Tuesday, August 31, 2010

People find spirituality outside the mainstream

People find spirituality outside the mainstream

 Traditional churches just one way we seek out answers, say experts

By Walter Cordery, The Daily News

Bob Lane believes people are searching for more than traditional answers to their spiritual needs.
Canadians are more often looking away from traditional western religions to fulfill those needs.
Lane understands why events like Saturday's Pagan Pride Day are attracting more and more people every year and why a growing number of young people are not attending traditional churches.
Rev. Brian Evans of St. Paul's Anglican Church can't put his finger on why, but agrees a growing number of people in British Columbia are looking elsewhere for spiritual fulfilment.

"All the indicators tell us that we (B.C.) have the highest percentage of people in North America who do not participate in traditional Christian Church practices," Evans said.

Statistics Canada calls the number of people attending traditional church service "religiosity" and in Canada low levels of religiosity are most prevalent in British Columbia. But Lane, a former Vancouver Island University philosophy and religious studies professor, said that doesn't stop people from seeking spiritual fulfilment in their lives.

People have always "had a hunger for some understanding of who they are, why they are here and what it is all about," said Lane.

Kam Abbott, a Wiccan priest with Nanaimo's Temple of the Green Cauldron, said the number of those seeking answers who have turned to Earth-based religions, like Wicca, have grown immensely.
"The pagan community encompasses all the other subgroups in the area, like Shinto and Wiccan, there's about 1,000 people now," he said.

"In our view, pagan means anybody who is not Christian, Muslim or Jewish. We are definitely growing, there are Wiccan churches and temples springing up all over the Island."

Lane is not surprised that new generations are seeking new answers. Regardless of the religious dogma, many people need spirituality in their lives.

"There are people looking for spiritual growth in their lives, but not necessarily religion," said Evans.
Today's easy travel to other areas and the popularity of the Internet have opened up new paths for those seeking spiritual fulfilment to travel, said Abbott and Wiccan priestess Sally Kimber.

Now in its sixth year, Nanaimo Pagan Pride Day continues to reflect a growing pagan community on central Vancouver Island and across North America.

"The growing numbers are no surprise," said Abbott. "Earth-based religions are just that. We hold the Earth as something sacred and as something that should be protected. With recent environmental catastrophes such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, global climate change, the Great Pacific garbage patch and dozens of others in the media recently, consciousness has been shifting towards the impact we have on this fragile sacred sphere we all share."

Paganism, say both Abbott and Kimber, represents a tangible belief that people can touch and feel.
"I think there are a lot of confused and frightened people out there and they are searching for something real that they can believe in," said Kimber.
"We live in complicated times and for some people it makes sense for them to revert back to something that is simple and Earth-based."

Evans understands some peoples' need to look outside the scriptures to seek spiritual fulfilment but is confident that the "Christian" way is the way most people will find it.

"There are people looking for spiritual growth in their lives, but not necessarily that of traditional religion," he said.

Evans said the broadening of peoples' perspectives through travel and the Internet has many former churchgoers looking elsewhere.

"It's a much more inclusive world than it used to be and I believe that is one of the biggest challenges facing traditional Christian churches."

Abbott said people are realizing that they are one with nature.

"This is something that Earth-based, or pagan religions, have always held as one of their highest moral priorities. But for pagans, that moral is interwoven with our spiritual practice," he said.
For Lane, spirituality is not "that complicated, really."

Understanding the need for people to work together and believing in a common outcome is as simple as looking at a sports team like the Vancouver Island Raiders.

The root of spirituality is spirit, Lane said, and it can be equated to "team spirit," like that of the Raiders and the Nanaimo Clippers.

"People need to connect with something that's more than the individual. Some reach out to sacred text that has a vocabulary they are familiar with," he said.

"But you can't measure the Raiders' team spirit, in real terms, except by their play. And you can't measure an individual's spirituality except by his or her play and what they do in their lives."

Regardless of affiliation -- whether Christian or pagan -- rituals play an important part in peoples' lives. It could be the pagan worshipping the sun as it rises on the solstice or the Catholic taking communion and symbolically partaking of the body and blood of Christ, said Lane.

"What makes them more powerful, regardless of religion, is that they are done in a group rather than by just an individual," he said.


British Columbians are the least likely in Canada to be religious, numbers from Statistics Canada suggest.
Canada: 2004 -- 19% of the population had no religious affiliation and 25% had an affiliation but did not attend religious services
B.C.: 2004 -- 36% had no religious affiliation and 21% had an affiliation but did not attend religious services.

