“Wherever you know of harm
regard that harm as your own;
give your enemies no peace.”
– Havamal 127
DISCLAIMER: The ideas on this blog do not represent all Paganism, just my own opinions.
First of all when I discuss paganism, I have to make clear that I am talking about the modern practice of Pre-Christian religions. This includes a wide-gamut of practices: Neopaganism, Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, etc. Everyone within these groups has different ideas on what makes a pagan, and some of these people don’t even like being called pagans.
But with that aside, I am going to attempt to tackle an important questions about warfare, pacifism, flower power and so on in the practice of modern day paganism.
Much of the interest in neopaganism got activated in the West a little before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Wicca was introduced to the public by Gerald Garner in 1954. Other similar traditions started to also go public at that time. And as these traditions grew, they — like any other belief system — came to include many of the popular notions of the era.
Since the cultural revolution of the 1960s took place after the tail end of a massive era of war and violence in the twentieth century (after WWI and WWII), people were understandably sick of violence and embraced ideas of peace. And if peace can be achieved over war, it goes without saying that peace is a good solution.
But is pacifism always the answer? Does it represent some eternal truth? If one thinks of paganism as the ideals inspired by the Vikings, the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus — none of these civilizations were pacifistic by any means. The Bhagavad gita was told in the middle of a battlefield. (Not saying all pagans are inspired by Hinduism, but its concepts of Dharma and Karma are certainly key concepts for most). But I’ve heard Westerners try to rationalize this away by saying, “Oh but it was a metaphorical battlefield!” only for Indian Hindus to tell me…”Uh yeah, our Gods fought wars because sometimes war is necessary to defeat evil.”
If anything, some of the ideas of pacifism incorporated into the writings and teachings on modern day paganism may even be influenced by Christianity. And it’s impossible for anyone in a Western culture not to be influenced by Christianity, since that has been the predominant cultural lens for the past thousand or so years. (Not that the broad practice of Christianity has been pacifistic in any means in the West considering the history of genocide, witch hunts, colonialism, inquisition, and so on, but that there are many pacifistic teachings from Jesus in the Bible).
So this article is my response to certain voices in the pagan community who say that the pre-christian world was predominantly peaceful. Or that the ancient Gods value peace above all. Or the Californication of both pre-christian and Eastern religions. There is an attempt to make these views and practices non-threatening, so people will buy into them (literally and figuratively).
First of all, the pre-christian world was not predominantly peaceful. As stated above, the Celts, the Norse, the Romans, these were cultures that had wars, celebrated warriors, told tales of brave warriors, and even had entire gods and goddesses dedicate to war. Part of the reason why the Roman Empire collapsed is because they were having too many damn wars.
In Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization, a book written by a man who lived with modern tribal people, and studied ancient tribes, he discusses how ancient times may have actually been even more violent than today, stating that with tribal people, a greater percentage of their populations participated and died from violence than people do today. Certainly with what the news may show about terrorism and school shootings people may think, “Oh what violent times we live in.” But at least in Europe and the United States, less than 5% of male deaths are caused by warfare. Compare that number to the Jivaro tribe where the percentage is something like 60%.
Human sacrifice was also practiced in ancient times, as I detail in my article about that topic. There is plenty of proof for this. Written accounts. Human skeletons found with the bones of animal sacrifices. Tales of human sacrifice in ancient myths. Historical accounts. Sure, human sacrifice may have been used as a tool of the Christians to smear non-christian people. But the idea that this NEVER happened and is some evil lie propagated by the haters is laughable.
I have read in multiple neopagan sources that paganism is a peaceful religion, based on peaceful cultures in the ancient world where everyone apparently celebrated flower power. But this is a sweeping generalization that oversimplifies a group of people, deletes a large chunk of their history and ritualistic practice, and more than that — is a glaring misunderstanding of basic human nature.
Humans at our core are aggressive and territorial beings. Tell me you’re not territorial when you get a bug infestation in your house and decide to kill hundreds of living creatures for the mere crime of being in your space (even when they’re doing nothing harmful to you).
As a species, we also bare a strong genetic resemblance to chimpanzees, which are one of the most aggressive primates.
The idea that humans weren’t aggressive or territorial until Christianity came along is fallacious.
Like any truth, it is important to understand that aggression is a normal part of human behavior, and should be accepted as such.
Does that mean that it’s okay for people to go around and pick fights and kill each other for no reason? No. Of course, peace and diplomacy should always be the first course of action, with violence being the very last.
