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Author Topic: Some Questions About Paganism (Mainly Wicca)  (Read 1825 times)

Pisces

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Some Questions About Paganism (Mainly Wicca)
« on: November 14, 2011, 01:23:19 am »
Hi! I'm new here, and have some questions about Paganism.

First of all, allow me to say this: I was raised Atheist. However, I was taught how to meditate at age 8. When I was 13, I self-identified as a pantheist. At this point, I shut myself off from religious input. That is to say, I did not read any books about religion, look up any religious beliefs, etc. The only input I had was from a few close friends. I am now 16. A few months ago, I began reading on religions to help enrich my personal philosophy. What I quickly found was that my personal beliefs matched up with some of the basics of Wicca. Out of curiosity, I began reading Scott Cunningham's "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner" What I quickly began to realize was that my personal philosophy couldn't stand against a religion that had been shaped and influenced by thousands of years of philosophy and practice. While creating a path of your own is all well and good, I believe that at least beginning with something already in existence is the way to go. So, I finished "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner" and began Raymond Buckland's "Complete Book of Witchcraft" All the while, I've been attempting to learn via the internet alongside my readings. However, I ran into some problems.

First of all, why dual deities? From my reading, I understand that any gods or goddesses can be worshiped. So why the dual deities? Why is there so much strain on them? At first I thought "Why, this must be one of the defining points of Wicca!" but than I read that there were monotheistic, polytheistic, and pantheistic Wiccans -- and that such people were uncommon! Was I incorrect, or are the dual deities simply tradition?

Secondly, what's up with ceremonial magick? I don't get why facing east or dancing naked or making my own athame will do anything special. Raymond Buckland seems to be quite hypocritical regarding this -- first he claims that you MUST make your own athame with your magickal name inscribed in it, and then he says that an athame is not needed at all.

Third, why tradition? I seriously don't think that doing it JUST like my ancestors will do anything special for me. Maybe it worked for them, but that way 1,000s of years ago in a different part of the world. For example, I doubt runes can hold power just like I doubt modern English can (yeah, chanting doesn't do anything for me.) The problem is, so many things I read rely heavily on tradition.

Hopefully some people will take the time to read all that and answer my questions. Thanks! :)
« Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 08:05:19 am by RandallS »

Firaza

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Re: Some questions
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2011, 02:10:09 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30094
Hi! I'm new here, and have some questions about Paganism.


First, welcome to the Cauldron!

To answer your first question, Wicca is a very specific religion within the umbrella of Paganism, with very specific beliefs - such as the duality of the divine - that other, more knowledgeable members will probably touch upon. Non-Wiccan Pagans certainly are monotheists, pantheists, polytheists (both hard and soft), and everything in between.

And, while Wicca utilizes a form of witchcraft, not all witchcraft is related to Wicca (and therefore, not all witches are Wiccan).

In the same vein, not all Pagans practice ceremonial magic either. I'm a Kemetic - I don't dance naked or use an athame at all, and when I face east, it's to greet Ra. And while I know very little about Wicca and ceremonical magic, I'm pretty sure the various traditions have different practices and methods, even if there are similarities.

As for tradition in the sense of doing things your ancestors did... Well, not everyone follows the "old ways." If you're a Reconstructionist, you're more inclined to do so because you might find more spiritual meaning in the methods and practices of the ancient cultures that originally developed your path.

Some forms of witchcraft rely on tradition as well, but more along the lines of having to learn from a teacher, and then passing on that knowledge to students. From the original teacher to all living students - that's how some traditions of Paganism operate today.

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Re: Some questions
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2011, 02:31:07 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30094
Hi! I'm new here, and have some questions about Paganism.

