But I'm not finished...
Posted Mar 24, 2009
Something that has begun to occupy my mind more as I travel further down the road of my life is getting everything done before I depart. Next year I will be fifty, and even if I'm optimistic I'm pretty unlikely to make it to my centenary, or possibly even half way from here to there.
The average man in the street, being agnostic or atheist, worries about this as he feels he has nothing to look forward to. The monotheists worry about it because they have a judgement coming, but we on the pagan paths should rejoice - huh? - well let me explain.
Although there is a wide range of opinion and lore amongst pagans about what comes next, many will agree with me that we are on a journey of many lives. Whether this comes about through transmigration, or reincarnation, or in some other way, it is all part of the natural cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth. Some believe there is a resting period between lives - such as the 'Summerlands', others that the journey carries on pretty much immediately. Some think the whole person travels on, others that only the spirit, stripped of its ego and intellect, continues.
From what little I have come to understand from my interactions with my gods I believe it is the latter. But no matter, I will find out soon enough, and that's the rub, for none of us can really know until it's all done and dusted.
So if there is nothing we can do about death itself what can we do about the actual process of dying? Personally I was inspired by a friend's father who, upon learning that he had terminal cancer and only a few months to live, told his sons that just as he had taught them how to live he would now teach them how to die. He did this with great dignity and with caring for his loved ones as he had done all his life.
We each need to consider that when it comes to our time how we can serve those around us, our family and our friends. There is nothing we can do for ourselves, for if we are dying we are dying, we must face it and move on. But we can make their last days, weeks or months more tolerable and full of good memories. Remember that there lies our true immortality, in the memories of those we leave behind as we pass through the gate and onto the next part of our journey.
If I am given the grace to a have period of dying before I pass I will use it to love my wife, my children, my family and my friends. I will be cheerful to the end, sharing my confidence in my onward journey, and not spend the time mired in regrets that have no hope of restitution or railing against the gods and my fate. This will be the lesson of my death - what will yours be?
Latest reply: Mar 24, 2009
I wish I was a Celt-Warrior, with flowers in my hair...
Posted Mar 14, 2009
Well over the past few weeks my heresy has been of a fairly mild nature. Tickling the furry underbelly of modern 'paganism' in an attempt to make it wriggle and maybe, just maybe indulge in a little introspection.
I think I have been far too gentle so let's have at it shall we? After all this is what you came here for isn't it, unvarnished and raw, straight out of the feral underground?
The title of this essay has been filked directly from one of the better singer-poets. Her original line was a call to the stupidity of unfulfilled nostalgia. It went, for those of you who think Wogan is a bit risque, "I wish I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair".
As some of you are painfully aware there is a lot of bollocks spoken, sung, believed and promoted in modern paganism. This is due in part to the fact that much of modern paganism did not, despite some authors' claims, emerge from the writings of Gardener and Nichols, Valiente and dear Iolo Morgannwg. In fact JRR Tolkien, Ursula K. LeGuin, Michael Moorcock and the baby boomers of '68 have more claim to have laid these foundations.
It arose out of the romanticism of the flower power generation, the over indulgence of eastern mysticism and narcotics, Prog-Rock, the second 'Celtic' Rennaissance and the rise of fantasy fiction. This is why the whole pagan fringe is overwhelmed with dreamcatchers, crystals, 'sufi' mystics, ashrams, silk tie die, incense and other tosh.
To counter this in the last decade of the old century and through the first decade of this we have seen the rise of any number of celtic reconstructionist groupings. Although mostly well meaning, the very fact that they called themselves 'celtic' gave the lie to the depth of their actual scholarship. Many were, and still are, little more than the spiritual equivalent of the Society for Creative Anachronism and Renaissance Fairs [Google them lazybones].
Again this is romanticism and a nostalgia for times and events that never were. If you wanted proof just Google 'grail', 'merllyn' and 'glastonbury' and see how many hits you get that lead to blogs, websites and societies who claim to believe, or have special knowledge of, these medieval and mostly christian tales. These are the same people who, when younger, couldn't see the contradictions between the four gospels.
