Is Paganism the Fastest Growing Religion in the United States?
Picture Source Fuck Yeah Paganism (Great site title too!)
CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS
Don’t bust out the mead yet! Pagans are still a very small minority in comparison to both U.S Religions and World Religions at large. If you read the 2008 “United States Census Bureau Abstract on Self Identified Religious Populations”, the number of Pagans and Wiccans combined still only results to 0.3% of the population (which means that 3 out of every 1,000 people you meet will be Pagan). However, that number doesn’t account for people who classify as spiritualists, Unitarian Universalists or non-classified.
I do often bump into people at Pagan meets or New Age shops who do not like to call themselves “Pagans,” but rather “Animists,” “Druids,” “Asatruar,” “Heathens,” “Shamans,” etc. The war over what gets lumped into the pagan category and what doesn’t wages on, but I bet many of these folk filled in the “non-classified” space rather than “pagan” on their Census Bureau survey. Personally I prefer to think of Paganism as a system that seeks to revive an ancient system of Earth Based Values – but not everyone shares my definition.
The statistical number of Pagans is probably much smaller than the real number. There are definitely more Pagans than what is represented on a survey. Pagans are still a persecuted minority in many ways, so a lot of us tend to be private about our beliefs to the point where we wouldn’t even write it down. Also, the 0.3% number is from 2008. There has obviously been growth in 5 years time, so the current number could be anything from .5 – 2%.
But don’t despair, there is good news! Even though the numbers are small, Paganism and Wicca are still growing at an incredibly fast rate.
Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Wiccans in the United States increased from 8,000 to 134,000 according to the United States Census Bureau. That’s an increase of 1600%! Between 2001 and 2008, the number of Pagans over all (Wiccans included) doubled, so that’s a growth rate of 200%. That’s an increase greater than almost anything seen among the other religions! The number of Christians overall, in comparison, only experienced an 8% growth rate between 2001 and 2008, which is actually a decrease when you account for population growth.
However, one must note that the number of Evangelicals doubled between 2001 and 2008. The number of conservative Christians such as Mormons and Baptists have also increased while the number of Liberal Christians such as Presbyterians and Lutherans have decreased. Therefore Christianity is shrinking, but it’s also radicalizing in the process.
BREAKING DOWN THE NUMBERS
Population of Non-Abrahamic Religious People in U.S. in 2008 (U.S. Census Bureau)
Native American Spirituality: 186,000
Non-Wiccan Pagans: 340,000
Non-Pagan Spiritualists: 426,000
WHY THE RAPID INCREASE?
There are a number of possible factors
- Increased Tolerance in society for diverse religious beliefs. As a result, more Pagans are coming out of the broom closet.
- The Internet: Possibly one of the greatest catalysts of social change to happen in the 90’s and 2000’s. Before the internet, many people chose their faith by the community they lived in. If you were a Pagan in a pre-internet world, it was probably very difficult to find others with similar beliefs unless you met them at a New Age shop or had an acquaintance who happened to be in the occult. In the same way that drugs and rock and roll music sparked a social revolution in the 1960’s, the internet is opening up new gateways for social thought and experimentation.
- A Growing Discontent with Christianity: Generation Y is much more comfortable with homosexuality and women’s rights than their parents were. As a result, a religious book that promotes the stoning of homosexuals – or the silence of women in a place of worship – is becoming increasingly antithetical to the morals of today’s more progressive youth. Many of these young people still thirst for a spiritual connection, but are no longer willing to attain it from the Church.
- The Desire to Reconnect With a Feminine Force of Power: For the last 2,000 years, Christian Patriarchy has robbed the world of Feminine Power. Is it any wonder that more slavery, wars, holocausts and environmental destruction have happened in this time period than any other? I’m not saying that the Pagan Past was a bed of flower power and hippies, it was definitely brutal and bloody, but that society has increasingly become unbalanced as the Goddess has been circumcised out of the religious equation. Even patriarchal empires like Ancient Rome and Greece understood the need for a Female Deity.
- A Desire to Reconnect With the Earth: In a world that is becoming more material and corporate, there is a yearning for something authentic and organic. This explains the growing popularity of Farmers Markets, green movements and the growth of vegetables on roof tops in Urban Centers. If we are to save the Earth, we must fall in love with the Earth. We must have a spiritual relationship with the Earth. The Earth cannot simply be an abstract ideal – it must be as an actual family member that we keep in our thoughts and wishes.
GROWING A COMMUNITY
The number of Pagans is indeed growing very fast, but we are still a very small and misunderstood minority. If you would like there to be more Pagans in the world or less misunderstandings, you should come out of the broom closet and be more open about who you are – and what you belief – unless you live in a town where you could get beat up or killed for your beliefs…then that might not be such a good idea. But I also encourage you to blog, make music, make art, write stories and spread your ideas so that the Pagan community may continue to grow and evolve.
Pagan Artwork, Laurence Bernier
For more, check out Art and Murals, Laurence Bernier Facebook
Happy Beltane – Let’s Talk About Sex!
So today – Beltane or May Day or whatever you are celebrating – is a day when many European (primarily German) Folk danced around a giant phallus in the ground (the maypole). Sounds pretty sexual to me! Part of the significance is that this was the beginning of the summer for many Pagan peoples in Europe.
