jueves, 4 de marzo de 2004

The PAssion

The Passion has been in the news a lot, probably because this is Christianity's most important religious holiday. Any messiah can be born, but only one died in a way that effected a majority of the world.This movie is about the life and most especially the death of Jesus.

I haven't seen the movie itself, but I did see the "making of" and several reviews.
But, those pieces have given me some food for thought.
They've actually supported my reasons for not being Christian.
Let's take a look at some of the things I noticed in the "making of" - a TV special that highlighted what the producer felt was important about the movie.

The primary message seems to be that Jesus was great because he suffered greatly - voluntarily. Suffering doesn't make a person morally better, nor does it make their message more powerful. To me, Jesus' most powerful message was buried under the tales of his woe and suffering. He advocated in a time of harshness gentleness and care for others, of thinking for oneself. These are important messages, obscured by the movie's focus on torture and suffering.

A religion that glorifies, as this one does, the gore and pain at the expense of the other messages just isn't a religion I can in all good conscience follow.
The after marketing of this movie attests to that - they sell, not necklaces and charms and such of fish or loaves of bread, or other symbols of Jesus' miracles or messages, but of nails - replicas of nails reputedly used to nail Jesus to the cross.

Suffering doesn't add to the glory or greatness of the message of love. In fact, it subtly gives the feeling that if one loves, one must suffer terribly in consequence.
The further notion that because Jesus suffered terribly for the sins of others is morally worthless. How does Jesus' suffering and death contribute to other people's greatness? How does it purify them of any sin or wrong-doing? Killing someone else for the crimes of another doesn't deter the criminal. The knowledge that they can do wrong with impunity because someone else, someone innocent, will suffer, will only encourage the criminal.

Then, we are supposed to juxtapose the fact* that we are all, by the very fact of our birth, sinful with the fact* that Jesus was not sinful - and only the death of an innocent can purge us of our sins.
I don't know about you, but I know most people are basically good people. Comparatively few people commit egregious wrongs. The bulk of wrongdoing is minor, and rarely increases. To assume, from the start, that everyone is sinful is doing them and the world, and even any creative Deity an injustice.
What God deliberately sets out to create a flawed piece, then subjects it to horrible things because it is flawed?

Whether people are good or bad must be judged on their acts - all of them, together, not just a select few. When the US was founded, the presumption was that people were inherently decent and just, and therefore had the right to be presumed innocent of wrongdoing unless there was proof otherwise. Real proof, not just hearsay evidence or another person's word. There had to be an evidentiary connection, material solid proof.
What God would presume his very own people are inherently evil? What does this say about the God? And about the worshippers of that God?

The movie postualtes that everybody in the world, past, present, and future, are responsible for the torture and death of Jesus. This fits with out society's current attitude of blame someone else - and carry the blame forward forever. All mankind is forever blamed of Jesus death, and must forever suffer for it. All of mankind is forever blamed for the Inquisition and deaths of heretics for centuries, and must forever bear the blame. All of mankind is forever guilty of the enslavement, not of all previous slaves, but only of those who were enslaved so briefly in the US [1] - and must therefore pay reparations and bear the blame forever.

Another thing the movie seems to tell people is that if they don't believe Jesus was the son of the God, then they will suffer a much worse fate than the theif who had his eyes plucked out on the cross.
More, in the reviews, they attack the movie for historical accuracy, but never once speculate on the historicity of Jesus's existence. The Romans were obsessive about keeping records. There are no Roman records of a trial similar to what the Christians claim is the trial of Jesus.

I will grant that there were a lot of messiahs running around the Middle East at that time, there is documentation for such. It's possible that the message of perhaps several such messiahs were garbled into one account, and several trials were mashed into one to satisfy a need for roots.

All the Gods know we Pagans are equally guilty of such historical tampering.
I can deal with a mythic retelling of Christianity. I can even deal with it being reasonably hsitorically accurate. From a culture that was predominantly illiterate, a fudging of facts is acceptable.
But - to insist that this is the exact way it happened when we have documentation that it may have gone essentially that way but not exactly is - fluffy.

Worse, focusing on the suffering and death of Jesus obscures his living message, which I feel far outweighs his death message.

