Pagan Perspective: Learning Different Ways

Question: from MrAbhainn
–“Recently the group I work with had an open event for seekers to come and ask questions and test the waters before applying to the group for membership. There were a few people who’d practiced personal paths and had pre-established correspondences already. This is not a problem though seeing some of these individuals take the correspondences as doctrine they found it a shock to see differences. I’d love to hear host’s experiences learning correspondences and developing associations beyond the ‘Wicca 101’ material. Have you any techniques for learning pantheons or crystals etc.? How about complexity of herbs?”

The Vast World of Correspondences

Learning as one goes seems to be the way for this poster, which I sort of get because its tough enough learning everything and sometimes meaning does lie in the moment. I like that he identifies with the role of memory and the sensory experience of the process as well.

To be honest I hadn’t really expected the question to be read to literally but to offer options for the different vloggers to discuss so I appreciate that he went to the bother of examining everything from herbs and crystals to pantheons (which if I were asking now I’d probably ask about more grimoiric borrowings such as angels and then more shamanic or Traditional craft of spirits).

Learning Associations

Cara does seem to identify that most books and tables of correspondences are caveated with the phrase that “these are the author’s own views” or similar. Thankfully Cara also goes to other views from blogs, vlogs and talks with other practitioners too.

Pantheons: Very much a run of experiences based on need much like the previous poster’s methodology.

Crystals and Herbs: Books and Internet help Cara immensely and looks for commonalities between sources and then exploring discrepancies. For her its more of a scientific methodology as she will also go to friends and experienced workers. She also interesting looks to what is in her possession and what is familiar from books before exploring exotic herbs and crystals.

Trial and error comes into it more with Elements and Directions. This time she went with basic feeling around positioning her altar.

For me personally, having listened to Cara’s experiences, I find myself realising there is a synthesis of knowledge and experience to work a system of magic that works for her.

Wednesdays with Eric: Associations and Correspondences

Eric is pretty forthright in that his knowledge is limited. He’s very clear on herbal work and correct use of herbs as medical work and magical work.

Interestingly the group gnosis concept is an interesting facet behind this line of questioning because I’ve met so many groups whose associations and world-views are so far removed from my own that I have struggled. Some of this was learning to be more pliable myself but mostly it was learning that we just weren’t a good fit.

Correspondences

Charlie explains that her own experiences have been influenced by the wide diaspora of practitioners of modern magic. For Charlie there is a natural tendency to synthesise her own praxis with tips and suggestions working for her.

She does note that for her energetically North makes more sense that East as the starting and end point of the ritual Circle. Interestingly, she spends time building up her own associations to each element and from this she seems to pick up on the various influences on the crystals or energetic make-up (spirits?) of stones and crystals with her analogy to Amythst. Herbs, however are based on natural medicine and a more orthodox perspective.

What I LOVE here is that Charlie really drives home praxis rather than study… getting out there and learning to build up what I would call an energetic language to work with that is beautifully complex but honest.

Are these Facts?

PurpleKillJoy offers some insight into the jumping off point. From the perspective of Pantheons PKJ is interesting because he works with patron gods moreso than a range of gods from a particular pantheon. Also he explores the role of fun in learning with a board game he played which helped with Herbs. Flashcards and hiking are some of his suggestions.

PKJ suggests this is rather easy because they are all “just theories”, I’m not sure I would agree with this because even if some theories hold true a lot of these theories flow very strongly into the egregore of a tradition or a group. Essentially forming the backbone for the student’s development within the system.

Many Paths…

DancingRabbit does a little more to distinguish between approaches to running a coven or group. DR comes from the CUUPS which is a pagan branch of the Unitarian Church moreso with a variety of influences in their open group. DR acknowledges the syncreticism unique to their group which offers each member to lead the group in turn with their own tradition or spiritual outlook.

DR seems to be confusing associations with the concept of sympathetic resonance – which to be honest I was hoping more of the speakers would pick up on behind the question. Associations have a basis in comparative obversation often following cause and effect i.e. fire creates ore for metalurgy to create the knife or sword. Sympathetic resonance, can owe a lot to comparative observation but also plays off against symbolism in ritual use.

