A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism
Article ID: 15562
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Crick [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: December 1st. 2013
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When I started on the path of witchcraft in 1960, I was totally unaware of the fledgling Neo Pagan community that was being proffered by Gerald Gardner and his group who were known as Wiccans. My own humble beginnings began on a farm in Sparta, Tennessee. Folk magic and the belief in Faeries were as natural as breathing to our family. Herb lore and identifying various crystals was something that every child raised on a farm at the time knew by rote by the age of eight or nine.
It was not until circa 1975, when I left the family clan in search of something more, that I even became aware of Wicca. When I did take an insightful look at this fledgling path known as Wicca, a number of red flags rose and I decided to search elsewhere for a vehicle to expand my knowledge of witchcraft and spiritual growth. Taking a very pragmatic view, I saw a movement that was heavy on elitism and arrogance but short on any real understanding of the mystical arts.
This is not a slam at Wicca, just a personal observation as it applied to my search at that time. One thing that I disagreed with back then in 1975 -- and still disagree with to this very day -- is the idea espoused by Mr. Gardner that paganism in general, and witchcraft in particular, had died out until Mr. Gardner came along and resuscitated such beliefs.
One has to only look around the world to see many examples of folks who for many, many generations, engaged in the mystical arts and who continue to do so to this very day. And none of them consider themselves to be Neo Pagan. They are simply what they have always been.
Another issue I had with Wicca, then and now, was the misguided premise that witchcraft could be contained within a religion. Wicca was, in many ways, fashioned after many of the same exclusionary concepts as found in Christianity, understandably so, since so many members of Wicca come from the ranks of Christianity.
For example, the Christians believe that “Man has dominance of the earth and all that she contains”. Wiccans claim, “Every Wiccan is a witch, but not all witches are Wiccan.” Such lofty comments from both belief systems are an oxymoron to my mind. As many spiritual folks know, Mother Nature cares little about the silly thoughts of man in regards to dominance and the majority of adepts realize that witchcraft is a constantly changing mystical spiritual path, which cannot realistically be contained and/or defined by a man-made religion.
And so I moved on in my growth and over the years have contributed in my small way to those on the Neo Pagan path who, like me, were looking for more than what was offered by such a group. When I look back, I am very confident that I made the right choice in regards to my personal path.
If one were to make a pragmatic assessment of the Neo Pagan community as inspired by the creation of Wicca, there are several factors of note that stand out. One is the absence of growth in regards to the understanding and expansion of the mystical arts. The plethora of basic knowledge which defines Neo Paganism and which a farm child learns at a very young age, has changed very little over the last 30 years or so. Another point is the misnomer that a man could create a religion using bits of this and bits of that belief system to create a umbrella group under which all mystical paths are said to come together as one massive mystical/spiritual community.
These days there are a multitude of so-called paths based on little more than superficial knowledge and a desire to be different. The many claims of someone who had a great-great aunt who did a candle spell, thus making the descendant a natural witch, have all but fallen silent. The reality is that witchcraft is a daily lifestyle that requires searching and learning in a daily life of discovery. It was never meant to be a platform for social gatherings where folks can superficially engage for the duration of the brief gathering, only to return to their everyday mindsets which have more to do with acquiring material gains than spiritual gains.
And in general this is what Neo Paganism has come to represent to my mind. This is not to say that adherents of Neo Paganism should be dismissed as serious students of the mystical arts. Or that Neo Paganism is without its merits. But there are some barriers that need to be overcome for such a nebulous community to gain validity within its own ranks.
The first in my personal opinion is the arrogant mindset that everyone becomes an adept/master after reading a Cunningham book or two. By starting out as an elitist movement, Wicca/Neo Paganism failed to accept the reality that there are in fact many established paths around the world that are not Neo Pagan and that these ancient and ongoing communities could possibly offer knowledge and guidance that is not found within the ranks of Neo Paganism.
If folks who identify as Neo Pagans want to be seen as more than just a footnote in the annals of social mores, such as the Beatnik and Hippy movements, than perhaps some genuine effort at establishing some substance and direction in what it is that defines Neo Paganism might be in order. Simply creating fancy sounding names and a plethora of so-called paths is confusing, not only to those seeking a mystical path of value, but also to those outsiders who see such a movement as simply a bright and shiny reaction to more established religious/mystical paths.
In closing, there is an adage that genuine witchcraft is not for everyone. And so perhaps Neo Paganism is meant to serve as a steppingstone to more substantive and established paths of the mystical arts. Whatever turn Neo Paganism eventually takes, at the end of the day, it is what it is…
Location: Manheim, Pennsylvania
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