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Think Before You Speak: An Essay on Paganism and History

Author: LadyMorganaWynter
Posted: October 3rd. 2010
Times Viewed: 3,116

Please be aware that in the following paper I am speaking only for myself. The beauty of Paganism is each individual chooses what feels right to him or her. We are not told, “This is how it is and this is what you must do and believe”. While for each of us that is part of what drew us to the path, it's also been a sticking point with other faiths. There is no single book we must follow.

I will do my best to remain respectful. It is not my intent to offend anyone. Understand though, that I'm speaking from the standpoint of facts…as best as history has recorded them. The truth is sometimes not only ugly, but hard to swallow. A bitter pill, if you will.

Nearly 20 years ago I began a quest for knowledge. For my own truths. Being raised as a Southern Baptist, I, like most, spent my childhood being told what to believe in. Now I can look back and say it never felt right to me. I read up on most of the religions that exist, yet nothing clicked until I stumbled upon what I would discover was Paganism, a faith that honored not only a God but also a Goddess. Well, truth of the matter is it was Gods and Goddesses. It is spirituality where women were allowed to stand equal with men. They were consorts and advisers not only in name but also in deed. I found myself reading everything I could get my hands on regarding the old ways.

I distinctly remember being surrounded by books on long dead civilizations and ancient cultures. Delving deeper into the cultures that had, for the most part, died out for one reason or another. I stopped my reading in mid-sentence and said to myself, “I'm a witch.” For a moment I was a bit startled. Then I said it aloud. For the very first time in my life I was truly at peace. It was literally this feeling of serenity that I'd never experienced.

I could go into my journey from that moment to my eventual transformation to Dark Pagan. That, however, is not the purpose of this paper. Instead I wish to address something I'm noticing more and more.

In the Internet age, we have the unprecedented opportunity to interact with people from all around the world, people of different cultures and faiths. Generally, most people are respectful of others be they Catholic, Christian, Muslim, even Buddhists. They're careful to not, for the most part, say things others would find offensive. There is one spirituality however that some in the above groups have no problem at all insulting.

I'm here to tell you: it is NOT okay to speak about practitioners of ANY differing faith in a negative manner. To pass judgment just because someone doesn't believe the same way you do is wrong. It makes you appear rather ignorant and closed-minded. Although pretty much every organized religion has a tenet about treating others as you would like to be treated, it seems that some choose to follow that tenet selectively.

Put yourself in the shoes of a practitioner of Paganism. Imagine you follow a religion that has been around for centuries. All of a sudden another faith comes along and decides they are going to be the dominant one. In attempting to reach that goal they spend hundreds of years annihilating followers of opposing religions. As with anything you have the opportunists. They see what's going on and decide to use it to their advantage. Not because they believe in it all, but because they suffer from greed and envy.

Farmer John, down the road, owns some prime real estate. After trying to buy his property, unsuccessfully, the greedy man makes an accusation against farmer John. That accusation? Witchcraft.

Whether or not farmer John was a witch doesn't matter. In 99% of cases, if the accusation was made that person was convicted and executed. In many cases, the entire family perished. Even friends and acquaintances lost their lives.

Once an accusation was made, a confession was extracted by any means necessary, which included but was not limited to:

Dipping in boiling oil
Flaying the skin
Force feeding salty foods and liquids to induce thirst
Boiling and/or caustic liquids used to scald the skin and/or forced down the throat
Sleep Deprivation
Having limbs and digits crushed by vices
Having limbs dislocated with the rack

I cannot fathom how anyone could think any of the above is permissible to inflict upon another human being… especially if their only “crime” was worshiping deities they have always worshiped.

Under such tortures people confessed to end their agony. Their fates were then sealed. They would be burned at the stake. Most often using slow burning woods to prolong the torture. By the end of the witch craze they had begun hanging people. No less than 18 books were written on the subject of witch hunting.

The most well-known of these was and still is the Malleus Maleficarium. It was to become the witch hunters’ bible. A papal bill prefaces the text. By attaching the bill to this book in particular, it was an actual seal of approval straight from the Vatican.

My intention is not to compare to nor make light of a more modern tragedy. after all, it was not just Pagans who suffered the injustices. However, among many researchers this book has been called the Mein Kampf of the witch-hunts. By 1669, there had been 32 editions of this book published. An amazing feat for the time. Think about that for a moment.

It was the standard employed by witch hunters. Everything from identifying, interrogating, torturing, convicting and burning witches was discussed in this all-encompassing text.

This particular text was rather unique. It exclusively identified women as witches. Based on false etymology of the word feminine, “fe” (faith) and “minus” (lack, less) . The true etymology is from the Latin f -min-nus.

According to the Malleus, women have a lack of faith and an insatiable lust for carnal desires. Making them vulnerable to the devils desires. Not only that, but it also stated that disbelief in witchcraft was heresy.

It is interesting to note that witches, be they male or female, cannot do the devil’s bidding. In order to do the bidding of any Gods, Goddess, demons or imps, one first has to hold belief in said entity. Pagans have never believed in “the devil” as it is a wholly Christian concept, which was devised to attempt to scare people into embracing Christianity. Nothing more than scare tactics, if you will.