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Warnings for aspiring and early magicians – unscrupulous vampires and scapegoats

Some interesting ideas from magician, Josephine McCarthy over on here blog. I would counsel that energy drain can happen after an active session of listening to one’s teacher not inherently of wrong-doing. But if you are curious or concerned do ask. Ideally a “clean work station” policy should be in place for students of beginner magic.

Josephine McCarthy

Various people have contacted me over difficult situations with study groups, workshop leaders and teachers. So rather than tie up my time answering the same questions individually, here is a blog of magical warnings, what to spot, what to look out for and what to avoid as you plough your way those the maze of study. Yes, it’s one of those ‘happy’ posts…..

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Pagan Perspective: Labeling Issues [7.9-7.14]

Labels Are for Soup Cans

This is an interesting concept in Wicca because you actually find the same dialogue being espoused in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community. Of course I agree you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone else but as I do find it can be difficult to engage with like-minded folk without a few descriptors being involved. Sometimes this involves developing other people’s mental associations beyond the primary label being used so for instance – I’m not a gay, disabled, English grad student, occultist and witch even though these can be very informative of my opinions and interactions with people. Assuming such is problematic because some people guess my sexual orientation and some don’t, most never guess that I have a disability or what’s classed as one in Ireland because it’s classed as a Hidden Disability and as the label suggests its hidden but it’s effects are no less poignant on my life. Conversely, my grammar isn’t too good now either so I often giggle when I see people recoiling for fear that the mean English Graduate student is going to correct their grammar all of a sudden. Much like the Hidden Disability my occultism and witchcraft isn’t something someone on the bus is going to know though I am open amongst friends – both other practitioners and non-practitioners.

Wednesdays with Eric: Labels

Eric takes up the mantle of the social creature. I tend to share Eric’s view that labels can provide a jumping off point for discussion. Interestingly, Eric comments that “there is no set in stone label I could set on myself” and does indeed call himself by a few different labels within various discussions.

As Eric identifies clearly the problem with labels in modern paganism is that what someone calls Pagan can be very different in practice compared to someone practices. There is obviously a bias and prejudice as Eric points out but my own stance is one of “story-teller syndrome”. Now STS is a fun social condition wherein no matter what I saw to someone or how clearly I express it it WILL be misconstrued through ‘Chinese whispers’.

Names and Titles

Here we come into my own sphere of dialogue here with Arianravenheart as she begins with Traditional Wicca as borne by Gerald B. Gardiner. Traditional Wicca was/is a part of the greater Western Mystery Tradition with rites, rituals and traditions held in secrecy between initiates. The rocketing of the label “Wicca” into the public sphere has brought about new understandings of the term but a recent backlash has been to ascribe non-initiated Wiccans as “Neo-Wiccans” or “solitary, eclectic Wiccans”, which some argue is a bit too oxymoronic to work.

My only issue with this addition is that it refers to finding “The Craft” online, this infers that the Craft is a homogeneous whole rather than a descriptor for individualistic practices with shared themes. For instance saying the Craft to a Freemason means something slightly different than it does to a Wiccan. So, realistically speaking as ARH describes her relationship to the Wiccan Rede, which has been publicly explored many times online and understood to be an anarchism of the word Rede meaning advice rather than rule we can start to see how “Names and Titles” convey a variety of meaning to different groups and individuals.

Thankfully ARH does surmise by asking a person not to feel obliged into being pigeon-holed into certain descriptors.

Identity

PurpleKillJoy adopts a rather Individualist mentality as he sees religion as a living tradition approach to the whole dialogue. Thing is PKJ identifies that books will say one thing about labelling as a means to self-identify when comes to Wicca and what he’s read enables him to claim a right to the use of Wicca as a label but that many Traditionalists have taken umbrage with this.

