12 Comments

  1. Lucy,
    As I’m in Rochester, New York, I don’t think I get Radio National’s Encounter episode. I have read through the transcript you linked to, though. (Thanks!)
    Overall, I’d say it looks like a pretty good show. Fukui asks some great questions, talks to Pagan (well, Wiccan) practitioners, and even includes some quotes from Ronald Hutton.
    However, my problem with this show is the problem I have with most articles and shows that are allegedly about Paganism: While they give lip service to being about “Paganism” in all its diversity, it mostly tends to be all about (eclectic) Wicca. All of the speakers are (eclectic) Wiccan (or at least heavily influenced by eclectic Wiccan thought and writings, and it tends to shine through to those of us who are of a different persuasions. As an example of this, they talk about “circle casting” as if it’s a nearly-universal Pagan practice, whereas Druids (I’m most familiar with the liturgical practices of Ar nDraicht Fein, mind you) and Asatruar both have other ways they consecrate ritual space (though the Asatru hammer ritual does have some similarities to calling the Quarters in Wiccan ritual). And there are just other little things that an (eclectic) Wiccan will talk about in terms of “Paganism” that really only applies to their traditions.
    I grant you, finding other Pagans (like a Druid, Asatruar, or even a British Traditional Wiccan) can be more daunting for various reasons, and I can understand why Fukui would not be aware of her sources’ own blind spots when it comes to talking about “Paganism” as a whole, so I don’t really blame her. I also don’t think it’s really possible to represent the entire diversity of Pagan beliefs and practices in such a show. But even an acknowledgment of the failure to do so would be nice.

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  2. With you there Jarred. Many of the Pagans I’ve met, both in Sydney and online, have been of the non-Wiccan variety – eg. Shamans, Heathens, Discordians, etc. Actually saw an Asatru ritual once, with the hammer and all, at the Under the Blue Moon / Dark Alternative Festival at Enmore.

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  3. Yes, Jarred, I was interested in your feedback because I thought it seemed a bit Wicca-orientated, and I understand the points you are making about the exposé being somewhat narrow in scope. Despite your occidental distance, with the wonders of modern technology, isn’t it amazing, really, that you can read the transcript via the web, or perhaps even listen to a podcast from an Australian radio service?!
    One thing, I would like to ask your opinion on, is about the apparent “harmony” amongst practitioners with diverse views or beliefs about a particular ritual practice (or set of practices) in which they may be participating. Quoting Ronald Hutton from the interview: “people who hold… different attitudes in one relatively small group, coexisting without any tension.” Do you think this can be said of all or the majority of Pagans, or the Pagans in your experience?
    One thing about being a Christian, is that I deplore the arrogance, narrow-mindedness and patronising attitude that some people display when it comes to discussing faith issues. However, I would also say that some of the most ecstatic and deeply satisfying experiences I have had were times of sweet fellowship with Jesus-following friends (and sometimes even Jesus-following strangers).
    Also another thing I picked up from the radio national session was Douglas Ezzy’s comment:
    “The conversion narratives in witchcraft and Paganism are different to what you get in Christianity. Christian conversion narratives tend to be like, ‘I was lost, I was misguided, I was doing these horrible and bad things and then I found Jesus’, whereas witches, you ask them when they became a witch and they’ll say something like, ‘Well, I was always a witch’, or ‘I was always a Pagan, I just didn’t know it.’”
    Personally, I sometimes felt a bit like the odd one out when it came to “testimony time” because my story is one of ‘Well, I was always a Christian, and I always knew it’! I didn’t have the lost/misguided/reform from sad-bad-evil lifestyle narrative. That is not to say that I haven’t had to face my flaws, failures (often failing very hard “by my own hand”) and propensities toward selfishness, self-preservation, deception etc etc etc, as well as having to deal with the vicissitudes of life and the vagaries of fellow human beings. I was just curiously/graciously spared (sometimes rather miraculously) from depths of degradation through which others have had, for whatever reasons, to traverse. I have known Christ from my very first memories, for which I am extremely grateful.
    Which brings me on to another question, Jarred, if you don’t mind…
    How does gratitude figure in your knowledge and/or experience of modern Paganism (or perhaps more accurately, post-modern, Paganism)?

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  4. I started replying to what I thought was a blog about a “nuddhist email”, but then realized my glasses were dirty and that the heading actually read “Buddhist Email”. Now I can’t think of what else profound to say.