I’m not writing this post to give you a history lesson or to discuss the traditions of Beltane. Rather, I’m interested in having a frank discussion about sex, given that fertility is something people have on the brain today. (Or something that some people have on the brain everyday…hehehe)
A Healthy View of Sexuality and the Human Body
Our Pre-Christian ancestors had a much more open and healthy view about sexuality. Sex and fertility were not viewed as “evil.” They were seen as a natural part of life. Goddesses were depicted with breasts and ample curves. Statues of Gods did not censor genitals with leaves. Some God statues were even depicted with a fully erect phallus to show their fertility and power.
What I would like to focus on in this article though, is sexual problems in the modern world, and what those with a natural view of life can do about it.
Social Problems Stemming From a Sick View of Sex
- Rape, Abuse and Violence
- Body Image and Eating Disorders
- Teen Pregnancy
- Sex Slavery/Trafficking of Human Beings
- Homophobia and Abuse Towards Homosexuals
- Warped Views of Female and Male Sexuality
For those of you who live in America, we live in a sexual schizophrenic nightmare. On one hand, sexually suggestive imagery is all around us: on billboards, internet pornography, magazines, commercials, in music lyrics, etc. On the other hand though, because we are emerging from Puritanical Christian mindset of sexual guilt- having an open and honest conversation about sex is very hard to do. Part of the reason we call meat “white” or “dark” is because the Puritans didn’t like referring to the “breasts” or “legs” of chickens. Today, basic sexual terminology, “penis,” “vagina,” etc. is still censored in public. If we can’t even express the basics of sexual terminology – how can we have a real conversation about the matter?
(There is much more openness about sexuality in Europe, which explains their lower rates of rape, teen pregnancy and STI’s).
The Need For Legalized Prostitution
“Freya in Valhalla” by bellebustier
Access to sexual gratification can also be difficult in America. Prostitution is illegal, and the prostitutes are often punished much harsher than their customers. (Not to say that everyone is entitled to sex, but that prostitution is a natural profession that has been around since the dawn of humanity and should be treated with dignity and respect). Prostitutes will exist no matter what, no matter how many jails we create, no matter how many people we lock up. Therefore, we might as well make this profession legal to reduce the rates of illegal human trafficking/abuse/and rape. It’s much easier to crack down on rape and abuse against prostitutes when the prostitutes aren’t afraid of the police.
The Need For a Real Sexual Education
One fourth of all teenagers receive an abstinence only education (guttmacher). Because of a lack of helpful material about sexuality, many teenagers are educating themselves via the porn industry. While I personally don’t have anything against pornography, the porn industry often shows a highly unrealistic view of sex that leaves the viewer horribly unprepared (and perhaps even disappointed) with the realities of sex. Learning about sex and love-making from a porno is like learning how to drive a car from “The Fast and the Furious.”
A real sexual education emphasizes the importance of using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted disease. Too many people think that the birth control pill or “pulling out” will protect them from HIV. One of my first serious boyfriends (a Catholic fellow) told me that he could just “pull out” and everything would be fine. The only thing this kind of ignorance makes me want to “pull out” is my fist…or maybe “pull out” of the relationship all-together.
The Limitations of Porn
Most pornos do not show their performers using any kind of sexual protection (condoms) or lube during anal sex scenes. Also, the porn star body (95 pound female with double D breasts and high amounts of plastic surgery) is not an accurate representation of a majority of females. I am not saying that we should do away with pornography. But if we lived in a society where there were a variety of resources about sexuality, people would have a cornucopia of outlets through which to inform themselves so that they could build a more comprehensive and healthy view of sexuality.
The Need For a Healthy View on Homosexuality and Gender
While women have made many strides forward via the Feminist Movement, aspects of Gender flexibility and homosexual rights lag severely behind. Think about it. Can you name many homosexuals who kiss or hold hands with their partner in public? Can you name any major famous homosexuals who actually appear with their partner in public?
There is slightly more tolerance for Lesbians than there is for Gay Men in America. Part of this is because aspects of Lesbianism caters towards the Male Fantasy. It is also because of sick ideas about gender. In many ways, the Heteronormative Male Identity is still the dominant identity. For example, when a woman takes on stereotypically masculine traits, some critics may call her “butch,” but most people these days will praise her for being “tough” or “badass.”
Yet when a male takes on traditionally feminine character traits, he is derided as being “weak” or “emasculated.” Why is a man weak for acting like a woman? Is there something so bad about being female that manly women are above their sex, but effeminate men are below theirs?
While women have gained more rights in society, we still often have narrow views about Gender. Many of these views are harmful to men in addition to women. Males make up a majority of suicides, homeless and imprisonment statistics. In turn, a majority of the victims of sexual violence, stalking and abuse are female.
Let’s just think about this for a second… There is a severe amount of cultural pressure on males to like and seek sex. Yet there is an equal amount of social pressure on females to avoid and abstain from sex. Hrm…do you think this counter balance of conflicting desire MIGHT just have bad results?
Taking on The Myth That Women Don’t Like Sex
Breaking News. Apparently women like sex!
Of all the warped, modern notions about sex, this is probably one of the most ridiculous notions that a majority of people have been brainwashed into having. It is the myth that all men are depraved animals who will fall all over themselves for an ounce of boobage, while women are pristine moral puritans who hate sex, but must do it as some chore to please men in exchange for stuff.
If there are a lot of women unsatisfied with their sex lives, it’s probably because they live in a culture that prioritizes male sexual desire over female sexuality. A majority of sex magazines these days are replete with “how to please your man” type articles, but finding Sasquatch is easier than finding a good article that tells women how to please themselves – or that tell men how to please the ladies for that matter.
