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Practical Pagan > The Source?

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message 1: by Ancestral (new)

Ancestral Gaidheal (gaidheal) Most religions have a book or document setting out beliefs and practices. Where do you the various traditions within paganism acquire their “information”?

message 2: by Kali (new)

Kali (kalilh310) Okay thank you Ancestral for asking this question!! I've been asking myself that for years. And I've come up with...nothing. How depressing is that?

message 3: by Julie (new)

Julie | 29 comments A few traditions do indeed have books. Raymond Buckland wrote a book to explain his Seax-Wica tradition.

And of course there is a lot of good generic information out there. I strongly recommend Isaac Bonewits' website at www.neopagan.net for general information including theology and beliefs. Lots of "eclectic Pagans" get most of their information from generic sources.

But the book you need is your own handwritten notebook (many trads call it a "Book of Shadows"). This is because the way you learn a tradition is from live human beings. Many trads are secret, and do not want to publicize their beliefs and rituals. You have to earn their trust first, and promise to keep their secrets.

And where did they get it? By and large, they made it up. There appear to be a few old family trads, but nearly all of neo-Paganism was made up within the last 50 years. Is this a problem? Not really. It evolves to meet the needs and values of the participants. This is why there are so many traditions in the first place.

message 4: by Eddie (new)

Eddie (eddiecoyote) There are indeed a lot of books out there that seem to attempt to reconstruct pagan beliefs and practices. And there are some very good scholars within the pagan community that publish some good books. However, the lines between what would be considered even 'passable' academic quality and what might as well be made up is not that clear.

I learned how difficult it is when I took a history class focusing on ancient Roman religion. To make any statement I had to give credible evidence for that statement and this is very hard to do.

If what one is looking for is evidence for your own experience, then you need nothing more than the experience itself as the proof is in the pudding, as it were. Yet to make the metaphysical leap from experience to something else, especially withe causality and temporal events, is quite another things altogether. And it is this respect that many books and writers in pagan literature seem to miss.

But on to the question of ethics. There are some passed down traditions of ethics, whether in a religious sense or a social sense. Yet a commonality of pagan thought seems to draw upon a 'living interpretation' of a sense of ethics bound by a couple of signposts which include, but not limited to, justice, respect, love, and autonomy. This certainly is not exhaustive nor definitive, but it does bring about the notion of 'rights' of which is a big component in many pagan ethical systems.

If two groups have an ethical system based on justice, love, autonomy, love, respect... one had it passed down through time and the other sat down to figure it out on the spot, who's system is more ethical?


Who's system is more ingrained into behaviors, beliefs and attitudes?

The formers. And this is the strong point of tradition of which we are building as we go.

message 5: by Julie (new)

Julie | 29 comments Eddie, I interpreted the question differently than you did. I understood that they were asking how to learn the practices and beliefs of a modern Pagan tradition, not the ancient ones. The modern traditions are mostly "inspired by" the ancient ones, not directly descended.

Do we need "evidence" for our beliefs, or are we just looking for a set of rituals by which we can express and experience our Connection?

Ethics are an interesting question. I think it is difficult to change one's ethical views in adulthood. Mine have not changed significantly from those my father taught me, which he learned from his father, and that line may go all the way back to ancient Saxony, for all I know. Those essentially Pagan ethics were never a good fit with Christianity, and becoming a Pagan meant, among other things, accepting a belief system that matched the ethics I already had. If it had required changing my ethical views, I probably could not have become a Pagan at all.

message 6: by Eddie (new)

Eddie (eddiecoyote) Yep. That's what I said.

message 7: by Sara (new)

Sara This is a topic of some interest to me, especially since I follow a solitary path that includes elements of shamanism and ancient Egyptian material. Certainly there is a great deal of scientific study and research available on both topics. That material certainly does inform my path.

I note that a couple of respondents seem to look at the Reconstructionist paths. I think there are any number of people out there pursuing pure reconstructionism and all kinds of variations. My personal belief is that it's almost impossible to reconstruct an ancient path in its entirety. Julie touches on this when she talks about ethics. When it comes to ancient paths, we can never truly understand the cultural context of the faith, and we can never truly reconstruct it either.