Original Post

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Theurgy and Drawing Down the Moon: Theurgicon 2010

Theurgy and Drawing Down the Moon: Theurgicon 2010  

Theurgy is the late Classical Neoplatonic practice whose closest modern equivalent is Drawing Down the Moon.  In both cases the practitioner achieves temporary unity with a deity, and is to some degree transformed in the process.  These similarities, along with some others, are the reason why some investigators of our history argue that Wicca's earliest major roots lie not in Celtic Britain or stone age Europe but in late Classical times.  

On  Saturday August 28 a number of experienced Pagans will be presenting Theurgicon in Berkeley, California.  

Tony Mierzwiki will give a talk on  Hermeticism followed by Brandy Williams on the Chaldean Oracles in the Western Mystery Tradition. Don Frew will present on Neoplatonism and Wicca today, Diana Young on the Nexus of Mystic and Magus and Sam Webster on Theurgy in our community.  Details of these presentations can be seen here

If you are able to attend and are interested in how contemporary Paganism may owe an enormous debt to our late Classical ancestors, and can still learn from them, you might think about attending.  Barring the unexpected I'll be there for sure.

Original Article



Witchcraft is not mindless hogwash but a study of ancient cultures

Magic has a strange aura. The mind finds it difficult to either wholeheartedly trust or absolutely discard something that it cannot quite comprehend. So magic remains as an afterthought in an urban existence defined by reason. It may suddenly rear its head on an innocent Sunday morning. From the interiors of a posh flat in South Calcutta may emerge a witch, not riding a broom but approaching the sofa with a hospitable smile.
But Ipsita Roy-Chakraverti, the “beloved witch”, seemed grounded more in reality than in magic. She is the first and the most well-known exponent of Wicca or witchcraft in India. Contrary to popular perception, Wicca is not mindless mumbo-jumbo but a spiritual order and a branch of study rooted in the esoteric cultures of ancient civilizations. Ipsita calls it “a study of comparative belief systems”. It includes various pagan beliefs existent before institutionalized religions took over. Ipsita says it is a way of life rather than a religion. “Wicca” means “the craft of the wise”. Ipsita’s achievement lies in bringing Wicca to the Indian diaspora and connecting it to ancient beliefs of India such as Tantra and Dakini Vidya.

Ipsita has set up a learning centre for witchcraft called the Wiccan Brigade, but has not made it a registered academy as she did not want to “institutionalize” it too much. Nevertheless, there are certain screening procedures and criteria for admission that are not very different from those in a formal institution. Ipsita said she would look for a spiritual and academic interest in Wicca and not just “thrill and curiosity” while judging an applicant: “Intelligence is a must as Wicca is a cerebral branch of learning.”
But what is surprising is that in today’s remote-controlled civilization, a quest for the unknown still thrives: something as elusive as witchcraft draws corporate professionals, journalists and lawyers. For the members of the Wiccan Brigade witchcraft is a “genuine quest”, Ipsita says. “It is a necessity in this day and age as the world has become hard and cynical and religions have become too politicized... witchcraft could give people solace.”

However, if one looked around, witchcraft is not just a source of solace but also a raging fashion statement for urban young people, especially in the West. Many a teenage girl would call herself a ‘witch’ just for fun. J.K. Rowling has made being a witch quite intriguing already. In this “hard and cynical” world, everything sells if packaged in the right way.

Ipsita finds such tendencies frivolous and far away from what she and her Wiccan Brigade represent. When I mentioned the Harry Potter movies, she said with a tinkling laugh, “I can only say that I was here before Harry Potter.” But she added that Harry Potter has served to free the word ‘witch’ of its long-standing sinister connotation to a certain extent. And so has Ipsita. “When I started in 1987 in Calcutta, ‘witch’ used to be a bad word, an abusive expression,” she said. She went on to recount how she has struggled lifelong to remove the stigma attached to the word. In the process she has had to face “brickbats”, often quite literally. But Ipsita’s success in this context is limited only to a section of the urban populace. In Indian villages, ‘witch’ is not only a “bad” but also a dangerous word. Even in the city, a witch is generally that evil woman who has stolen one’s husband.

How did the word ‘witch’ acquire a sinister ring and the worshipper of Goddess Diana become the ‘daiyen’ or ‘daini’? Ipsita said it was because of the marginalization of pagan cultures by mainstream religions. “This battle was a gendered one as well,” she added. Witchcraft has feminist tendencies as witches were the “worshippers of the mother goddess”, while conventional religions promoted patriarchy.
Ipsita’s website states that a witch is “somebody who is wise”. How does one define wisdom? “I have been a sceptic and yet after years of research into the unexplained, I am now a believer who has found many a proof,” she says.

Only, as an incorrigible sceptic, I tend to feel that wisdom lies in not accepting any evidence as absolute.

Original Article