In ancient times, some people believed that women liked sex more than men.
More Openness On the Subjects of Kink and Domination
While more people are becoming open about sex, Kink and Domination are still taboo topics. There still isn’t much publicity for leather rebels in bed so to speak. In a culture that places a high value on social equality, one can feel weird about wanting to be the dominant or submissive partner sexually. I suppose “50 Shades of Boring” was the big book to bust out kink to the mainstream. But even this book promoted the message of an “innocent and virginal” heroine with a deeply psychologically disturbed kinky boyfriend. Surprise – surprise – there are many sane folk out there (male and female) who enjoy the interplay of a pain and power. This is a desire that people shouldn’t feel guilty or weird about – as long as they can have an open discussion with their partner. And who knows, maybe once you open up, you may find that your vanilla buddy has a penchant for whips and chains.
So Stop Feeling Guilty!
We are all a product of sex. Most of us desire sex at some point…to some degree. Some may want it once a month; Others might want it 3 times a day; And a few rare individuals may want it never. In the same way that everyone desires food and water, most people also have a built in desire for love and sexual gratification. It’s part of our programming! This is only a human need. I’m not saying that everyone is entitled to have sex whenever they want. But I’m saying that you shouldn’t feel guilty about having sexual urges.
However, that doesn’t mean that sexual decorum goes out the window. The 1960’s on one hand was a revolutionary time. Yet without any rules or restrictions in the world of “free love,” we also got “free STD’s and free pregnancies!” Therefore, we should still be careful to use protection and who we decide to fuck (having sex with a psycho could ruin the rest of your life). I’m not saying there shouldn’t be rules. But I’m saying that the topic of sex shouldn’t be one of guilt and shame. So Happy Beltane! Let’s celebrate fertility! It’s also a Wednesday, so it’s hump day too!
I hope you find your Turbo Lover today. Let’s celebrate with one of the most bad ass Gay Men to shake the world of Metal. Everybody’s favorite Leather Rebel – Rob Halford of Judas Priest!
Cheesy but classic!
Pagans and Vegans in U.K. Gain Workplace Rights
Workplace rights mean being able to practice your religion at work.
Examples: A christian wearing a cross and taking off for religious holidays.
A Sikh being allowed to wear a turban, grow a beard and have long hair.
A Muslim having time to pray 5 times a day.
Pagans should also be allowed to wear religious insignia and take off for holy days.
Such rights are starting to take off in the U.K.
Disclaimer: I try not to be too commercial on this blog. However, I am posting this information as a service to the arts and craft makers of the Pagan community.
Comment if there is a shop you love that you would like to suggest.
An Internet Store for Norse Goods. Has a comprehensive list: Everything from Candles, Shirts, Pens, Drinking Horns, DVDs and Mead.
Mainly a site for those interested in Medieval Weaponry, but also contains clothing and other cultural items of interest.
Another Norse Site. Redistributing Norse Culture through craft.
For those interested in the Divine Feminine.
Has a wide variety of Goddess items: African, Aztec, Egyptian, Hindu, Celtic, Norse etc.
For those interested in connecting to their European heritage.
Contains Celtic, Norse, Slavic and Sumerian Cultural Items.
Did Christianity Bring Down the Roman Empire?
Rome was a vast empire that lasted for about 1,ooo years. It was founded in 753 B.C and collapsed around the 5th century. To give you a brief history of what happened in this time, Rome was split into two different empires: East and West. The western part of the Empire fell in 476 A.D while the Eastern Empire thrived until Muslim forces conquered Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
At its height, Rome held territories from Britain to Asia Minor. Many of the Roman roads that connected Europe in that ancient time are still used today. So what eventually brought down this great empire?
Yes, it was stretched too thin. Yes, there were several barbarian attacks and invasions that eventually brought the whole thing down.
Yet there was another decisive factor as well: the forced conversion to Christianity.
The empire converted to Christianity in 395 A.D. and fell apart about 80 years later.
MAPPING A TOLERANT EMPIRE
Up until that point, Rome was tolerant of different religious and cultural ideas. This was the key to their success actually. The persecution of Christians in Rome was a highly exaggerated affair. The Christians were persecuted more for their refusal to follow Roman laws than they were for their religious beliefs.
For example, if a Fundamentalist Religious Cult in America refused to follow our most basic of laws (and claimed God as the reason) we’d probably throw the practitioners of that cult in jail.
I am not trying to downplay the barbarity of Roman conquest here. I am well aware that Romans had their fair share of slavery, warfare and capital punishment. They also did force Roman cultural norms upon those they conquered. (The execution of the Druids at the Isle of Mona was a particularly gruesome affair)
However, the Romans did not do a wholesale eradication of the cultures and Gods of the people they conquered. Most people were permitted to continue with these traditions as long as they also worshiped the Roman emperor as a God and paid their taxes. (With the exception of Carthage. The Romans waged a brutal campaign and salted the Earth in Carthage so that nothing could grow).
The Romans even added other cultures Gods within their own repertoire. For example, when the Gauls started fighting within Roman military ranks, Roman Calvary started saying prayers to the Gallic Horse Goddess Epona.
Pictures of the Egyptian Goddess Isis suckling her son Horus were also circulated in Roman homes (later to be copied by images of the Mother Mary suckling Jesus).