There is much for example in the Egyptian path that is the subject of great debate among archeologists and Egyptologists. One such place is the interpretation of the Pyramid Texts. There is currently a revisionist school of thought that sees them not so much as funerary rites but more as a form of shamanic journeying. I don't think we can ever know for sure.

I say each of us should follow the path that feels the most comfortable to us, whether it be with an established set of Pagan/Wiccan/Whathaveyou practices or something of our own design.

message 8: by Lavender (new)

Lavender (lavendercrystalbear) | 111 comments The information one squires is from your teacher or mentor. The high priest or priestess. Or coven leader. You start by copying your own book of shadows from theirs. Then it becomes a living reference that grows and changes with you. Modern day technology makes this handy for the solitary. Research available authors, pick one who's beliefs align with your own, and copy the basics from them. This is what makes paganism so great.
You can also add things from other sources. Internet. Egyptian book of the dead. Shamanism books. Etc
Mine is very little on religion and ritual and heavy on healing treatments and therapies. More of a resource guide

message 9: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Re. books though, is there one you keep by you and refer to fairly frequently, and if so, which is it?

It would be interesting see if there are books for the different traditions that seem to rise to the surface and outshine the others.

message 10: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments The issue of a source text has never been there for "pagans" in Hx. Maybe for the modern practitioner.
The spoken word seems to have been the method of passing info.
Regional variants of deities abound in antiquity for example. There wasn't Zeus as we seem to view him today (mainly thanks to thinking Hesiod and Homer are gospel), there were many versions of Zeus.
This fluidity and lack of written text can lead to the death of the tradition. But the written word can keep it alive...usually at the price of it stagnating or devolving into an almost legal disputation over the meaning of the text.
If the text is your own, Book Of Shadows/magic(k)al diary etc, then it isn't likely to become dogma.

message 11: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Nell wrote: "Re. books though, is there one you keep by you and refer to fairly frequently, and if so, which is it?..."

Magick Without Tears
And currently anything by old dead Greek folk...

message 12: by Nell (last edited Jun 26, 2012 08:21AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments There's an online 'source' of Magick Without Tears Here.

Old dead Greek folk too, although currently I'm into Myths & Legends of the British Isles, but if I'm feeling lazy then easy versions of some of the stories and practices can be found in the The Druid Animal Oracle and Druid Plant Oracle, although I wouldn't call myself a druid :)

I like to dip into The Secret Teachings of All Ages from time to time as well - something I haven't noticed before nearly always presents itself, although it's not factually infallible.

And I must read The Golden Bough again...

message 13: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Nell wrote: "And I must read The Golden Bough again..."

Jeebus, where would you find the time?
Read the abridged once, that was enough for me.

message 14: by Nell (last edited Jun 26, 2012 11:20AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I don't know. I read somewhere recently that Frazer was apparently trying to prove what rubbish all that pagan stuff was, but it doesn't come across like that to me.

And to change the subject slightly, why didn't 'they' teach us very early British history at school? 1066 and all that is too late...

OK, maybe I mean British mythology - they probably don't know too much about the really early kings.

message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for the book link, will seek it out. Love this person's review:

" this is like THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO CROWLEY. typical him, it's like he's on a stage reciting it as you're reading it and drinking tea with his pinkie up. played."

Found a couple of groups on GR that others might be interested in too:

message 16: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments So many groups here - it's like the Labyrinth...

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Must admit, I'm not joining any new groups myself. I'm only in those I find interesting now. Even then it's hard to find the time.

message 18: by Nell (last edited Jun 27, 2012 04:35AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Nell wrote: "Re. books though, is there one you keep by you and refer to fairly frequently, and if so, which is it?..."

Magick Without Tears
And currently anything by old dead Greek folk..."

I've read quite a bit of Crowley, but until now not this one. Just finished the first chapter online (from the 'Here' link in my post above). This is AC at his clearest and least deliberately obscured - I didn't know he ever wrote like this - compelling stuff so far.

Must go and do some work...

message 19: by Nell (last edited Jul 01, 2012 12:33AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I just have to add The Book of English Magic - simple, readable and sparkling with history, myth, places to visit, shortish sections from fascinating people, recommended books and web links too.

