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A BOOK OF PAGAN RiTUALS
By Herman Slater
Samuel Weiser, Inc.Copyright © 1978 Samuel Weiser, Inc.
All rights reserved.
BASIC PAGAN RITUALS
Introduction to Paganism
"Paganism? What's it all about?"
This question is being heard more frequently, here and abroad — for something very different has been quietly appearing on today's scene.
There are a lot of problems in the world today — wars, pollution, repression by one side or another, technology and commercialism gone mad, and far, far too many people. And it's getting worse.
What has caused the cascading insanity that we see around us? More importantly, what can we grasp onto which is secure and worth believing?
Some of us think we know why this has all happened; if you're interested and concerned, you, too, may eventually realize why things have turned out this way. (More on this subject later).
The important thing is to get back, in some small way, to the mental and spiritual outlook which can make this nightmare world, and all its problems, quite unnecessary.
It can be done — our distant ancestors knew how. They knew how to live with nature, to understand the reasons behind it. They had a basic knowledge of the balance which is a part of everything — something we have lost in the centuries and millenia that have passed.
But not lost irretrievably, for it is with us again. It is a faith and a way of living.
It is Paganism.
Paganism is returning to the world!
Really, though, it had never left — for folk beliefs and the ancient Witch cult have always been with us. But for the past several centuries folk wisdom was given a Christian overlay and largely ignored; the Witches, with their age-old lore, were forced underground by persecution — with much loss to the common man.
Now the established major religions are greatly weakened and tottering, their foundations largely destroyed by a rapidly changing world. Their efforts to adjust and alter, to "keep step with the times," have only weakened them further. Only the prop of being socially convenient has kept the churches from total collapse. And the structure of society itself is weakening, with "social convenience" having less and less power as a new generation increasingly scorns that which is useless and irrelevant.
Science itself, starting with Galileo and others as a reaction to a stale and oppressive religious establishment, seems to have reached a plateau in its discoveries. New research has become increasingly expensive, and the feeling is growing that the results gained are now justifying less and less of the cost put into them. Political pressures fashion the wonders of science into weapons which are both cruel and fearsome. Commercialism, in its mindless striving for money, has managed to prostitute the finest technical developments and with their wastes to pollute much of what still remains of the natural world.
Politics has reached a similar impasse. Both Marxism and Capitalism were created using the precepts of Christianity, and thus both suffer from the same weaknesses as their parent: inflexibility, dogma, intolerance and hypocrisy. Those who have lived under both systems say that Marxism is considerably more drab and mechanistic than its rival. Thus we can expect that the current intellectual fashions tending toward Marx will ultimately be halted by the dull, hard wall of reality.
But then — where else will there be to go?
The answer lies deep within ourselves — where it has always been — and out in the world of nature, where it has long waited.
For the Pagan Way is very close to the soul of humanity; it is a natural belief which sees man as he is, and the world as it is, and seeks to push neither into a preconceived mold. Further, Paganism sees the mystery and richness of nature, and opens the way to an understanding of it which the modern world has overlooked.
The Pagan Way, as it now exists, is based on valid beliefs from the distant past. The present store of rituals and practices has been drawn from ancient sources, restored and updated by scholars from various Pagan groups, existing but never advertised, whose traditions stretch unbroken since far before the dawn of history.
There is much flexibility here, for Paganism is not fixed and dogmatic. There are new adventures of the mind and spirit, for Paganism thrives on joy, beauty and color.
And there is the inspiration of working toward a new world — one totally different from today.
And one far better.
What is Paganism?
Paganism recognizes that throughout all things — from the atom to the universe — there is a duality. Night and day, love and hate—the ancient Oriental concept of Yin and Yang which was long matched by similar concepts in what we now call Europe.
The Pagan realizes that there is no heaven except that which he himself makes, and likewise no hell but that of his own creation.
Most Pagans believe that they have experienced previous lives in previous eras of this world. And they can point to impressive evidence backing them up.
A Pagan refuses to believe that mankind is born innately sinful, and realizes that the concept of "sin" is itself arbitrary and hurtful to human nature.
The Pagan knows that man is not better than woman, nor woman superior to man. What one lacks the other can give, and one cannot be truly alive without the other! There is no greater magic than that of man and woman together.
A Pagan knows that what is called "magic" does truly exist, and it is often worked by those who are in touch with certain forces of the natural world
The Pagan believes that what cannot be seen is of the greatest importance — that much exists of which the present world's science knows little or nothing. And that anyone can experience what is normally considered to be beyond "reality."