(Roman Statue of Egyptian Goddess Isis)
My point here is that the Roman empire could not have ever hoped to become as large and powerful as they did if they were not tolerant. Rome had its flaws to be sure, but it was an empire that was highly advanced for its time. It was a place where art, science, poetry, and medicine flourished. Rome was an advanced society because they learned from those they conquered and became stronger in the process. You can only benefit from your conquered subjects if you allow them to maintain some level of autonomy – if you don’t crush the spirit and soul of those you rule over.
For example, by allowing the Greeks to maintain their “Greekness” so to speak, The Romans were able to share the benefits of the great art, knowledge and science produced by the Greeks. Many Roman families even employed tutors for their children from Greece (or had Greek slaves for this purpose). The Romans also knew how to turn the ferocity of the Gauls to their advantage, by employing Gallic mercenaries in the military with the promise of Roman Citizenship as a reward. The Gauls could not have been great warriors if the Romans tried to eradicate and supplant Gallic culture in entirety.
Xenophobic and narrow minded civilizations can not achieve the same grandeur as Rome did. For example, when the Ming Dynasty in China abandoned exploration and trade in favor of Isolationism, their status as a world power declined rapidly – and they were eventually conquered by European powers within a few centuries.
When Rome embraced Monotheistic Christianity, their blazing torch of culture, art and power was extinguished. Christian values were completely contrary to Roman Pagan values. Romans and their Gods valued a bold and heroic life in the present. The Gods rewarded those who were particularly brave, beautiful or artistic. Christianity, with its focus on a meek and mild existence in exchange for a glorious afterlife was completely contrary to indigenous European values in general.
Up until Rome’s forced conversion in 395 A.D, Christianity was an insignificant cult, a fringe minority that many people never even heard of.
Yet once Rome converted, Christianity released a madhouse of horrors upon Rome. Ancient temples to other Gods were sacked and destroyed. Entire libraries of valuable knowledge and literature were burned to the ground. The tolerance that allowed Rome to rule over a vast and diverse empire was replaced by a zealous, single minded cult that destroyed all who didn’t subscribe to their ideology. Even other Christians were killed if they didn’t adhere to the “correct” version of Christianity.
Even if the strongest person swallows a poison, they become more vulnerable to the most mild of viruses. Once Rome embraced Christianity, it fell prey to barbarian invasion, splintering and eventual destruction.
The light of Rome was replaced by a millenia of darkness and ignorance. Western Europe became rampant with inquisitions, crusades, witch burnings and disease. It wasn’t until the church started to lose authority in Europe around the Renaissance that Western Europe began to get back onto its feet again. Coincidence? I think not.
Spiritually the world must once again learn how to tolerate different systems of belief that are aligned with the real principals of human nature (rather than attempting a system of morality only suitable for the dead).
May the torch of the Ancient Pagan world burn bright once again as many around the world reawaken to ancient values.
Now enjoy some Roman Metal:
EX DEO – ROMULUS
The Real Old School Religion
As a Pagan people often say my religion is something new:
Jesus Christ is a young “whipper snapper” compared to the Gods and Goddesses I worship.
This Jesus boy of which you speak is 2,000 years old.
The Gods I worship stretch back tens of thousands of years.
Some might say to the beginning of civilization itself.
They embody principals of the natural world: Strength, Courage and Survival.
The natural world – which is billions of years old.
That’s about as traditional as it gets.
“As long as one person remembers, the ancient path survives.
As long as one person worships truly, the ancient Goddesses and Gods are with us.
As long as one person acts with noble spirit, even if they act alone, we are all blessed.
Be thou that one.” ~ The Julian Society
What is Byzantine Paganism?
The religion and philosophy of the Graeco-Roman cultures influenced the lives the of people from the coast of Britain to the borders of modern day Turkey. Not saying that everyone loved the Roman Empire, but rather that Graeco- Roman culture was highly influential in the ancient world. Variants of the Greek language still exist in modern day Afghanistan in the form of the Pushto Language.
When the Roman empire collapsed in about 476 AD, it was split into two different empires: The West and the East. Much of the philosophy and Hellenistic culture of Rome was passed into the hands of the Byzantine Empire, while Western Europe descended into the Dark Ages.
Few people realize that worship of the Classical Greek and Roman Gods continued into the Byzantine empire long after the collapse of Rome. The Pagan religion survived the founding of the capital Constantinople in 324 AD and past the fall of this city in 1453 AD.
(Lararium, Home Altar)
Paganism Goes From Public to Private in The East
Now, this is not to say everything was happy and open for Pagans in the East. As Orthodox Christianity became the mainstay religion in the Byzantine, there was less and less tolerance for the ancient ways. Eventually the church banned public rites and temples for Pagan Worshipers. At this juncture, Pagan worship moved into the home and hearth. Yet as history went on, even worship in the home was banned under pain of death. So the Pagan worship in the East was carried on in secret mystery cults.
Modern Byzantine Paganism
So if Paganism ended up becoming persecuted in the Byzantine, why would anyone return to this practice? Why not look to an earlier time where Paganism was practiced openly in the city center? Byzantine FAQs answers this question well by stating that we probably have more in common with the Byzantine Pagans than we do with the Classical Pagans – since we live in a world where Paganism is no longer the dominant religion.
