I woke this morning from dreams of conversations half heard and arguments stirred on by vague opinions. It disturbed me mostly due to it's stark reality of what I have witnessed in the past during actual gatherings of people who are to be said 'of liked minds'. As I awoke, what was on my mind, and slipped from my lips was this;" It is rude to discuss religion or politics in mixed company, simply because you don't know who your'e going to piss off!"
I made my morning coffee and decided to do some reading and research on the current going's on of the Pagan world, and true to form, there is a lot of hub bub going on. We Pagans are so diverse, we can't seem to even agree within our own 'traditions' for the most part, and there is good reason for it. (I'll get to this later.) And when we do agree, it is usually to do so while, or because, we are attacking another religion or Pagan tradition, and these mini-truse's seem to last only as long as we focus on our subject(s). Then it occurred to me, that this is generally accepted as not only the norm, but approved of by the majority of Pagans. It still didn't shock me, it stirred me on!
The phrase I am so used to hearing is;"Self - proclaimed Witches or Pagans". I truly believe that this is supposed to be an insult or a belittling of one's belief. Guess what? It is a statement of FACT! Here is my take on it...
I am a 'self-proclaimed' Druid, and I am a 'self-proclaimed Wiccan Priest'. Almost all of us Pagans are 'self-proclaimed' something or other within our beliefs. Some, or maybe most of the more vocal, are not only 'self-proclaimed', but are also 'papered' by some recognized organization or another within those boundaries of that belief system, AND licensed by a 'legal' entity such as a State or by Federal recognition of the government. Still, we are 'self-proclaimed'. I proclaimed to the world my belief. I state that I am a practitioner, Priest, and believer of my faith and religion. So the title is true; 'Self-Proclaimed'.
Like many others, I took the time to honor my religion by studying under various mentors and training systems to better understand the philosophies, histories and symbolism of my religion. I researched every aspect of my belief through science, literature, and mysticism known to me or taught to me by others. My mentors went to great pains to teach me their understandings so that I was exposed to other concepts of belief. Even before I became a 'legally recognized clergy memebr' of my religion, I was publicly recognized and personally proclaimed as not only a practitioner, but as a honorable Priest of my faith. Not the faith nor belief of my mentors, but my faith.
"Let no man dictate your religion, it rests between you and your creator."
This was the truest statement I have ever heard. It has never left my understanding, nor has been removed from my teachings. Yes, I teach what was taught to me, discovered by me, and interpreted and understood by me. However, my students are taught to 'think for themselvs' and encouraged to learn from ALL sources of information, for and against, literal and scientific, historical and myth, about the religions and cultures that birthed them to us. Ours is NOT the Old Way, it is our belief that is Old, our practice is New.
Yes, we carry many of the 'old sciences' along with us, so that the Old Way, like Herb lore, is not lost to the new science of pharmacology. We continue to follow the 'old' teachings of astrology, and we hold to the psychology and metaphysical understandings of practices long debunked by 'modern' science. Bit these are only a part of our belief. Mighth as well accuse us of 'idolatry' and 'false deity' worship! That too is true! It is because it is OUR RELIGIOUS BELIEF(S).
I do not always agree with others in my religious belief, and rightly so. You and I see things from 'single points of perspective'. We can either agree, disagree or compromise in those individual points of view. And as a group we tend to rationalize the majority or most accepted concepts as the 'truth' or approved view. Yet, we remain true to ourselves and our Gods in our belief. Pagans, today, seem to think that; a) we should all be able to get along, or b) that we are within our rights to act barbaric and uncivilized in our disagreements. Both concepts are of course backed by statements of historic or mythological record of 'right and propper' action.
I absolutely HATE followers! If you or anyone you know within the Pagan community are followers of some Priest/Priestess, then you are not thinkers. Everyone in any Pagan religion, or ANY religion for that matter, needs no Priest, Revrend, or Minister/Clergy, to commune with Nature or the Gods.
Here is a clue, of all the Pagan cultures that I have studied in my 25 years, only a hand-full EVER fought over a religious point or practice!The 'great religious wars' didn't even come about until the Judao-Christian faith and the Muslim faith locked horns. In Egypt, there was several minor militant-religious wars, but that was about the time of the Hebrew captivity. There is plenty of research available on this, please feel free to study up on it.
Secondly, Pagans are not as 'fluffy' as some would believe, and rightly so due to the religious teachings of their faith(s). Although I try my best to diffuse conflict and avoid physical confrontation, I am a warrior, and have no qualms when defending myself, or my belief. I am Celt! Descendant of a culture that conquered most of the known world, including Egypt and Rome! Yes, they also fell, as all Great Nations do. But the blood remembers. ( Ask any Native American!)
As a Pagan, we do not have to 'get along' on things we do not agree on. However in this country, the USA that is, we had best decide to defend one another's rights to believe in our faith(s) and honor that if nothing else. Why? Because the religious movement in america had not lessened, only grown more secretive and selective in its activities. Our government had again allowed for 'questioning' of our 'guarenteed' rights as set by the Constitution, and in so doing are opening up an opportunity for those faiths that are organized and are co-supportive, to be able to help rewrite these amendments and secure those freedoms and rights away from us. don't think it can happen? Look to the first breaking of the Catholic Church, they didn't think that either!
So, get over yourselves! Quit accusing each other of 'self-proclaimed' this or that. (BTW: most books out there on the market not only approve on 'self dedication and solitary study/practice, they teach one how to accomplish it.) Doing so only weakens us as Pagans and adds not only ammunition to non-Pagan assultants, but injures our honor, our Rights and faith(s).
Follow YOUR religion, hold to Your beliefs and remain true to YOUR Faith, and quit trying to interpret mine and tell me how wrong I am or anyone else is because you have found something different. It is our differences that not only make us unique, but strengthens us in our understanding of our religion. It is our similarities that allow us to communicate and celebrate our history, our ancestors and our Gods together.