticism are opposite sides of the same coin in my mind.

To me, a witch/shaman/mystic is in their inner being, a mystic in that sense, with a direct line to the irrational and chaos and the liminal (the threshhold, the hedge). But this is the source of the rawness.

However, a person can be (and usually is) a member at the same time of the cooked ...of a covenant, a religion, with its binding to rules, other members, and a community large or small. The covenant, can be a coven(ant), a lineage, a tradition, or a pagan (or other) religion (indigenous, historic, or recreated/revived). This religion/covenant bonds, guides, directs the person into the practice and fellowship as agreed upon.

Each religion defines the initiation, the admission process, the adherence to rules and order, and the process and consequences of leaving the covenant (oath-breaking, blood in, blood out, death, apostasy, or "just movin' on" in an amicable parting of the sheets). This is why one should know well the religion/covenant one is joining BEFORE joining it (and why such communities/religions have a period of evaluating the candidate).

But being a witch, being a mystic or a shaman...the innermost being of what one IS, of what one is created, is beyond religion or covenant. Or god even, perhaps. It is perhaps a mystery.

It reminds me also of the story of the man who dreamed true of the secret to the initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, and thus was initiated by the gods themselves.

My Uncle Herman Bear Comes Out, Northern Cheyenne, once told me that if something is real and true, it always exists. You can find it again. It is "out there," in the Land. It can be found again. My father has said in the documentary on the Ioway, that although the old ways were taken, there will be a new medicine coming.

I read this by Robin Artisson, a traditional witch, who echoes these thoughts as well.

Sometimes, a current or traditional expression of spiritual force that entered the world in times before can be "lost" or broken up in serial time, in historical time, but "re-emerge" or undergo a recension through a mysterious process that is completely akin to the "lightning bolt" concept.

This is, in fact, the notion of spiritual recension- all traditions that have passed into the Innerworlds leave behind certain "remains". Mystically-rooted traditions leave mythological, folkloric, and even archeological clues behind, testifying to their original presence on earth, and when the proper spiritual insight is coupled with an inspired appraisal of those "remains", the current can "revivify" itself, through the person or persons responsible, a true act of traditional "necromancy", or summoning the Ancestors- calling forth the poetic and impulse-remains of the dead, and putting "red on the bones" so that their ancient wisdom can speak again, in some fashion."

...Even though the world-age is gradually coming to its Fateful conclusion, the living and immortal fire and the living blood binds us to the timeless ones, and there are those who will continue, through Fate's decree, to keep the flame of spirit alive. These people have no choice in the matter; they do not "do" this through choice as much as the choice to do this makes them what they are, and is a fulfillment of what they are- bearers of the secret fire.

...That some are born understanding, and others drawn to know and learn, and others gifted by "lightning from the gods", and others privileged with initiation, all of these Fated events go back to a central, primordial mystical theme, a mythical history whose golden age all living humans seek as their true home, even if most humans alive in this age of darkness will never be aware of it. Through the darkness of any era, a light beckons, and this inner light sustains us through every trial. From the dawn of time to the dusk of time, it is there, and it remains even when time has passed away.
(http://www.robinartisson.com/firebrand.html)

Sacrifices

I think there are doubtless certain spirits that want living blood, and even blood of certain animals. When I was in Oyo State, Africa in 1996, Ogun, god of iron, wanted dog sacrifice. They bought a dog, killed it by chopping its head off. The head sat on the ground for a moment and then tried to bite. One of the students filmed it. They took the nose, lips and ears, and the entrails and put them on the stone at Ogun's tree. Then the people roasted and ate the meat. As Taiju said, "It is sweet."

I had to refuse participating and would not eat the meat either, as I had previous commitment to Dog (yes the capitalization is intentional). My own tribal people of Siouan stock, the Ioway, or Baxoje, used to sacrifice dogs to chase away smallpox and for other reasons (to save a drowning victim, you threw a white dog in the water in exchange so that the Water Wakanda would release the human for the dog). But my own family has established relationship with Dog over generations, as with Bear (a clan animal).

The Cheyenne traditionalists ate dog as part of certain sacred feasts and ceremonies. One of the Chiefs did not like to have dogs in his house. He said, once you eat a dog, the other dogs smell that you have eaten dog, and they hold it against you. They always remember. DIfferent tribes are different about such things. I was told by a Piegan friend that the Blackfeet would not eat their dogs, and Blackfeet teased Cheyenne and Sioux that at least Blackfeet did not eat their friends.

