The Nature Of Sacrilege
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Article ID: 5343
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,096
Times Read: 3,702
Posted: February 1st. 2003
Times Viewed: 3,702
(written in response to the Vox's request for writers to submit articles re: the 'what is holy' theme after 9-11)
This is such a heady subject and so open to interpretation and misinterpretation that we will spend some time on definitions.
Perhaps just as all words undergo an evolution over any considerable period of time some of the words we use here will evolve in our minds during our perception of this article. The point of this article is the interpretation of sacrilege, the definition that is used by the Pagan community as a whole and by Wiccans in particular, both as a whole and also by each practitioner as an individual. The influence that we choose to exert is a powerful thing; the words we'll look at here go back to our understanding of "good and evil" with what is beneficial generally being thought to be good and what is harmful thought to be evil. To the mundane this would seem to suffice; however, the primary meaning of the word "Occult" is "beyond the range of ordinary knowledge, " so lets go for it shall we? The purpose of this article is to attempt a reconciliation of precepts with each other, not to incite still greater separation, so let's not get riled up, just yet! That wonderful Witch, the Lady Sheba, said in the introduction to her Grimoire of Lady Sheba: "Remember, there are as many pathways to God as there are the breaths of men, each human being traveling the best way he knows back to God." If there are those among us that place value on the teachings of Christ we can remember that "Jesus came not to destroy but to fulfill" and that "God is Love". Most historical scholars would agree a discussion of language that does not include the origins of words is almost superfluous. This may be especially true here because the creators of the English language the way it is now used came from entirely monotheistic backgrounds and most of them, in fact, are from Judeo-Christian ones. On an inter-personal level, language has always been an expression that focuses on attempting to communicate interpretations of thought. One problem, as I see it, is that the recipient might understand the expression in a way that is different than the person doing the expressing. It is only through mutual education that all parties concerned can be assured of communication instead of miscommunication.
On a personal level, it is only through relating the outcomes of the past experiences we may have had to the present reality that we are able to predict the possible outcomes of actions we may make in response to the choices we are faced with. We are born with only the limited individual understanding that is present in our DNA; it is only because of this set of genetically encoded instructions that our brains tell us to begin drawing air into our lungs. It is when we receive the feelings of security and nourishment that answered our cries of hunger before that first visit to our mother's breast that we begin to realize that there are consequences to our actions. Sigmund Freud developed this train of thought to a greater extent than is necessary for purposes of this discussion with his concept involving an inverted pyramid of understanding. For our purposes it is only necessary to agree that this concept extends to language as well as other forms of communication. On a family road trip as a child, before I had learned to read, I asked about the signs alongside the highway and what they did. It was explained to me (in simpler terms) that they contained symbols representing objects, concepts and services and that the interpretation of the symbols brought understanding of what those were.
The understanding we receive when hear or read a word or set of words is contingent, therefore, on what we believe those words to mean and that in turn is a result of the way we have heard them used and in what context, down to the inflection in the voices and the expressions on the faces of the people we have heard use them. Thus, when I first heard the word "Pagan" the connotation and meaning I attached to it was a negative one. The reality, it turns out, is substantially less sinister. However my understanding, or in this case misunderstanding, of the meaning this word was meant to transmit was no less valid to me at the time than my mother's milk that first time. The first time I experienced this concept it became "my Truth" about this word. (Now, lets not confuse "the Truth" with "my Truth;" it was no less valid to me than mom's milk remember.) Some of us believe that Truth is as many faceted as a gem or crystal but still remains one thing. It is the perspective from which we view it that determines our perception. Let's try to keep an "objective perspective" shall we?
We will attempt to educate ourselves today just so that for purposes of this discussion we achieve harmony rather than discord "all on the same page" in a manner of speaking. Just as this principle applies to language so does it apply to any other experience in the universal mind of man. That great Existentialist Ralph Waldo Emerson explored this idea in his history essay; check it out! Paganism is sometimes defined today as the worship of nature and can take many forms (as I'm sure we'll all agree) some of which include: Pantheism (belief that the whole of reality is divine), Polytheism (belief in many Gods or Goddesses) and Animism (belief that the natural features of the world are invested with divine power). For this discourse when I speak of Pagans or Paganism I will be referring to religions of the country that are inclusive of ideas that are not limited to the precepts of the worlds three largest monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). These "big three", as it were, have applied the term Pagan to the indigenous religions they encountered in the course of their expansion and colonialism. (Do I have your attention Native Americans?).