Ironically PKJ seems to chastise those who don’t read the material or work with the correspondences and associations of the Elements and the Sabbats yet the question remains what has he NOT learned that exists in Traditional Wicca (Wica) that would have people in that social/religious grouping feeling a bit irked at his labelling. To be honest I tend to get the feeling that policing the labels is done through how much knowledge or information one can retain or present. Problematically PKJ ascribes the role of decider to Society yet the Global Society is too large and removed to understand the sub-society of Neo-Paganism in my view. Someone who is experienced enough must be leading Society to determine the right use of labels here, so who?

Truth in Labelling

DancingRabbit (author of The Way of the Horned God: A Young Man’s Guide to Modern Paganism) comments on the group label as the group mind comes into effect. He takes up a ethnological view of the development of the meaning vs interpretation of certain labels.

Basically DR sees a labelled-group as somehow unreal or cerebral in nature rather than hosting or being ensouled as an egregore. An egregore has a spirit behind it which is powered by the group. Obviously this assumes the group we’re speaking about is structured around a magical purpose (i.e. Initiation, Healing, Divination, Magic as a whole), indeed DR made a few misnomers himself when he was writing his novel and marketed as Paganism but considerably taken from Neo-Wicca themes rather than wider Pagan practices.

DR does offer the handy advice that understanding the label is as important if not more important than claiming the label. I have called myself by a few labels now mostly because since I originally planned to share this post I’ve read a lot of interesting labels but also because I’ve enjoyed playing with expectations of meaning. For me personally, I have found that playing with labels allows people to ask more about my personal world-views and such.

oath breakers and spirit singers

Very interesting ideas around the counter-cultural notions which influenced the term Witch to begin with. Reclaiming of terms is a potent force for any ideological movement and I think modern Witchcraft is just as much a part of that as any other.

Edit Postscript: 02/04/2014

The link below is the original post from Summer Thunder, which spurred on the discussion of the use of Warlock. After leaving it for some time and returning to it I find myself captivated by ways in which bloggers have taken to re-exploring and even redefining this term. Uncle Herschel, from Star and System added to the discussion by examining the term “waer” as possibly meaning ‘truth’ rather than ‘oath’, thus making the term warlock referring to “truth-breaker”. Uncle Herschel is asking us to consider the more metaphysical implications when he says the following:

We can imagine something of the Old Norse world from whence truth arises from oaths or promises. Recall, for example, the spear of Odin on which was engraved every promise and oath he had made. These oaths provided not just the foundation of his rule, and that of the gods, but the very foundation for what was to count as truth and reality for the rest of the cosmos. The oaths of the gods are the metaphysical truths of humanity.

Taken in this sense, the Warlock need not be some dishonest lier. Rather, he might be the person who can make the gods break their previous oaths, calling them to new ones. In doing so, the Warlock breaks truth in the sense of recrafting the very structure of reality. To play on my previous interpretations of magic as making the impossible actual, the Truth-Breaker makes what was previously impossible based on the seemingly stable truths of reality suddenly possible and actual. Breaking truth means rewriting reality.

I’m reminded of so many of the tellings of Merlin as an warlock and sorcerer who is caught in the remaking of the oaths and rule of law in the land. But the thing is that this requires a strong sense of conviction because even other magicians or witches are not necessarily by one’s side if one pays attention to some of the stories and myths.

 

Summer Thunder

If you look around the Pagan internet you will find more people calling themselves Warlocks nowadays, a word which has a definite ring to it. This is in sharp contrast to 30 years ago, when (as is still quite commonly stated) you would be told in no uncertain terms that “Warlock” was a term of insult meaning “oath breaker”, and that a male Witch was still a Witch. Pretty much the only people who were publicly identifying with the term were Satanists, and well, you know how Pagans are about Satanism (usually in some form of denial).

Nowadays there are quite a lot more people picking up the term and identifying with it, eg the Feri initiate Storm Faerywolf, and he’s not alone.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says the following of the word:

“Old English wærloga ‘traitor, liar, enemy,’ from wær ‘faith, a compact’ (cf. Old High German wara ‘truth,’…

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Twitter and Facebook links

Hi all,

So as promised I got a review of Nick’s new book out and have been slaving away (okay, I’ll admit I’m hiding from the ridiculous sun!) on sorting out web-presence.

