Oceans…

Now that you’ve all recovered from this years Lammas camp, Tiro and  I have something for you to think about.

Oceans cover over 2/3 of the surface of our planet, from shallow sandy beaches to deep arctic waters, life can be found going down into the Challenger Deep, 10,916 metres, which equates to 35,814 feet below us.  Water varies in temperature, salinity, density and chemical composition to provide the most variable habitat on the planet.

So: here’s where you get to have a think:

What do oceans mean to you?  Do you have a favourite memory of an ocean, visiting the seaside, or perhaps diving or fishing?  Do you feel a spiritual connection to salt water, or a liminality when on the shore?  A sense of ‘between places’?  Or is your connection to a marine animal?  Given the choice and capability would you live underwater, either in an adapted habitat or in open water?  Would you study marine biology or oceanography if given the opportunity?

Send your answers on a starfish, frilled shark tooth or alternatively, leave us a comment 🙂

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Call the Quarters: Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett and Trujillo…

Pagansim as a whole is a collective set of beliefs which can vary greatly.  Some individuals are historically reconstructionist, others base their understandings on the principles of human beings, such as Gardner, Cunningham or Restall Orr.  Recently there has been a new wave of paganism, that based not on the teachings of physical people or historical or archaeological record, but that based on popular culture.  Practitioners of this new form include Jude Reich and Taylor Elwood, author of Pop Culture Magick in 2008, who said “The truly flexible magician is one who adapts with the times”

You can read more about the phenomenon HERE , a guide to the basics HERE and a discussion on whether this involves pagans creating deity HERE

So: Discussion Time: what do you think of the adoption of Pop Culture practice?  Is it cultural appropriation a step too far, or could you see yourself using familiar pop culture references to achieve the same connections?  If you are of a path that you consider historical, does current pop culture hold the same weight as your own practice, or is the fact that popular culture is so changeable a factor in your decisions?  Would you regard this as a fake form of paganism, or can spirituality be found in animated cartoons?  If you would consider it, is there anything that you would consider a step too far?  Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Charmed?  Harry Potter? or an animated series such as Steven Universe?

Interfaith: Is There Anybody Out There?

To which the resounding answer is Yes 🙂  They are, and plenty of people are trying to figure out how to do interfaith work with those in other communities.  There are many points of discussion which can be far from explosive, such as:

How do members of a religious community strike a balance between adhering to ancient forms of their faith and responding to realities of modern life? (taken from the following article)

For ye good read, try THIS article, which is about interfaith work,  guest written by a Heathen on a Muslim blog 🙂

Interfaith: the beginning

Hail all you glorious readers,

Tiro and I have been doing a bit of thinking recently, it started out when we attended the Interfaith Conference on Domestic Violence a few weeks back, and has been germinating ever since.  The thought runs like this: if individuals can get together to talk about shared issues like domestic and spiritual abuse, then we surely should be able to get together and talk about our faith too.  Pagans already do this: the person sat next to you at a moot is likely not to hold even remotely close to the same beliefs as you, and yet people will sit together quite happily discussing and finding points of commonality.

So why not see if people from other faiths can be connected with to find points of commonality and shared experience?

And so to that, we came to the last Chesterfield moot to propose the idea formally.  And the members of the community there thought it was a good idea.  And so we’ve set ourselves a task:  to make connections with people of faith within our local area.  And this we will do, Tiro and I, and report back to you, our lovely community, about what we find and the connections we make.

To start you thinking, let’s start with the big one.  The folks that some of you may regard with suspicion, or have had a poor experience with in the past, or have felt that your spirituality has little to nothing in common with.  You know the ones I’m sure.  There are some of us that regard Christians as being completely incomprehensible in their passion for their faith and absolute assertions that a book made up of individual and sometimes contradictory texts forms the focus of a cohesive system of belief.

Keep that in mind, as you look at this site on the new movement of the Forest Church 🙂

Tackling Domestic Violence and Abuse in Faith Communities Conference

Today your illustrious web team got let out of the back office, and were unshackled from the daily grind of making this ‘ere site, to go and attend a day conference run by Kahrmel Wellness on Tackling Domestic Violence and Abuse in Faith Communities in Derby.  ‘Twas a goodly day with many things to think about; you might have already seen the couple of tweets we sent out whilst there.