What was once called New Age is becoming more and blurred with modern paganism, especially witchcraft, Wicca and druidry. Helped, in no small part, by the media interest in 'magic', and the growth of self-publishing and the access granted to the public in popular book stores and the internet.
Now this isn't entirely a bad thing. There are a lot of people out there who have a sincere interest in finding something with more depth, cultural relevance and personal involvement than the mainstream religions. Unfortunately they are presented with an utterly confused mess. A true free market in every sense of the word. There are also a horde of frauds and fruitcakes who'll happily take the seeker's money and attention.
This really is the shallow end of the pagan spiritual pool, and many seekers are quickly turned off by the experience. Further out in the pool are a few groupings who are arrogant enough to believe they are somehow superior. Some welcome newcomers, in return for their involvement (and cash) in courses, retreats, groves, covens etc. Others are harshly exclusivist in their attitude.
Few actually think through their approach to the seekers, or worry about the health and future of paganism in Northern Europe. And this concerns me as this is our moment, our chance to make this work. The mainstream monotheist religions sufered serious setbacks in the 20th century. Political secularism triumphed in most European countries. However, the monotheists have regrouped, and are beginning to fight back. Using their unified doctrines, huge popular power bases and massive wealth to attempt to restart the spirit of evangelism and jihad in Western culture.
If they succeed modern paganism will be driven back into the wilderness. It has already begun with the major pagan groupings failing to get recognition as religions in Britain, where there are increasingly draconian social rules that will only benefit the monotheists. There is even serious talk in the political classes about reintroducing monotheist doctrine into the law, to give it a 'moral centre'.
Remember this folks and keep it holy: Monotheists are only tolerant when they are not in power.
And what do the pagans do? Well, basically, they ignore it all. They are all away with the faeries, clogging up the chat rooms and message boards with endless navel gazing, petty schisms and 'flame wars'. The romanticism I spoke of earlier is rampant. In fact I can say, hand on heart, that I only know a dozen real pagans in Britain, and only a couple further abroad.
And here's the heresy folks - Paganism is not just a spiritual commitment, it is a sociopolitical one. The gods we revere and the landscapes we love need a completely different social and political attitude if they are to flourish. This means pagans taking a hand in politics, fighting to create real alternatives to the consumerist and free market politics that have led the world to the edge of the precipice.
If we decide to spend the next decade looking for Arthur and faeries then that's all folks. We either get serious or get lost. Oblivion beckons...
Latest reply: Mar 14, 2009
It's political correctness gorn mad I tell you!
Posted Mar 4, 2009
Can some moderator or ace please wander down here and tell me why I had a post blocked from posting because it contained the word 'p0ppyc0ck'?
The OED defines this noun as meaning 'nonsense', which is precisly my opinion of this auto-moderation.
Latest reply: Mar 4, 2009
The Six Hundred Part Two.
Posted Mar 3, 2009
OK, so we're through the gate and hot on the trail of the six hundred. Today we'll address two
commandments (though written in four verses, which just goes to show that lawyers were alive in
Biblical times too).
Our first contender is the basis for our present British blasphemy laws:
20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him
guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
I remember watching a debate led by two elderly theologians on this one and was fascinated at how
thirteen words could mean so many different things to so many different people.
For instance does this mean:
1. You shouldn't say 'Jehovah' (or 'Yahweh' or Jesus etc.) at all? Well at least in hearing
distance of a mob of hebrews armed with stones (which led to one of the funniest scenes in The Life
2. You shouldn't say 'Jehovah' when you stub your toe or in exasperation or anger?
3. You shouldn't say them as a curse?
4. You shouldn't use them too often or when not making a direct and heartfelt prayer for their
5. You shouldn't use them in a radio comedy sketch?
Do you get the idea? Anyhoo, once you've decided which interpretation (or several) then there's the
problem of policing it. Do you stone a man for saying it in extremis or perhaps when he says to his
wife "that piece of fish was good enough for Jehovah", or only when he's using it to upset you?