Speaking of definitions, let's explore the word "Pagan" just so that for purposes of this discourse we're in harmony rather than discord. This word comes into the Middle English language from the Late Latin word Paganus, which means country dweller. It is interesting here to note that the Roman armies who invaded the British Isles in the 5th century B.C.E. wore tunics and sandals and marched in the battle formation chosen for them by their generals who in turn followed the protocol set for them by their commander in chief, Julius Caesar. Now, it is a fact that in the Rome of those days there were not a great many thorns, briars, or other bristly plants; because of this, when the Roman armies attempted to proceed with their march of conquest into the highlands they encountered a fierce, aggressive, organized and warlike tribe of people known as the Picts. They were further hindered by the thistles in the country. Because of their choice of battle dress and theretofore-effective battle formation, their effective domination was limited to the lower lands. They could not control the Pagans; because of, and in remembrance of this the Scottish emblem of today includes a thistle. Do we realize that according to these definitions over half the people in the world are of Pagan faith: Buddhists, Hindus and Wiccans of all types just to name a few?
What are we discussing when we speak of the concept of sacred? Let's start in reverse here with an understanding of the word profane because sometimes it's easier to tell what a thing is when you are on the inside looking out. My friend, Mr. Webster puts it this way: Profane1: Not being concerned with religion or religious purposes, secular 2: Not Holy because unconsecrated, impure, or unsanctified 3: Serving to defile what is Holy. Now let's look at another word shall we? Sacred: from the Latin Sancire: to make sacred. (The meaning I get here is that it was not so before, inferring a subjective, personal perception or opinion.) Dedicated or set apart for the worship of the gods as in a tree sacred to the gods (I like that one!).
This is a question of Ethics which comes to us from the Greek ethika, from ethos, meaning "character", "custom" principles or standards of human conduct, sometimes called morals (Latin mores, "customs") and by extension, the study of such principles, sometimes called moral philosophy. Ethics, as a branch of philosophy, is considered a normative science because it is concerned with norms of human conduct, as distinguished from the formal sciences, such as mathematics and logic. This is, as I understand, it a differentiation from the Dharmic belief that the way things are (descriptive law), is inseparable from the way things should be (prescriptive law). A portion of the larger Pagan community might be accepting of each other's beliefs but others are not. I don't really want e-mails from over 700 million Hindus so don't get exited just yet! A good man explained the difference between spirituality and religion to me in a way that made good sense; what he said was: Spirituality is a person's own relationship with the Higher Power of their own understanding. Religion on the other hand, is something we do out of rote or ritual. We do it the same ways that we have seen others have success; it worked for them so we tried it and when it also worked for us we kept doing it that way. One of those things by itself is a very powerful force, but when you put the two together then you have something! The Pictish people and their contemporaries, the Priests and Priestesses of the ancient inhabitants of the lowlands of Gaul and the British Isles, the Druids, practiced a religion they had been comfortable with for many centuries; their "Craft" can be traced in a lineal fashion to the Wicca we practice today. Following the Roman departure in the early 5th century the Saxons became the dominant force in the British Isles; however, they were also soundly defeated by the Pictish warriors in 685 A.C.E. Pictland was not known as Scotland until some centuries after the first cautious invasions in the 6th century by the Scots, Celtic invaders from Northern Ireland. The Picts were sorely tested but managed to resist subjugation by another Pagan people, the ruthless Scandinavian Vikings who had begun to raid the coasts of their southern neighbors around 800 B.C.E. The Picts had a considerable navy with their own well constructed boats very similar to the Norse craft, but repulsed subjugation by the Vikings.
It is true that Witchcraft or Wicca is entirely different from Satanism, which is another myth perpetrated by the new religions. Witches have never believed in Satan or ibis, never have, and never will. The fear of hellfire, coupled with the anger this concept inspired, motivated those hateful acts and I truly believe that the law of three will prevail. Hellfire? Let's explore this concept briefly shall we? It is, and can be a real place right here on earth. Among the ancient Jews Sheol was the place where departed souls were not tortured but wandered around unhappily. The ethical aspect developed gradually and Sheol became like the hell of Christianity. It was called Gehenna in the New Testament which drew its name from the vale or valley of Hinom. This place is a valley W and S of Jerusalem and the Modern Hebrew have built condos on the site. Its ill repute in the Bible stemmed from the worship of and supposed sacrifice of children by the Caananites to their God Molech around 3000 B.C.E. The early Israelites despised the place so much that they formerly used the site for burning garbage. The smoldering refuse coupled with the thoughts of the sacrificed children provided the imagery for a fiery hell in the books of Isaiah and the New Testament. It appears as Jahannam in the Qur'an.