In Nigeria, chicken and goat sacrifice was common. The goat's throat was cut, the blood caught in a bowl for offering at the god shrine (goat is a general offering, as is chicken, but every god/spirit had its animal or other kind of preference). Then the meat was roasted and eaten. In the dog sacrifice of Ogun, the blood was caught, but also the lips and nose, and entrails were reserved for the god and all else was eaten. The animals were not skinned, but singed to remove feather or hair, rolled through the ashes barehanded. The god got its due (the blood = life force) and the human ate the remains, the meat. No waste.

On Hawai'i, again the sacrifice type depended on the god/goddess. In the old days, some, such as Ku, demanded human sacrifice ("mohai" --always a man- the virgin female sacrifice to a volcano is BS. It was almost always a man, a criminal or war captive). Sometimes it was even sufficient to place the body of a foe killed in battle on the heiau for the god. By the way, even though human sacrifice by people doesn't happen any more on Hawai'i, certain natural locations and forces are notorious for the spirits taking human life anyways such as through drowning. Again, almost always a fit young male of any ethnicity. This is what has happened several times at the waterfalls in Waimea on O'ahu. But traditionally, and as carried out today, certain animals are acceptable as substitutes, such as pigs and certain fish which substitute for people, partly based on the indigenous language metaphors.

I will tell you something mysterious that happened to me at a powwow at Fort Snelling, Minnesota in the fall of 1991. This was where all the Dakota were hanged by Lincoln after the 1862 uprising. It was a huge AIM powwow and one of the tent camping areas was down by the river. Apparently people get drowned there often.

I had a feeling the River Wakanda, the Ischexi, would take someone that night. There were a lot of people. Many had been partying. I took some willow and wove together a man-shaped figure with intention it served as a symbolic substitute so that no one would drown that night. It took me about an hour to find the "right" willow and then make it. I cut myself while making it so it had my blood on it. I put it in the water. It sank as if something took it.

At the powwow, I danced during the intertribal. I didn't have regalia, and I am pale, so I caught some snotty looks and comments as to that white man dancing out there. I didn't care. This was MY ancestors' land, centuries ago. I was there dancing for THEM. We hadn't been here on this ground for centuries.

As I danced more and longer and got really into the drum, my state of mind shifted, so that the drum seemed to suffuse me and the beat came from the ground through my feet. I walked along in a rocking manner. And I felt my right hand became a bear's paw spontaneously. I looked at it as the fingers curled first and my hand flattened, Then it grew darker, and then it became hairy and the fingers became claws. None of the rest of me changed, just the hand, for a brief time. It scared people, and they moved away. My friend, she saw it and asked what I did. I said I didn't know, it just did it on its own. People avoided me and wouldn't look at me, notably some of those who had given me looks earlier. It was a very crowded powwow.

Later that night, people said they saw a human-shaped shadow walking around the campground area. Some saw it as a person, some only sensed it, and some didn't see it at all. I got a feeling that not only did that willow-man substitute for a new drowning victim, but that it brought the River Wakanda out to look around or perhaps even effected the release of a previous drowning victim-spirit. I don't know.

In my particular case, I was more than likely the first of my Baxoje tribe to be there and make an offering there in three hundred years; we had been driven from southern Minnesota by the advancing Dakota soon after 1700. We had been the caretakers of the Pipestone Quarry, neutral sacred land where all tribes were welcomed, until our blood was spilled there, and we never used that pipestone again. So I think that had a lot to do with what happened, the blood and the significance after all that time.

But I did not intend it, nor ask for it. I just danced in Bear, my clan ancestor, that Drum changed me, and that's what happened. I don't know what you call all this. Think what you want. I just in the end call them Mysteries.

Things Got Better

So right now, the mainstream seems to feel like the emergency is over, that everything is getting better and will soon be normal with stock options and junkets to Vegas and buying a better house, better car, better wife (oops!)

Nope. I ain't buying it. By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.

At this point, we need to forget about the top national political leaders doing much, or even much at the state level (though that might change). We also can’t think of ourselves as survivalists with a bunker mentality ..OR as isolated farmsteads…although the folks here aren’t as much gun-toting compound-oriented, still, thinking of yourself as an isolated farmstead riding out the end of the world isn’t that different.

Yes, what about the guy who dies in Act One, Scene One? What about all the unburied dead, and the mad, broken souls wandering about?

We do need to put the major focus on local and community governments: run for office, create collaboration among interests and nonprofits, etc. Collaboration is key.

During the various collapses over the thousands of years and in war-torn countries, all over the world there seem to be two basic models that can be maintained: sedentary agricultural villages and pastoral nomadic traders.

In good times, these two ways of life complement each other through trade and provide things the other doesn’t produce. The villages produce things like grains, vegetables, iron, etc. while the nomads produce meat, hides, salt, and serve to transfer exotic goods between sedentary areas. Villages grow into city-states and monasteries, but the central feature is sedentarism.