Modern day Byzantine Pagans look to the Byzantine era as the place where our ancestors left off. They incorporate the iconography and art of the Byzantine Empire into their own practice. Philosophy is also highly important to the magical practice, as are home altars and private rituals. (This is not to say that community and public rights aren’t included – just that they are less common)
How To Practice Ancient Byzantine Paganism
Establish a personal connection to the ancient Classical Deities
Religious Statues and Icons
Community and Public Rites
How to Practice Byzantine Paganism
Idis Örlög Interview
Today I am interviewing the artist behind Idis Örlög. An Idis is a spirit of a Nordic Ancestor – a guide and protector of destiny. Idis Örlög is a musical journey to roots, a medium through which ancestral spirits communicate, sharing their wisdom through the spontaneity of song.
So let’s start at the beginning, How did Idis Örlög start?
(Source: Idis Örlög Facebook)
So Idis Örlög began with a strike of inspiration. I realized our pagan ancestors have a lot to tell us, a lot we can learn from and this remains unknown due to Christianity’s hold over Europe, and following “re-writing” of history. The idises are female guardian spirits who watch over their kin, their descendants. It is said they can intervene in the lives of their descendants in a positive way, to defend or guide them. I felt like there was this feminine spirit of the north guiding this music to come into existence. Since örlög is destiny, it was a fitting name because it is destiny that we re-connect with our pagan, earthbound roots and appreciate and respect our pagan ancestors. I wished to give voice to these long silenced, but powerful beings who are our own kin, who care so much still to guide us to a better, more aware existence. The songs I began to write came to me, I shouldn’t really say I wrote them: they came to me and I gave voice to them in my own way. And so I continue to do.
Is this a solo project or are there others involved? What instruments come into play?
On the demo, (released by Wolfytr productions) I play all the instruments: guitar, vocals, shaman drum, harp, flute. On the forthcoming album I play the same but had help from Runahild Háleygir (Eliwager) with fiddle and jew harp and flute. I am in the process of putting together a live lineup as well. So Idis Örlög only consists of natural, acoustic instruments.
Do you know when the forthcoming album will be out?
The album will be out by early next year, again on WolfTyr productions.
So, are you still doing stuff with your other two bands, or is Idis Örlög your main project right now?
I am still active with Witchblood and Hekseri, yes. I just finished recording my parts for the upcoming Hekseri album, and am reforming Witchblood upon arrival to Norway, where I am moving shortly.
Do you think this move will have a big impact on your musical projects?
I hope it will set things back into motion with Witchblood, especially to record and play live again. I expect the move to also bring fresh inspiration for Idis Örlög, and a new perspective…
How would you say Witchblood and Hekseri are distinct from Idis Örlög?
Well, Witchblood and Hekseri are distinctively aggressive, hard metal. They are a way of venting all of this frustration and rage that build up from living in such a fucked up system (I would say “world”- but that is false. The world, the earth are perfectly fine. A combination of weakness and wickedness have brought us to where we are today in terms of all the countless injustices, idiotic doctrines, dogmas, etc)
(Hekseri “Der Hexenhammer” at O’Briens Pub 8/31/12)
Hekseri started in 2003, and was the inspiration of the mutual love for metal with my musical partner in crime, Thuringwethil. It evolved into a more complete vision, with mythological topics and comments on religion, dogma, explores some mystical topics as well.
Witchblood began as a concept- one dealing with the theme of witch hunts through the ages, that people who do not choose to follow the sheep herd get branded as heretics, freaks, witches, etc, and how this plays out. A witch would get burnt at the stake. In current society, the same happens- the heretic or dissenting voice gets thrown out of the circle, ridiculed, shamed, held at arm’s length. This even happens in a “rebellious” circle like that of metal, that if you do not adhere to the unspoken codes, like wearing black or drinking alcohol, it becomes harder to get acceptance. Witchblood is all about this- about standing alone and speaking the truth, getting fucked over for it, but coming back again to speak the truth. Literally, song topics deal with witches coming back to warn people-again and again.
Idis Örlög in contrast, is a fresh breath of air, the subtler elements of nature. It may deal with a lightning crash, but in a much “higher” way, this is not the grinding axe, it is the whispering wind. It is not just the thorn- it is the thorn and the ROSE, while maybe the rose is emphasized. It is the ecstatic vision of Oden, the mystery of Ullr, the beauty and pain of Freyja, the completeness of Nordic archetypes with the atmosphere of northern nature and the bliss of trance… the natural instruments allow this to come through. It is solar, but the soft light of the moon is key to the feeling invoked in these pieces. The sleeping hill underneath the sparkling snow… the howling storm, but the peace which follows, the strength of the mountain to endure peacefully. It is the neutral shaman staying centered and tranquil as the storm rages, perhaps piercing his flesh, but he remains undaunted and emerges whole, stronger after. The metal music is about dancing enraged with the storm, a berserker warrior feeling, whereas this acoustic music is about merging with the storm, and also the peace which follows. The quiet hollow of the forest, the setting sun, the rising sun, the simple struggle of awakening to spring.
What do you think the Idises would have to say to us in the modern world? What wisdom do you think they would offer us about our current way of living?
(Source: Idis Örlög Facebook)
It’s my feeling that the Idises (we all have them- they are our pagan ancestors) either are “frustrated” in that so few heed what they would show us, guide us with, or are pleased with those of us who do hear the call. The call they send to us, that is the common thread of nature as well. In these times of materialistic decay and oblivion by the masses, there is still this gross debasing of our roots as beings intrinsically tied with the planet, a lack of appreciation for the sacredness all around us: that more worth is placed in these objects of status like phones and computers and cars than in a living thing-like a tree, or the air, or the water which all have consciousness of their own.