But in order to control aggression, the first step is to accept that we have it. In order to control our violence, we must accept that we are violent beings.
And any real spiritual practice that is worth its salt must encompass all aspects of humanity. Peace. Warfare. The Feminine. The Masculine. Earth. Air. Fire. Water. And so on and so forth.
Many ancient traditions had a cult of the warrior, religious practices for warriors, rites of manhood that emphasized learning how to fight, protecting oneself and enduring suffering (as well as rites for women too). Ignoring that violence exists doesn’t protect one from it. It just makes one weak when the time comes to defend oneself. Modern day practices like self-defense and martial arts actually give people discipline, and make them less violent overall because they learn to control themselves and their own aggression.
And some even say that metal-heads are actually less violent and more well-adjusted because they listen to music that explores themes of violence, aggression and warfare.
So I’ll try to post some articles and sources here that can better understand traditions of warriors in the ancient world.
ONLINE SACRED TEXTS
VIOLENCE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
As we wrap up 2015, it’s important to think of what has been accomplished and what more needs to be done. While pagans are still a pretty small, religious minority, it is indisputable that our numbers are growing along with our influence in public life.
Since the beginning of the Neopagan movement in the 1950’s (along with more ancient traditions dating back to Medieval Times), pagan and occult practices have been limited to small (and mostly secretive) gatherings.
But now as public religious acceptance grows, these gatherings are becoming less secretive and more public. In fact, we have seen things happen in 2015, that have not occurred in hundreds – and perhaps even a thousand years.
In the beginning of this year, Scotland saw its first gay, Pagan wedding.
Then plans were announced in Iceland to build the first temple to the Norse Gods since the Viking Ages.
Meanwhile, the U.K. announced the creation of a druid college.
In April, Northern Ireland certified its first pagan priest since the time of St. Patrick. Ironically, the name of the pagan man himself is Patrick. Who says the Gods don’t have a sense of humor?
Another big story in April was when a Wiccan Priestess was invited to give the opening invocation before the Iowa State Legislature.
In terms of other big news, the U.S. Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nation wide this June.
And of course, last but not least, the metal heads of this blog will be mourning the loss of the metal god and legend Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead who recently passed. I realized since I wrote my last article, that I shouldn’t say RIP, because I can’t really see Lemmy sitting around quietly for too long. It’s more likely that he’ll be rocking out with the gods in Valhalla and writing some of the best damned metal anyone ever heard with Dio.
So this new years raise a glass in toast for all the good, bad, and ugly that happened this year. And let’s hope to make 2016 even more exciting and eventful than 2015.
“History has it that the colonial masters came with the Bible and the gun, gave the Bible to the Africans, as they pointed their guns at their heads.” — Azizaa
“They took away our spirituality and gave us religion; they banned us from gathering under a tree by the fireside and herded us into churches.”—Wanlov
According to a 2012 Gallup International Survey about religiousity around the world, Ghana is one of the most religious countries in the world. Indeed its the kind of country with a church on every street corner (or maybe four or five). Many of these churches are places where rich pastors prey on the poor. A quick google search of pastors in Ghana will pull up a list of the richest pastors. This expresses a clear message: Christianity is a big business in Ghana (as well as elsewhere in Africa). A fundamental part of this business is poor people going to mass and giving away a substantial part of their income to rich pastors.
These churches also demand that the African people abandon their ancient spiritual practices in favor of the new religion put in place by Western, colonial forces.Yet many people in Ghana still invoke the ancient juju when nothing else works.
In the video a woman is being harassed by two Christian missionaries. When these missionaries run after her, they are confronted by the forces of an ancient and powerful magic.
(Patrick Carberry: Source: Belfast Media Group)
I truly believe the Gods have a since of humor. For the first time in centuries, Northern Ireland has allowed Patrick Carberry, a shamanic healer and a pagan priest to be certified by authorities. It was a man by the name of “Patrick” who was famous for bringing Ireland under the Christian fold (even though there were Christian missionaries in Ireland before St. Patrick) and now it is another “Patrick” who is paving the way for the ancient religion to reclaim official recognition. Ironic? Is it not?
Patrick Carberry, who is based in Glengormley, applied to Stormont five months ago to be certified as a holy man. Officials have finally got back to him with the news that he can now carry out religious ceremonies for people who follow Irish pre-Christian religions.