I decided to hide Pagans in Eire from Facebook and will proceed to delete it later on, once I’m sure I’ve nothing left I need behind. The reason is simple it, along with its Twitter counterpart have been essentially used to promote my blog here. Seems unfair and so time to let go. Had Facebook been a little more coherent on the matter I would have just updated the details.

The new URLs are as follows:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Abhainn_blog (@Abhainn_blog)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AbhainnTheBlog (Abhainn – The Blog)

 

PaganPerspective – Spirituality and Religion/Tradition

Hi folks,

Been hectic at Uni lately so I’m being only partially present online lately. A while ago I posed another question to the Pagan Perspective – a collaborative channel on YouTube. I’ve posed a number of questions to the hosts of the various days over the years and some I’m managed to link to here, sometimes not though.

This is the most recent question:

The topic, from MrAbhainn
–“I am curious what the Hosts think about Spirituality subverting or overtaking Religion/Tradition (by Traditions I mean formalized systems such as Initiatory Wicca) in the modern Pagan Movement? With Spirituality people have great personal freedoms and can take from a plethora of sources the techniques that suit themselves but they also change the forumlae that that Tradition/System has developed, they also open themselves to what I see as an endless spiral of consumerism from the more New-Agey side of Paganism. Thoughts, ideas? :)”

Once again the hosts have not disappointed with their individualistic views and relationship to the topic matter. To make this easier I’ve collected the posts into a playlist from my own YouTube channel. Cara is usually pretty good at categorising the topics herself on the PaganPerspective channel.

So, now its my turn to answer back and this may be brief, hopefully for your sakes it will be! lol Obviously, such a division between religion and spirituality is completely artifical for the purposes of this blog and conversation. There are some very spiritual i.e. conscientious and active people of faith in organisated or systematised religions. And furthermore, since Wicca is an initatory system which prioritises personal gnosis through orthopraxy it too can’t be so easily boxed into religion or spirituality. However, in a much wider sense to it all we’re very much consumers of religion and faith and this has, in my opinion, always been somewhat true. The problem isn’t with the inherent truth of the matter but in the how, how we relate and through what models or paradigms is our consumption regulated.

Lets break down the question a little further and see what we can make of the idea from there. In short Spirituality has more public affection because its not inherently or obviously esoteric in nature. By esoteric I mean secretative where meaning has to be derived by experience rather than the aphorisms of modern Mind, Body, Spirit type events and communities. If I sound jealous its because I am! But modern spiritual movement of that ilk do indeed have esoteric philosophies or paradigms running behind them. They tend not to know this but there we go. If I transplant an idea from my brain to yours via a book or website the idea is framed from my own experiences and ideas and then the medium is factored in to make conveying the idea more palatable and easier to understand and relate to. So is it what it was? This always happens but from one culture or approach to another it can morph into something completely different. Same words just different idea.

There is another facet that is worthy of consideration; while its conceivable, and I daresay likely that “truth” may be derived from the maxims, axioms and aphorisms still alive within the social fabric of a movement or tradition within a Tradition/Religion there is often a formula that one lesson, seemingly distinct can in fact develop other ideas and aspects of the Tradition. So does someone learning of “An it Harm None; Do as Thou Wilt” depriving them of the relationship to the Traditions in which we find this aphorism. It can be found in various renditions in forms of modern witchcraft and owes its origins to the Great Beast himself, Aleister Crowley and his religion of Thelema found predominantly within the magical system of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.).

The discussion fundamentally hinges on the Saussurean argumentation of linguistics and the relationship of symbolism and semiotics. The above phrase may just have easily been discussed in some of the YouTube videos by the host on PaganPerspective (langage) or it might have been blogged about on one of their blogs (langue) and the adjacent dynamic of discussions prior to it where the principle for discussion is born, this is the parole or genesis of the ideas being conveyed.