And, you know, blaming the Jews for Jesus's death is historically accurate. Jesus was a heretical Jew. He was causing an upset in the governance of the province, distracting people from tax-productive activities, and influencing even warriors to be peaceful. Even if the Jews weren't entirely responsible for the death of Jesus, (or the conglomeration of messiahs that evolved into a single form we know as Jesus), they certainly conspired with the Romans to suppress and kill these messiahs.

It's not going to make modern Jews evil, unless you subscribe to the "eternity factor" : everyone is responsible forever for the actions of all their ancestors.

Yanno, people are responsible for their own actions, and the consequences thereof. My children are not responsible for my actions, although they may have to suffer the consequences of them, and they may have to make changes. But eventually, at some point, my descendents will cease having to bear the consequences for my actions. The cumulative burden of people doing things will otherwise become too great to bear.
One of Jesus's messages was forgiveness. Where is that message today?

* - Not facts, really, but concepts that are presented as fact and treated as fact.

[1] The descendents of the slaves in the US forget that slavery existed in other parts of the world, forget that other peoples were enslaved, some for many centuries, and they forget there are still people living in slavery today. They have fixated upon one brief event in hsitory and are intent on extracting every ounce of guilt and reparation they can from innocent people. It's apparently the Christian thing to do.

miércoles, 18 de febrero de 2004

Whiney Pagans

All the Gods know I hate whiners of any sort, but Pagan whiners absolutely drive me up the wall.I had to get my minister's certification from a Christian church before I could call myself a "reverend".

Gag. First off, well, no, let me start from the beginning of this sentence.
The term minister presupposes the person has other co-religionists who look to them for guidance and counseling. The key words here are other and co-religionist. Without both of these, there is no reason for a person to even seek ministerial certification of any sort. To whom will they minister?
"from a Christian church" - for the love of all the Gods and Numena in Dea Nutrix - why? It is a perversion of Christianity, and I can quite clearly see why this would upset them. Unless a group is wanting incorporation for charity, education, or land purchase purposes, or to issue legal marriage licenses (all of which are tax-driven), there is no need for any religion to be formally recognized by any legal entity. Only if a group wants to collect donations from people outside the group, offer classes, or buy land for a temple or whatever should they consider pursuing formal, legal recognition. Even without such recognition, the group is still legally allowed to function as a religion, it's set up that way in the US Constitution, the Constitution of every state in the Union, and often reiterated inthe statutes of each state. And if the group doesn't care if the marriages performed between their co-religionists are legally valid, then there's no need for registration and licensing with the county (it's usually done on a county level). Many states allow for non-religious people to perform marriages - friends, bosses, captains of ships, strangers you meet at Wal-Mart...
So, I fail to see the driving need these Pagans have to be legally recognized.
And calling themselves "reverend"! What a crock! If one is truly Pagan, suborning a respected title from another religion is far from the proper way to do things. There are certain religious titles which are no longer associated with any specific religion: minister, priest, clergy. These may be freely used by anyone who fulfills the functions those titles describe, regardless of religion. Why the whiney pushy need to be called "reverend"?
In speaking to and listening to Pagans online for 5 years, and to assorted other Pagans in person for far longer than that, it boils down to this: They want the instant recognition and respect the title bestows without ever actually working for it, and they don't care who they hurt in the process. They don't care that by appropriating some other religion's sacred titles, they hurt the other religion, and they hurt themselves. These whiney little Paganettes forget that they are hurting themselves far more than they will ever realize. Worse still, they make the legitimate efforts of other Pagans working to build the respect for and of Pagan religious titles more difficult.

But they don't care. They want that respect now, and screw everyone else.
Then they have the gall to whine that no one takes them seriously.
Well, that's true. I, for one, will never take a Pagan seriously who steals religious titles from other religions.
Stealing the title shows me they haven't made the effort to know their own religion very well. It shows me they don't take their own religion seriously. It shows me they haven't made any commitments to their religion.
It just plain pisses me off that they will disrespect other people's religions and their own.
Worse still are the people who want to counsel people of all religions, using their respective religions. I know this is a job requirement for the military chaplains, but they receive special training and support for doing this, they aren't hairing off doing it all by themselves under false titles they've stolen from assorted religions.
There are very few true meta-religionists - people well enough versed in a plethora of religions so they can effectively minister to a wide variety of people from other beliefs. These people, because they have had the training and experience, can call themselves the equivalent of the level they achieve in any religion they minister.

