Where the Wild Things Are: How do you Feel about Your Religion?

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, December, 8, 2003.

What would it feel like to live in your own skin if it was all new to you? I’m thinking about hearing the blood in your veins. Feeling your food being pushed along to digestion. Taking each breath rather than leaving it on auto-pilot. All those things we have grown so used to that we don’t even feel them when we try. How different would your body feel if you felt everything going on inside yourself? How would you feel about your body? It would be kind of creepy I think. Too much information about all those regular functions we take for granted.

I was reading a book, one of those historical fiction type things. It’s a different version of the story of Arthur and Guinevere. But, the book is turning into an advertisement for Christianity and the one true god. I hate it when that happens. First, it makes light of what people felt back then, how seriously they took their religion and the world they lived in. Secondly, it tries to make what I believe look foolish. The first part annoys me far more than the second.

You may be surprised. But, I don’t have to defend my beliefs, I know what they are. I’m not on a crusade to promote Witchery or Paganism in general. I can be quite happy if all the world isn’t Pagan. I’m willing to share but I’m not forcing anyone to see things my way. That’s why I don’t feel overly angry about the way my beliefs are treated in this book.

However, it’s wrong to have someone convert to Christianity for no real reason. In the book the main character is a Pict woman, Guinevere. She has a slave (a Briton taken in war) translate when the tribes meet to discuss a treaty. Anyway, the slave is Christian, a monk previously as it turns out. She decides to learn the language since she becomes betrothed to one of Arthur’s noblemen. During this time she is curious about the slave’s religion and asks him about his beliefs. That’s fine, I expect young people were curious about a lot of things, still are. But, I can’t see her converting to another religion for such flimsy reasons as are presented in this book. The reader is expected to believe she suddenly finds her own religion hollow and meaningless just because the slave talks to her about one god. She goes to a sacred place and gets no answer to her prayers to the gods. So she prays to the one god of the slave instead. There’s no answer there either but that’s not mentioned in the book.

She asks the slave a lot of questions, doubting the existence or sincerity of his god. But even though he has no real answers beyond having faith and believing she accepts that. How would a real person back then choose to accept that over what she has always known? What her family and tribe continue to believe. It’s like telling someone they have a third leg and expecting them to just believe it cause you said they should. It’s based on nothing but the word of one person. Whereas her own religion is all around her, her ancestors and the people of her tribe.

So what does any of this have to do with the beginning of this? It’s all about feeling your religion. I don’t think religion or beliefs are something you can take off as you change your clothes. They shouldn’t be something so light. You need to feel it all the time, in all kinds of ways and places. If you aren’t feeling something special then you need to reconsider and investigate other ways, other paths. Like your body, if you forget how to feel the blood in your veins you’re not really living fully. Maybe you’re taking too much for granted and should start fresh, with a new perspective.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’ll finish the book. It’s getting bogged down in dogma for me.

Where the Wild Things Are: Talking About Being Pagan

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, January, 16, 2003.

Staying safe, in your own safe little world. Is that where you are? Many of us choose our adventures, how far we will go depends on where we have our safety nets.

For instance, have you told anyone you’re Pagan? Have you told your family, friends, co-workers, boss? I’m not suggesting you rush out and do it. I’m certainly not daring you to tell them either. It’s a personal thing. Being Pagan is a personal thing in itself. A personal choice and something just for you.

It should not, however, be some dark secret. Something deep, dangerous and naughty. That’s not what Paganism should be. It’s not something you should have to hide from your family. Being Pagan is about caring for life, the Earth and old traditions. How can they really object to that? Still, you can find the safety zone. You can let them know you’re into nature, environmental issues and historical traditions. You can be Pagan without saying the word Pagan to them.

People don’t always get that. They think they have to hide being Pagan because others won’t like it or will be shocked by it. They turn it into a deep, dark secret. By doing that they make it become something dark, secret. No wonder so many people still think of Pagans as devil worshippers.

You have the power to find where your safe world is, set the boundaries and set the record straight if you choose to. Let people know you’re Pagan, if you can or if you choose to. But, don’t make it some dark mystery. Don’t let them find an altar, a book or a pentacle in your room without explanation. If you make being Pagan something to be ashamed of or fear you hurt all of us.

