Existential Paganism

I originally penned this for NOTES on Facebook since my connection to Pagans in Eire’s facebook pages I felt a bit like writing on the concept of existential paganism and felt that Notes might be a better platform instead of my Fear-Draíochta blog since many people on Facebook are familiar with with my involvement in the neopagan movement.

For a while now I’ve been feeling a like walking contradiction in terms. I believe in the Gods and in the philosophical principles behind neopaganism, principles such as reverence for the Ancestors, nature and the principles which govern magic (since I’m both a witch and a magician). I also believe in the Seven Hermetic Principles or axioms including the Principle of Duality, I use duality moreso than polarity as I think that polarity as a concept has been subverted and manipulated, for some reason we tend to think of polarity as a battle between the sexes in neopaganism? Originally this is the axiom that everything has two poles which eventually meet.

So I clearly believe in magic and it works for me. I’m certainly not suggesting it’s everyone’s path in life. Now for the tricky subject of the gods and divinity. I’ve noted that there seem to be a movement in neopaganism to assert the Sacred Feminine over the Divine Masculine which has been encapsulated in popular Wiccan cosmology more readily. I’m not an initiate of Wicca (The Craft of the Wica) so I shan’t be discussing this facet in any sense of the word. I’ll leave that to those more in the know ;). But Wicca101 would permit all gods and all goddesses to be manifestations of the God and Goddess generally referred to as The Lord and The Lady.

While meditating last night I found myself revisiting the Sacred Feminine both as a concept and as an innate feeling within. It reminded me that in Irish mythology the people call to Danú, the goddess of the land or earth in Tuatha de Danann lore yet there is Anú as well. It could be argued that Anú is the concept name while Danú is the expression of the physical form. Both are one but relate different forms of interaction. In the Irish language (both Sean-Gaelige and Nua-Gaelige) d usually denotes a declension or possession such as evidenced in bráthair for spiritual brother (monk) and dearthair for blood brother, súir for a sister (nun) and deirfúir for a blood sister, further evidence exists in other words too. Its an interesting distinction our Irish ancestors made and one I’m fairly confident is worthy of note.

When first coming to paganism some 8-10 years ago I refused to dedicate to any god or goddess because I honestly felt no incentive to. I worked with gods and goddesses from a variety of pantheons (as most do!) and cultural histories, delighting in both the experience and the learning about other cultures, and never encountered a specific issue with relating to their energies. But chief amongst them was Gaia, the Mater Dominatrix or Great Mother. History suggests that the ancient Greeks had a very similar relationship to Gaia (sometimes spelt Gaea) as the ancient Irish did with Danú/Anú. She lay dormant, sleeping in the earth but wasn’t limited to it. Some evidence exists to suggest she may have originally had her Temple at Dephi before Apollon (Apollo) took over as god of prophecy.

My main thesis is that culture really hasn’t altered that much. Whether monotheistic, polytheistic or duo-theistic or even atheist – people look for expressions to function as landmarks and to name the unnamed. So with so many valuable and cherished experiences of divinity I was left in a quandary as to the nature of neopagan movement searching for a “lost polytheistic” or “matriarchal society” as envisioned in the Sacred Feminine. I’m not very mystical so mystical paganism doesn’t suit either. I’ve often described myself as pragmatic pagan meaning I believe in practical spirituality that enhances my life and ultimately my ability to function in the world. Which is still a valid label but another label I’ve recently encountered is that of existential paganism.

Existentialism is a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.

Other neopagan friends of mine have found a suitable label in atheist pagan, which I can actually understand given that during the 1970s many non-traditional pagans gathered in London and asserted that one could be pagan in lifestyle and philosophy and non-religious too. Oddly enough I didn’t find this to be contradictory in terms since we’d all been reading Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men. In it, Pratchett asserts that just because gods exist does not mean one has to go about believing in them. The concept he names headology. It seems to be a concept a lot of religious and non-religious witches feel attracted to, possibly because it means dealing with less fluffy-bunny types.

Those familiar with Fear-Draíochta blog will be aware of my work with Sinann the goddess of the River Shannon. I first encountered her voice in a moment of clair-audience while on an evening walk around the Shannon and felt her to be very old. At that stage Irish mythology was a strong meandering I wasn’t in the form to engage with so walked away. It wouldn’t be until I began college in Limerick the other end of the River Shannon in fact that I heard her call again. This time I’d made touch with members of the Grove of Sinann (coincidentally in Keshcarrigan where my maternal great-grandmother was born and raised) so had some links to people who’d done more work than I. Seems like me they’d been working around the myths of Sinann with the understanding that dedication nor initiation was required or even traditional. Indeed Sinann’s story is about the subversion of orthodoxy and traditional concepts and approaches.

My hope for this entry is that I might explore other non-religious but deeply spiritual approaches to life. I hope that it also goes some measure at hinting at broader understandings of deity outside of the traditional view of us down here and gods over/up there [waves arms dramatically lacking specific direction]. Hopefully, but it’s not exactly a mission either, some over zealous neopagans might yield up and take things less personally when others comment that they don’t share the same views.

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