This is the beauty of Spirituality as a movement and Tradition as it’s base since it invariable involves people’s interactions and ideas being conveyed. It happens in the most subtle of ways and if one were to be a purist concerning Tradition it might be reasonable to assume that any usurpation of principles or axioms is a deliberate attack on one’s own understandings of meaning which have been agreed upon within the unique social structure of one’s own Tradition or Religion. It’s happened in Paganism as modern groups emerge and are met with older traditions using a similar but different lexicon (codified speech unique to the subculture).

Okay, that looks at what happens from a theoretical perspective applying some ideas of linguistics, cultural studies and sociology. Here’s the crux its NOT all doom and gloom whereby we all need to keep to our own sides of the playground. Something interesting happens in these ‘culture clashes’ whereby people begin to has out the various languages and meanings and agree upon a shared understanding. This is a path of compromise and can take groups some time before its reached and to be honest compromise isn’t something that everyone sanctions in the egalitarian sense of the word, “agree”; but rather that we simply convey a limited understanding for the purposes of conversation. Occasionally, this will mean that some things can’t be conveyed due to the limited nature of this agreement. However, as I say the creativity of this meeting can mean that people develop loanwords such as when colonialism meant that West met the East, it enriched our literature, culture and understanding of ourselves beyond a limited heteronormative meter. We need the challenges to create a dynamic of movement culturally.

Now we can start to see what Tradition can learn and in short this is flexibility for survival. Such flexibility enables the Tradition to learn to relate to the enfolding world around us without the necessity to hole ourselves off from external influences. Heck, even the Amish aren’t fully cut off! But this can be flipped as I proposed in my question to the channel the idea of consuming ideologies can go unchecked if people never learn to ground their practice in the moment. So much of modern Spirituality I seem to be referring to is the New Age movement and it works as a prime example of need, want and desire creating a huge melting pot of ideas for the consumer to immerse themselves in. So, in the meeting of approaches described above Spirituality learns to contextualise itself and tether itself like a kite.

I’d love to hear other people’s ideas too!

Techno-pagan: Social Media

I’m so happy to have a fellow Irish blogger who’s also a HUGE social media fanatic!

ÓrfhlaithRobinlogoÓrfhlaith Robin has certainly blossomed onto the cyberhenge hasn’t she? For those new to my blog here or indeed to any of my blogs, Órfhlaith is the owner of Musings of a Young Irish Witch and has launched an amazing series of blog posts which has been interviewing a number of bloggers and vloggers around the cyber-land that tends to reflect her influences from the various forums in which she’s active. This plays fantastically into what my Final Year Project was all about in my final year of undergrad. My FYP was all about how much modern Paganism has been influenced by and has influenced new media technology in turn. New media studies concerns itself with the impact of the internet and in more recent times social media on how groups of people share information.

Órfhlaith is available on Facebook, Twitter and of course through her blog. In the run up to the Winter break she launched a new series of blog posts entitled, “Prominent Pagan Project“, which was very well received. She has recently released the latest interview with ‘Pentacles of Pride’ founder and CEO Sheldon (linked above), with more interviews promised very soon. This person is crazy! I’ll be honest she’s mental busy with work and such and still committed to putting me to shame about not blogging more! CHEEK! 😉

What I particularly enjoy with Órfhlaith’s posts is their light-hearted and easy to read manner which doesn’t come at the cost of their content. And on a completely selfish level I really enjoy being linked into the growing presence of Neopaganism and witchcraft on the net. Its no secret that nearly every pagan today has more of a claim to the term “techno-pagan” and certainly the cyberhendge phenomenon has been analysised before by social media critics such as David Cowan. Others have looked at how the media age has created a sense of consumerism based on this sense of hyperconnectivity. At this point the various arguments put forth are rather moot as the simple truth is all societal modalities are becoming techno-aware and very savvy.

Looking forward to seeing what Ireland’s latest blogger has to offer us!