Variations of pastoral nomadism include dedicated traders, wandering craftsmen, and liminal “in-between” folks like Gypsies, entertainers, holy men/women, and various rascals and madmen (hey, there’s a question– what about all the people driven mad by loss of loved ones, livelihood, and the world they thought they understood?)

In bad times, the nomads blossom into horse-barbarians that raid the villages, and the villages become fortified city-states under the control of warlords, some of whom look to build empires…

This seems to be the pattern from time immemorial for the greater part of humankind.

In blogs like Sharon Astyk's and John Michael Greer's, they provide the essential building blocks for a farmstead-community-sedentary village culture. Most dystopian blogs focus on aspects of the sedentary village or city-state or monastery.

Where are the blogs for the nomads? The Pastoralists moving between summer and winter pastures? The sea pirates? The future horse-barbarians? The Gypsy caravans and circuses of acrobats and curiosities…hmmm, there’s a niche for someone to explore…dystopian nomadism…beyond Mad Max.

As one of my patron saints, St. Mark Twain, said: “”History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

If anyone wants to start a religion of animistic horse-barbarians, it's a good time to start.

On "Fitting In" and Selective Reading and Being an Ornery Cuss

As I said, I get grief from Christians, Catholic and otherwise, for following Native American ways and being "too pagan." But I also get crap from pagans, wiccans, witches, druids, NA traditionalists and whatever else for not rejecting Christianity.

Since the age of 3-4 I learned Greek mythology, and I became familiar with other mythologies through grammar school, including Norse, Saxon, Sumerian, etc. I was raised knowing many Native American mythological cycles. I am not ignorant of such things, I just am not pulled to any particular system. I have a graduate degree in anthropology and archaeology. When I was in Africa, I became familiar with the Yoruba pantheon and was under the patronage of a god there to avoid bad juju. Plain old "God" is good enough for me; "God" is all I need. I do enjoy and respect the rest of God's good creation too, and try to have good relations with "All My Relatives" (all of Creation) as the Sioux say.

Maybe folks aren't clear about it, but I will be 50 years old soon, and I have wrestled with these things since childhood. I am no newbie to the internal conflicts. But I am indeed antiauthoritarian and anticonformity-- not just in terms of Christianity/Catholicism, but anything else, or anyone else, that tells me to choose in totality one thing or another. I reject and accept as my conscience dictates, not as a particular social group dictates. It's not just belief and magic, it is also politics etc. In some things I am liberal (education and environment) and some things conservative (guns and family). But I don't fall into one "camp" or another. My loyalty is to individuals and relationships, not to ideologies or hierarchies. Peer pressure didn't work when I was a teen. It sure ain't gonna work when I am a crusty old guy and independent cuss.

As far as the old Biblical "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live", well there are problems. I take the Bible as inspired by God, but not dictated or to be taken literally. First, there are dozens of internal contradictions, and it has been translated in so many ways, and for so many agendas, well, you gotta be careful. The original Hebrew word/concept/role that was translated as "witch" has also been translated as "poisoner", as in practitioners who used herbal preparations to kill people. That could also then be translated as "thou shalt not suffer a homicidal pharmacist to live" ...which seems reasonable enough :-)

And even if one is a fundamentalist and literalist Christian, why do they condemn "witches" and "magic" --"because it says so in the Bible"-- when the Bible also says not to eat pork (fundies sure like pork chops and bacon), not to cut one's sidelocks of hair (no military cuts or even styled cuts), go in bikinis and swimming trunks, etc. etc., kill Canaanite babies by bashing their heads in etc.? Pretty selective reading and application of the Bible, isn't it?

So, how far do I go down the twisting path? Well I know from the outset, I am not going to make pacts with spirits that I wouldn't make with humans (which is zip), I don't have truck with anything that rejects or vilifies the Creator, I am not going to kiss anything's/anyone's ass, hierarchy is BS, and I am very careful and sparing of how I go about using prayers and practices because of unforeseen, unintended and unwanted consequences-- aka "The Monkey's Paw" Effect, or "Be careful what you wish for."

Miscellany, God and Stones

I was brought up Catholic too and still remain so in many ways. I still really "pray" mostly only to God. I "worship" only the Creator. Even Our Lady and the Saints, I only "venerated" them and asked for their intercessory prayers to God. But my own Catholicism is different from the norm. I spent much more time on the land than in church. The Land taught me much. I encountered the Creator in Creation.

However to all the other forces of nature, to mountains, thunder, and such, I don't really worship them, but instead think of them as Persons of greater age and rank than myself. I treat them with respect and friendship, and offer them things out of that respect and friendship. Same as with the Powers of my Ancestors. It's about relatedness, kinship and friendship for me.