First of all, allow me to say this: I was raised Atheist. However, I was taught how to meditate at age 8. When I was 13, I self-identified as a pantheist. At this point, I shut myself off from religious input. That is to say, I did not read any books about religion, look up any religious beliefs, etc. The only input I had was from a few close friends. I am now 16. A few months ago, I began reading on religions to help enrich my personal philosophy. What I quickly found was that my personal beliefs matched up with some of the basics of Wicca. Out of curiosity, I began reading Scott Cunningham's "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner" What I quickly began to realize was that my personal philosophy couldn't stand against a religion that had been shaped and influenced by thousands of years of philosophy and practice. While creating a path of your own is all well and good, I believe that at least beginning with something already in existence is the way to go. So, I finished "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner" and began Raymond Buckland's "Complete Book of Witchcraft" All the while, I've been attempting to learn via the internet alongside my readings. However, I ran into some problems.

First of all, why dual deities? From my reading, I understand that any gods or goddesses can be worshiped. So why the dual deities? Why is there so much strain on them? At first I thought "Why, this must be one of the defining points of Wicca!" but than I read that there were monotheistic, polytheistic, and pantheistic Wiccans -- and that such people were uncommon! Was I incorrect, or are the dual deities simply tradition?

Secondly, what's up with ceremonial magick? I don't get why facing east or dancing naked or making my own athame will do anything special. Raymond Buckland seems to be quite hypocritical regarding this -- first he claims that you MUST make your own athame with your magickal name inscribed in it, and then he says that an athame is not needed at all.

Third, why tradition? I seriously don't think that doing it JUST like my ancestors will do anything special for me. Maybe it worked for them, but that way 1,000s of years ago in a different part of the world. For example, I doubt runes can hold power just like I doubt modern English can (yeah, chanting doesn't do anything for me.) The problem is, so many things I read rely heavily on tradition.

Hopefully some people will take the time to read all that and answer my questions. Thanks! :)

Depends from where you're coming from. Traditional Wicca is a coven oriented orthopraxic mystery tradition, so tradition is very important. Neo-Wicca, especially of the solitary sort, is more of a personal spirituality, where practitioners try to adhere to some of Traditional Wicca's core elements, but are more inclined to change, modify, or adopt other practices that suit them.  

Although Wicca is based around debatable ancient roots, its origins were in 20th century UK, and mostly complied by Gerald Gardner, so it wouldn't be a tradition that our ancestors were initiated into 1,000 years ago. Since Traditional Wicca is an orthopraxy, emphasis is more on practice, than belief, so you do find Wiccans with different theologies as you mentioned, however the Wiccan Gods are oathbound, but exist as two main archetypical deities others have connected with, and even seen as encompassing Gods of all cultures. Duo-theism is commonly suitable because polarity is important, or recognising two opposing but balancing energies in the universe.

Wicca essentially being a product of the Western Mystery Tradition is why there exists a certain ceremonial element, mostly because it was these systems of magick that were more known to Gardner, and even more so Alex Sanders, however more traditional forms of witchcraft are also found. Hence the circle casting, which is set up to make a sacred place, function as a barrier and protection, and preserve the power raised inside. Quarters are called to guard, and strengthen the circle by aiding in holding it up. The ceremonial nature of the working tools is found here as well, where you get different opinions regarding them not only in Wicca, but other ritual magic paths. Mostly gone are the days where space is rented from the blacksmith to forge your own dagger, however you do find it emphasised that one make their own tools as they're forged with your own energy. Many do simply purchases or acquire them.

Pisces

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Re: Some questions
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2011, 04:06:32 am »
Thanks you guys! Really helpful info. I have two other questions, though:
1. Do you think developing a philosophy on life after death is beneficial to your spiritual life? I simply don't have a philosophy on this, but a lot of people say it's "liberating" or extremely spiritual or whatever to meditate on it. Many other people, however, say it's a waste of time.
2. How important is group worship? That is to say, how beneficial do you find it to be? I have no intention of joining a coven or any worship group any time soon, but some people tell me that I simply must.

