Articles/Essays From Pagans
March 2nd. 2014 ...
Lessons of Ostara: Six Ways to Move Forward
The Wiccan Priest - The Misunderstood Role
Which is Which? Am I a Warlock or a Witch?
The Secret Teaching: Selected Aspects
February 23rd. 2014 ...
Wicca or Traditional Witchcraft: Some Differences
Everything is Not Under Your Control: Making Sense of the Senseless
The Wonders and Gifts of Paganism and Community
What Makes Us What We Are
February 16th. 2014 ...
Death, Grief, and Psychopomp Work in Shamanic Healing
The Stones of Fear: Anxiety Relief
Spiritual Traveler: Form To Essence
Alternative Medicine – What Is It?
February 9th. 2014 ...
Words of Power!
The Allure of Glamour in the Apocolypse
Lunar Insight Planetary Preponderances: Year of the Horse, Imbolc and Mercury Grazings
February 2nd. 2014 ...
The Magick of Jewelry and Metals
Building a Magick Mirror
The Golden Bough: a Study Guide (Part 2)
January 26th. 2014 ...
Love of Self: The Hardest Thing To Do
The Golden Bough as a Seminal Work in the Neo Pagan Movement (Part 1)
13 Keys: The Mercy of Chesed
Lightworking In The Screen Age: Staying Connected
January 19th. 2014 ...
Open Letter to the Goddess
A Southern Girl's Guide to Hospitality
Social Conventions and the Pagan World
January 12th. 2014 ...
Never Once Was There a An Athame Near My Chalice: My Very Sheltered Occultist Upbringing
One Wiccan's Journey Through Depression
January 5th. 2014 ...
Religion vs Practice: Defining Witchcraft in a Modern Age
Traditional Apprenticeships: Training in the Modern Pagan Abbey
2014's Magickal Magnificent Manifestations!
Lunar Insight Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances: Wise and Wild
December 29th. 2013 ...
My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 3)
13 Keys: The Might of Geburah
Beyond The Season of Greed
December 22nd. 2013 ...
My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 2)
December 15th. 2013 ...
The Hex Murder of 1928
My Top Ten Favorite Cauldrons (Part 1)
Lady of the Forest Mist (A Story of the Woods)
Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Hunting, Fires and Parting Shots
December 8th. 2013 ...
Help and Thoughts for Pagans New to the Journey
Using Your Wand in Reverse
Leaving a Group - Part 2: Leaving, Healing and Moving Forward
The Cry of the Soul
December 1st. 2013 ...
The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness
A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism
Leaving a Pagan Group – Part 1: To Leave or to Stay?
November 24th. 2013 ...
The Pagan and the Papacy
The Groovy Aquarian Christ: Jesus From a Pagan Perspective
November 17th. 2013 ...
For Love of the God
Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca
A Threat to Religious Liberties?
November 10th. 2013 ...
Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?
Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return
The Celtic Tree Calendar
Nine Creeds: A Statement and Explanation of My Beliefs
November 3rd. 2013 ...
The Mundane/Spiritual Mirror: What Does it Say About Your Life?
October 27th. 2013 ...
Thoughts On a Miley-Cyrus/ Robin-Thicke Society
On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice
Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them
Banishing, Invocation and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
October 20th. 2013 ...
Bottle Spells and Magick in Hoodoo Tradition
Weather Magick: Who is Responsible for the Weather?
Broom Closet: In or Out?
On Coven and Claws
October 13th. 2013 ...
Destroying to Create: A Lesson from the Dead
Consume the Scorpion- Scorpion Energy Revisited
October 6th. 2013 ...
UPG and U: A Breakdown and Building Up of Unverified and Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis
Answering The Call from Spirit
Coping with the Loss of a Familiar
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 2 (The South)
September 29th. 2013 ...
Six Reasons Why Covens are Here to Stay
Priestessing and Titles: What's the Point?