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  5. @Lucy: Regarding the claims about harmony, I’m not really sure how to evaluate the reality. It is true that for many public rituals, it is possible for people to come to the ritual with extremely different understandings of the nature of the gods and still work together. As Ian Corrigan of ADF once put it when the topic came up on the gorup’s public discussion list, “I don’t care if you believe gods are really archetypes, as long as you treat them like individual entities during our rites.”
    However, the vast majority of public rites tend to be (eclectic) Wiccan in flavor, and some people have an understnadable problem with that at times. (Our local shop owner who also hosts public rituals every Sabbat goes out of her way to try and entice non-Wiccan groups to lead the public ritual at times in order to combat this). Reconstructionists (particularly Norse reconstructionists) tend to avoid such rituals, partly because they feel that there’s too strong a current of homogenization of practice and belief in (eclectic) Wicca, leaving those groups concerned about maintaining their uniqueness and diversity.
    I also think that Pagans tend to be better at respecting diversity when we’re coming together for a common cause or mutual support.
    As for your question about gratitude, it’s an interesting one. I would have to say that for me (I’m hesitatnt to speak authoritatively for other Pagans, let alone all of them), gratitude is deeply embedded in my understanding of divinity and the world we live in. Life itself is a wonderful gift and something to celebrate. Part of the celebration is to be thankful for it.
    Also, my understanding of Pagan cosmology is that all life and all reality is interconnected and interdependent. This tends to lead me to a sense of gratitude not only to the Divine, but to those in the Web of Life with me, whose very actions and being affects me, supports me, and sustains me.
    That’s a very vague answer, and I apologize for that. However, I fear I’d have to write a book that would be rambling and only make sense to me to give a more detailed answer. 😉

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  6. Correct me if this sounds wrong Jarred, but over the years I’ve come to the understanding that different religions have different centres of gravity, and these centres of gravity become very important in discussions about religious harmony.
    For example, in this article I suggest that Esotericists (including Pagans) are more symbol orientated than story oriented.
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/christian/2009/10/story-symbol-and-spirituality.html
    And in this article I suggest that karma, reincarnation and dharma are more important for Hinduism than than divinity.
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/christian/2010/05/do-the-hindu-roots-of-yoga-matter.html
    This clashes with Christian expectations.
    Christ is so central for Christianity that our religious experience misleads us. It teaches us to expect other religions to treat their scriptures as importantly as we do, yet for many religions ritual is more important. We expect others to treat theology seriously, yet for many religions practice and experience is more authoritative.
    So, here’s my experience with Pagans and Paganism. I find Pagans are FAR more pedantic about ritual correctness than your average Protestant, yet quite blasé about what gods everyone worships or even what different people regard the gods to be. Practice is more primary than belief. So observing their beliefs is not the best measure of where tensions reside. This is especially true for Wiccans, but I gather the same could be said for OTO and other groups too. Worship whatever gods you like, ascribe to whatever theology you like, but DON’T break the circle!
    You might find my observations of Unitarian Universalists interesting with respect to this
    http://mattstone.blogs.com/christian/2007/10/voices-of-a-liberal-faith—unitarian-universalists.html
    I wonder how long the harmony would last if the diversity of practice in any way approached the diversity of belief. If participants to a ritual suddenly started wandering about and talking spontaneously and breaking ritual expectations the way Charismatics typically do. I can imaging some High Priestesses getting their noses out of joint real quick (Ur doing it wrong!). If fact I’ve heard a number of stories to that effect.
    In my experience, religions tend to be more tollerant the less important something is to them, and less tollerant the more important something is to them. When encountering a new religion I find signs of tension are a useful guide as to what is more important for them. It helps me understand them.

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  7. Thanks, Jarred for taking the time to answer my questions. Some things are not particularly easy to express clearly, but what you said made sense, and I sure can relate to your comment about the temptation to write a book. One of the things I like about blogging is how it helps me to process and clarify.
    Wow, Matt, you sure make some interesting points! Be good to hear Jarred’s (and indeed, anybody else’s) informed thoughts on them.
    Meanwhile, I came across something today which I will attempt to synthesize with my own thoughts and which may touch on aspects of the faith that differentiate the essence of Christianity from other religions…
    Obedience is a relational faith-walk for Christians – relating holistically to our “Deity”, Jesus Christ (who incarnates what God is like), from which flows better relationships with fellow human beings and the rest of creation (increasing the actualisation of harmony) – neither slavishly following proceduralised activities to the letter nor being so dilute in practise that our defining identification with Christ is unrecognisable… “free to follow”. Sadly though, many branches of Christianity have become severed from, withered on, or incompatibly grafted from the original “Vine”. It is indeed sad to observe how far some have erroneously evolved. However, it is certainly life-inspiring when one does experience the freedom and freshness of authentic fellow Jesus-followers!

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  8. You know, it’s worth noting that the Book of Shadows is essentially a liturgical manual. It’s more profitably compared to the Common Book of Prayer than the Bible. Says a lot I think.

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