Paganism has a deep love for things natural and wild, as it knows that there are many beings which are intelligent and wise — and not all human. Yet they may be met in places of seclusion and wilderness by those who earnestly desire to know them — and it is for this reason that the Pagan does not allow his or her heart and mind to become cluttered by the useless trivia of a commercial-technical society.
A Pagan knows that there are deep forces and tides which underlie all things, and that there exist here on earth infinitely complex multidimensional matrices of living power which are far beyond the capability of a human to understand. That there is intelligence here and the greatest of wisdom — for such has always existed and always will.
The Pagan realizes that mankind has always known of the existence of this Supernal Intelligence, and has called It by thousands of names for tens of thousands of years. That men and women of all eras have drawn strength and power, warmth and security from this source — at times in ways which would seem to transcend reality!
Paganism teaches that the Highest source is both female and male in its aspects and that, though vastly beyond our capacity to understand, we can perceive It — or Them — as individuals, or as Goddess and God to whom we can speak, and receive answers.
The Pagan knows that over the past two or three thousand years humankind has stressed a narrow portion of the God in his religions and ignored or denied the role of the Goddess — with the result that history has come to be a chronicle of disasters. A balance is needed, with perhaps a greater stress on the Goddess (right now) in Her many aspects, to restore peace and to assure a meaningful survival of ourselves and our descendants.
This is Paganism!
* * *
We're of the old religion, sired of Time, and born of our beloved Earth Mother. For too long the people have trodden a stony path that goes only onward beneath a sky that goes only upwards. The Horned God plays in a lonely glade, alone, for the people are scattered in this barren age, and the winds carry his plaintive notes over deserted heaths and reedy moors and into the lonely grasses! Who knows now the ancient tongue of the Moon? And who speaks still with the Goddess? The magic of the land of Linen and the old pagan gods have withered in the dragon's breath; the old ways of magic have slipped into the well of the past, and only the rocks now remember what the moon told us long ago, and what we learned from the trees, and the voices of the grasses and the scents of flowers.
We're pagans and we worship the pagan gods, and among the people there are witches yet who speak with the moon and dance with the Horned One. But a witch is a rare pagan in these days, deep and inscrutable, recognisable only by her own kind — by the light in her eyes and the love in her breast, by the magic in her hands and the lilt of her tongue and by her knowledge of the real.
The Wiccan way is one path. There are many; there are pagans the world over who worship the Earth Mother and the Sky Father, the Rain God and the Rainbow Goddess, and the Little People in the mists on the other side of the vale. A pagan is one who worships the goddesses and gods of nature, whether by observation or by study, whether by love or admiration, or whether in their sacred rites with the Moon, or the great festivals of the Sun.
Many suns ago, as the pale dawn of reason crept across the pagan sky, man grew out of believing in the gods ... he has yet to grow out of disbelieving in them. He who splits the Goddess on an existence-nonexistence dichotomy will earn himself only paradoxes, for the gods are not so divided and neither are the lands of the Brother of Time. Does a mind exist? Ask her and she will tell you yes, but seek her out, and shell elude you. She is in every place, and in no place, and you'll see her works in all places, but herself in none. Existence was the second-born from the Mother's womb and contains neither the first-born nor the unborn. Show us your mind, and we'll show you the gods! No matter that you can't, for we can't show you the gods. But come with us and the Goddess herself will be our love and the God will call the tune. A brass penny for your reason! For logic is a closed ring, and the child doesn't validate the Mother, nor the dream the Dreamer. And what matter the wars of opposites to she who has fallen in love with a whirlwind, or to the lover of the arching rainbow?
But tell us of your Goddess as you love her and the gods that guide your works and we'll listen with wonder, for to do less would be arrogant. But we'll do more; for the heart of man is aching for memories only half forgotten, and the Old Ones, only half unseen. We'll write the old myths as they were always written, and we'll read them on the rocks and in the caves and in the deep of the greenwood's shade, and we'll hear them in the rippling mountain streams and in the rustling of the leaves, and we'll see them in the storm clouds, and in the evening mists. We've no wish to create a new religion ... for our religion is as old as the hills and older, and we've no wish to bring differences together. Differences are like different flowers in a meadow, and we are all one in the Mother.
What need is there for a pagan movement, since our religion has no teachings and we hear it in the wind and feel it in the stones and the moon will dance with us as she will? There is a need. For long the Divider has been among our people, and the tribes are no more. The sons of the Sky Father have all but conquered nature, but they have poisoned her breast and the Mother is sad ... for the songbirds, the fish, and the butterflies are dying. And the night draws on. A curse on the conquerors! But not of us, for they curse themselves ... for they are of nature, too. They have stolen our magic and sold out to the mindbenders and the mindbenders tramp a maze that has no outlet ... for they fear to go down into the dark waters, and they fear the real for the One who guards the path.
