Neopaganism and Academia

Within modern esotericism there is a strong penchant for scholarly work and emphasis and so it comes and no surprise to read MOTO, and to follow the breadcrumbs back to Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and witness some interesting relationships towards the academic work of Ronald Hutton. I’ll be frank and forthright right now and say I’ve never read the man’s work despite a lot of neopagans insisting I would enjoy it for it’s reputed scholarly work. I’m not one to enjoy presumptions much but I’ve been trying to maintain an open mind. What I would say is that academic work is not published so that everyone agrees. Often it’s the most immediate means for an academic to circulate their completed thesis or work for review and debate amongst the appropriate circle.

To look at neopaganism in more detail (frankly I have some info needing further exploration and its being held for my Final Year Project work) I would argue that one need to look not just historically but culturally and sociologically as well. Often since we’re looking at a relatively new paradigm which is still developing cultural characteristics all the time so reaching a definitive conclusion. This may not wrap up matters perfectly for a lot of those relying on academic research (or more often the “notable authority’s” name assoc
iated with it) to prove their assertions correct and others wrong.

In my own opinion, is that neopaganism as we now understand it to be is a syncretism of a variety of influences dating circa the mid-20th Century. The lines between Wicca and Neopaganism can become blurred at times especially when one views Wicca with the lens of what is published in “Wicca101” material. Frankly I find this exceedingly lazy for crafting a personal praxis or a system of magical operation and is often endemic of a media-based culture consumed with immediacy of magic and not the systemic approach which I believe inevitably serves for more effective mag
ic in the long run.

It is at this juncture we reach a crux in the positions of a lot of neopagan witches, who may like myself identify themselves sooner with the term witch, in identifying ‘witch’ with the role of a priesthood and therefore as a spiritual counsellor or leader. There are of course the initiatory traditions often described in-house as ‘The Craft of the Wica’ or increasingly as British Traditional Wicca (BTW) or Traditional Initiatory Wicca (TIW). I’ve even seen a few mentions of ‘Neo-Wicca’ for those not following an initiatory tradition. All of which seems to be a strong indicator for the nuances of how subcultures develop and branch out over time. Traditional or Initiatory Wicca involves the praxis revolving around a central religious philosophy best described by those adhering to it.

Personally I’ve never sought dedication to a particular deity, either god or goddess. On Fear Draíochta I have posted on a working relationship to Sinann both because I am living on the back of the river Shannon (the longest river in Ireland) which holds a lot of cultural history and mythos which in Ireland is strongly connected on territorial basis. The myths and legends as espoused in the literary records, as opposed to those which are orally recorded often centuries after the arrival of Christianity.

Since my last post on Sinann I’ve encounter so many possible facets to the “goddess” and I use comas for a reason since we have a theory in development around this being yet another possible title rather than a goddess. Also I do need to clarify that there is no historical or archeological evidence that Irish deities, were never worshipped in the sense of classical mythology with huge temples and shrines.

On my altar you will see some Egyptian statues in the background but once again no dedication since namely this was intended as a working altar not a shrine but also because while invariably working with these deities or godforms I have been exploring my own identity as a witch and magician. But chiefly these statues feature because I have no space elsewhere in my room for them and they happen to support the painting in the background. I’m a firm believer in practical and pragmatic paganism.

Perhaps Nick Farrell is correct when he suggests that neopagan practitioners and observers do tend to defer to orthodox practices harkening to their Christian or monotheistic upbringing because I do believe in a One Being and the deities which have now been assumed into neopaganism such as the Mórrígain, the Dagdha and Boann from Irish mythology, Rhiannon and Cerridwen from Welsh and Epona from Central Europe are aspects of this One Being perhaps with their own sentience and personality of purpose. I don’t pretend to be steadfast in my beliefs as I’m still developing my own sense of cosmology based on experiences.

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