That works the same for Catholics, and the way I was taught, by my Native American way, which has One Creator of All, but Mother Earth, etc and many Spirit Helpers, Genius Loci, etc. I still am also a Trinitarian: Father, Son and Holy Ghost-- God in Three Persons. I don't get into it too deeply, just keeping things simple.

That's how I keep my own cognitive dissonance under control anyways. It keeps me "worshipping only One God" in the Catholic mindset and so keeps my guilt at bay, but luckily I can also apply the saints veneration and friendship and intercessory model from Catholicism, and the "Everything in Nature is My Relation" of the American Indian model, --maybe some would call it semantics, but all can fit together, for me, anyways.

I am actually out of phase with a lot of Catholicism and had another run-in with the local priest and hierarchy, so I haven't gone to Mass in over a year, although I stop in to pray once in a while (we have a beautiful huge gothic cathedral). There are of course differences as to whether one is a heretic, a schismatic, or an apostate I mainly confuse priests when I talk to them, and frighten them a little, unintentionally (at least that's how I read their body language). But I always got along with the oldtime holy priests. We saw past our human frailties to the brotherhood of the human condition.

I don't see it as the JudeoChristian god vs pagan gods I guess. I just know there is "God." I have never had a god of any type talk to me, pagan or otherwise. I just pray to "God." I call him "Grandfather." Maybe some would call what I do with the Earth, the Land, and the Directions/Winds etc. "prayer" (shrug) I don't know.

I personally have never met a horned god, or a goddess, or Jesus, or Apollo, or Lugh, or Odin, or an angel. Not that I know of anyways. God has never "told" me anything in so many words, unlike Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and their ilk (said tongue-in-cheek). Nor have I seen any ghosts. But I have PERSONALLY seen Nature spirits, and the Little People, and more, Other things...yes, I have seen with my physical, unaltered-state eyes. No drinking, no drugs, no weird mental states...just being in the wrong/right place at the wrong/right time. I know what I have seen. While I believe in God and pray only to God since childhood, I know those "Others" are residents and neighbors on the Land, and it always is a good idea to be "neighborly."

About stones-- Some stones are "alive" and can reproduce, making "baby" stones. Some large boulders are alive, some transformed from other beings into stones, some move on their own and "do things" and thus I count them as alive. Most traditional cultures, from English and Irish to Hawaiian, know that certain large stones are alive. Some small stones have memories attached (as in psychometry) but some can have actual human or nonhuman spirits attached as well. Some are "houses." Some move about. And some are just alive on their own. It varies. Just like hills or cliffs.

And of course stones' "flesh" (their mineral and chemical composition) have different qualities which can be helpful in practical and craft matters, taken both from indigenous folklore and those European systems of magic ultimately derived from GrecoRomanEgypto Hermeticism (rose quartz for love etc.)

I don't pretend to know the ultimate Truth of the Universe. I'm just a speck of dust on a small planet, which itself is just a speck of dust in an immense galaxy, which itself is only one of millions of such galaxies.

I think Catholicism does have truth, which is why I won't reject it. I have problems with the people involved, the power structures, the history, the twisting of dogma and doctrine to suit those wishing to gain power, riches, etc. But pagans in Rome, Babylon, etc. all did the same human things.

Catholicism also has great beauty in its liturgy, art, music. I am an artist, and so that also appeals. I just won't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I cannot reject what I was taught as a kid, because when I try, it feels like I am rejecting a part of my own soul. I just try to somehow reconcile it all. Not just the Catholic part and the Native American part, but Science as well, and Humanism, and Americanism, and.... I have all these belief systems tugging and churning and merging and contradicting each other in my psyche.

But then, I have lots of struggles with ALL the spheres of belief I have encountered: Christianity/Catholicism, Native American, science, and the various forms of witchcraft and neopaganism/reconstructionism. Every one of them, IMHO, have areas where they have problems with "truth" and blind spots. But that is being human I guess.

Personally, I am mostly guided in my day-to-day life by my own conscience, human compassion and brotherhood, and reason/Greek ethics (with a strong dose of the Golden Rule and Animism!).

Truth resonates. It hums and your body knows it, like a tuning fork.

Theism, Deism, Animism, Animatism

"Animism (from Latin anima (soul, life) is a philosophical, religious or spiritual idea that souls or spirits exist not only in humans and animals but also in plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment... Animism may further attribute souls to abstract concepts such as words, true names or metaphors in mythology. Religions which emphasize animism are mostly folk religions, such as the various forms of Shamanism, Shinto, or certain currents of Hinduism." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animism)

In anthropology, some differentiate between animism and animatism.