Where are the pagan shrines? And where do the people gather? Where is the magic made? And where are the Goddess and the Old Ones? Our shrines are in the fields and on the mountains, and in the stars, the wind, deep in the greenwood and on the algal rocks where two streams meet. But the shrines are deserted, and if we gathered in the arms of the Moon for our ancient rites to be with our gods as we were of old we would be stopped by the dead who now rule the Mother's land and claim rights of ownership on the Mother's breast, and make laws of division and frustration for us. We can no longer gather with the gods in a public place and the old rites of communion have been driven from the towns and cities ever deeper into the heath where barely a handful of heathens have remained to guard the old secrets and enact the old rites. There is magic in the heath far from the cold grey society, and there are islands of magic hidden in the entrails of the metropoles behind closed doors. But the people are few, and the barriers between us are formidable. The Old Religion has become a dark way; obscure, and hidden in the protective bosom of the night. Thin fingers turn the pages of a book of shadows while the sunshine seeks in vain his worshippers in his leafy glades.
Here, then, is the basic reason for a Pagan Way; we must create a pagan society wherein everyone shall be free to worship the goddesses and gods of nature. The relationship between a worshipper and her gods shall be sacred and inviolable, provided only that in the love of one's own gods, one does not curse the names of the gods of others.
It's not yet our business to press the law-makers with undivided endeavor to unmake the laws of repression and, with the Mother's love, it may never become our business ... for the stifling tides of dogmatism are at last in ebb. Our first work and our greatest wish is to come together, to be with each other in our tribes ... for we haven't yet grown from the Mother's breast to the stature of gods. We're of the earth, and kin to all the children and impoverished of the old genetic pool. The Red Child lives yet in America; the old Australians are still with their nature gods; the Black Child has not forsaken the gods; the Old Ones still live deep in the heart of Mother India, and the White Child has still a foot on the old Wiccan way; but Neanderthaler is no more and her magic faded as the Lli and the Archan burst their banks and the ocean flowed in to divide the isle of Erin from the Land of the White Goddess.
Man looked with one eye on a two-faced god when he reached for the heavens and scorned the Earth which alone is our life and our provider and the bosom to which we have ever returned since the dawn of time. He who looks only to reason to plumb the unfathomable is a fool, for logic is an echo already implicit in the question, and it has no voice of its own; but he is no greater fool than he who scorns logic or derides its impotence from afar ... and fears to engage in fair combat when he stands upon opponent's threshold. Don't turn your back on Reason, for his thrust is deadly; but confound him and he'll yield ... for his code of combat is honorable. So here is more of the work of Paganism. Our lore has become encrusted over the ages with occult trivia and the empty vaporings of the lost. The occult arts are in a state of extreme decadence; alien creeds oust our native arts and, being as little understood as our own forgotten arts, are just as futile for their lack of understanding, and more so for their unfamiliarity. Misunderstanding is rife. Disbelief is black on every horizon, and vampires abound on the blood of the credulous. Our work is to reject the trivial, the irrelevant and the erroneous, and to bring the lost children of the Earth Mother again into the court of the Sky Father where reason alone will prevail. Belief is the deceit of the credulous; it has no place in the heart of a pagan.
But while we are sad for those who are bemused by Reason, we are deadened by those who see no further than his syllogisms as he turns the eternal wheel of the Great Tautology. We are not fashioned in the mathematician's computations, and we were old when the first alchemist was a child. We have walked in the magic forest, bewitched in the old Green Things; we have seen the cauldron and the one become many and the many in the one; we know the Silver Maid of the moonlight and the sounds of the cloven feet. We have heard the pipes on the twilight ferns, and we have seen the spells of the Enchantress, and Time stilled. We have been into the eternal darkness where the Night Mare rides and rode her to the edge of the Abyss and beyond, and we know the dark face of the Rising Sun. Spin a spell of words and make a magic knot; spin it on the magic loom and spin it with the gods. Say it in the old chant and say it to the Goddess, and in her name. Say it to a dark well and breathe it on a stone. There are no signposts on the untrod way, but we will make our rituals together and bring them as our gifts to the Goddess and her God in the great rites.
Excerpted from A BOOK OF PAGAN RiTUALS by Herman Slater. Copyright © 1978 Samuel Weiser, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Samuel Weiser, Inc..
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