Reverend is not a catch-all title for just anyone who's ever opened a book and read the directions on conducting a ritual. It is a specific title for a specific religion. And that religion isn't any of the variety of Pagan religions out there.
Now, having griped about what the whiney Pagans are doing, is there a solution?
Of course there is.
We can look to other religions, Islam, for example, has no ordained clergy, but draws from a pool of scholars to guide and lead the adherents. This sounds as if it would work well for Pagans.

Pagans need to select or create titles among each Pagan religion and determine what they mean, then enforce it. There are many words we can use to make new titles. Perhaps we ought to explore them if creating and drawing from a pool of Pagan scholars is not wanted.

There's the Vedic hotar, which refers to a person who conducts or leads the rituals. There's Greek iereus for priest. There's Hebraic kahane, also for priest. In Zoroastrianism, there were the Avesta: athravan/man of fire, zoatar/officiant, rathwi/minister, mobed/father or elder magician, magus/magician, . From Rome we draw such sacred positions as sacerdos, pontifex, augur, flamine, fetiales, luperci, bacchante. From German, we get ewarte, guardian of justice. From the Chaldeans, we get nisakku/sacrificers, baku/seers, and asipu/ritualist.

Of course, this all brings up the question of why would we want a professional trained priesthood. Wasn't one of the purposes of becoming Pagan to escape a trained, professional priesthood?

Take a look at what a trained professional body does: they provide training to an agreed standard, but they also control and define the content of the training, ensure income and status for licenced professionals by limiting the supply of them so there is a permanent market scarcity, and seek to drive unlicensed practitioners out of practice. It has proven so historically. The proffesion exists for the professional, not the people they serve. The concept of Paganism was the reverse.

Our "professional" Pagans were so through a proven track record, usually within their own group, not through paper qualifications or licensing by some institutional body that can be bought. These priests and priestesses were sought for their knowledge, and they would assist. Rarely did you hear of such a priest/ess "doing a ritual" for others who passively accepted it. Instead, they placed their skills, knowledge and experience at the disposal of the ones asking them, making the others an active part of the ritual. Individual spiritual power and responsibility are the focal point of Paganism.

The problem with the modern trend towards "professionalizing" the priesthood of Paganism is that too many of the proponents of this have not left their Christian roots behind, embraced and learned their version of Paganism, and grown through it. It's true that we Numenists have a paid clergy. But you will note, especially if you've read this blog for any length of time, that our paid clergy are paid to render specific services, services that we, as a group, need accomplished on a reliable time scale; securing permits, locating meeting sites, keeping records, purchasing supplies, maintaining sacred items and calendars, to make hospital visits at times when the rest of us are at work, that sort of thing. When it comes to ritual, we each perform within the framework in a diverse and personally fulfilling way. Our priesthood is not paid to lead ritual, or to study our religion, or to practice magic, or to intercede for us or to speak in our names to the Gods and Numena. We are each responsible, even on the most minor Celebrant level, for that.

Some religions may want or need a trained priesthood, and when they do, they need to create their own version of it. The Asatuar are doing a grand job with their Gothar.

We feel we're doing a good job with our Caretakers and Clergy.
Would that other Pagan religions were as confident of their own beliefs as we are.
Perhaps that would allow them to see the needs of their own specific religion, to define who they are, define who they expect their leaders to be, and decide if they even need a professional priesthood.
Then, they can concern themselves with meta-Pagan issues, and intrafaithing or interfaithing efforts, or even going on to meta-religion issues.

lunes, 9 de febrero de 2004

Pagans vs Meta-Pagans

People continue to discuss leadership, either declaring we need no leaders or complaining we have no real leaders.To me, that's like saying explorers don't need to know what other explorers have done. That means it's perfectly possible to approach Central Park as new and explored territory, because of course, you didn't know it's been so explored it's in the middle of a major city, and practically everyone there knows all its nooks and crannies. After all, you've never been there.

