Blogger, Musician, and Wild Hunt Correspondent Teo Bishop posted a good discussion starter and helped us publicize our little endeavor with Not Belief, Not Practice: Values
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You are invited to take part in the 5th annual Pagan Values Event!
Held each June, the Pagan Values Event seeks to encourage the public discussion and provide resources for exploration of Pagan Values. We do not care if you are a blogger, or podcaster. We do not care if you are Pagan, Neo-Pagan, Witch or Heathen, Druid or Hellenic or Dirt Worshiping Tree Hugging Neo-Hippy. We do not care if you are liberal or conservative.
What we care about is encouraging the public discussion on what it means to be any of the above paths in the 21st Century, and how our many Paganisms influence our daily lives and our interactions with the world. How has being a Pagan changed you? How has your way of carrying yourself in the world been touched or transformed by your life as a Pagan? If you could cite one (or more) thing as a deeply held value, virtue, or point of ethics, for you as a Pagan…say for someone who had not heard of Paganism before…. what would you say or talk about?
(Re-posted from my personal blog Chrysalis)
A lot of folks posting on the most recent tragic shooting in Connecticut… lots of folks using or wanting to use it as a chance to put forward their views on gun control and/or the right to bear arms… and some criticizing President Obama for not using it as such…
There is a time for discourse, and a time for mourning and respectful silence.
May the newly dead find peace, reunion with Those Who Have Gone Before,
May the families and friends of the fallen find solace and healing,
May the Holy Powers bless them all in the fullness of time.
There is a lot of anger being expressed, and frustration, and grief.
I am not trying to condemn that anger. I understand that anger and frustration.
There is no doubt that there needs to be some deep and serious discussions about the fact that it is ten-thousand times easier for a troubled person to get a gun in the U.S., than it is for them to get access to mental and emotional health resources.
Grief is a complex thing and a tragedy like this happening at a time of year where, whatever our faiths, we are reminded of the Holiness of every life, of every child, of our families and beloved friends… it can stir up a lot of complicated emotions.
For me, I want to take some time to remember and honor the fallen. Take some time to contemplate the complex chain of events that can lead to these sorts of tragedies. THEN I want to encourage some serious and deep discussions of this complicated issue!
Even after posting my prayer and some of my thoughts, I have ended up getting into conversations about gun control, the right to bear arms, and the need for a much better mental health safety net in the United States…
Faith groups and people of faith can be reactive or proactive, indeed we can be both at the same time. What can we as people of faith and faith groups do proactively to change things? I would agree with the idea that gun control is one piece of the puzzle… but what else needs to be done?
What can we do at the personal and local level as well as at the institutional level?
PS- This post will be edited over the course of the next several hours and few days as I am exposed to meaningful conversations, resources, and relevant blog posts from within the spectrum of the online Pagan and Polytheistic communities.
Here are a couple of useful resources. While aimed at parents of children, I think both of these are useful for all ages and combinations of family…
Here are some responses from the Pagan blogosphere, some of which feature links to other responses and statements within our many interlinked Pagan and Polytheist communities…
KaliSara from Kali-Ma: The Dark Side of Parenting & Paganism writes about Tragedy and gun control.
The author of A Less Travelled Path links to her own post in School Shooting Atrocity.
Crystal Blanton shares her prayers in May The Gods Walk In Connecticut Tonight
Jason Pitzle-Waters, editor and correspondent for The Wild Hunt shares a few of the many Prayers in the Face of Unspeakable Tragedy.
Biblebelt Witch shares some prayers of her own in CT school shooting.
Peter Dybing over at Pagan In Paradise offers up his thoughts on A Constitutional Position in Support of Limited Gun Control.
Theo Bishop recently wrote an excellent piece entitled “We Don’t Have Faith: We Make Agreements.”
It has me thinking about the word and idea of Discernment. What is our best path, our best way of being in the world? What is the will and Will of The Gods at work in our lives? What is the best way we can come together to Honor our intertwined paths and our relationships with one another and the world?
Teo Bishop and John Halstead have both written recently about being “ashamed” by aspects of Paganism recently. Some interesting conversations have resulted from this, including Alison Leigh Lilly’s recent piece…
What feelings or reactions have challenged you in your religious and spiritual journey as a Pagan or Polytheist?
So we in the United States are once again gearing up to celebrate the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday. My nation will celebrate with cranberry sauce and Turkey and sweet-potatoes and the mass-market tyranny of pumpkin-spice flavored everything.
There is a fair amount of ambivalence and some controversy about this particular Holiday is some parts of the Pagan community. It is often pointed out that much of the dominant public narrative of this Holiday whitewashes the complex and tragic U.S. history of oppression and even genocide against Native American peoples. We should certainly look at history, even the ugly and complex parts of it, with clear eyes if we are to truly honor our honored and beloved dead.
The interesting thing about the Thanksgiving tradition in the U.S. is that while it has its roots in Gratitude and Harvest Celebrations, much of the ‘Pilgrim Forefathers’ and ‘First Thanksgiving’ schtick, the mythologizing of Thanksgiving came about as a result of jingoism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries of the common era as the demographics of the U.S. changed under pressure from immigration. There were many cultural and social measures, great and small, taken to ensure that these suspicious foreigners from Europe and elsewhere were transformed into proper citizens.