Since Christianity and other monotheistic cults came to Europe, destroying the native religions in place and replacing them with the foreign creeds, the alienation and separation to roots and to the earth has been ongoing. Europe had her very own spirituality, akin to that of the native people of the Americas- tied to the earth, understanding we humans are a part of the natural landscape instead of being the “ruler” of it, as Christianity would have us believe. This is where we must return- to see the soil, the sky, the water, the plants, as a part of us and we a part of them and all animals too- to see the sacredness of the sun providing warmth for survival, to know how to communicate and commune with the holiness that is the connection of nature once more. This is what I feel our pagan ancestors, our Idises, have to communicate to us. That we open our eyes once more.
A Branch that looks like the Feh Rune (Idis Örlög Facebook)
Even before the time of the Latin letters, we had our own runic alphabet in northern Europe. This was a sacred alphabet-the runes. It originated from holiness and was inscribed on sacred stones. Now these runes are appreciated and acknowledged once again. I believe this is a way in which the Idises-who can also be seen as a link to the Gods-have manifested their presence and communicated with us.
Just curious. An Idis is a spirit of your Nordic Pagan ancestor, but I don’t have any Nordic ancestry (I am a Celtic Lass). Can I still learn from what the Idises have to teach people?
The Idis is the embodiment of ancestral spirits, acting as guardians. “Idis” would be the Nordic name, but these forces are at work in different forms of equal importance for all people. So the Nordic “Idis” would be at work for Nordic folk, but there are other guardians for other people, behaving the same but perhaps envisioned a bit differently to fit the cultural, spiritual landscape of that ancestral group. At any rate, these Nordic archetypes, elements are something all people can learn from, although I feel the personal roots that one has through a bloodline often speak loudest for reasons of personal relation. (So each family, each person would have their own “Idises”, and we can envision them as silvery haired Nordic maidens, or as fiery haired Celtic Warrioresses, or spirited amazons, etc depending on one’s background).
All great spiritual truths are universal, perhaps envisioned in different contexts, but we can all learn from these truths. Such as a Buddha teaching wisdom: I don’t have to be a Buddhist to learn from this truth.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today and offering such in depth responses about the spirit behind the music. I will be sure to check out your album when it comes out next year.
Does the Male Deity Get Enough Attention in Modern Paganism?
Picture Found HERE
Is it just me, or does modern Pagan spirituality feel like a hot dog bun fest? Much of the material I come in contact with emphasizes the power of the Goddess, the feminine divine that is necessary for creation. Yet the God, in comparison, merely tags along in the shadows as the Goddess’s consort. In particular, this mostly seems to occur in the Wiccan branches of Paganism. Not so much on the Heathen side of the spectrum.
This tendency to focus more on the feminine aspect of creation is not necessarily a bad thing. I see no problem with Dianic Wiccans that set themselves aside to focus purely on The Goddess. By the same turn, I see nothing wrong with Male Mysteries that focus purely on a God like Apollo or Dionysus.
Yet there are often situations when Pagans claim to worship both the male and female aspects of the divine…but seem to worship the female aspect just a tad more.
Why does the Goddess end up eclipsing the God in modern Paganism? Here is my theory:
Modern Paganism is a reaction against modern day, Patriarchal religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism
2,000 years of worshiping a male God only has created quite the unbalance. Many people retreating from the major world religions have sought refuge by flocking into the opposite direction – by seeking refuge in the bosom of a more maternal Deity: Wise and white armed Athena, powerful Diana, Inspiring Bridget, Beautiful Freya etc.
Many in the Neo-Pagan traditions have re-created the ancient world to be a Matriarchy. Those in the occult are familiar with Aleister Crowley’s Age of Isis. He believed there were three ages of history:
The age of Isis, the age of Osiris, and the age of Horus.
The age of Isis represents the beginning of human history. Crowley believed this was a peaceful age that was more Matriarchal. People lived in small communities in which Priestesses had power and influence over the village.
I do believe that women definitely had more power in Pre-Christian times. However, I have talked to some Pagans who have said absurd things – such as there were only Priestesses and no Priests in the beginning of human history (we’re talking the Neolithic Era).
First of all. There is still much uncertainty that shrouds the ancient world. Much of the Pre-Christian temples, scrolls and texts were burned when Christianity came along. Also, the evidence that points to a “Goddess dominated society” is rather weak. So they had more naked female statues in ancient times? There are also way more female models in magazines, nude women on the internet and images of the female body in art in the modern world. Yet a plethora of female pornography is hardly an indicator of respect for the female form.
Paganism represents many different things to different people. In this blog alone, I cannot say what Paganism is and what it is not. Yet to me, it represents a Spirituality that is more in tune with nature, with the energy manifest in the natural world. Both the Masculine and Feminine energies permeate nature.
I think many in the modern world today are lost. There are many men and women who do not know who they are, because there are countless magazines and television shows telling them what it means to be a “real woman” or a “real man.” All of course designed to make you feel insecure and buy more things.
Yet reading Ancient Mythology can often function as a mirror to reflect upon us the truth of our own natures. These are timeless values remembered and restored because they worked. There are male Gods who are cultured and musical like Apollo, Odin who was wise and loving to his wife, horned Celtic Gods who were wild and free. I’m not saying there is one way to be male or female, but it is helpful to read the ancient myths to see which Gods resonate with you.