Leaders have been there. They know directions, tricks, tips, pitfalls, scenic palces to pause, the best eats, and the worst. They know the customs and expectations, the landscape and the atmosphere.
So, what's the purpose in eschewing what a leader is? Why badmouth people who have been there and are willing to share what they learned?

In Numenism, respect is taught for our leaders. Perhaps that's because we show what it is our leaders are expected to know, and be able to do before they are acknowledged as leaders. Here is a brief outline:

1. Knowledge of our religion
a. History
b. Philosophy
c. Theology
d. Liturgy

2. Intimate knowledge of our Divinity structure
a. Primary Pantheon
b. Auxiliary Deities
c. Other Spiritual Beings

3. Knowledge of the people in the House
a. Personalities
b. Strengths and weakness
c. Skills
d. Needs

4. In-House communication and group dynamic skills
a. Balancing personalities within the group
b. Making sure NO ONE is left out of the loop
c. Handling personality conflicts

5. Creativity
a. Essential for designing ritual
b. Essential for planning social events
c. Essential for implementing charity events

6. Knowledge of our Ritual structure
a. Primarily our ritual structure
b. Ritual structure of guests' traditions and religions
c. Ritual structure of other Pagan religions

7. In-House motivational skills
a. Ability to detect and assist flagging spirits
b. Ability to inspire others to participate

8. In-House organizational skills
a. Ability to plan in-House events
b. Inventory skills to keep supplies current
c. Willing and able to secure needed permits and licenses
d. Keeping track of in-House sponsored charities
e. Managing the paperwork
f. Bookkeeping

9. In-House counseling and pastoral care skills
a. General spiritual counseling
b. Marriage and divorce counseling
c. Rites of Passage counseling
d. Special Interest education and activities
e. Disaster preparedness

10. Intrafaithing skills within our specific religion
a. Keeping in contact with other groups
b. Sharing information with other groups
c. Assisting in virtual events between groups
d. Maintaining web pages
e. Moderating email group
f. Assisting in physical events between groups

11. Knowledge of our magical system

12. Intrafaithing skills within our broader umbrella religion(s)
a. Communicating with other Pagan groups
b. Sharing information with other Pagan groups
c. Assisting in multi-Pagan social events
d. Assisting in multi-Pagan charity events

13. Interfaithing skills
a. Communicating with the clergy of other religions
b. Sharing information with clergy of other religions
c. Assisting in multi-religious social events
d. Assisting in multi-religious charity events
e. Assisting in disasters with other religions

14. Community Skills (what we consider "Meta-Paganing"
a. Communicating with local authorities
b. Non-religious community participation (parades, community
c. Attending City Council meetings
d. Tracking city, county, state, and federal legislation affecting us
e. Educating local authorities on our specific religion
f. Educating authorities in conjunction with other Pagan
religions about us
g. General chaplaincy to non-co-religionists.

The most important attribute our Pagan leaders should have is identity with their own specific Pagan religion, whether it's Wicca, Numenism, Asatruar, Reconstructionist, Celtic, Shamanic, Eclectic, Dianic, Egyptian, or whatever. The first, most important thing a leader has to have is IDENTITY.

Yes, this involves the often taboo topic of defining who they are,and who their group is, and what their religion entails. Everyone has this bugaboo about not forcing their spirituality on others, so much so, they don't even explore it themselves. They don't know who hey are in relation to teh Gods, themselves, a those about them. How can they expect to lead?

In March, 2001, there was a Pagan Leadership Conference in Indiana. Sadly, it seems the opinion of what constitutes a leader and what the leadership goals of the Pagan community are is focused on finances and legalities. How to meet the Pagan community's financial needs. How to organize a Pagan lobby group. How to hold fund raisers. How to build groups. Sounded a lot like some pyramid scheme and not a religious concern at all. Where were the issues on identity, ethics, religious creeds and definitions? Where was the spirituality and the theological concerns? How do we educate and care for those who enter Paganism, and flounder? Should we let them flounder, or extend a hand? These are what religious leaders should be concerning themselves with.