I suppose one could simply ignore the Holiday, but ignoring problems does not make them go away… and we would be poor Pagans indeed if we ignored the value of Community and communal celebrations. The Wild Hunt recently ran a story wherein correspondent Heather Greene mused about the possibilities of the Holiday…
“Once again, my thoughts return to the secular Thanksgiving – a holiday that focuses on community, compassion, tradition, and natural abundance. Can we re-sculpt the mythos to breathe a new spiritual life into that holiday? The story centers on an indigenous population, the “Indians,” teaching the new inhabitants, the Pilgrims, about the land and its creatures. It ends in a peaceful shared community feast that we now replicate every November.
Can we bring the spiritual into the secular? Can we transform this myth to focus on the teachings of the wisdom keepers who strive to bring humanity back into balance with Nature? Can we rededicate Thanksgiving to that ever sacred and shared wisdom that passes effortlessly from hand-to-hand, from drum beat to drum beat, from the heart to the heart through the eternal spirit fires of this wonderful Earth?” ~Heather Greene
For me, Gratitude is the key.
Now it could be easily argued that most of Pagan worship forms somehow and somewhere in the proceedings boil down to gratitude. After all, at some point Hospitality and food and drink are offered to the Holy Powers. But just as the ancients had far more than 8 agriculturally based festivals, so to can we. We can celebrate ideas and ideals and individuals who have shaped our world and nation. We can honor various iterations of the Honored and Beloved Dead. We can embrace our lives and world in all of their complexity.
We can welcome and explore this most healthy and helpful of values. Gratitude is a very hot spiritual and psychological topic right now and there are a lot of interesting resources out there on the topic.
In a world that often seems filled to the brim with anger and fear-of-the-other, where various political and social forces seem intent on stirring up fear and division, where the voices of extremism dominate the public discourse… what could be more of antidote than to come together with our families and neighbors and celebrate Friendship and Fellowship and Family and Gratitude?
(did you know that nations outside of North America also celebrate their own forms of Thanksgiving Days?)
So in addition to being a Pagan, I am a Unitarian Universalist. Recently I blogged on my personal blog about the process of becoming a Worship Associate at 1U Orlando and some of the things I learned about myself in writing and preaching a Sermon on Hospitality and Radical Hospitality.
In the Sermon I go into detail onto how I as a Polytheist see Hospitality as integrated into my worship and faith…
“In addition to being a Unitatian Universalist, I am also a Contemporary Pagan and Polytheist. In my own spiritual journey I look not only to the Worlds Religions, but also the the Religions of the Ancient World and centuries long tradions of Western Mysticism and Occultism for inspiration and guidance. In my daily life Hospitality is not just the field I work in, it is also the fertile ground that I grow from Spiritualy and Religiously.
In Polytheistic worship and practice, the Gods are called out to with poetry and praise. Called upon by their names and attributes, and invited to come and join the worshipers in celebration of the relationship between worshiper and Worshiped, and of the special events in our lives. Offerings are made, of poetry, of song, of incense, and of water or wine and food. The gods are given their portions and those worshiping also partake of the food and beverages. A Polytheist shares what bounty and blessings he or she has with both their fellow worshipers and with the Divine, and thus the offerings and blessings are multiplied in love and respect and fellowship.
Worship is seen as being in some form of active and ongoing and MUTUAL relationship with that which is Divine.
For me as for most Polytheists, as long as you are engaging in whatever the agreed upon practices of hospitality and offering are for you particular group and faith, your actual beliefs about what the Gods are not that important. Whether you see them as Beings on some other level of reality, or if you see Them as inspiring Ideas and personifications of what we might now-a-days call the Web of being… that does not matter. How you understand Them does not matter. It is the respecting of The Gods, and your fellow Worshipers, and the act of being hospitable and gracious and in Right Relationship, in worship and in your daily life… that is what matters.
As a U.U. Pagan, I also take some inspiration today from the fact that for myself as for many Polytheists… there is no challenge or disrispect implied in Worshiping differently from ones neighbors. Indeed, for many Polytheists, when in another land or house it is simply being a good guest and not at all disrespectful, to honor or at least be respectful of the Gods of that land or house.
You can look at the history of the Ancient World and see how this form of religious pluralism was the assumed rule, and not the exception. It was thought only natural that people of widely different beliefs and faiths and philosophies and experiences, could live and work together.”
The journey of writing this Sermon was very interesting to me as I discovered some interesting paralels between ancient Pagan thought and values and those I encounter in the contemporary world.
Frith, when you get right down to it has some startling similarities to ideas and ideals of The Beloved Community.
The idea that Peace can come through people being in Right Relationship to one another…
Or how universal the custom and practice of Hospitality was in the ancient world…
Hospitality and Community….
It seems like there is always some new scandal or schism in contemporary Paganism, I think that too often we let our practices and faiths, despite their ancient sources and inspirations, get clouded with the fears and insecurities of the contemporary overculture. What if we dug deep into the wisdom and cultures of our Pagan ancestors and practiced a bone deep hospitality? What if we welcomed the Stranger and sought to be in right relationship with others even as we acknowledged the ambiguity of our relationships with others who are neither stranger nor friend, Xenos as the ancient greeks said… what if we STILL welcomed them and showed them Xenia, and STILL sought those right relationships that can bring peace?