Being as it’s an important subject, we thought we’d give you a bit of a rundown on the best bits, as it were.  The conference was free to attend, and least importantly, we got a lunch in the middle.  Before and after that, the speakers were a mix of professionals and faith leaders (such as rabbis and imams) talking about domestic abuse and the additional facets of spiritual abuse, migrant domestic violence experiences and immigration, child sexual abuse in faith communities, behavioural patterns of perpetrators, and female genital mutilation (FGM; which unfortunately included photographs, just before lunch…)

It would be really easy for us to say that cases of domestic abuse don’t happen within the pagan community.  It would be easy to say that we’re all wonderful people who respect each other’s choices and don’t try to control others.  It would be easy to say that it doesn’t happen here.  It only happens to other people.  Somewhere else.  All the paedophiles are Catholic priests, which get reported in the Daily Mail.  All the abusers who use people’s faith and core beliefs against them are in other faiths, and not ours.

It does happen here, though.  It’s a statistical certainty.

In a community the size of ours across the county, it’s most likely happening somewhere.  To someone.  Possibly someone you know.  And being perpetrated by someone else you know.  It could even be you.

Abuse doesn’t just include physical and sexual violence, though that can be and often is part of it.  It can also consist of emotional and psychological factors, financial and economic elements and incorporate forms of spiritual abuse. Continue reading

Capitalising Pagans: Oberon’s Tipping Point

An article on The Wild Hunt asks:

‘Was Paganism Left Out of the New AP Stylebook Religion Chapter?’

Writer Heather Greene refers to the new edition of the Associated Press style guide, The AP Stylebook. This is the book that instructs Associated Press journalists in presentation, to ensure an organisational consistency in their output. Most organisations with a written output will have some sort of style guidance document: it’ll outline matters of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and so on – for example, does the company approve of split infinitives? Does it use American or British English spelling? Should dialogue be presented in “double quotes” or ‘single quotes’?

And Heather asks:

‘What were the changes and additions? And, more importantly, how will they affect mainstream news reports on stories involving Pagans and Heathens? Will “Pagan” and “Paganism” finally be capitalized?’

She relates the story of one Oberon Zell who, in 2013, having ‘reached the tipping point’, started a campaign group called The Coalition to Capitalize Pagan (the group’s American – hence the ‘z’.  See?  Style guides are important). Oberon wrote a letter to the editors complaining that paganism as a religion deserves the same respect as other religions and should be capitalised, as they are. He collected sixty-one signatures for his letter, including Raymond Buckland, Vivianne Crowley and Starhawk. An accompanying petition on change.org ‘garnered over 450 signatures’. (Just to put that in context, the change.org petition to put Jane Austen on British banknotes collected 36,161 signatures. A petition to nominate Malala Yousafzai for the Nobel Peace Prize collected a quarter of a million.)

Heather quotes Oberon:

‘For the past 45 years I have been giving interviews on Paganism to newspaper journalists, always emphasizing that “Pagan” and “Paganism” are the proper names for our religion, and should thus be capitalized in that context.’

The trouble is, ‘Pagan’ and ‘Paganism’ aren’t the proper names for our religion, because paganism isn’t a religion. As one of the commenters beneath the Wild Hunt article points out, ‘paganism’ is a religious classification – a category of belief, not a religion in its own right. Comparable terms would be, for example, ‘monotheism’, ‘pantheism’ or ‘atheism’. In response, another commenter suggests ‘Abramism’, which is a religious classification and includes the religions descended from Abraham (aka Abram), such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. But the stylistic inconsistency here is that the words Abramic, Abramist and Abramism are based on a proper noun – the name of a person, Abraham – and thus carry a capital letter anyway.

The truth is that this is something of a complex area. The difference between ‘religion’ and ‘religious classification’ can be subtle. Christianity, for example, is accepted as a single religion even while members of its various denominations insult, assault, and occasionally kill each other over doctrinal differences (does the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ, or does it become the body and blood of Christ?). Roman Catholicism, a denomination of Christianity incorporating a single doctrinal tradition, is capitalised, as is Protestantism, which is a sub-classification of traditions including Anglicanism, which is a sub-classification of traditions including the Society of Friends and the Methodists. Yet – and this is very important – the colossal majority of Christians, be they Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, evangelical, or whatever else, live in relative peace with each other and recognise and celebrate their shared values and identity.

Forcing a comparison, as the Wild Hunt article compels us to do, where does the word ‘paganism’ sit in our version of that tree that, in Christian terms, has its root in ‘monotheism’ and branches out to Methodism?

Paganism can be (but is rarely) monotheistic: one God. It can be polytheistic: many gods. It can be pantheistic – that all is deity and deity is all; or it can be non-theistic: without gods. Paganism can be henotheistic, meaning that many gods are recognised but only one is worshipped. It can even be specific variants on this sort of terminology: duotheistic for those who worship the Goddess and the God; or tritheistic for those who recognise only the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone.

