(Background music: Dead Can Dance “Frontier”)
All around the world there is a revival of the Ancient Ways.
People are returning to indigenous religions and ideas.
Why is this happening?
In one of his podcasts, Philip Carr Gomm (the chief of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids) gives his perspective.
He says that many of the main religions have reached a point of maturity.
While I don’t want to bend his words – this could mean that these mainstream religions have reached a point of death. All around the world, people are realizing that the system just isn’t working. The pre-dominant religious ideas aren’t solving man’s problems and the environmental crisis is getting worse. Culturally and spiritually humanity is experiencing a sort of metaphorical death. At a deep subconscious level – we know that something ominous is ahead like crows warning of a coming storm. That’s not what Phillip said, but that’s my point of view.
What Phillip did say is that we are like Salmon before death. Before death, salmon swim upstream to the point of their origins. Like salmon, humanity – in the face of a spiritual and environmental crisis – is swimming upstream to return to their primordial origins – to return to the ancient indigenous ways before it’s too late.
A MODERN INVENTION
A careful study of ancient mythology will reveal that a singular “mother, maiden and crone” Deity is nowhere to be found in ancient myth. There are triple Goddesses in the Ancient Celtic Mythos – but they do not exist within this archetype. The Celtic Goddess Brigid is a classic example of a triple Goddess. Yet she is one of three sisters, not a maiden, mother or a crone. Each sister is also named Brigid. They have similar but different attributes.
There are also a fair share of triunal deities in Greek Myth, however, these also do not fit exactly into the mother, maiden and crone mold either. Hecate is a prominent example. In Greek artwork she was sometimes paired with the two moon Goddesses Artemis and Selene. Artemis is a virgin and Selene is a mother to some 50 daughters. However, there is no hard evidence that any Greeks saw these triple Goddesses as aspects of one person. They each had their own distinct lives, mythological tales and purposes.
It is important to note that the Mother, Maiden, Crone archetype is a modern invention of the Neo-Pagan or Wiccan movement. It is a concept that was influenced primarily by Robert Graves, a mid-20th century novelist. This was popularized in his novel The White Goddess (written in 1948).
However, the fact that the mother, maiden, crone aspect is new does not mean that it isn’t valuable. It is a useful archetype for a woman venerating the different phases of her life. Perhaps though, instead of lumping all these aspects into one person, it may be useful to think of different Goddesses who existed in each of these different phases. A Goddess is a Goddess – not an “aspect.”
THE MOTHER, MAIDEN AND CRONE ARCHETYPE
The phases basically speak for themselves: there is youth, adulthood and old age. In a culture that celebrates youth and pressures women to look young forever, learning to celebrate other phases of your life is important. Think of the fact that the Cosmetic Industry is worth billions, it makes major bucks off of women’s insecurities. So let us examine the three phases of the Mother, Maiden, Crone archetype below:
She is a young and virginal girl who has not yet awakened. She is often associated with innocence and beauty. She is probably the archetype most celebrated by our current society.
- Concepts: Associated with new beginnings, youthful ideas and enthusiasm
- Moon: Waxing
- Season: Springtime and Ostara
- Symbols: Flowers, the colors pink, white or green
- Maiden Goddesses: Persephone, Artemis, Hestia, Rhiannon
The mother Goddess is associated with creation, birth, marriage, sexuality, nurturing, care-giving and protection.
The Mother doesn’t get enough credit in this day and age. “Powerful” and “Assertive” are positive traits ascribed to females. But people often dismiss “nurturing” and “care-giving” as weaker qualities. It is not so. It takes a lot of strength to be compassionate and nurturing in the face of overwhelming stress and frustration. Isis was certainly a powerful and yet nurturing Goddess. She literally went to the ends of the Earth to help put her husband Osiris back together, so that’s pretty nurturing. Yet is she powerful? Hell yes. Her name literally means “throne,” the symbol of the pharoah’s power.
- Concepts: Associated with harvest, achievement and fulfillment.
- Moon: Full moon.
- Season: Summer, sometimes spring and fall.
- Animals: Cat, Dove, Dolphin
- Color: Red
- Mother Goddesses: Isis, Demeter, Gaia, Pachamama
The Crone represents the inevitability that all things must come to an end. She is associated with death and what happens after death. However, death isn’t a bad thing, it is a necessary phase in creation. In Traditional Cultures, the “Crone” aspect of womanhood received much respect. For example, in India and China, women who traditionally lived to old age received more status and respect in the family than younger women. The ancient reverence for older women is connected to the fact that living to old age was rare, and thus those who were capable of this feat were wise and had sagely advice.
Today, women often feel embarrassed by their age. I have some female friends at 27 who feel “old.” Really?! I think some chicks have been reading too much Twilight (I apologize for the reference). Sorry, you can’t be a teenage vampire forever, grow up! Celebrate your age. Celebrate the fact that you are ripened with experience and life knowledge that the young wipper-snappers lack. You are like a fine wine, getting more refined with age.
- Concepts: Death, Completion, Endings
- Moon: Waning
- Season: Winter
- Symbols: Owl, Wolf, Raven
- Color: Black, Dark Blue, Dark Purple
- Goddesses: Hecate, Grandmother Spiderwoman, Elli, Cailleach Bear
Here’s a good example of the Mother, Maiden and Crone in modern music.
Mother, Maiden, Crone: Ancient Goddesses For A Modern Religion (A Presentation)
Mother, Maiden Crone (About.com)
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.