An Academic Discussion on Irish Neopaganism
I decided to put this video up here because there is a lot of arguments on the internet about what defines Paganism.
Or what defines Neo Paganism.
This woman certainly doesn’t have the final word on the matter.
But she is an Ethnographic researcher who spoke with different self identified Pagan individuals and groups.
She is trying to explain what Paganism is from her research and point of view,
and I think she makes some good points.
This is Jenny Butler and she is speaking at the University College Cork’s Doctoral Showcase 2011.
Gotta love that Irish Accent.
The Sanctity of Death
If you live in America like I do, you’ve probably heard a lot about the “Sanctity of Life.” You’ve seen the pro life protesters outside of Abortion Clinics with their posters of half alive fetuses. And who can forget the “big ta do” that was made about Terri Schiavo (The woman whose husband wanted to pull the plug on her because she was in a permanently vegetative state). If someone has suffered permanent brain damage and is hooked up to a machine that keeps them alive – their family will be forced to shell out astronomical amounts of money to keep a brainless body filled with air (unless the person made specifications in a living will before-hand).
Also, we have an insistence on keeping people alive for as long as possible: the elderly and cancer patients. Even if these people want to die, they are kept alive against their wishes.
What is this obsession we have with perpetuating life?
Okay, I’m not going to lie, I’m happy to be alive. I’m happy that out of the millions of sperms my father had, I was the one that landed in my mother’s ovum. I’m happy that our planet is just the right distance from the sun to harbor a rich and complex Eco System of life. And yes, life itself is endowed with much beauty and power.
But life is only one aspect of that beauty and power that defines the natural world. The other necessary stage is death.
Death is almost always thought of as a tragedy and a morbid affair in our culture. In the Disney movie Hercules, Hades (Lord of the Underworld) played the bad guy for example. Even though in the real Greek Legend of Hercules, Hera (Zeus’s wife) was more of an Antagonist than Hades.
Yet think of how horrible life on this planet would be if nothing died? We’d be overrun with rabid creatures, competing for the tiniest molecule of space.
There are many cultures in the world that actually celebrate and accept death as a natural process, a necessary stage of life if you will.
In the Hindu Religion life is seen as a type of suffering. The wheel of life and death is called Samsara. This is the wheel of constant reincarnation and death. When someone dies, their soul will have a short resting period, and then come back in a different body. The goal of existence is to be released from the wheel so that one can finally achieve the peace of non-existence.
With the Vikings, dying an honorable death in battle was important. Dying of old age was an embarrassment because it signified cowardice. Death wasn’t the end, but merely a new beginning. Those who died in battle got to go to Valhalla, a perpetual feast where they got to battle, hunt and drink forever. Those who died a boring, natural death went to a less spectacular and probably equally boring realm of existence. Some warriors would even wound themselves with spears before dying, in order to trick Hel (A Goddess who received a portion of the dead) into thinking they died heroic deaths in battle. (Norse Concepts of the Afterlife)
Many cultures in the world practice Ancestor Worship and keep the spirits of the dead around them as they go about their daily lives. Some keep the bodies of the dead near their homes in ancestral shrines. Others keep a token of the dead relative. Many even consult the spirit of that dead relative for wisdom.
Am I saying that we should go on a killing spree because death is good? No. Death is neither good nor bad. It is simply a natural phase that all life must transition through. It can be mourned, but it can also be celebrated. Death is the harbinger of new beginnings. He is the reaper that harvests the grain of life, so that new life may one day grow. This is why fire is often characterized as the element of creativity. Destruction is a necessary part of creativity. Kenaz itself is the rune of creativity, symbolizing the union of fire and wood. It is the congregation of destruction and life for the creation of heat. Brigid is the Celtic Goddess of inspiration, which is why the flame is one of her symbols.
When my grandmother died many told me how sorry they were. But I wasn’t sorry. Why should I be? She was an 86 year old woman who was in pain and having delusions. She even repeated that she wanted to die.
For all things have a time and a season. When the leaves begin to brown and the sunshine dims, we should anticipate and welcome the coming winter ahead.
We talk about “the right to life.” But shouldn’t there equally be a “right to death?” Each person’s life is their own. They should have the right to choose when and how they want it to end.
So let’s stop keeping people alive against their will. Let’s stop limiting condom use and abortion use. We don’t need to live on a planet where life has great quantity but little quality. Let’s stop tip toeing around the issue of death, but instead, celebrate death – the sanctity of death. For it is the reaper that keeps the field bountiful, it is the scythe of death that gives life its meaning.
Don’t fear the reaper.
Enjoy that cowbell!
Not in My Backyard
Oil that causes wars around the globe? Let’s do it!
Fracking that poisons the local drinking water and ruins the aquifers, why not?