Instead be proud of who you are and be as honest about it as you can. For me, the only person I couldn’t talk to about being Pagan was my Grandmother. It scared her. She couldn’t think of it as anything but dangerous for me. She didn’t understand that it’s not something dark, but something light. She didn’t know what I made of being Pagan, for me. She only knew the stereotypes she had heard all her life.

The Endless Knot

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

In whatever stray corner of the world you find yourself in you may have just found a Pagan or Wiccan if they are wearing a five pointed star with a solitary point up inside a circle. Being a solitary (Wiccan) myself I am partial to this view of the pentacle, I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with those nasty rumours of Satanism. Some Wiccans hang pentacles from their necks, some stab them through coats and sweaters and shirts and others go for something more permanent and painful and get it tattoed.

Pentacles should be worn on the front just before the heart, according the mystical tradition. Go all out and make your own but it should be prepared when the moon is rising in Virgo and only on a Saturday or Tuesday night in an atmosphere scented with alum, cedar wood, aloes and resinous gum.

Whatever your choice a pentacle is still a pentagram inside a circle. If it is genuine and not some factory-bred knockoff it should be one continuous line. No seams, stops and starts just one unending line. Though endless knot sounds like a great way to refer to your hair on those dreaded “hand me a hat” days it is also another name for the pentagram. Goblin’s Cross, witch’s foot, Blazing Star of White Magic are other fancy labels that could fool your friends and pester your enemies. Because I am really just a simple Dragon let’s stick with pentacle, I’m getting used to typing it now anyway.

There are endless theories and ideas of what the five points represent. Of course this is a biased article and all the following are appealing to me, there are dozens more out there in libraries and web pages. First, the elemental theory seems to be the most popular with Wiccans. Four points represent the elements: earth, air, fire and water and the fifth is the spirit. These are the basic necessities of life beyond food, clothing, shelter and taxes. The most romantic sounding idea is: a man standing upright with arms out stretched and the world behind him, a man in tune with the world around him. Some feel the pentacle represents the stages of humainty or life: babyhood, adolsence, adulthood, middle age and old age. Or birth, initiation, love, repose and death. Just about any other five things can be tossed in for consideration such as the five senses, the five fingers on the human hand…

The pentacle or pentagram is older than written characters. The five pointed star can be traced back to the Pharohs when it symbolized the rising up of the spirit to the heavens and the power of the Earth. Commonly associated with creation and spirituality, it is used as a symbol of protection and healing, considered to carry power for good and protecting not only the physical well being but the mental and spiritual too.

So much talk of the star but the circle is what makes a pentagram into a pentacle. The circle of the pentacle represents protection and is used often in magic. Inside the magic circle there is safety. The pentacle is an emblem of a happy homecoming and was and still is worn as an amulet.

The pentagram is a unicursal figure. Always drawn in one continuous unbroken line. Each of the five things represented are connected to one another, unless the line is broken. No one thing is any stronger or better or more important than the other, they are all dependent on each other. This is what the pentacle really symbolizes whatever variables are assigned to the five points. In magic the number five stands for the power of nature.

Pentacles ward off evil and you never know when you may need to do a little warding! It seems Eliphas Levi (1810 – 1875) was responisble for starting the whole upside down thing. Eliphas, drew the pentacle with two points up and added the goat’s head design denoting evil the devil and all the rest. Some Pagans believe this is the Horned God, the male God who is the counterpart of the Goddess. However all of that is kind of muddled by the Christian belief in the devil with his interesting set of horns and goatee. Wiccans do not believe in hell or the devil, though some would say we worship it. Just goes to show more people need to get to the library or at least watch less TV.

I have found a ritual called the Sign of the Pentacle, though how old this is I could not discover. Still, any ritual should not be taken at face value. Each should be screened by the user and judged according to their individual beliefs and feelings. Here is the ritual: Starting at the left breast move to the top of your head or third eye, down to right breast then up to left shoulder and acoross to right shoulder and back down to left breast again. This could have been designed as a Pagan/ Wiccan version of the Catholic signing of the cross. It is meant to be used to ward off danger, evil or whatever you feel you need to ward off.

Happy New Years to all my fellow Wiccans and everyone else who stopped to read here.