Truth or Convenience? Questioning Motives for Spiritual Advancement
Speaking Up: The Conflict Between the Spiritualist and Our Human Experience
September 22nd. 2013 ...
Death of a Friendship within the Craft
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 1 (The Center)
September 15th. 2013 ...
Some Pagan Prayers
The Holocaust Survivor (Part II)
Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Bramble and Cerridwen
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Just How Old ARE We, Anyway?
Article ID: 12144
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,239
Times Read: 3,649
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Author: Talitha Dragonfly
Posted: January 20th. 2008
Times Viewed: 3,649
Neo-Pagans. We're new. We're not new. We're as ancient as humanity itself. We're recent newcomers. We're preserving the Old Religion. We've invented a New Religion. We're celebrating original traditions. We're staggering silly neophytes reinventing how the world views the Divine.
Which of these statements is true?
Heck, quite honestly I don't care.
I love what I do, and that's all that really matters.
As we explore the question of our supposed birthday, let's consider a brief definition of "Pagan." Generally speaking, one who is a Pagan is considered to be a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim (dictionary.com) or a follower of a polytheistic religion (Mirriam-Webster).
Of the major three, Judaism is the oldest. How old is Judaism, then? If you mean when the Jews received the Torah by Moses, then it is about 3300 years old. Of course, this religion has gone through some major revisions since the time of Moses, especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Just pick up a copy of the Hebrew Bible, start reading from the beginning in Genesis, and look for how things were done differently than they are today.
So Paganism, it can safely be suggested, is at least older than 3300 years old.
Hinduism has a long and checkered history of at least 6000 years, and is arguably the oldest living religion in the world. Technically this religion fits the official definition of Paganism in that it is not Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, and that it is a polytheistic belief system. But do Hindus truly consider themselves to be Pagan?
I would like to pepper in another relevant fact into the mix.
Since the advent of writing, there has never been a single religion uniformly practiced across Western Europe before Christianity.
Many modern sources refer to Wicca as the "Old Religion", a religion that survived in secret in Europe through the Christian period. Frequently, the age of this "Old Religion" is stretched to impossible proportions. Some people quite ridiculously claim unbroken ties from the Neolithic period. The late Dr. Margaret Murray traces Witchcraft's origins all the way back to Paleolithic times.
This is silly! No single culture has ever survived this long. Cultures migrate and eventually merge with each other, and their spiritual beliefs merge with them. Cultures eventually die out, and when this happens, their religions generally follow suit.
During the Neolithic and Paleolithic time periods, no written language existed. Although oral traditions are often extremely important, nothing beats the power of the written word to preserve the integrity of a tradition. And even against all odds, if a tradition did survive without the help of writing, we would have no way of knowing it.
The needs of a society changes. People hunted and gathered in small groups in antiquity, and there were no cities and no agriculture in humanity's beginnings. The eventual needs of a city are very different from the original needs of a nomadic tribe.
As culture evolves, so too do spiritual beliefs; i.e., hunting gods would be replaced by agricultural gods, male deities take supremacy over female deities, lunar deities are replaced by solar deities, gods begin to "specialize" in areas that suit the current technology, etc.
Each culture that populated a particular continent or specific region possessed their own pantheons, their own mythology, their own myths of creation and the afterlife. Read various pre-Christian or pre-Jewish myths from across the globe and see for yourself.
There are, of course, some archetypal similarities. Anyone who is a devoted reader of Carl Jung would definitely agree. Humanity seems to be hard-wired somehow for religion in achingly similar ways. And perhaps some of these similarities can be attributed to interactions between these cultures.
But in whole, every separate religion of all of the world's religions was its own independent entity.
So why do many people INSIST that there was ever this single "Old Religion"?
For the sake of this argument, you can find beautiful and relevant similarities between all the world's sacred traditions. You can find similarities between many ancient traditions and Christianity, for that matter.
