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Cyber Witchcraft

One of the best ways to solidify your beliefs, is to talk to others about them.  This is easy when you have a local community, but with the proliferation of the Internet, we enter the realm of cyber Witchcraft. 

Not only can you talk to like-minded people even if you don’t have a local community, but you can get information and opinions from people around the world.

The following email thread comes from a group of people who used to listen to the Internet radio show I co-hosted for ten years, Full Circle.  Greengate lives in Europe, and English isn’t his first language. 

I note this only because you may notice some words he uses sound right, but are syntactically wrong, such as there instead of their.

The following thread quite long and took place over a couple of weeks in email on the Agorae Yahoo group.  The Agora was the market place in Athens, and was the center of civic life in Greece.  It seemed an appropriate name for the group.


Greengate77 began by asking:

Once upon a time, the old Gods were young, and so was the human race. In that mythical and sometimes cruel age we made our first attempts to understand the divine, and to help us do so, we ended up giving it human form. 

We tried to understand it the only way we could, by making our Gods resemble ourselves, and by doing that, we also gave them our human lusts and weaknesses, our many imperfections. The Gods of old were courageous, generous and merciful as we aspire to be, but also fallible, angry, and vengeful as we all too often are. They were our own image reflected back at ourselves. How could they be anything else?

Those were dark times, when thick forests covered much of the earth, teaming with wild beasts there for us to tame, with wide open spaces there for us to discover, when roads were few and mud was plenty. Those where the times when we lived short and all to often violent lives, when in bad times the grumbling hunger made us reach for the sword, and build things of beauty in white marble when the times were more merciful.

Those were the times when small communities lived far from one another, developing cultures of their own, customs relevant to themselves and to nobody else, when every such culture told their own stories, explaining the best they could, to whomever cared to listen why we are born, what are we supposed to do on this earth and what happens when we cease to exist. 

Those stories were tailor-made to convey what the culture deemed important, what it considered acceptable and desirable and what it did not, thus giving birth to a code of conduct and a set of values.

History and time buried most of these small cultures, all too often leaving behind just chards of broken pottery or stories they shared with strangers traveling through their lands. Some disappeared slain by the sword of their enemies; some were whipped out by disease or by the fury of Mother Earth, and some were simply silenced because history is always written by the victors.

From that bubbling cauldron of cultures emerged things we take for granted, wonderful and compelling ideas, institutions that help us navigate through life even today. Things like a system of laws, democracy, art, philosophy and science. That was a Pagan world.

And then, under the rule of Emperor Constantine, the freedom of thought died. The tyranny of the "one true God" started, bringing with it the dark ages and the death of progress. 

The Council of Nicaea took place, someone cherry picked his way through ancient texts and compiled what it is known today as the Bible, a readers digest of old texts specially chosen to fit a political agenda. And as history demonstrates, trouble always starts not because God puts words in our mouth, but because we put words in God's mouth.

Today, we look back at that ancient world and feel pride and admiration for their achievements. Today, given our new found and yet so fragile freedom to believe what we choose, we try to connect with
it, we are in awe of its beauty and often blind at its ugly sides.

We shouldn't forget that the same people who came up with the concept of democracy, handed over a cup of poison to Socrates and made him drink it; that the same people who built the marvels of ancient Rome committed genocide by razing Cartage to the ground; that the same people who built the Pantheon, burned down the Great Library of Alexandria. Yes, there was plenty of innocent blood spilled and plenty of dire injustice in the Golden Age.

Today, we live longer lives, we use the internet, we go to Starbucks, we fill up our fridge from the supermarket, and most of us have never seen a field of wheat or cut the neck of a chicken and deep fried it to feed our family. We live in concrete cities and drive iron horses, we open the tap and clean water comes out, we turn a knob on the wall and our house warms up, we sit down before a plastic box and we can see the entire world in it.

We are so different from the ancient Pagans, that to them we might as well be little green people with quivering antennae sticking out of our heads and go "beep-beep" instead of talking.  And yet, we claim to have a connection to belief systems that were developed by people who lived in the Iron Age, for people that lived in the Iron Age, tailored to the needs of the people who lived in the Iron Age. 