"Animatism is a term coined by British anthropologist Robert Marett to refer to "a belief in a generalized, impersonal power over which people have some measure of control". Marett argues that certain cultures believe "people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects were endowed with certain powers, which were both impersonal and supernatural".
Mana, Marett states, is a concentrated form of animatistic force found within any of these objects that confer power, strength, and success. To various cultures, animatism and mana are visible through the successes and failures of these various objects. Success equals a high amount of animatism, or mana, whereas failure is the result of animatism, or mana, being lost." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animatism)

Mana is the Polynesian word for "power" much like the Force in Star Wars, or chi (Chinese) or Orenda (Iroquois).

I have heard it explained sometimes is that in animism, a mountain has a spirit (a spirit indwelling the mountain), whereas in animatism, the mountain is alive.

Animism/animatism is perhaps the oldest of all beliefs, as it is found in every traditional indigenous culture of which I am aware.

If one believes in the existence nature spirits, with the souls of dogs and elk and rocks and trees and rivers and thunder, one is aligned with animism/animatism. The idea of "virtues" in plants connects to the idea of the "mana" (power) of plants.

THEISM

theism = a traditional and/or scripturally based belief in God (belief based on what has been handed down or taught, whether one's elders in oral tradition such as Native American tribal ways, or writings such as the Koran, Bible, etc.

pantheism = God IS the whole (the universe IS God)

panentheism = the whole is IN God (the universe is only a manifest part of God)

polytheism = multiple gods/goddesses

monotheism = one god/goddess

DEISM

deism= a category of rationalistic (reason-based) belief in God (Spirit, Deity, ground of being, Dao, etc...) based on reason, experience, and the observation of nature

panendeism, polydeism, monodeism, etc.

ALSO:
"Polytheists do not always worship all the gods equally, but can be monolatrists, specialising in the worship of one particular deity. Other polytheists can be kathenotheists, worshiping different deities at different times."

-- all have room for belief in ghosts, spirits, wights, etc.

It can get as complex and convoluted as you want.

Animism does not require any sort of belief in God, of any kind. It just says everything has life, is alive. One could conceivably be a atheist and an animist.

Deism/theism (including polytheism, monotheism, pantheism, etc.) focus on the deity/gods. Pantheism says god is in/behind everything.

Animism just says everything is alive in some way.

You can be a pantheist and not be an animist. In other words, you could believe God is behind/in everything, but not believe that a tree has a soul of its own.

Theism and animism are two independent concepts, except for their belief in something beyond the material and visible.

There is no Otherworld

There is no Heaven. There is no Otherworld. There is only this World. Not all of which we can see hear or taste. Night eyes and day eyes. The stars are there as surely in the day sky as they are in the night sky. We just can't see them until it gets to be night, but they are there. The Ancestors live in and through us; the Shining Ones and landwights live right here, with us. They are there all the time. When we journey, when we dream, in our altered state, we just see through our night eyes rather than our day eyes.

The World is One. Believing in an Otherworld is as destructive as Christianity thinking this physical world will -no MUST- pass away, and that our real home is in Heaven. Conceiving of Heaven or Hell or Otherworlds makes us think if worse comes to worse, we always have a "spare" world to retreat to. There is no Otherworld; we just see THIS world through different eyes. It's all connected. It's all part of Truth.

Problems and Origins of NeoPaganism in Modern Society

An LJ friend, Waking Bear, posted an excellent essay on his site. It is called Problems of Heathenry, Part One. It was written by Eric DeVries. Here are some excerpts:

In the emergence of the neo-Heathen movement during the last half of the twentieth century a tremendous amount of energy has been poured into the discovery of the mythological and ritual aspects of pre-Christian, Germanic paganism. However, while this focus seems fruitful in the sense that there is a common and well-accessible store of information on mythology, this fails to recognize the true context of this mythology and religion: society.

...The only conclusion possible is that honour, as it existed in pagan Scandinavia and perhaps the wider Germanic area, is impossible in modern times. For the standards and environment of man have changed too much that it is impossible to live up to these standards. This poses a serious challenge to modern Heathenry as a whole.

...It is this tightly organized and sharply separated group that is missing in modern society. The existence of a family is not necessary for survival – protection, food, clothing etc.. Rather, modern people are treated as individuals, who have no principal loyalty to their kin which goes above all else. The individual deals with the institutions, both of society and the state and in this whole, the family appear to be non-existent. Though they may be of emotional importance.

Here again we encounter a serious problem: the reality of the pagans was so much different from the modern one. Though a person can feel a bond of friðr, feelings of warmth and love and the reluctance to harm the other, this is not what makes the concept of friðr. Friðr was a relationship that went beyond this and demanded to act in accordance with the honour ethic, which raises problems in our times.

...Generally, neo-heathens consider themselves to be pagans in so far that they think of themselves that they maintain a pre-Christian religion. What exactly this pre-Christian religion constituted is not clear. When it comes down to mythology a lot of progress has been made but when it comes down to ethics, worldview and the ideas about the afterlife this progress hasn’t been made.