What is God to me? I believe the Gods are many and one. All the multi-faceted faces representing the energy of the divine, shining on the multitude sides of a diamond. God as a male is a force of fertility and wisdom. He ploughs the field so that she may bare fruit. He is the brightness of a sun giving life and intensity, while the gentle light of the moon gives comfort and relief. Although that is merely my opinion, I entice you to find your own.
Some Notes on the Male Deity by the Pagan Federation
Facebook: A Place For Male Witches
EDIT: Shortly after writing this article, I found a relevant quote in Scott Cunningham’s “Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner.”
“The Goddess and God are equal; neither is higher or more deserving of respect. Though some Wiccans focus their rituals toward the Goddess and seem to forget the God entirely, this is a reaction to centuries of stifling patriarchal religion, and the loss of acknowledgement of the feminine aspect of Divinity. Religion based entirely on feminine energy, however, is as unbalanced and unnatural as one totally masculine in focus. The ideal is a perfect balance of the two. The Goddess and God are equal: complementary.”
Why Wicca and Celtic Paganism Are Different Things
It is quite common for Wicca and Celtic Paganism to be lumped together. Many people assume that they are the same thing. They are not. Here are the key differences between the two practices as outlined by this article.
Wicca is a relatively modern religion. Celtic Pagan Reconstructionism attempts to practice their spirituality as the Celts did during their Golden Age: Between 400-1300 AD.
Wicca breaks the universe down into the four Greco-Roman elements: Earth, Air, Wind and Fire.
Celtic Paganism adheres to the ancient Celtic view that the universe is triunal in nature. The world is composed of Air, Land and Sea. Existence is also made up of three realms: This world, the other world and the underworld.
Wicca is based on the idea that you should harm none. This tenet is different from the views of the Celts, who in general were a warrior culture. They believed that it was necessary sometimes to kill in order to survive and that death and life were interconnected.
Wicca breaks down the deities into the God/Goddess dynamic. For example, there is little difference between Osiris and Odin – they just are invoked for different purposes. Celtic Paganism believes that each deity is individualistic and unique.
Celtic Paganism recognizes that sacred places are found, not created.
Of course it must be said that most of what we know about the Celts is an educated guess, since they did not keep written records about themselves. Spiritual knowledge was passed on orally in the Celtic Tradition. Also, many Celtic artifacts were destroyed by the Romans, Vikings and Christians.
However, the distinguishing feature of Reconstructionalist Celtic Paganism is that it is an attempt to practice a spirituality that is close to that of the Ancient Celts. While Wicca is a modern, New Age creation with Celtic elements.
Nature and Magick: A Struggle For Power
Nature represents a struggle for power, an exertion of will over one’s surroundings.
This is the beating heart of existence.
Anyone who has spent any length of time observing the wild understands this fact.
Wolves will fight a bloody struggle over who will be the alpha of the pack.
Even a vine will overtake the trees and flowers of the forest, oppressing what it can in order to live.
Dominance and submission are the natural state of all things. All relationships are a struggle for power in their own way. Even in the intimacy of romance – there is always one person who holds more power than the other. There is a chaser and a person being chased. Of course nothing is so black and white – but the power struggle is there nonetheless.
Magick is the most primeval form of the human will to achieve this power.
Anthropologists have found that the evidence of ritual is as old a humanity itself.
Druids and shamans of old wandered the forest, and learned how wield their power over the spiritual realm. It is said that a true shaman could command rain from the heavens, invoke fertility from the earth, ask for victory in battle and discern visions of the future from the flight of birds or patterns in smoke.
One who could manipulate the spirits, held a fire that an army of men could not smolder.
Over time priests realized that they could control large groups of people, towns and civilizations through the arcane power of spirituality.
Eventually Christianity came on the scene. Priests told their followers that they must submit themselves to God’s Will. In Pagan times, a powerful, strong, cultured and intelligent person was superior. Yet in Christian times, leaders advocated meekness, mildness and mindless submission to authority. In short: the qualities of the ideal slave.
But of course, there was always a Shepard needed to stand watch over subservient sheep: A pope, priest, etc.
Through the tool of organized religion a small group of elite old men could command several civilizations to do their bidding.
In the Christian world, people were convinced that nature was a mere tool for man’s use. And within this world, the machinery of the industrial revolution took place. Man developed science, a most crude magick, in an attempt to subvert the elements and conquer the Earth. Man arrogantly believed that he could control the rains, the floods, pestilence and fertility through the use of his science. The druids of old attempted these things too, but understood that they were working with a complex life force.
Two competing world ideologies emerged from the industrial era: Capitalism and Socialism. While they may seem as opposites, they are both two sides of the same coin. Socialism spreads the lie that all men are equals and that if they just all act the same they can live in a harmonious and peaceful world. Capitalism is the notion that life is a meritocracy – where all men have an equal chance to grab their slice of the pie if they just work hard enough. Yet in both systems, a small group of elites command large swaths of the population. Much like the Christian Shepard commanding his passive flock.
In ancient times, a just king would rule over a population of people. If this king became corrupt, the people would rise up and kill him. People today are too passive to do such a thing, even when their oh so wise Shepard is leading them to the slaughter house.
