Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4497
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 8th. 2001
Peeling Back The Wallpaper
Growing up in an old house is an adventure unto itself. For two hundred years, someone in Wren's family had lived in the little white farmhouse at the bottom of the dead-end road. At some point in time, the dirt road became a paved 'avenue', but it still always stopped just a few feet past the driveway. Beyond the pavement's end, there were blackberry bushes and grapevines and a small coldwater spring. During the warm months, there were gullies to run up and down, clay deposits for the neighborhood 'artists' and plenty of nooks and crannies for children and other beasties to hide in. When the cold finally settled in though-except for the few places where the tiny brook broke through the snow- our entire world seemed to stop where the snowplow did. January in New England was often an 'indoor time' and during one such snowed-in January, Wren's father decided it was time to strip the wallpaper.
Five generations of creative familial paperhangers and painters had left their legacies on walls and trim and floors. Wren's dad often joked that the only thing holding up the house were the layers of paint and paper and on the day that we started to peel back the wallpaper, those of us wielding those magickal tools of scraper and knife were inclined to agree. What we anticipated was a long, tedious and messy job. What we got was an enlightening and entertaining history lesson. Peeling back the layers of Pagan history may also sometimes be messy, but the rewards go far beyond uncovering what others have built up. Getting down to the bare walls-the very foundations of the construction materials themselves-reveals the soundness or weakness of the structure. In a building, this is an important safety and security concern. In a religion, it is just as essential and for many of the same reasons. Every once in a while, it is a good thing to strip off the old layers and check out just what lies beneath.
Photo credit: The image to your upper right is from jadine moonowl aka sylvafox (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) who is from Glouchestershire, Britain. "I found the moon was just out, and so raced around the house to collect, my first attempt at a pagan altar, I've been doing a lot of research, and don't want a tidy one, like some I'd read about, I'm an untidy person, and throw things together, for maximum effect, as an ARIES, I'm like a bull in a china shop!
Peeling Back The Layers of Paganism...
Many of you have probably read the article in the January 2001 edition of the Atlantic Monthly. In The Scholars and The Goddess, author Charlotte Allen took out her literary scraper and set it to work on some Pagan wallpaper. Stripping off the first layers of past Pagan postulations on the origins of what is now modern Neo-Paganism (scrape, scrape), Ms. Allen cites reference after scholarly reference (scrape, scrape, scrape) that seemingly disprove the 'ancient' or 'historical' basis for the practices and beliefs of Wicca, Goddess Worship and Paganism in general. What Ms. Allen fails to realize is both obvious and two-fold. First, that this is not only old wallpaper, this is old news. The Pagan community has in the last several years adjusted quite well to new archaeological and anthropological discoveries and research. Ronald Hutton's inquiries into the origins of Wicca (cited in Ms. Allen's article) is very highly regarded and recommended by many teachers in the Pagan community as the definitive work in these areas. Secondly, standing up to her kneecaps in wallpaper shavings, Ms. Allen neglected to address in any relevant manner the final result of all that scrape, scrape, scraping: Yes, the walls were indeed laid bare and they do look a bit stark without their protective coverings. But the point remains that the walls- the basic foundations of what now makes up modern Paganism- do not lie in the curling, scraped off bits at her feet. The walls- the foundations- of Paganism still stand and they are sound! The foundation walls are not held up with 'wallpaper and paint', but by the basic integrity of their initial construction. (You can read other responses and also post your comments on this article on the Atlantic Monthly forum. - also look for Starhawk's statement - now circling 'round many email lists)
There are those both within and without the Pagan communities who are obsessed with the concept of "validity". "What paths are valid? Who is a 'real' Witch, Wiccan, Whatever? Are the various Pagan religions and beliefs valid-or just the latest New Age fad?" Well, let's take a peek then, shall we? Scrapers set on ready?
What's Under All This Stuff Anyway?
When Wren and her dad set out to scrape off the old wallpaper in the farmhouse, they got a few surprises, too. One room had apparently (judging from the style of the multi-layered patterns and colors) been used at various times throughout the decades as a living room, a formal dining room and as a bedroom. The paper and paint defined the use of the room. However changing or removing the paper did not in any way invalidate the integrity of the room itself, but rather merely defined its past or current use or need for such usage.
And so it is with the basic foundations of Paganism. Rooted in the cycles of Nature, grounded on the firmness of the Earth Herself, Paganism at its most basic level IS as ancient as both Nature and the Earth. When our earliest Ancestors first began to wonder about how they as the microcosm fit into the larger macrocosm that they saw around, above and below them, the first stirrings of what became the religions and belief systems of the world emerged. Religion and the spiritual quest has always been an attempt to answer the age-old questions, "Who am I?" and "How do I fit into the cosmic scheme of things?" "Is this Life all that there is-or is there something more?" If one thinks of these first inquiries into the meaning of Life (initially defined or explained by the forces and cycles of Nature and Earth) as the basic foundation (the walls or infrastructure) of what shortly thereafter became the first Pagan religious systems, then the 'validity' of Paganism is beyond dispute. There IS nothing more ancient upon this planet than the Earth and Her cycles. And if our Pagan beliefs are indeed founded upon these principles (as we believe that they are), well then... how could anything be more inherently valid or based upon a more ancient theme of spirituality than that?
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