In general, the Nine Noble Virtues are interpreted in such a way that they appear favourable to mainstream society – by most neo-Heathens, most of the time. Also, they are interpreted in such a way that they do not limit one’s life in general. As I’ve shown above, following the pagan ethic of honour would mean, probably, a life in jail. So, the honour ethic is interpreted differently.

...Thus, acting on behalf of oneself is not unjust: it is very smart, if one wants to live. The same goes for kin, society and country. This means that those who don’t belong to these groups or are opposed to them, are not ‘human’, and can be used as one pleases – if one is able to do so. In defence of such a worldview: others looked at the world in the exact same way. If one did not take care of oneself and kin, no one would.

Applying such a worldview to our modern society induces: nepotism, corruption, lying, cheating, murder, repression, rape, violence and all sorts of crime.

Judging the above problems I feel that it is difficult to live life the Heathen way. This is because pagan society was so very different from our modern one. Ours is complex, institutionalized and extremely large. Theirs was small and simple. The ethics that functioned in theirs, cannot function in ours – as I’ve shown. So now it is up to the great minds that study heathenry to find out a way to apply that pagan way of thinking, that very special ethic to our modern standards and society.



As note, the worldviews/cultures of the pagans were integrated: economics with social (family, state, etc.) with religion/spirituality with ethics with technology,etc. JUST AS OURS IS TODAY!

Most people today seem to think you can separate them, cafeteria style. "Hmm, I'll have pancakes with my mashed potatoes today." You cannot. Each element of culture will influence or even determine the others. People need to become more literate in anthropology and the study of culture through space and time.

That is why most of modern paganism will always be "pretend" in comparison with the old forms. It is merely a more intensive form of role-playing. Something you can "switch on" when in the right setting or company, and "switch off" when necessary.

The key recognition of this fact, as reflected in the essay above, is the starting point to face reality rather than role-playing. One thing that helps is to really examine why it is that we, as individuals, or as groups, have rejected the mainstream ethos of JudeoChristianity or secular materialism (or the most common, a hybrid of the two).

Here are some reasons I have noted why people choose something else...I am sure you could add to the list:

1. Alienation from family for various reasons, from the most brutal (rape, incest, violence, etc.) to egocentrism or chance (difference in interests, employment relocation, etc.)

2. Social alienation from one's peers, most often beginning in childhood/school, and often interacting with #1 above (actually, any and all of these reasons listed here interact with each other). Search and investigation of social boundaries.

3. Inherent diversity of the individual personality/psychology, encouraged by the mercantile/consumerist interests of our society which stresses fictive individualism (all those nonconformists form smaller groups of conformity). Some people are more imaginative, others less so; some are more inquisitive/questioning, others less so; some more rebellious, others more conformist; some are more religiously/spiritually-inclined, others less so.

4. Religious exposure or lack thereof (hyperreligiosity of fundamentalism or Catholicism, or secular upbringings); there is a need for meaning in every human being (expressed by some as "a God-shaped hole", and the search for this meaning most often takes religious, spiritual, nonempirical avenues...the metaphoric, symbolic, poetic and lyrical. If one has been alienated from family, peers, mainstream religion, one tends to reject what caused pain or what was otherwise unsatisfactory and look for "other."

5. Peer/cool factor: While most of the older folks (40s and above) tend to have some intersection with #1-4, above) beginning in the 1980s/90s, alternate paths became more acceptable, accessible and more generally known, notably through the media, such as awareness of Wicca, Druidry, Heathenism, etc. With the decline of mainstream religions (except for hyperreligious fundamentalism etc) and the development of the gaming and internet subcultures, paganism got a certain cool factor among more teens than in the 70s and before (when it was plain weird).

6. Family practices: Ironically enough, the same rejection/alienation vs family noted in #1, has in the last 10-20 years flip-flopped in some instances, where older generations who switched to neopaganism have had children and even grandchildren, and so there are young people (generally now in their early 20s and teens) who are 2nd generation Wiccans, heathens, etc. (I am not here addressing the often questionable issue of umpteen generation family practices asserted by some). Thus, #5 has arisen as a fact in reaction to #1, as a natural evolution in a diversified society.

More Thoughts on Being a Druid

Ever since I was a kid, in many ways I have identified with Druids. I suppose really, what I read about them at the time --that they were a mysterious group of nature-priests, knowledgeable about magic and wildcraft, and living in ancient Britain and Gaul. I lumped them together with Stonehenge, the moors, the oak forests, cutting mistletoe, the Green Man, and so on. So I read books by Janet and Colin Bord, and thought of them as the indigenous tradition of the British Isles (including Ireland). That formed my earliest thoughts of what the Druids were all about.