Some of us believe that a perception of truth brings one more in tune with the universe. In the 20th century one of the wisest "people of the country" Mahatma Gandhi referred to this idea throughout his teachings, and it will be necessary to touch back on it later. Most would agree that this was a great man; his steadfast resolve and absolute insistence on Truth not only united the Hindus and Muslims of India who prior to his time had been bitterly divided, but it was also through his teaching of Satyagraha that they together were able to get the colonialist British Empire to abandon India and leave it to the Indians. He said in his autobiography (p.370): "My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth... . The little fleeting glimpses that I have been able to have of Truth can hardly convey an idea of the indescribable luster of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the Sun we see daily with our eyes.
For more on Gandhi and a text of "Satyagraha a force more Powerful than any nuclear weapon" go to http://www.members.tripod.com/knik_alaska/id81_m.htm. For Ahimsa-Truth-God go to www.dlshq.org/teachings/ahimsa.htm.
Wicca, as a word may only have been included in the new English dictionary since 1959, but the concept of the "wise ones" has been with us for many centuries. It has been variously defined as the practice of magic by those outside the mainstream of a society, as a philosophic and spiritual path, as a religion and as the bending of destiny to ones own desires, usually by a person that has knowledge of herbs and healing. There has been talk in the wind lately that leads me to believe that perhaps it may be in order to perform an examination of exactly which society (no pun intended) I should feel outside the mainstream of! It is well perhaps, to remember that those who perpetrated the attack on the World Trade Center and those who have been engaged in deadly struggle over who will have the right to (temporarily) inhabit a particular part of the Middle East are not Pagans. Neither were those who tortured, burned, and drowned thousands of people, mostly innocent young girls, in Europe and on the east coast of the American colonies during the Burning Times of the 5th through the 18th centuries. I find it no less than fascinating that the words witch and victim come from the same Old English and High German origin and mean Holy. The powerful influences felt after a contact with that which is Holy can and do cause a ripple effect that goes into infinity, for once energy is expended it can never be withdrawn; that's why the threefold law (if you let it go it comes back threefold) is held in such reverence. The correct expenditure of energy goes a long way towards healing. Gandhi has left this plane and won't return in his former shape but if the players on the world stage were to take his advice and make it sacred to them then great healing could occur on the earth and, remembering the ripple effect, possibly beyond.
The adherents of the "Big Three" and their descendants have been locked in an endless struggle for dominance since the brothers Isaac and Ishmael were separated because of their father, Abraham's fears. Anger is considered to be a secondary emotion based in fear, which, in turn is a byproduct of guilt. Anyone who has seen brothers fight will attest to the vehemence of the resulting conflict.
The destiny that is made manifest through the application of Magick is not the same as the justification called manifest destiny that was used to rape the American frontier and slaughter the indigenous inhabitants. I do not believe in accidents; many of us that have had the chance to experience control and influence in the mundane sense of those words need only remember the results to remember which affected us more greatly.
The powerful influences felt after a contact with that which is Holy can and do cause a ripple effect that goes into infinity, for once energy is expended it can never be withdrawn; that's why the threefold law is held in such reverence. The correct expenditure of energy goes a long way towards healing. Gandhi has left this plane and won't return in his former shape but if the players on the world stage were to take his advice and make it sacred to them than great healing could occur on the earth and, remembering the ripple effect, possibly beyond.
White Magick is helpful and healing; simply put it is the correct use of influence at the proper point in the cycle of life. "An ye harm none do what ye will" is the ancient guideline that is defined as the Witches Rede or "guiding principle;" one synonym for the word "principle" is fundamental law. We also claim to attain to the law of three and those of us that chose coven affiliation often are called upon to adhere to a covenant or solemn compact. The golden rule, standards of conduct known as virtues, mathematically proven principles such as thermo- and hydrodynamics, even the law of gravity, come to mind when thinking of the ethics of our way of life. For that's what it is, always has been, and always will be. SO MOTE IT BE.
L. Hunter Cahill - The Hunter of White
Location: Anchorage, USA
Bio: Greetings, I am L Hunter Cahill; my Witch name is not spoken. I am of the Pecti- Witan tradition. I have assimilated aspects of Alaskan Native Shamanism. It works for me and according to the Alaskan axiom "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I strongly believe in the ancient Viking ring of troths, the nine virtues. The teachings of Gandhi, Satayagraha, do not conflict with this in that they presuppose the ability to strike, which is withheld upon discretion. I also feel if the players that are now on the world stage were to assimilate his philosophy the problems in the world could be overcome. All facts in this article can be documented (unless expressed as a personal opinion) therefore if you have problems with the content search within your own heart. SO MOTE IT BE.
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