That does not mean that all religions in antiquity are all the same, or that they all originate from a single common denominator.
Many of us today celebrate old deities, and many of us try to incorporate the spirit of the old rites into our modern rituals. But the simple fact is that our actual and complete knowledge of these rites can be sketchy or sometimes even nonexistent.
Many of these rites were either purposefully secret, or the knowledge of them was repressed or destroyed.
The Egyptians, for instance, did not write most of their magickal rites down because of the belief that written spells and incantations would take a life of their own; the symbols WERE the spell and completely capable, it was believed, to leap off of the papyrus or stone.
The rites, worships, and beliefs of the Eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret, as initiation was believed to unite the worshipper with the gods, including promises of divine power and rewards in the afterlife. There are many paintings and pieces of pottery that depict various aspects of the Mysteries, but at best we have but fragmentary glimpses from outside sources, mere casual observers who were not even part of the culture, giving uninitiated opinions like a reporter from Action News.
The Library of Alexandria was destroyed by fire on a number of occasions, and to this day the details of what this library may or may not have contained remains a lively source of controversy.
Other cultures, like the Mesoamericans and the Etruscans and the people of the Indus Valley, documented their practices in a form of writing that has not been completely deciphered.
Gerald Gardner himself acknowledged this fact as it pertains to his invention of Wicca. He said that the rituals he received from Dorothy Clutterbuck (and oh boy, try to prove that she ever actually existed!) were extremely fragmentary.
In order to make them workable, he had to supplement them with other material. And the age of those "fragments" is hardly ancient. He directly lifted material from occult sources of the 19th and early 20th centuries like the Golden Dawn, Thelema, and Freemasonry.
Wicca as an "official" religion did not begin until 1954. This hardly qualifies it as an actual "tradition" in the broadest meaning of the word. It is even historically proven that so-called Wiccan theology did not begin to be compiled before the 1920s.
But yet still the compelling thought persists with many people that they have to believe that their "religion" is ancient.
The first question that I have to ask is why people find it so important to prove that their religion was here first. Every religion had to be a new religion at one point in time.
Wicca, and for that matter most of Neo-Paganism which spun off or was inspired from the practice of Wicca, is only about 60 years old. It is much less old in the United States, having been introduced in the States in the mid to late sixties, and not really beginning to take off until the seventies by different feminist groups.
It wasn't really until the nineties until most of the rest of us heard about Wicca and Paganism.
Sure, we've all adopted certain aspects of older religions. We are inspired by many of the old Gods and Goddesses. But in good conscience, we can never say that we are truly authentic followers of those religions.
Judaism and Christianity share an entire Old Testament, not to mention the Supreme Being Yahweh. But to say that they are the same religion is ridiculous.
So what is the point I am trying to make here?
Let's not take ourselves, as Neo-Pagans, too seriously. Let's not give more weight to ourselves than is properly ordained. Neo-Paganism is a beautiful way of life, and if others had not invented it before me, I should like to think that I would have eventually to answer the primal calls of my spirit.
Magick works. I can definitely attest to this fact. The Gods and Goddesses speak to me fervently through their ancient archetypal voices. I love the old myths that were told throughout the world's history, and I find modern relevance deep within the many layers of their story lines.
I find inspiration from many sacred texts: Hindu, Hebrew, Buddhist, Christian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Mesopotamian, Native American, etc. I am a modern High Priestess who walks comfortably between all realms of possibility.
Let's just admit to ourselves with a firmly clear and honest voice that we are reclaiming some of the ancient mysteries but with a thoroughly modern twist. We are taking religion to its logical next step in a way that suits the times and the needs of those who would approach the Divine with love and inspiration, and hopefully honesty and humbleness and gratitude, in our hearts.
Let's get off our bogus high horses and just BE.
There is no shame in this honesty. There is no need for explanation. There is no need for legitimization. It is what it is.
And that's perfectly okay by me.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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