The Curious Theologies of Neo-Paganism

After reading “Paganism in Depth: A Polytheist Approach” by John Beckett, I felt unsettled. His books and blog are well-received by Neo-Pagans. So why was I feeling empty after reading the book? I believe that was unsettling to me was that Beckett places the Neo-Pagan in the center of the Cosmos. I interpreted this to mean that they are separate from the ecosystem of the Cosmos, entering and exiting at will.

Beckett (Note) writes for these Neo-pagans on how to deepen what individual practice they may devise. He says, “All of us start with our foundations. Our experiences lead to belief as we try to interpret what happened to us. Our beliefs lead to practice as we try to implement our understanding and as well, we try to re-create our experiences. Practice leads to more experience. This becomes a virtuous circle that draws us into deeper understanding, deeper practice and stronger experiences.”

Tara Burton in her book, “Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World,” assesses Neo-Paganism of today. According to Burton, people of these new religions follow the Doctrine of Emotional Authenticity: What matters the most is the personal experience. She asserts that, “the world view of Paganism is the promise of personal and political empowerment through untraditional and literally unorthodox avenues.” Beckett, in his statements, exemplifies that.

Neo-Paganism began as intensely political acts of resisting the mainstream culture. Neo-Pagan “Resistance” meant rejecting Christianity and its institutions. They decried how Christianity re-enforces the patriarchy. However, Neo-paganism is tied to Christianity, since they define themselves in regard to that religion.

Neo-Pagans continue to “resist” Christianity, while remaining steeped in the political culture of Neo-Liberalism. They rebel against the status quo while fighting to preserve it. Beckett and others stress self-sovereignty which has a political and class bias. The idea of a person as “Captain of their fate,” is an upper-class Neo-Liberal idea. Self-sovereignty can devolve into self-indulgence since the person is the hub of the wheel. The corporate mainstream culture is embedded in the religion of Neo-Paganism. For example, they buy products that support their causes, which the corporations’ market to them.

Burton observes that the aim of the Neo-Pagans is, “the new world that will inevitably arise from the ashes of a patriarchal, racist, homophobic, repressive Christian society will be infinitely better, fairer, and more loving than what has come before. The Remixed faith in individual human potential, and in the potential of human beings to rewrite their relationships to one another and to their communities is here extended to the world at large.”

Through their magic and beliefs, Neo-Pagans believe that they can create the new world. However, modern secular society holds those values already. Human potential is the focus of the mainstream society, with an emphasis on self-help.

Burton notes, “But if these ideologies are to survive, they will need to take on a more formal shape. They need to become not merely religious sentiments or implicit theologies, but ironically institutions withstanding the weight of internal dissent and providing a unified from against more established spiritual rivals… provide a sufficiently strong narrative that offer a robust sense of not only meaning and purpose but also ritual and community.”

Notes:
Note. Beckett identifies himself as a “Pagan, Druid, and Unitarian Universalist.”

Prayer Beads: Meditations on the Elements

Reflecting on the elements helps people to be a fuller part of the world. It can help to restore a person to wholeness. The following is how to use prayer beads in these meditations.

Materials:

Charms:
Tree of Life, large: 1
Tree of life, small: 6
Medallion of Stars: 1

Beads:
Clear quartz: 5
Amazonite or blue lace agate: 5
Carnelian: 5
Picture jasper: 5
Labradorite: 5

Pattern:

Tree of Life, large
Tree of life, small
Clear quartz: 5
Tree of life, small
Amazonite: 5
Tree of life, small
Carnelian: 5
Tree of life, small
Picture jasper: 5
Tree of life, small
Labradorite: 5
Tree of life, small
Medallion of stars

Prayers:

Tree of life, large:
May The Air blow to All with inspiration
May The Water flow to All with cleansing
May The Fire warm All with courage
May The Earth shelter All with love
May The Spirit embrace All with wholeness

Tree of life, small:
May the elements flow together in harmony
May They join as one in the Spirit

Clear quartz:
I sing of The Air of the Elements
May The Air blow change
May The Air blow dreams
May The Air blow wisdom
May The Air blow purpose

Amazonite:
I sing of The Water of the Elements
May from The Water, flow healing
May from The Water, flow peace
May from The Water, flow love
May from The Water, flow serenity