Patrick has been attacked in the past for his beliefs. It is his hope that bringing official recognition to the pagan religion will help it to become more socially acceptable.
“I am the very first pagan priest in Northern Ireland and it’s a big milestone because until now Stormont has point blankly refused to recognize paganism,” he said.
“In 2009 I set up a church called the Order of the Golden River but the members and I agreed to keep it underground because the people were afraid of being targeted.”
Apparently this fear is well founded. Patrick was assaulted at a small outlet he opened in the Park Centre last September. But he says he’s now happy to announce he is a full-time priest in the pagan religion, now that he has official recognition.
“I’m not in the slightest bit bothered. I am a full-time pagan priest and it’s as simple as that. That’s what I do. Other people have jobs and do their paganism outside of that but I am the same level as any priest or reverend and I have now been recognized as such.”
Patrick said the Order of the Golden River deserves to be respected along with other religions.
“Now we are officially recognized as a church and it comes down to the fact it’s the first time paganism has been officially recognized since Saint Patrick came here and did away with all the pagans and made the whole place Christian. This is the first time pagans have had the opportunity to officially celebrate their beliefs.
“We are a pagan order which believes everyone has the right to live and have their own faith without fear. We were underground but at a meeting the Order members agreed to speak out about our faith and stand up for our beliefs. We are happy to explain our faith to anyone who asks because our aim is to dispel all the misinformation which people have about paganism.”
Patrick says he can now perform weddings in full compliance with the law.
“I can marry people in stone circles or ancient woodlands. It really is a milestone for Northern Ireland and a great day for pagans.”
Patrick describes himself as a traditional Celtic Shaman who aims to live as close to nature and the old ways as possible. While he practices mainly in Ireland and the U.K, on his website he states that it is his goal to help people on an international level connect to the spirit world. He provides shamanic healing, Shamanic Healing, Energy Healing, Energy Balancing, Angel Healing, Shamanic Readings, Soul Readings, Holistic Massage, Animal Communicator and Animal Healing.
THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN RIVER
The Order of the Golden River (of which Silent Oak is a trading name) is a pagan order which believes that everyone has the right to live and have their own faith without fear. Set up in 2009 the Order have been practicing its faith in private. The members have had to remain anonymous to protect their families from harm because of their beliefs. At a meeting in January 2015 the Order members agreed to speak out about their faith and stand up for their beliefs, they will explain their faith to anyone who asks, their aim is to expel all the misinformation which people have about paganism.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (More Information Here)
Ásatrúarfélagið website (The group for which the temple is being built)
For the first time in 1,000 years, a temple to the Norse Gods will be built in Iceland. Most pagans these days tend to worship in each other’s houses or outside somewhere, since our numbers are pretty low. So this will definitely be a historic landmark for Iceland – if not for the whole Pagan community in general.
Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age.
While the number of Norse Pagans is small in Iceland, the rate of growth itself is pretty large. The number has tripled in the last decade. So it makes sense that a temple will be built to accommodate this growing community.
This temple will be a place where weddings, funerals and initiation rites will take place.
After 1,000 years of oppression the old ways will re-emerge once again.
Amon Amarth – Thousand Years of Oppression
Cue the soundtrack of Billy Idol’s “It’s a nice day for a white wedding,” and replace that with, “It’s a nice day for a Gaaay Wedding!”
I would like to send forth a major congratulations to Tom Lanting, 34, and Iain Robertson, 39, who were the first two to have both a gay and pagan wedding in Scotland. The couple has been together for 12 years, but has just recently tied the knot. Since they both describe themselves as hedge witches, they had a ceremony where they casted a circle, invoked the elements, handfasted (which involves tying the hands together), shared mead and jumped the broom.
After Sunday’s wedding, the couple said: “As hedge witches we always wanted to have a pagan marriage ceremony in line with our beliefs and it was really important to us to be able to share this ceremony with our friends and family.”
Scotland is the only part of the U.K. to allow pagans and other religious minorities to solemnise legal weddings.
Louise Park, the presiding officer for the Pagan Federation (Scotland), conducted the ceremony. She said: “Equality for people of all faiths is something that is very dear to the vast majority of pagans.”
Hopefully we see more of this kind of thing in the future to come for Scotland.
BILLY IDOL – “WHITE WEDDING”
Since I mentioned it I might as well post it. Not metal, but a bit of cheesy 80’s magic.