Some claim direct descendance, others try to revive what died a long time ago even though we know next to nothing about how things really were. And what we know is mostly speculation, educated and not so educated guesses, and sometimes even wishful thinking.

So my question to you is this: can we ever go back? How can we ever go back? Should we go back? If the answer is no, then the real mind-numbing gut-wrenching blood-curdling question must be answered: where are we headed?

Take a look in your crystal ball and tell me what you see.


Chris  answered:

      Don't even get me started on Nicaea.

      Time only moves in one direction, for us anyway.  But our modernsociety is all too easy to destroy.  Technological societies alwaysare.  We take too much for granted and become dependent on it all.  As you point out there were problems.  We didn't live as long or as welland life was much harder than now.

      If you mean go back technologically, nope.  No way.  Not without alot of prior training and a move to an easier climate.

      If you mean in terms of ideals, again, nope.   As you point out,some were killed just for ideas, look at various inquisitions.

      Can we be made to regress?  Sure.  It justs a few really seriousfast moving bugs or a few dozen nukes.  Would I want to?  Nope.


Maisry replied:

I don't think we can go back, but we can take the cloth whole from our forebears, study it, and use it as a model upon which to build. The "Athena" I know is a grown up compared to the one our ancient forebears knew.

When we're children we get to know the people who are in charge of our lives, often pretty screwed up young people, then we grow up and mostly know the same people, but they aren't the same people we knew back when. Our perceptions change, and they change. When we try to relate with who they were years and years before we end up in misunderstandings and conflicts. 

I think the same is true of a condition in which we try to relate to old "gods" the old way. Our perceptions are dramatically different, (I liked the way you described it in your essay, Greengate, very meaty!) therefore that which was made in the image of man is now dramatically different.

I go, at least once a month, and live off the grid, off the economy, and off the edge of the technological world, just to keep my sense of appreciation fresh, and to keep my survival thinking honed. I try different problems to solve, all the time. 

Yes I have cut the head off the chicken. I've made the fire, cooked the thing, and even made the surfaces from which to eat it. I've grown food from the seeds I collected the year before, and made tasty meals of things many would have stared dumbly at. I find ways to keep vermin out of my stores, that don't require any sort of spray can. I even find ways to treat the ills of my friends and family the old fashioned way. 

I hunt, search for wild grown food, build shelters, find salt deposits, and consider the best defensible positions around me. I think this helps me "go back" a little way and definitely keeps technology in perspective.

This way of thinking and living affords me a more open perception of the gods, and of the people that created them. When I can see their model better, its easier to make over what they made to fit my life. And my life is not different in many ways from those. I have instincts, rage, desires, and needs that they did. Those instincts, desires, and needs are just met with things of different shapes than they would recognize. We may have it easy in some ways, and there were ways theirs were easier.

This morning I was putting my husbands lunch in his car, when another car came whizzing down the street and I had to press against the door to keep from being hit. 

  1. cars can run faster than predatory animals. 
  2. I live on a street where they run constantly. 
  3. there are a lot more people here than there used to be. 
  4. my husband has to drive far away to go to work. Just two hundred years ago, that same distance would have been a day or two journey, which he wouldn't have had to make, and people worked most days within a short walk from their home. 
  5. I can't get away with doing anything to the person who was driving that car, couldn't even make myself heard when I cussed at him/her. 

The person was moving so fast, I had no way even to get an identity I could use for later. And if I went and smacked that person for their carelessness, instead of the rest of my community applauding such behavior, I would be the one that got busted. My instincts haven't changed... I really wanted to grab that person by the neck and shake them.

No we can't go back, but we really aren't that far away from where they were. I teach my second level students to take "gods" from modern films or stories, and build a ritual around them, which they present to each other or to larger groups. We've done the Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon, all sorts of things from Star Trek, from Lord of the Rings, and some stuff from science fantasy novels. 