The forces of Capitalism and Socialism competed with one another over who could make the most progress, not realizing that the progress they so desired was an idol and empty prize. Like a tireless leviathan, the machinery of civilization churns on, and we cogs on the spokes of the wheel of torment. We are consuming and destroying all the resources we need to survive: poisoning the skies, the water, and the soil of the Earth. We have killed a large majority of the species of animal on this planet.
So does this mean we are winners in nature’s game over power? Hardly.
Even the most blood thirsty wolf will not kill all the deer in the forest. For the wolf knows that some deer must survive in the future so that it will have a continuous food source.
What compels the wolf to know this fact? Text books on Biology? No. Primitive, gut instinct. It is instinct that calls flocks of birds to migrate to the warmer south in winter time. It is instinct that compels a mother bear to viciously defend her cubs. Instinct that sends the animals of the forest into a frenzy in the face of a coming storm. Instinct is the primordial call, the knowledge that shoots forth from the back of the mind like a weed bursting from Earth. A subconscious truth communicated in dreams. It is the hairs that prickle on the neck when one is about to walk down a dark alley. It is that feeling when you wake up in the morning and know that something bad is going to happen.
Art, music and spirituality are the expression of the human subconscious. This is our version of calling to one another in the forest. Within the world of art and music we are awakening to a coming storm. There is a global realization that the current culture we live in is synthetic, unnatural – and not just dysfunctional – but evil.
Yet the power of nature is persistent. Weeds and vines will always threaten to overtake a well manicured garden. As people emerge from a Christian World Order, the power of sex and violence too will overwhelm our nice neat little astroturf lives.
Shamans will walk the forest again and hear the call of the wild. They will open their eyes to the darkening storm clouds and warn others of the thunderous tumult to come. These shamans will manifest themselves as artists, writers and musicians – rather than as politicians. For art and music are hundreds of years ahead of politics. They will be masters of listening to their instincts – to the voice of nature – the primeval power of the forest. Those who listen to this voice will survive. Others will try to numb it with drugs, alcohol, and television – they will perish.
We must hear this call and return to a natural system. A system in which we realize our own power within and pay attention to our instincts. We must understand that the heart of nature is a brutal struggle for survival and be strong enough to endure.
Are you a passive sheep my friend, or a hungry wolf? Does the ferocious gleam of the predator yet shine in your eye?
Paganism and Racism
Most Pagans and Heathens are not racist. Yet any Heathen knows that there is unfortunately a prominent number of individuals who use Paganism as a justification for racism. The usual logic for this thinking is that Pagan Gods typically are affiliated with a particular land and people: The Norse Gods being the Gods of the Scandinavian people and etc.
Many of the racists in the Pagan tradition also say that racial mixing is against the natural law, and “survival of the fittest” insinuates a superiority of certain races over another.
Yet even the concept of “race” is a misnomer. The technical definition of a species is anything that can mate within a group and produce children. If a white man and a black woman have sex, they will make children. If I have sex with a zebra, no such luck. Therefore, all humans are a members of the same race.
Are we all the same? No. All humans are different with a variety of skin colors, heights, weights and illnesses. Yet most humans have more genetic similarities with one another that various breeds of dogs and cats, since humans as a species are very young – only 40,000 years old.
Also, racism is not part of the natural law. Nature favors genetic diversity. The most obvious example is inbreeding. Those who inbreed create more genetic illnesses. Many of the famous royal families in history were rampant with insanity and Hemophiliacs because nobles liked to keep their blood line clean (more like clotted). Purebred animals tend to have weak health and many genetic diseases, while Mutts are much healthier pets.
In genetics, there are weak and strong genes. The wider the gene pool, the greater the availability of dominant genes. The more narrow the gene pool, the greater the prevalence of weak genes. Biologically, strong and dominant genes have a greater chance of being chosen than weak genes. If a tall person has sex with a short person, there is a greater likely-hood that their child will be tall than small. Gregor Mendel showed this effect in his experiments with peas . Yes yes, I know that humans don’t work like pea plants. Yes, human traits blend in intervals with light and dark skin creating caramel colors, and brown and blue eyes resulting in a few hazel eyed children. Yet all the same, nature has a tendency to pick the dominant genes over the recessive ones in children.
Also, in relation to Pagans, all cultures have a mix of influences from other cultures – unless they live underground and no one knows about them. The vikings, for example, were notorious explorers. Archaeologists have found remains of Indian statues in Norse homes. People tend to think of the Norse people as pillagers and raiders, but they were more prominently known back in the day for their aptitude in trading and exploring new places. Therefore, as a people, it can be said that their strengths came from their ability to explore and learn about other cultures – not to isolate themselves from the world.
Europeans in general are mutts, since there were several waves of invasions from various Asian cultures over time.
At the end of the day, race is just a concept – a false bracket- and should be left by the wayside in favor of incorporating the various strengths that all the cultures have to offer.
In the modern world, we use the system of time developed by the Babylonians, math developed by Arabs, gun powder and sails thought up by the Chinese, an alphabet created by the Romans, days of the week inspired by Norse Gods and the list could really go on forever.
Therefore, I believe the focus in Modern Paganism today should be on trying to learn from the indigenous traditions of all the world’s cultures. Some people call this “Cafeteria Paganism” and have mixed feelings about the practice. I’m not saying that you have to believe in everything. Rather, I’m saying that it is good to recognize the potential of what other cultures have to say. Around the world today, there is a sort of informal awakening taking place. In this awakening, people are becoming aware of the fact that our ancient ancestors had wisdom about living on the planet that could be helpful to us today.