In the 24 years that I’ve called myself Pagan, I have tried out many Pagan paths and ideas. So although it may seem to those around me that I’ll never settle on one thing, on the contrary, I can feel that it is all beginning to crystallize. Something that I’ve done a lot of in the past is try to reshape all my beliefs to fit the particular denomination/organization of Paganism that I was following at the time. This year I have experienced a break down in that way of thinking.
As a result of a series of strange or ‘unfortunate’ events, I successfully separated myself from local Pagan community. This led to a lot of introspection and re-evaluation of my beliefs. Though I have a lot of beliefs that can be classified as “Celtic Reconstructionist”, I don’t quite fit that mold. Though I have often shown distaste for Wiccan -style ritual, certain hallmarks of Wiccan philosophy remain steadfast in me. And although I don’t buy completely into Gnostism, I groove with many Gnostic ideas…
So I thought it would be good if I put it all in writing, and maybe make doing so a yearly thing, to see what it all looks like in print- how it all comes together and how it changes from year to year. Also, to share it with you- people who are attracted to reading a blog titled “Ozark Pagan Mamma” must have some connection with the Ozarks, right? If you are a Pagan from the Ozarks, how does my beliefs compare to yours? Well, here goes…
philosophy and the nature of the gods
Polytheism vs. duotheism have been battling it out in my mind for a while. Reading “A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism” by John Michael Greer really helped me see the logic of hard polytheism*. However, I was Wiccan for the first 14 years or so of my Pagan journey, so I think that some form of the duotheistic Wiccan philosophy may be hardwired into my brain.
(*hard polytheism: belief in many gods, belief that the gods are individual entities, not facets, archetypes, or personalities of one god.)
Also, something I explored in another blog article about polytheism is the problem of scope, for lack of a better term. By this I mean, if you believe that all the gods exist, then do you also believe that Yahweh exists? I think that this would be a problem for both soft and hard polytheists. Soft polytheist who say that all gods are one god– wouldn’t they have to include Yahweh (the ‘jealous’ one who claims to be the only one) in the mix? And hard polytheists who say that all gods are literal individual beings- would they say that Yahweh exists? There’s probably many ways around this, but instead of going through each one, I’ll just give you my current take on it… I believe that Yahweh (and others like him) is a false perception of what god is. If he really existed, he would be a demon, not a god- read the old testament, objectively, and you‘ll see what I mean. In fact, that is exactly what the Gnostics believed, that Yahweh was a demon or “demiurge”, that Christ came to save us from Yahweh and reunite us with our Divine Mother, Sophia.
I do lean toward the concept of duotheism most often, but its more of a “divine unity” kind of concept than soft polytheism. I have this idea that yes, there is this multiplicity of deities, but their souls are united in a way that makes them at one with each other, maybe a collective soul. And I like to use the language of “archetypes” to talk about the deities, but it doesn’t make them seem less real to me.
I also believe in a kind of pantheism, that we are all made up of divine life energy, the stuff of the gods. So many religions today teach that the material world is sinful, or bad, or an illusion. I believe that just the opposite is true. The world may not be completely perfect, but nothing is. I believe that perfection is an insane concept. So are the concepts of omniscience and omnipotence, and are not concepts I attribute to any deity. We cannot know their nature really, and perhaps this is where pantheism wins out; the traditional (supposedly non-religious) witch sending out spells to no particular deity, is actually sending out messages, ripples in the stream, through our unified existence, affecting forces named and un-named. The effect of such material actions seem much more real and solid than so many whispered prayers.
So… my philosophy is a mixture, taking what I feel is the best of different belief systems I’ve encountered. As for ritual, I use a very simple Celtic- inspired format. A lot of the time I don’t really do “ritual”. One thing that has a lot of meaning for me, and which seems to be a mainstay, is the tree grounding meditation. Often it is the only ritual I need, or feel is necessary. It brings about the realization of oneness with nature, and in my book, that’s what it’s all about. And trees themselves are so important, that I think that tree veneration will always be a part of my religious practice; and “tree of life” concepts, a part of my symbolic thought.