Fill the air with smog with coal – hell to the yeah!
Wind power? Solar?
NOT IN MY BACKYARD…
Speaking of which…Check out this great George Carlin skit.
Pelican – Aurora Borealis
I feel like this music takes your mind on a peaceful, trippy journey. There are no vocals, just the gentle lilting of the guitar. It comes in slowly, from the distance, much like an Aurora Borealis spotted in the sky.
SOUND: Pelican began by recording a more doom metal sound. But now they are more known for their post rock, experimental sound.
ORIGIN: They hail from Evanston Illinois.
Three Levels of Understanding: Physical, Spiritual and Symbolic
The human mind understands things at three levels: the physical, the spiritual and the symbolic.
Behind all things there is a practical, rational meaning. But there is also a spiritual and symbolic meaning. In the modern world we are taught to observe life with the rational mind – thus we understand things better at the physical level. Which isn’t a bad thing, but this is only scratching the surface of true understanding.
What does a tree look like? What is its purpose? It takes in carbon dioxide and spits out oxygen.
Yet great thinkers like Jung understood that there is an important subconscious element of life.
All things, even the tree, bare a subconscious and symbolic meaning. Symbolically the tree represents life. This symbolic understanding of the tree connects us, at a subconscious level, with the energy of the divine itself. This is understanding things at a higher level spiritually.
Embrace the world around you, understanding the Physical, the Symbolic and the Spiritual.
Real Spirituality v.s. Synthetic Religion
EARTH BASED IDEALS V.S. BLIND FAITH
Many people on the internet debate what defines “real” paganism, “real” spirituality. If you want to get technical, this could be a debate that lasts for 500 years. I guess that’s why so many religious conflicts have lasted that long. But in this most basic sense, Earth based beliefs – like Paganism – are based on reality, on worshipping what you can observe with your 5 senses. And what has man been able to observe for the entirety of human history? The Sun, the Moon and the Earth of course. Most Ancient Spirituality draws on the energy of these things. The fullness of the moon represents the fertility of the Goddess. The brightness of the sun represents the power of the God (or Goddess, depending on what tradition you practice).
This is one of the greatest contrasts between Earth Based Spirituality and Abrahamic Religion. Christianity has taught man since the middle ages to hate the iconography of the Earth. Islam prohibits man from depicting images of God. Catholicism is probably the version of Christianity that evokes the most use of imagery. But this is because Catholicism appropriated European Pagan customs into their religious customs.
SENSUALITY OF THE SACRED
In many Abrahamic faiths the sensual and sexual are considered sinful things. These are things that must be controlled and regulated. Women must hide their sexual parts to prevent sin.
Yet in Earth Based spirituality, the sensuality of this world is something to be celebrated. Indeed many Pagans praised sexuality with poetry, plays, art and music. Paganism and Earth based religions are based on the idea of having a bold and exciting life in which you directly interact with this world – not a passive one in which you quietly wait for this life to end. In the mythos of many ancient beliefs, heroes who committed great feats on this Earth were rewarded by the Gods. The great warriors, the beautiful, the smart and the artistic were all praised and loved by the Gods. Compare that to Christianity where you are rewarded for thought instead of action.
THE SYNTHETIC WEST:
The Christian emphasis on thought rather than deed gave rise to the intellectual and aloof aspects of Western Culture. We see ourselves separate from this Earth. This is why much global destruction and imperialism has been committed by Westerners. Our values and religious beliefs are based on something that isn’t real. They are based on an imaginary dream of human greatness, on an ego driven impulse. This is why we now have a culture of materialism. We celebrate that which has no meaning. Which is empty inside. We buy for the sake of buying and nothing else.
Other cultures in world history have been more holistic. They have worshiped things that are real. The Earth is very real – and we are very much a real part of it. Science has proven again and again that we must take care of this Earth if we are to survive – but the ideals of Christianity and Capitalism ignore the warnings of science. That is because these ideologies are not based on real values. They are based on fake values.
RISE OF THE ORGANIC:
This is why Earth based spirituality and Paganism is making a come back. Many people have the subconscious realization that we need to return to something that is pure, true – but most of all – REAL. We need to worship that which is around us. The Kingdom of God is a lie. The Earth we live on is a more beautiful salvation than any alternative reality. We must take care of this Earth because we can sense with all five senses that it is a sacred place where life is created. If we want life to continue – we must protect the real. The Earth.
John Trudell and Elder Red Crow speak – Native Wisdom
We humans are a disease, even we do not find a cure, Earth will provide the antibiotic. If we continue to pollute, the ozone will open up and kill off the polluters if necessary. We should find ways to work with the Earth rather than focusing on the political abstractions that got us into this mess. We should consider all possibilities instead of working in the narrow framework of Democracy.