Since my spirituality was focused on nature, since I loved trees and thought of them as sentient beings, and since I romanticized the megalithic cultures of Briton and Ireland, I began to think of myself on some level as having Druidic inclinations. That if I had been born way back then and there, I fancied I would have become a Druid myself.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s in a small Montana city of about 25,000 people, and I had no idea there were still people who considered themselves druids. The only options for belief in my enclosed Montana world into my teens and early adulthood (to which I was exposed), were:

1. Roman Catholic Christianity, in which I was schooled in the first three years of elementary school, until it was closed down in 1969, and I was in the last echoes of pre-Vatican II mindset (we were taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in grades 2-3). I was so dyed-in-the-wool "Latin Mass," that when the New Mass (Novus Ordo) started, even though I tried to adjust to the "new" Catholicism, I never really could, and I remain alienated to this day. Even though I have attempted a dozen times to return to the Church every 5 years or so, it has never worked out. I am really a medievalist in my Roman Catholicism and those kinds of churches are rare these days, though I found a nice little monastery church in Anchorage for a year. Except for Christmas and Easter, I really never went to church after 4th grade or so (my dad had a falling out too with the church, over us being poor, and the church's insistent demands for more contributions).

2. Protestant Christianity of the "Other Guys" such as Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Mormonism, Congregationalist, Assembly of God, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, etc. And in Montana we also had Hutterite colonies. The whole bible-thumping fundamentalist "nondenominational" strain did not hit my neck of the woods until the mid-1980s. I always have a problem when the bible-thumpers call themselves "nondenominational" -of COURSE they are denominational.

Of course, as a Catholic, I had little idea of the differences between the various Protestant/nonCatholic groups myself. Helena is rather Irish in its Catholic roots, and so when I was a kid, it was pretty much, "us" Catholics and "those" Protestants. Yes, and for their part, "Protestants" had lots of niceties they recognized between them that I had no cognizance of. In Norman MacClean's book "A River Runs Through It," MacClean's father, a Presbyterian minister said that Methodists are simply Baptists who can read. And the Mormons, Witnesses, Unitarians, and Hutterites were even more "other" than most Protestants, simply "those guys." They might as well have been from the Moon. Although the Mormons always seemed to be really materially successful in business and were better behaved then the rest of us.

3. Non-Church goers were usually older single men, often old crotchety alcoholics or backwoodsmen, who never went to a church of any kind unless it was for a funeral, or maybe a baby's baptism. Women, even if they were old crotchety alcoholics or backwoodswomen (yes, there were a couple) did make it to church, because they were much more savvy about the realities of social interaction and that if you didn't go to church, you were isolated. Women hated being isolated, or at least, were more honest about it. Old men just drank and smoked themselves to death in isolated houses or ranches.

There were a few non-Churchgoers who were less tragic. I didn't really know much about them, except occasionally I would hear of some guy who worked for the government who never went to church. They left for new jobs every few years or so anyways.

4.Indian ways, later to be known as Native American traditions -we still called ourselves Indians in the 1960s and 1970s. My dad is Iowa and Sac/Fox Indian, which is how I got my blood. Helena had an old Indian guy (an Ojibwa from Minnesota) called Eddie Barbeau, who owned Avalanche Kennels out on Custer Avenue, which was out of the city limits in those days (it is gone now, wiped clean by the Big Box stores phenomena of Helena in the 2000s). He raised mostly black labs he trained for bird hunting, but he had a Malamute named "King" too. Mr. Barbeau had come to Helena to be part of the winter sled-team training up in Rimini during World War II as part of the 1st Special Service Force, The Devil's Brigade.

Mr. Barbeau had a iconic place, pivotal in my formation as a kid. Besides the constantly barking dogs, the cries of roaming peacocks, chickens and guinea fowl, the smells of the kennels, a nearby sewage treatment facility, and of rawhide and deerskins permeated the atmosphere and marked it as a different place. He had several painted tipis he had set up by his kennels and residence, along with a small garage he made into a museum full of Indian clothing and crafts. I learned to dress hides, peel poles, paint tipi and parfleches, and watched as my mom learned to bead and do quillwork.

We learned a lot there, of old ways, especially because Barbeau's place was a magnet for Indians of many Montana tribes to come to: Blackfeet, Crow, Cheyenne, Chippewa-Cree, etc. Through that Nexus, our family came to be friends with many different people, and especially with some families down on the N. Cheyenne reservation. Anyway, this is getting long, so the short and the sweet of it is that after 4th grade, my primary spiritual beliefs were shaped by this association with these tribal folks, and with my dad and family.