The Pagan God, Pan (or a plethora of other horned Gods) was the perfect scapegoat for this task. After all he has, at times, been depicted as quite hideous. Looks can be and often are deceiving though. Pan has the lower body of a goat and the upper body of a man except Pan has horns upon his head. He cavorts naked most of the time. Other times he is dressed in animal skins. Deer skin to be exact.

Pan is also often depicted holding panpipes, an instrument of his own invention. He often taught his devotees how to play them as well.

Pan brings three emotions with him: joy, panic and fear. He is also known to be quite moody. Even he described himself as such.

So what made Pan perfect for the depiction of the Christian devil? His voracious appetite for sexual desires. He indulged in sex as frequently as possible. He was also indiscriminate in his choice of partners. For obvious reasons, this didn't sit well with the church.

Pan, for all his love of music, dance and sex, plays a very important role. He is the protector of the forests and flocks. He is the patron of hunters, fisherman and herds. It is Pan's job to stand vigil and negotiate balance between the lives and needs of both man and animals.

Based upon his duty as protector of the woods, Pan is not the evil deity he has been made out to be. It was during the Hellenic Period that he fell out of favor with many worshipers. The Classical Greeks sought perfection and considered Gods whose anatomy was a combination of human and animal to be vulgar. (That included the Gods of the Egyptians.)

I have been called a Satanist more times than I can count. I must inform the uninformed that I cannot be a Satanist. Satanism is a sect of the Christian religion.

I've been told I'm going to hell almost as many times in the last almost 20 years. I know I probably shouldn't bother explaining why that's not possible. However, for those that haven't seen the pattern yet, I will.

First, it's judging another human being, which is not the right of another. Hell, being a Christian concept is not a place I can ever end up. If I were to entertain the idea that it was possible, those who have said as much to me should save me a seat.

Some try to justify all the wrongs and all the judging based on one line of scripture: Exodus 22:18 -- “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”. They refuse to accept one tiny fact. King James I changed this line. The Hebrew translation is quite long and convoluted. However, the commonly accepted original text is “Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live”. James used this change to fuel his witch-hunts.

Now please, do not misunderstand. I am not throwing off on anyone’s religion. To do so would make me no better than those who throw off on my spirituality. On a regular basis disparaging remarks about those who aren't Christian are tossed about. People laugh and it escalates. To my mind it is done because people are uncomfortable with themselves. I wish I could tell every one of them just how unfunny it is.

These same people would never make jokes about the Jews or the Holocaust. Why do they possibly think it's okay to make jokes about the burning times (which the Jews suffered in as well) or witches? The burning times were one of the darkest periods in history. There is nothing humorous about that. At the very least, hundreds of thousands lost their lives. You see many records have been lost, whether accidentally or on purpose no one knows. Many records of convictions exist with no record of the punishment. People are STILL being killed today on charges of witchcraft. How is that funny? The ONLY crime these people are guilty of is thinking for themselves. It is because the worst of it is “ancient history” that it's considered acceptable to joke about?

I recall something I learned in school. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”. One thing to remember, when history repeats itself it is rarely towards those who suffered the first time around.

Many Christians in the U.S are fond of saying, “It's one nation, under God. That's what this country was founded on!” I hate to be the one to burst the utopian bubble but that's incorrect. When our forefathers came to this country, it was to escape religious persecution. They wanted to believe the way they felt was right, without fear of being jailed, stoned to death or worse.

As to “One nation, under God” the last two words were added in 1954, 62 years AFTER its adoption as the Pledge of Allegiance. When asked if her grandfather would approve of the change, Francis Bellamy's granddaughter said he wouldn't. You can read up on why.

It's the addition of those two words that led to the eventual ban of the oral recitation of the Pledge in schools. It went from being about patriotism to being about religion. Our forefathers made provisions for there to be separation of church and state. At the moment “under god” was added, the line was crossed. The Pledge is a document less than 100 years old. So our country could never of been founded on the words, “under god”.

I do not, have not and will not begrudge someone following the path that makes him/her happy. I have not and will not ever ridicule or belittle anyone for the spiritual path he/she walks. I will be the bigger person and rise above the petty insults. I try to never be in anyone's face with my spirituality. I do not mind that people pray or speak about their religion but in my humble opinion, there is more to who a person is than what God they choose to worship.

I am a Dark Pagan. Dark does not equal bad or evil, it simply means I embrace not only the light but also the darker aspects of the divine. Nothing in life is all black or all white. Everything is in shades of gray. I accept there can be no dark without light.

I am neither a good witch nor a bad witch. I am simply a witch. If I choose to do the wrong thing, I will have to face the karmic retribution that comes from it. There is no divine forgiveness I can ask for. My punishment is not in some hell-fire and brimstone afterlife where I pay for my misdeeds. It is in the life I spend in the here and now.

I worship both Gods and Goddesses. They are ever present in my life, helping to guide me as I live my life the best way I know how.

I do not have to believe as you do. I will, however, defend your right to believe as you do. Why? Because those who have gone before me have fought and died for that freedom. I don't just mean our military either. I also mean those who were accused and died for sins they were not guilty of.

The next time a back handed comment starts to pass your lips remember the following words from Martin Niemöller:

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

and by that time no one was left to speak up."

If someone came for you, would there be anyone to stand up and defend you?

Copyright: ©2010 Morgana Wynter



Location: Waynesville, North Carolina


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