I think that exercise helps them have a better understanding of what religion and spirituality is, how to deal with the "gods" in their practice later, and how to interact with the people they will eventually serve. We also study Jung a lot.

The metaphors of our myths are applicable, very useful, in a sense, entirely different than they were to those who recorded them first, but still just as powerful for us. We can't go back and be children, perceiving our world from those innocent eyes. Even our own memories of then are distorted. We can't revisit the same life we actually lived, but it doesn't stop the past we have from being important and useful.

I think the big sink hole a lot of Neo-Pagans fall into is trying to use that mythology and half understood anthropological conjecture to validate themselves and the belief systems they espouse. I don't think that works. I don't think we have to validate what we believe to others. I think we may tend to go overboard trying. And it doesn't work to use ancient people's ways of thinking and behaving to validate our current ways of thinking and behaving. I think it makes us look silly to do so. "But ma, they were are doing it!"

Also, Hi Chris!
Bless you both, my friends!


Chris answered back:

      Shades of Uncle Joe Campbell.

      Was watching a current TV show Sunday involving gods in which Hephaestus was refered to as the god of technology.  To our ancestors that meant fire and the forge.  But to us it means something very different.  It means something they would have thought of as magic. So there's a concrete example of what Maisry was talking about.


Vesta Chimed in:

Do we want to go back?

We have a Renaissance festival here every Aug - Oct.  I admit that I have never gone - I don't have the funds.  But I do know some who really get into it, going every weekend, spending all sorts of money on the clothes and gear and all.  No, not criticizing because I have my own "oddities" that I spend my pennies on.  

However, I can't help thinking that there is this Disney-fication of that era in time.  Many Pagans are involved in the festival, either by going or by actually working the place.  However, if
they were around back then, they wouldn't feel so comfortable!

I have this strange fascination with archeology.  I am mostly interested in the pre-history stuff.  (My pennies go to certain books.)  I would love to go to Malta or Catalhoyuk or that most ancient shrine they found (can't remember the name right now).  To see what these ancient peoples did, to me, is remarkable.  

However, we cannot know what they did in these places, although we can try to guess.  There is a recent book on Catalhoyuk that goes through the archeological work being done there.  The new excavation leader, Ian Hodder, had taken one spot and worked down, milimeter by milimeter, trying to find even the smallest remains - we're talking seeds and pollen.  

Also, they had a reconstructed house where they tried to go through daily life for a season.  There's a video on YouTube of them trying to keep the fire going in the oven.  However, how do we know what they knew? They could have had a totally different way of starting the fire, of fanning the fire, etc.  Ian Hodder is part of the new-archeology movement.  

He believes that those previously working these sites see the places through their own viewpoint - which, of course, is true.  He is trying to remove the personal views and open things up to be explored by a variety of ideas.  But I don't think it's completely possible.  Of course we see things from our own view, that is just a matter of fact, and we cannot remove it completely. 

So, we may see something one way where it was something completely different when it was originally used.  (I also got this book called The Motel of Mysteries.  It is about a future archeologist who has found this site, a 1980s motel, and his description of the findings made.  Hillarious, but very

The lives of the ancients are beyond our understandings.  We cannot fully know what they know, see life the way they did - it just isn't possible.  No offense, Maisry (hoping that is your name), but even by just going out and living off the land cannot provide true knowledge of the ancients way of thinking.  

You, of course, have a better understanding of all that is involved in living than I ever would - can't do without my coffee, cigarettes, and plastic boxes (tv and 'puter).  But we're talking generations upon generations of discovery and stories and all that passed down on a moment by moment bassi.  Heard about a pair of children who, for some reason, were rejected by their tribe.  One of the local town took them in and raised them, aware that they would never go back to that life.  The daily lessons would be missing and they would not survive.

We've lost much knowledge in the simplification of our lives.  We've gained much as well.  One of the big things we have gained is the idea of the self. We are no longer totally dependant on the tribe or community.  We do not have to fit in to survive.  We are free to explore our beings, our beliefs, our inner selves.  We can create a totally personnal view of the divine, perhaps even adding to that magnificently wonderousness.  