Firaza

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Re: Some questions
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2011, 05:01:34 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30103
Thanks you guys! Really helpful info. I have two other questions, though:
1. Do you think developing a philosophy on life after death is beneficial to your spiritual life? I simply don't have a philosophy on this, but a lot of people say it's "liberating" or extremely spiritual or whatever to meditate on it. Many other people, however, say it's a waste of time.
2. How important is group worship? That is to say, how beneficial do you find it to be? I have no intention of joining a coven or any worship group any time soon, but some people tell me that I simply must.

 
1. That's something that varies from individual to individual. Remember, many traditions are orthropraxic, so it's less a matter of what you believe and more a matter of how you practice. As for whether I think it's beneficial - sure, if it helps you spiritually. If it doesn't, why bother?

2. Some traditions (such as certain forms of initiatory witchcraft) require group worship; if you're more inclined to walk an eclectic or individualized path, then group worship is more or less up to you. I'm a solitary practitioner, but I don't mind joining groups for holidays, or even for casual conversations over coffee.

Jenett

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Re: Some questions
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2011, 06:58:39 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30094

First of all, why dual deities? From my reading, I understand that any gods or goddesses can be worshiped. So why the dual deities?


People touched on this, but traditional Wicca honor two specific deities (whose names are kept private), part of whose principle mythology is around the cycle of fertility, life, death, and rebirth. For that reason, male and female has some biological aspects that no other combination does :)

As noted, there are all sorts of other approaches to religious witchcraft, many of which have other ways to honor deity, focus ritual, etc. and are not as tied into the male/female deity interaction.

Quote
Secondly, what's up with ceremonial magick? I don't get why facing east or dancing naked or making my own athame will do anything special.


Generally, people do things because they work.

Using a repeated structure for ritual turns out to be a really good way for many people over time to fall into a deeper ritual mindset more quickly, evenly, and reliably. Being specific about directions and their implications is for many people a good way to anchor the work they do in ritual in a way that helps them balance it and carry it forward into the rest of their lives. (Again, it's not the only way, but it's one that's been really well-tested and developed.)

Dancing naked around a fire - okay, some people find that sort of thing fun, just in general. But it also takes being vulnerable to the world in a different way than we our in our day to day lives. It forces us to look at questions of comfort, trust, privacy, and so on in a way that can be really illuminating. And it's a really powerful way to tell our minds and bodies that we're doing something different right now, pay attention. (As is any clothing choice that is not how we normally dress, that's obvious to us while we're doing other things.)

Third, why tradition? I seriously don't think that doing it JUST like my ancestors will do anything special for me. Maybe it worked for them, but that way 1,000s of years ago in a different part of the world. For example, I doubt runes can hold power just like I doubt modern English can (yeah, chanting doesn't do anything for me.) The problem is, so many things I read rely heavily on tradition.

Same deal with tools: people who work with them tend to find that using tools that can hold and focus energy in a particular way is helpful. Some of this is practical (if you want to bless and charge a liquid with a particular energy, you are going to want something to hold the liquid in, whether that's a chalice, a bowl, or whatever.)

Sometimes it's more complicated than that - and that's where the athame comes in. It *is* possible to work around not having one. However, there are choices that come with that. When I use mine (which has been a magical tool, used deliberately for a number of years), certain things are much easier for me.

An analogy might be using your own computer, as opposed to using a library computer or something. Your own computer is set up the way you like, and you know where the programs you want to use are, and you have probably set things up to be easier or more pleasant for you to use. You *can* use a different computer, or use a pen and paper, or whatever for many tasks - but it's a different experience, and in many cases, may take more time/energy/attention to handle (leaving you less for the stuff you really wanted to do in the first place. )

Or think about sleeping in a hotel room, rather than your own home: you have shelter, you have stuff to keep you warm, you have a bathroom, etc. But they're not yours, and they're not set up for your particular idea of comfort, ease, and 'home'.