In those days before the New Age stuff and the wave of "Native American spirituality" really hit in the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Indian stuff was still put down. People around here hated Indians. I was called a "prairie nigger", even as pale as I am. So it was a totally different world. A few nonIndians came around to look at Mr. Barbeau's stuff, go to powwows, etc. but there were very few who were interested in participating, so it was no big deal to include them in ceremonies etc. They acted and were treated as guests. I don't remember many wannabes in those days. The Pretendians came later. We didn't even have those terms "wannabe" or "pretendian" back then!

So those were the four choices as to ways of belief up until my early adulthood. There weren't any Wiccans or Druids or Buddhists or anything that we knew of. In the mid-70s, there was a rumor of people doing witchcraft and animal sacrifices up in the Quarry. There was a hippie group that bought a place in the woods in the 70s, started a health food store, and supposedly were into Hinduism and Buddhism, called the Feathered Pipe Ranch. But these were quirks and individuals. The former was whispered about, and the latter was tolerated by most, especially because "they paid their bills."

For me, an artistic, imaginative, weird and solitary kid, Nature was It. Between going to Barbeau's, reading the old ethnographies and "mysterious Britain" type books, hunting and driving around in the mountains with Dad and family, and studying natural history, that was my world, my belief. God made Nature, but in a way, Nature was God too. I admit I was theologically confused, but I had clarity in my own mind about things. I knew we were part Irish, Welsh, Scot and English, and so between the Celtic ancestry and my belief in Nature, I considered myself kinsman to the Druids, even if I did not call myself a Druid.

Except for my Dad, I am the only one in my family who has chosen a different path (my Mom regularly attends Mass, my two brothers are apparently agnostic, although if pressed, probably would say they believe in God, and my two sisters go to church once in a while but are not too religious either), and I am often ribbed because of it, the "weird" brother. Just a couple of days ago, my more conventional and successful brother said "You still think you are a wizard, don't you" in an ironic, disbelieving, accusatory -but gentle- tone of voice. I nodded, shrugged. But they are family and we put up with each other's foibles because we love each other. I think it sad when so many who believe in something different, split ways with family over such a thing.

And I already talked about my experiment as a member of a Druid Order, the AODA, a Druid revival order I worked within through two grades before we "split the sheets" --that is, more aligned to lodge-style practices (aka masonic lodges) than reconstructionist Celtic neopaganism. I have to assert here, that though I have taken some "strange and diverse" paths, I have only worshipped the same God that I know as the Creator, the Earthmaker. I may get confused about the place of Christianity and the Church's terrible and marvelous history, but I always have a special place in my heart for Jesus and his mother Mary.

I don't accept the label of anything specifically, because I am so many different things, some of which are defined in exclusionary ways.

But the question here is: Am I a Druid?

I have wrestled with what it means to be a Druid today. On the one hand, if you want to be totally historically accurate, there aren't any Druids. Even the reconstructionists are just doing a bit of what Levi-Strauss called "bricolage." And reconstructionist bricolage is not much different from revival bricolage; both are just best guesses and preferences.

On the other hand, one could totally just forget about it all, because there is always going to be a bunch of arguments as to who is the "real" druid etc etc ad nauseum.

Sometimes when it is difficult to define what one "is," one can begin by defining by what one is not.

So, for example, to my way of thinking (see above), you are unlikely to be a druid, if...

You dislike or are bored by nature and the environment...
You have never been called a tree-hugger...
You have no interest in the ancient Celts, and have no idea of the differences between a Gaul and a Scot...
You think anything other than the nondenominational, fundamentalist Christianity of your own brand is a bunch of devil-worshippers...
You think all a Druid is, is a character class you play in an RPG...
For me, if any person exhibits the above traits, it is unlikely I could ever think of them as a Druid.

Ultimately, I think there are really two kinds of druids.

1. BRICOLAGIC DRUID - One type tries to gather bits and pieces of historical information from the record (and remembering that there are really only a few written records -by ROMANS, their enemies- about who the druids were and what they did), using that as a nonnegotiable basis, but leaving out parts unacceptable to our time (such as human sacrifice) ...or including parts from other aspects of "Celtic" cultures --such as worship of Brighid and faerie, that there is no direct evidence of belief/behavior that the ancient Druids were adherents of.

2. NEW DRUID - A person who loves nature, has a special attachment to trees, the woods, and wilderness, and whose beliefs and behaviors focus on that attachment --and who wishes to call themselves a Druid

So am I a Druid?

It is one of the terms I sometimes apply to myself, for myself, in my own way. I just say I'm a Druid, based on nothing more than my love for trees as sentient beings, my preference for nature-based spirituality, and my respect for and interest in our ancient and mysterious Celtic past, and my Irish-English-Welsh-Scot ancestors. I know that is not enough for some, but that's enough for me.