As part of training for my coven, each of us was/is to create a personal pantheon, our own gods and goddess with their stories, etc.  Each student does this differently.  It's an amazing thing, seeing what others hold dear.  Me?  I'm still working on mine, finding that I keep changing and deepening the different gods.  (We also did totem shields, with the totem cards - and having Mocking Bird to my right has made me aware that I take the old stories and mix and retell them in a new way.)

Can we tell where we're going?  I don't think so.  Had a nice long talk with my HPS about this.  She's been practicing since the 70s and has seen amazing change in the rituals and all in the last 30 years.  Some would say that we will become mainstream; there are even those who are trying to create schools and standardizations.  I don't think this will work, not for those like me who are into the personal, deep, sometimes unsharable stuff.  

I see Paganism as a purely personal journey (yes, and I am in a coven - how weird is that?) that cannot be standardized.  Others would prefer to keep it underground, so to speak, enjoying the secrets and the hidden aspects, but then we get back to the whole witch-burning thing, or at least the illegalization of 'witchcraft'.  I think the biggest thing I've learned from my teacher is the beauty of letting things grow and evolve and change.  

She is very open and accepting of all forms of Paganism - no wonder she calls us an ecclectic coven!  She has the lessons, yes, but they are very open to personal interpretation.  She is our guide, but not our dictator.  She provides the foundation and the history, like having the original ritual in it's original form recently, but allows others to explore other ways, like having a native american based ritual.  

This is how she has kept the coven intact.  She knows about the implossions of groups - we all have probably seen it.  Been on the sidelines and watched it happen here a few years ago, and it really got nasty.

I had wondered if, I came back a century from now, would I even recognize a Pagan, let alone the rituals that individual was using.  I'm not sure.  It would be nice, to have some scrap of some ritual I have written used by others, but what if they were using it wrong (in my opinion)?

I would hope that the self-discovery would continue.  I would hope that there would be an acceptance of the differences in all of us.  I would hope for world peace, but is any of that possible?

~Vesta dyslexic-without-a-spell-checker
(This is my opinion, and I maintain the right to change it and to deny ever
saying such a thing.)


Maisry came back with:

Well said! Vesta? One of my majors was anthropology, and you're exactly right about conjecture, the bane of archeologists. Actually, it's the bane of anyone who studies culture, even modern cultures. It's impossible to get inside another person's experience, let alone that of a large group's experience. The closest we can get is in an ethnographical study, but we bring too much of our own culture with us which colors all we perceive. I'm not offended, as I agree, and all I can do is try to see through the smoke to the other side of the fire.

I like the creating of one's own pantheon. I've tried some of that, to good affect, though never managed to talk a student into trying it. They balk at my "getting to know the guardians at the quarters" assignment bad enough as it is. Too much imagination required? I guess.

What we can take from the ancients is the experience they deigned to share with us. Just as with history... those that ignore it are doomed to repeat it. We can't live their spirituality any more than we can live their cultures. Nor do I think we would want to. Everyone who wants to use the village latreen, raise your hand. I kind of like my flushy type. Even if we knew just exactly how it all worked then, I don't think it would apply to our lives. It wouldn't really have applied to the people that came just ten generations later.

There are two natures in human beings where change is concerned, and we mostly carry both around inside ourselves all the time. That conservative, hang-on-to-what-is-familiar part wars with the part that says "Hey-lets-try-a-new-thing-that-looks-like-it-might-work!" Both have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Just as with individuals, cultures have that continuing conflict, with some taking the conservative stance most of the time, and some who are more adventurous, even ready to jump off the risk. Between there, somewhere, is the balance that ends up surviving. We're a product of that conflict, and the makers of the next round.

I think we are becoming quite mainstream. It may not be obvious to all of us, as there are places that move a little faster, and those that hold back more, but over all, we seem to be a fad. I tend to agree that we won't work as "established and standardized." Being a herd of cats seems to be a big part of the reason that the Catholic church so adamantly hunted the wise old ways out. No system that says "think for yourself!" is going to work as established or standardized. It just t'aint natural.