Oh, and lovely old woodcuts!

message 20: by Angela (new)

Angela (bachini) I got The Book of English Magic for my birthday last year, on a trip to Avebury. Haven't read it yet though...

message 21: by Nell (last edited Jul 03, 2012 04:31AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments It's brilliant - I love it for all the reasons above and for the clarity, tone, outlook and humour too - just perfect. Read a page or two and you'll be immersed for days...

message 22: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I do love my books. Someone gifted me a copy of The Druid Way by Philip Carr-Gomm which I always intended to make into my holy book, but I've never gotten around to it. Nell, I have a feeling you might know something about this book.

I feel a deep kinship with the Celtic tradition, (it's my heritage), but somehow, I've never taken the plunge. There's a sort of misty vagueness to it, I find baffling.

Marion Zimmer Bradley alludes to an ancient Celtic Goddess based religion, which I can't really find parallels for in textbooks about the Celtic religion. Who would that Goddess have been? Epona? Danu? Ceridwyn? Moriggan? The sense I got was that Bradley's Goddess was based on a monotheistic model.

It's easier for me to study the Himalayan tribal religion, because then I don't have to deal with the issue of reconstructionism versus purely intuitive paganism. I have a living pagan tradition going on in front of me. This book has recently become a very important study for me. साञ्चा हिमाचल प्रदेश का प्राचीन तंत्र ग्रन्थ (भाग, #2) by Anonymous

message 23: by Nell (last edited Nov 20, 2012 12:22PM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Phillip Carr-Gomm writes like a dream - somehow a real sense of a warm and empathetic human being comes through in all his books to make them extra special.

Penny Billington's The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way is another that seemed like coming home, but I found myself wishing that it was less specific - more a Green Path than a Druid Path.

I haven't read Marion Zimmer Bradley, but I think the Celtic Goddess would have been Danu, unless she chose to create a composite Goddess.

I believe you're right to study the Himalayan tribal religion - being where you are it would be a waste not to - it's there all around you, vibrant and pulsating.

Your study book looks and sounds mysterious and difficult - and yours is the only review on GR so far...

message 24: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments It is mysterious and difficult. I think true books on magic are typically cryptic and arcane. I was talking to this woman who follows the Tao path, but she'd recently come across a supposedly authentic, quite old, French book on Druidry, and she said the passages were utterly baffling, which was a comfort for me to hear.

A typical passage from my Himalayan "Blueprint" book reads thus:

"An untouchable pregnant woman has fallen into the well, died, and the ancestral spirits attack. So says the One Hundred and eleventh ascension."

message 25: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I agree about Danu. When we think of Celtic mother Goddess, it tends to be Danu.

message 26: by Nell (last edited Nov 21, 2012 01:35AM) (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments The question that springs to mind is: Who do the ancestral spirits attack? If her own ancestral spirits were attacking someone responsible for her fall down the well, it would make sense. Perhaps she was full term and shouldn't have been sent to the well to draw water at all. The facts of her status and condition are obviously important and her status would indicate that she could only draw water for herself or her family. So it would seem that someone in her family neglected their duty towards her and were attacked by ancestral spirits. Other than that, I'm at a loss.

message 27: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments You're so right Nell. You're amazing.

message 28: by Nell (new)

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments How cheering to be described as amazing just after breakfast! I could easily be wrong though :)

message 29: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments The Druid Way by Philip Carr-Gomm Wheee! I read it. I can't believe it's been sitting on my shelf for ten years. I must say, it's one of the few books on Celtic Paganism which has actually made me feel, what drew me to the tradition in the first place. A wealth of information in compact form. I made tons of notes and underlined lots of stuff.

Which means I've run out of light reading for my studies and will have to get back to Tibetan Bon Iconography, Iliade's infernal book on Shamanism, and The Sancha Blueprint book. Wish me luck!

message 30: by Aaron, Moderator (new)

Aaron Carson | 1216 comments I've started reading this one. It's pretty heavy going, but I think it's good to get some background in High Renaissance sorcery. It's got some great diagrams, and illustrations.

The Enochian Magick Reference by Benjamin Rowe

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