I see a bit of that same thing throughout the Pagan community. The focus isn't on leading your individual group, building an identity for yourselves, educating your own people about who and what your religion is, defining ethics and morals, encouraging spiritual growth. The focus of leadership seems to be how an individual can present themselves as the leader of their people to the broader community, to be a Meta-Pagan.

We should be providing for our people before we start preaching to the general public, supporting our projects and beliefs before organizing charity campaigns for those outside of our groups, and educating our own before we worry about educating others.

Far too many people seek out Paganism and leave in despair because they have no one to show them the way. Or they decide they prefer being solo, because the local groups are so involved in being Meta-Pagans, they're neglecting one another.

We should first be Pagans, then leaders, then Meta-Pagans.

miércoles, 28 de enero de 2004


We Numenists are obviously bad news for Traditional Witches and Wiccans. I've had several from both groups email me with information on how we qualified as a "bad" coven.
Newsflash: Numenists are neither witches nor Wiccans. The criteria which you claim makes us a "bad coven" doesn't fit us at all, just as the criteria for a good church wouldn't fit us. We cannot be judged by data designed for a group with whom we do not claim membership.

For example: this whole lineage thing. We are not a bad group because we don't keep records on lineages. We are not an initiatory religion, therefore it isn't important to know from whom we derive our information.
And this Cakes and Wine thing - we Numenists subscribe to neither the High Mass nor Wicca, so having cakes and wine is not an essential part of our religious practices. Food is, and sometimes it may look like Cakes and Wine, but the energy flow and purpose are different. To judge us as a "bad" group because our rituals do not raise energy or exist to create magic, and we don't do the cakes and wine is to judge a car by the standards of a tree. It just doesn't make sense. Our rituals and our magic take different form, and that of standard witchcraft and Wicca aren't the forms we use.

We think milk and beer and mead and water are perfectly acceptable libations. In fact, we create "Moonwater" specifically as a libation. But we'll also use RC Cola, root beer, peppermint tea, or any other beverage that comes to hand.

We've also been called to task for calling ourselves "Houses" and "Clans". Don't we know we're supposed to be a "Circle" or "coven"? Since when? We've connected ourselves to one another through a family structure, close and extended. We call our small groups "Houses" because we share a house as a point of gathering and community and contact. Related Houses can be Clans or Septs, and families that breed and create new Houses can call themselves gens, if they want. And if a subgroup in Numenism wants to use "grotto" or "Cave" or "meadow" as their group name, what's the harm?

Perhaps the last thing they complain about most is our exclusivity.
Yes, we are rather exclusive. It takes a lot of effort to understand our magic system. It can take years to begin to work effectively with it. Some people just can't manage. And it takes a certain kind of person to deal with the large degree of autonomy we offer to our adherents. We have a small, flexible framework. Upon that is built the rest of one's beliefs and each person, each House, or Clan, or Gens makes their own unique style of religion from it.

But not everyone wants that degree of responsibility and autonomy. They want a "leader", a "final authority". Except for the very few basic premises, the foundation upon which we build, that which has been written, there is no other authority. And even those can be changed with compelling new information and evidence.
We aren't averse to adaptation. Nothing is rigid and forever.
So, those of you out there who are trying to force Numenism into some sort of Wicca-esque mold - quit it. We don't fit. We aren't Wicca. We aren't witches. We are Numenists (at least until we change the name again.).

jueves, 22 de enero de 2004


Not everything has a price, but the important things are always accompanied by a cost.There is a difference. A price is what you pay for something. Pricing usually comes in barterable form, materials and goods, cash.

Cost, however, isn't negotiable. It is the penalty or the expenditure to achieve something. It isn't always tallied in coin, but in sweat and sacrifice. That it often leads to great triumphs is all that makes the cost worth paying.
The price of a textbook doesn't indicate the cost of learning the information stored within it. The two are separate.

For some reason, though, many people seem to conflate the two terms: price=cost, and cost=price.
Many people who come to Paganism see only the dollar signs of acquiring it, not the sweat of being it. They confuse the books and candles and incense with the methods and skills and knowledge.

The years it takes to learn, truly learn, Paganism are short shrifted by those who have been taught from birth that everything has a price. All they have to do is discover what it is, fork over the required cash, and the mysteries of the universe are theirs to play with.