Yes, my name is mostly Maisry lately. Anyone have a clue how to change that determined header name?

I piped up:


I wrote a piece for my website about using modern myth in ritual. Maisry, I, and several others began using modern myth for ritual because we recognized the ritual elements in those myths. Would you agree with how a piece of your ritual was used in a highly modified ritual of the future? If those writing that ritual understand why and how ritual works, you probably would. Ritual elements are ritual elements. How you use them is simple window dressing.


Sparrow added:

Greetings all...

I have been away from this message board for a while myself... in lurk mode in all of my favorite spots on the web. These posts have been so interesting and thought provoking, it motivated me to get out of my rut and join the e-world again.

The question was, how can we ever get back to a time where life was simpler, as our Pagan ancestors lived, and should we? Yes and no. I  like my flush toilets too (I conned my dad into putting a flush toilet in the outhouse at his cabin... yeah!) and my Ipod, and all the modern conveniences. Are our lives simpler for having all of the extra stuff that is supposed to make our lives go smoother and faster? 

The more efficient technology makes our lives, the more we try to shove in during a day.  I think, in my own case, that I would be a lot healthier and happier if I were to chop some of that out, and just live like Maisri (Aune? I thought I saw you had changed your name...) does by getting off the grid once in a while.  The problem with some of our modern conveniences and forms of entertainment is that it's so easy to become disconnected and tune out what's real...and, honestly TV is addictive like drugs.

Sometimes I think it's so easy to give in to all the "stuff" we have, that it doesn't *seem* possible to have a simpler, calmer, more meaningful life. As a society "we" aren't going back to simpler technological times unless, like Chris said, we get nuked, or some other such horrendous thing forces society to backslide en masse. 

And why would we want to? It does have it's uses. But we, as individuals, can certainly strive make our lives simpler and more connected, and set good examples for our children, extendend families, neighbors, etc...while we're at it.  While it's easy to look around at the state of humanity as it is today, and feel dispair about it, we each can only really do what one person can do.

One way I am trying to slow my life down and 'get back' to a simpler, more connected way of life is that I am going to plant gardens and grow food for my family to eat...non processed, non-preservative-laden, fresh food. I'm going to get my kids outside, away from the tvs, computers and video games, and they are going to help me dig post holes for a fence, dig dirt and build raised beds. 

Since they are going to participate in choosing the seeds we plant and in tending them, I hope when harvest comes they will enjoy the fruits of our labors and find value in it. They will also learn how to preserve the extra food so we can enjoy it in the winter when the snow flies. I want them to have a more of a relationship with the Earth than just taking it for granted, and part of that means getting off my duff and modeling that behavior myself. 

Another thing I am going to do this next summer is grow a bed of flax, and show my kids how you can get fiber from it to spin into thread that makes linen. (If anyone's interested to see how it's done, there are several great tutorials on YouTube starting with this

There was talk about how culture evolved, for good or evil, and how do we get the good parts back? So many of us kind of playact the romanticized ideal of earlier times, without doing the research to find it if we really would have found it terribly romantic at all (again, no flush toilets make me cranky). 

A lot of people feel like they have to make some bridge to the past in order to be an 'authentic' pagan. I went through a stage like that and finally came to the conclusion that,  in order to be an 'authentic' Pagan in the here and now, I just need to glean what useful knowlege I can from the past so I can use it in order to make my mundane and spiritual lives better today. 

I think that it can boil down to the difference between what the societal "we", and what each of us as individuals, can do. Too many people look to societal "we" to fix their lives, or to somehow make things better overall, rather than to just look at their immediate space and find even the smallest ways to make things better and their families.

 As a Pagan, and a parent, *I choose* the culture my kids are raised in by realizing that they watch everything I do, hear everything I say, even when I feel like they are blowing me off. I have to model for my kids to be critical and free thinkers, to have working knowledge of where their food comes from, how to be prepared and resourceful for anything when times get tough, and how to research and be thoughtful before you hit the voting booth.  