Hopefully some people will take the time to read all that and answer my questions. Thanks! :)[/QUOTE]
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Jenett

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Re: Some questions
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2011, 07:21:25 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30103

1. Do you think developing a philosophy on life after death is beneficial to your spiritual life? I simply don't have a philosophy on this, but a lot of people say it's "liberating" or extremely spiritual or whatever to meditate on it. Many other people, however, say it's a waste of time.


I'm sort of "Meh" about it. I figure I'll figure out what happens to me after I die when I get there. I have theories about it (because I have theories about lots of things), but they don't actually take up much of my attention or time.

Some people, though, that's one of the central questions they want a spiritual system to deal with. So for them, it's incredibly important.

Quote

2. How important is group worship? That is to say, how beneficial do you find it to be? I have no intention of joining a coven or any worship group any time soon, but some people tell me that I simply must.

 
There's stuff you can do with a group you can't do by yourself. (Think of it like singing, or playing an instrument, or acting out a play: you can do some awesome stuff by yourself, but there's a whole set of other stuff that you need to cooperate with other people to do.)

For some people, that matters a lot. It might or might not for you. (I will say that it can be hard to figure that out unless and until you click with people you want to do group stuff with.)

There are also things you can't learn without working with other people - some of these are tradition or path specific (so, as long as you don't care about that tradition or path, not a big deal.) Some of them are more general - you're not going to learn all the ins and outs of managing energy in a group ritual if you never take part in a group ritual, for example.

(Which, if you never intend to be in a group ritual, is probably okay - except that it turns out some of those skills are really handy in other settings - I find group energy skills amazingly handy when teaching, for example. And lots of people don't do much group ritual work, but then find themselves asked to help with a wedding, or be helpful at a funeral, or whatever.)

On a more personal level: I have found group ritual work incredibly beneficial, and I miss it a huge amount right now. (I moved across the country four months ago: while I'll eventually start a coven in my new area, I'm not ready to do that just yet for several reasons.)

I do also think that a reasonably healthy group situation can *vastly* accelerate how quickly and thoroughly people learn both skills and the core of a tradition. That acceleration comes with a cost, though (you need to spend the time and energy to be part of the group work).

That doesn't mean (except for the specific things you can only learn with some group work) that people who have group experience are 'better witches' than people who work on their own - I know plenty of people who work on their own who are awesome. Just that people working on their own tend to take longer to get to the same level of skill, and that there's usually some stuff they haven't learned that they probably would have in a group setting. (Though again, how much that actually matters depends a lot on what you're talking about.)
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Re: Some questions
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2011, 07:51:06 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30103
Thanks you guys! Really helpful info. I have two other questions, though:
1. Do you think developing a philosophy on life after death is beneficial to your spiritual life? I simply don't have a philosophy on this, but a lot of people say it's "liberating" or extremely spiritual or whatever to meditate on it. Many other people, however, say it's a waste of time.

Not particularly. I am here now, alive. What is important is how I act in this life.

Quote
2. How important is group worship? That is to say, how beneficial do you find it to be? I have no intention of joining a coven or any worship group any time soon, but some people tell me that I simply must.

I think working in a group can be great if you can find the right people. But it's not always easy. First you have to find people within a reasonable distance that believe or practice the same way you do. That can sometimes be impossible. If you do find them, there are the logistics of whether or not you get along, do your schedules work out for worship time, ect.
My point being, group worship can be beneficial for some things, but by no means is it essential to all spiritual work, and if you wait around for it to become available, you might not get anything done.

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Re: Some Questions About Paganism (Mainly Wicca)
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2011, 08:09:31 am »
Quote from: Pisces;30094
Hi! I'm new here, and have some questions about Paganism.

Welcome. Remember that Paganism isn't just Wicca. Wicca is just one religion under the umbrella term "Pagan". You will find many Pagan religions have little in common with Wicca. If there are things about Wicca that just don't fit your thoughts on how reality works, you may find another Pagan religion that does as some have little in common with the specific beliefs and practices of Wicca.

BTW, I've changed the subject title to make it more clear to people viewing the title in a list. :)
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