The nonsense is this - if God is omnipotent and omnisecent and omnipresent, why isn't he big enough
to take a little blasphemy. Sticks and stones etc. This seems like a very petty law by a very
petty deity. There again give his liking for lots of barbecued offerings it would seem it's a good
way to get some more. Say Jehovah and you gotta feed him another oxen or pair of doves or first
born son - sheesh! oops, I'm for it now.
So now we come to the lawyers version of 'you must have a day off a week and praise me for it':
20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work,
thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy
stranger that is within thy gates:
20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested
the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Later in the six hundred we'll come across the punishment for doing overtime on the Sabbath, and yes it involves stones...
I'm all for having a day off but this God's intention is not that you rest. No, you're supposed to keep it holy, which is god-lawyer speak for spending the day praising guess who?
What makes me laugh is while all these pious abrahamics are having their day off they still expect us to light and heat their homes, deliver their shopping, respond to their calls for an ambulance, fight their wars, treat their sick etc., etc.
Perhaps it would be fairer in God's eyes if all the atheists, agnostics pagans and other heretics let them have their day off and did absolutely nothing for them whatsoever. Then they wouldn't be tempted to join us in continuing to make their world turn.
There again most pious christians of my acquaintance seem to forget this commandment altogether. Their Sabbath consists of going to church in the morning and then returning home to make sunday dinner, go out shopping, wash the car, mow the lawn, play with the kids etc., just like the rest of us. Ooh dear, are they for it on Judgement day...
Latest reply: Mar 3, 2009
The Six Hundred Part One
Posted Mar 1, 2009
This is a commentary on the over six hundred commandments and laws directly given by the Abrahamic God to his chosen people. Many people, even devout Christians still think that there are just the ten, and the extra one devised by Jesus...
I have grown tired of skirmishing with the evangelists that stride forth across the BBC Religion Boards and H2G2 and feel that it is time to begin to adress them directly.
Over the past months I have been asking these theological pygmies one question: which of your God's laws do you keep? I am yet to receive even a partial answer. Those that have tried have revealed a paucity of scriptural knowledge I have found breathtaking in both its ignorance and its arrogance.
So let's travel back in time and visit the laws they would have us live by. Note that this will be an ongoing critique because there are well over six hundred direct commandments and laws set down by their God.
NB: For the purposes of this series I shall define a commandment as a line beginning 'Thou shalt' or Thou shalt not'. Other pronouncements I will call laws.
It is in Exodus that we first have a definitive lisiting of the abrahamic God's laws. These were given, so it says, to Moses on Mount Sinai and were "written with the finger of God" onto to 'tables of stone'.
For our first outing we will address the first six verses of Exodus Chapter 20:
20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Immediately, as a pagan used to facing up to the monotheists, what strikes me first is the fact that this God recognises that there are other gods. Not very monotheistic... As we explore Exodus and Leviticus we will find this theme revisited again and again.
The ancient Hebrew scribes clearly recognised that other gods existed for other peoples, but felt that theirs' was superior.
The second thing that strikes me is the prohibition on representing any part of the natural world in an artistic form. This is well recognised in Islam where the abstract form has been taken to really quite dazzling forms in art. However, both christianity and judaism seemed to have missed this. Some of the West's greatest artworks are representational and thus break this clear commandment.
The reason for the commandment is clarified in the verses that follow. This God seems to fear competition from 'graven images'. So much so that he threatens to not only punish you, the artist, but also your children, your grandchildren and your great grandchildren.
The get-out clause that some christians have used with me on this is the phrase "that hate me". Unfortunately this God's general definition of those that hate him runs along the lines of "if you ain't fer me you're agin me".
And then there's the upside of the threat. Love me and you will be OK. Hate me and your great grandchildren will regret it. This is classic extortion. Watch 'The Godfather' and see this line played out agaqin and again.
So from the very beginning of our study of The Six Hundred we have a constant theme emerging. Love me or ye'll suffer. If this God was a politicala leader today we'd call him a tyrant. What worries me is that so many otherwise kind and loving Christians feel he has the right to do so...
Look out for the next episode as we get into the bits that underlie the entire judicial system of the West.
Latest reply: Mar 1, 2009