I have to model how to be a productive member of society by getting out from under the technology, and making it work for me *as needed*, rather than allowing myself to become slave to it, which is hard because I love my computer and tv.  I am also a role model of spirituality in everything I do. Some days are better than others, but I keep trying...Goddess help me.

The bottom line is (imho), "we" each can choose how we cultivate our local culture, even if it is just within our homes and who we choose to include in our circles of friends and family. We have to deal with society at large, but we are not required to fall into the trap of believing there are no options other than to buy into all of the clap trap that comes with constantly advancing technology and media. If enough of us choose to live more simply, and consciously, it's bound to rub off on others. I know I have found inspiration in some of my friends who live that way, and I hope I can positively influence others by doing the same.

Blessings to you all,


Vesta replied:

I was thinking more of the Nazi movement, where they stole and warped things to validate their own views.

I sometimes wonder, when I "borrow" things off the internet for my rituals, if the author intended it to be used in a Pagan context.  I am very careful to keep to those sites that are Pagan and are obviously there for us Mocking Birds to steal and rewrite.  I also include the web site in my folder so, if someone asks, I can show him/her where it came from (but that's more a matter of courtesy).

If someone wanted to, she/he could take any of our words, twist them around, and make it sound totally not what we wanted.


The idea of modern myths is so cool!!!  My coven (it's actually my Lady's coven but you all know what I mean) has done some things like this.  There's the Rocky Horror ritual and the Redneck ritual (held at a farm in southern Maryland), and, as part of my BOS is a myth that my Lady wrote.  I've heard of groups who have used ancient myths for their rituals as well.  They feel that the myths are linked to the rituals.  

However, according to a book I'm reading right now (slogging through is more like it - not that it's not interesting but they keep using these big, unusual words and I find I have to go look them up before continuing on reading!) that there doesn't seem to be a correlation between the myth and ritual.  I'm not sure what I think about that.  I mean, there are reports of the women wailing the loss of Tammuz and that is based on the myth, isn't it?  And yet, if one were to study the Christian rituals - was Episcopalian by up-bringing - and compare it to the Bible, one wouldn't see much of a connection.

On the other hand, a year ago, we had a guest HP for a ritual - the Great Hunt.  It was too cool!  We got to choose if we were going to be the hunted (to let go of something) or the hunter (to get something).  This was held at our covenstead (someone's home with a lot of land and space, and even a "two car garage" that is actually our ritual room).  After dark, the hunted were 'released' and us hunters were then allowed to go after them.  

To be captured, the hunter must take the red ribbon from the hunted - some easily given, others not so easy.  Then was the sacrifice, set up by the bonfire, where the guest HP would talk the hunted through the process.  Then a priestess walked this ghost to the ritual room, aka Summerland, for prayer and meditation.  The hunters remained around the bonfire, dancing and chanting and all.  Once all were done, the ghosts returned in joyous celebration.  It was a wondrous experience.  And it was loosely based on myth.

* * * * * * * * *
I reserve the right to change my mind without prior notice and to deny ever
saying such a thing.
* * * * * * * * *


Chris said:

Yes they did, interestingly enough just like the Christians did. Let's see, Christmas, Halloween, Easter to name the most obvious examples there.  I believe a lot of what the Nazi's stole came from the Thule societies.


Maisry added:

I love the bit about being an "authentic Pagan" that Sparrow interjected. Very well put, birdy friend! Perhaps that's where we can go from here, "self authentication" (is that even a word?) How might we flesh that idea out with details?

As for time to live... My Anthro professor once shared a paper, (don't ask how long ago,) that was written by an Australian Anthropologist. It was about a study of Aboriginals in Australia, some Pygmy people in Africa, and a group that was being studied in South America. The paper compared how much time each of the subject peoples spent working with the amount of time that middle class Melbourne spent. It was astounding how much more leisure the more primitive peoples seemed to have. They "worked" at making art in order to pass the time. On a side note, that paper was written in the 1970's. I would think the advent of information technology would put new weight into the mix.