Yet while pagans can be included in all these brackets, these brackets do not in themselves denote paganism. Buddhists and Taoists may similarly believe in God, or gods, or they may be non-theistic and consider divinity to be something more conceptual – neither faith would label itself pagan. That said, some branches of Christianity would declare them such, because in that usage, ‘pagan’ means, essentially, ‘non-Christian’.  Even we have difficulty working out precisely what we mean when we say ‘pagan’, and generally seem to adopt the position that ‘you know it when you see it’.

It makes sense that some pagans would wish to assert their ownership of the word used to describe their several religions. They want to establish a difference between ‘Pagan’, which means… well, whatever it is that they believe; and ‘pagan’, which is so readily used to mean ‘someone who believes in something I don’t’. But the trouble is that ‘pagan’ means so many different things to so many different people, even within the pagan community, that it seems premature to be insisting of others that they treat us as one, single, unified faith. A Wiccan might freely identify themselves as a pagan and be happy to be referred to as such. But ask an Asatruar what paganism means to them and they’ll likely explain that actually they’re not pagans or Pagans – they’re Heathens. Yet to an outsider, the difference might be difficult to grasp. Assume Druidry is the same religion as Wicca and you’ll likewise be put straight soon enough. So on what basis, with all this said, does Oberon say, ‘“Pagan” and “Paganism” are the proper names for our religion’?

For myself, I would say that I’m pagan, but I’m not Pagan. I don’t follow a religion called Paganism.  Though, if you ask me what my actual religion is, I’d find it difficult to answer you just now. So maybe I have a flawed viewpoint. What do you think? Would you have signed the change.org petition? Have I missed an important point and misunderstood the issue completely? Put me right in the comments.


PS: Note from the Wild Hunt article:

On June 24 at 2:30pm, AP religion writer Rachel Zoll, who assisted Stylebook editors in creating the new AP Stylebook chapter, will be hosting a Twitter chat to discuss the changes to the guide, the inclusions and exclusions, and about religion journalism in general. Go to Twitter and follow the #APStyleChat hashtag to hear what she has to say.

Might be interesting.

The Observance of the Equinox

Well, the vernal equinox, and the pagan festival of Ostara or Eostre, has come and gone, and according to the media, we’re now officially in spring.

Which is nice.

Although it does raise the question of what’s been going on since Imbolc, when winter ended.

Still, it’s heartening to see that the Telegraph treated the subject reasonably. Reporting, as the papers fitfully do, on the observance of the equinox at Stonehenge by “[d]ruids, pagans and revellers”, it manages not to jeer, as Certain Papers would generally do, but simply explains the significance of the astronomical event and how it forms the root of numerous cultures’ springtime rites “including Easter, Passover and Nowruz, the Persian New Year”, as well as that of modern British pagans, druids and related communities.

Although, speaking of Certain Papers, the Daily Mail – usually an unfailing source of scorn when pagan festivals come round – has thankfully chosen to remain silent this time. Presumably it’s busy demonising other people at the moment. I’m sure normal service will be resumed by Midsummer.

Other news sources treated the equinox from different cultural angles. The Ilford Recorder reported on the activity of the Zoroastrian and Baha’i communities in Redbridge as they prepared for Nowruz, while the Guardian’s Iranian section covered some of the traditions observed in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Here in the UK, our Christian friends are preparing to celebrate Easter, the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion, which falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox. The Jewish faith celebrates Passover at around this time, and numerous other rituals and observances in cultures around the world serve to assure us that, despite how winter might have led us to doubt it, the wheel is still turning, and life will return to the world.  Lengthening days and warmer weather (although not straight away, if the thickness of frost on my car this morning is anything to go by) mean we’re heading determinedly into the Light Half of the year. The long, cold nights retreat – at least for a while.

And what does all this mean? It means it’ll soon be time for holidays, festivals, events and camps and all manner of other awesomeness. Enjoy yourselves. And don’t forget: we want pictures (within reason).

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PS: One interesting idea the Telegraph came up with in its article this time is the notion that “The goddess [Eostre or Ostara] is symbolised by eggs, representing new life, and rabbits or hares, for fertility. The name is also the root of the term given to the female hormone oestrogen.”[link]

It’s a lovely thought, but it’s not true: oestrogen literally means something that produces (-gen, as in ‘generate’) oestrus – the name given to the recurring fertility and, erm… how can we put it?  The enthusiasm for mating, let’s say, in female mammals. And the word oestrus itself is Latin, and means ‘passion’. It does, strangely enough, share a root with ‘irate’ and ‘ire’ which we use to mean a ‘passion’ of anger. Eostre, on the other hand, is thought to come from the Proto-Indo-European root ‘aus-‘, which means ‘shining’, and may originally have referred to a goddess of dawn.