Considering how much time I just spent organizing and sorting "things" in our garage and storage sheds... If we didn't have so many "things", I would have had a lot less work to do. I'm retired, so I spend a great deal of time doing exactly what I want to do, and I'm not complaining about taking care of stuff. I enjoy it. However, I would be quite bored if I didn't have my things to take care of. Back when I was working full time, there was always too much of taking care of things, one big chore that I could never catch up on.

This acquisitiveness we have is probably instinctive. Like with food, it seems acquiring has gotten too easy, and we overindulge. There's a huge impact on culture that we're experiencing around this tendency. Part of the culture is all about re-asserting some sense into our acquisition, and part is about how we're somehow responsible for our community's economical health, (acquisition is required.) I know this doesn't sound like it's connected to being Neo-Pagan, but belief system is huge in the mechanisms of a culture. I note that as we grow in popularity, that tendency to re-assert sense in acquisition is also growing. Perhaps a hearkening back to a "simpler" time is part of that. Think so?

Another thought... Is watching TV really liesure time for a lot of people? I think it might be actually de-compress time. I notice people who work, and drive drive drive to work. They seem to go in and flop down exhausted in front of the TV. Many don't actually "work" at work, rather they "stress" at work. Then they're shot when they get done stressing, and they "stress" on the commute. Another crowd seem to "depress" in front of the TV. If they weren't doing it there, they might be doing the same thing somewhere else. Depression is exhausting, too.


Chris noted:

The late, and by some lamented, George Carlin once said that home is where you keep your stuff while you're out getting more stuff. Maybe nomadic peoples have it right, you only need what you can carry.  That 'simplifies' a lot of things.


Earth Spirit Emporium said:

Being a pretty big fan of Renfaires myself, I can tell you that people, Pagans or not, who think they are experiencing the actual Renaissance Era are doing a whole lot of fooling themselves.

Life wasn't pleasant for most of the world even in the 19th and early 20th centuries let alone the 14th - 17th. I think those events try and put a really pleasant spin, by offering a fabricated, commercial and romantic view of what life should have been like if life were fair.

I know professional and "lay-fans" of archaeology and anthropology will agree that life for anyone was pretty tough back then. "Going back" to a simpler Pagan life, in my opinion, would make it quite a bit tougher to practice what we generally do today. I think even if you took that practices from back then, which are sourced if you know where to look (it isn't on the Llewellyn website), then you are really going to experience a culture/ritual "shock". Things that a lot of Neopagans take for granted, like candles, oils and even decent paper, were not so available to even much of the middle class. You have to go to the merchant class to start getting into such things.

It might be interesting to use a stang with an animal skull as an altar, like many cunning folk did in the British Isles, and Northern Europe instead of a table that has stuff sitting on it.

Ultimately, I think that if one were to seek a bit of "going back", they'd have to do a lot of honest inner contemplation because I think most witches today would get a real jolt to discover just how unlike their ancestors they actually walk their paths.

Just my opinions, take them for what they're worth.


Maisry replied:

One thing we haven't discussed about going back is the fact that our forebears were a little truer to their bloody natures than we are. Violence wasn't up for discussion. People had to be violent to survive. I believe that would have been reflected in their rites. Depending on when and where, there would have been sacrifices of animals or people at certain times of the year. Some rites and spells would have been around violently protecting one group from another, or dominating another group. Another reality is that people are naturally discriminatory against strangers, and it took a lot of effort and caution to make friends amongst strangers.


Greengate77 added:

Please bear in mind that what follows below are just my opinions. I base them on nothing concrete but on my own impressions and thoughts. For some unexplainable reason I can't shake the feeling that what we call "the Pagan community" is somehow stuck. Maybe it's a plateau in our normal development, maybe it's something else, I don't know.

What I do know is that we won't get over it until we let go of this artificial nostalgia for a world that never existed. Not in the way we imagine it. Sure, we can learn from the past, it's never a good idea to forget it, or that thing that says that if we do, we're doomed to make the same mistakes again, will prove to be true.

More than that, with this credit crunch thing everybody will have to tighten the belt, so grandma's recipes and household tricks will have to be dusted off and put to good use. We'll have to learn again to live on a budget, build things that last more than a season, and people from the past have something to teach us about that. The throw away society is over. Our dwindling natural resources say so, and we better listen.

We also won't get over the plateau until we take off the Halloween clothes, and recognize that we don't have a Pagan uniform. The purple "look at me" pointed hats, the black makeup and crushed velvet capes should be returned to the local dramatic society's costume department. Paganism isn't about that. It never was.

We won't get over the stagnation until we realize that not everybody is destined to be a priest or priestess; that not everyone wants to be a priest or priestess. Some are just run-of-the-mill lay pagans, happy to just live predictable lives right in the hart of Suburbia.

We won't get over the slump until we get it in our thick skulls that the craft and religion are two separate and distinct things, and that they meet only incidentally (but that's another thread.).


Maisry said:

Thank you, Greengate, and well said!

It's natural for people to want to be identified with a group. Those "uniforms" are one way in which a person new to a group says "I am here with these people." It's also a way that others use to find the group they want to identify with. One thing I've noticed is that we can buy our "uniforms" at the local discount department stores these days, which is an indicator to me that there are a lot more people wanting to identify with the group we are a part of. It's not the only indicator, by far, but a very obvious one.

So I'm a suburban Witch. Most of the time I wander about in comfortable practical old standby clothes, if a little ex centric, which is my general tendency and always has been. Having been a Witch for so very long, the ruts are worn in, and my life might be considered, from my perspective to be pretty mundane. That I practice magick as routine, isn't a shock or a surprise to the people who know me. They've come to accept me and what comes with me as normal.

By that same token, they've come to accept those that practice the craft or claim Neo-Pagan belief systems as normal. I'm not the only one around that they're encountering like this, and it's not a big shocker for those who discover my inclinations to the Craft anymore. I hardly get a raised eyebrow from most when I say straight out: "I'm a Witch." Day before yesterday, I was having a little sun on my front porch, when a Jehovah's Witness approached. She and I had a nice little exchange of blessings after I explained that I was a Witch, and answered questions she had about my take on the upcoming holiday. She didn't tremble with fright, bridal at unconscionable ideas or anything. Years ago, she would have been shaky in the knees and scuttling away as quickly as she could.

Being different, years ago, wearing that "uniform" for more and more people to see, being obvious, that's what desensitized these people. It's still got to happen in a lot of places, for our "community" to be an accepted norm. And then there is 'playing dress-up' which is a part of every little girl's make-up, and every woman has a touch of little girl. I'm not supposed to notice, but the boys have a big streak of it, too. I wouldn't be to quick to quash the costume, in it's place. Halloween is going to be a favorite for a long time yet, just not celebrated every day, and it still has a place in the evolution of our culture.

When evolution is necessary to a culture, which it always is, several different options step up for consideration. Some fall by the way as they're proven unfit, or disadvantageous. Others hang in there awhile, as potentially advantageous, and eventually their potential may be proven. These are "mutations". We seem to be a potentially advantageous set of cultural mutations. Our obviousness, even though it may seem trite to us, or some of us, is an advertisement for the rest of culture to see and make a determination on. Our direction is getting a lot of votes for the very reasons you point out, Greengate. We're hearkening back to a better resource budget plan, or at least sifting through ancient history looking for what worked or didn't. There are other reasons besides the budget. Nature tends to take "more birds with one stone".


Chris concluded:

Never had a uniform, even when I was Boy Scout and let's not move that way.  "Here there be dragons!".  Bad times.  Uniforms in general have always bothered me in any form.  And I mean any form because they can be attitudes as well as cloth.  And the uniforms that are attitudes are often harder to change. Yes, master of the obvious here.

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