Carnelian:
I sing of The Fire of the Elements
May The Fire burn cleansing
May The Fire burn creation
May The Fire burn intuition
May The Fire burn excitement

Picture jasper:
I sing of The Earth of the Elements
May The Earth bring steadiness
May The Earth bring nurturing
May The Earth bring abundance
May The Earth bring rootedness

Labradorite:
“The Spirit above me
The Spirit below me
The Spirit before me
The Spirit behind me
The Spirit all around me”
(“The Spirit All Around Me” from the album “She Changes” by Moving Breath)

Medallion of Stars:
The Air, The Water, The Fire, The Earth
May The Elements flow together in harmony
May The Elements flow into The Spirit
From which all harmony comes
The Cosmos, all things seen and unseen

Astrology: Sun, Moon, and Mercury

The Sun and the Moon have a greater influence on the natal chart than do the other “planets.” Both heavenly bodies have been constant companions of humans. Without them, the Earth would not exist as it is. The Sun and the Moon are called luminaries, since they are the source of light for the Earth.

The Sun is the center of the solar system around which all the planets revolve. Moreover, this star is the organizing principle of the solar system. The focus of the moment where a person exists is determined by the Sun. Not only that, the Sun is also the center of life. By offering warmth and light, the Sun enlivens the Earth. The Sun can be thought of as the tap root of the Self.

The waxing and waning of the Moon mark the passage of time. The closeness of the Moon to the Earth allows its gravity to control the tides. The Moon governs the ebbs and flows of the personality. Besides the tides of women’s fertility, the Moon governs the tides of the Self.

I have the Sun, Moon, and Mercury in Virgo. Having all three in one Sign gives me the strong qualities of a Virgo, both bad and good. Since I have a strong need for order, I keep a tidy home. I dislike visual chaos. Even with my brain injury, I still feel the need to be of use. I have the tendency to see the flaws in everything that I do. To counter that, I give myself a pep talk about how good I am from time to time.

If the Moon is the tides, the Mercury is the wind. The air of Mercury brings flexibility and clarity of thought. The one of two homes for Mercury is Virgo, my Natal Sign. This means for me, Mercury and Virgo are companionable. They work in harmony transforming chaos into order. The shadow of this combination is being too critical of everyone and everything. I embody both of these qualities. It is a balancing act for me. I also keenly feel it when Mercury goes into Retrograde.

Works Used:
Edington, Louise, “The Complete Guide to Astrology.” Rockridge Press: Emeryville (CA). 2020.
Freed Jennifer, “Use Your Planets Wisely.” Sounds True: Boulder (CO). 2020.

Herring, Amy, “Astrology of the Moon.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2018.
Herring Amy, “Essential Astrology.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2016.

Little Known Methods of Prayer

Many Western Polytheists are converts from monotheistic faiths, therefore the subject of prayer is a thorny one. Since prayer is an important part of Polytheistic devotions, there are ways to circumvent that reluctance. Because prayer is basic to conversing with the Gods, it comes in many forms. Some of which were employed by ancient Polytheists but have been ignored by modern people.

One type is the “Prayer of Lament.” This prayer can be used when a person is in deep pain or grief. It is a cry from the heart to the Gods. An example of this is the “Lament for Ur”, an ancient litany about the destruction of that Sumerian city. From the lament, “O Enlil! What has my city done to You? Why have You turned away from it?”

The structure of the Prayer of Lament:

  1. Address the God. Call upon the Holy Power.
  2. Complaint. Describe in detail, your grief.
  3. Affirmation of Trust. How did the God help you on other occasions?
  4. Petition. Say what you want to happen.
  5. Assurance of Being Heard. What do you need from the God to be acknowledged?
  6. Vow of Praise. For having your lament addressed, what do you offer in return?
  7. Hymn of Blessing. Sing a word of praise about the God.

Another type of prayer is the “Abecedary,” which was used until the end of the Middle Ages. The principles behind this form of prayer is that every letter of the alphabet has spiritual significance. The order of the alphabet is divinely ordained. When Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” He was referring to the mystical powers of the alphabet.

An Abecedary is a work of prose or poetry. It can be a method of communicating with the Gods or creating magic. (Think of the Norse Runes and their usages.) Using the successive letters of the alphabet, the Abecedary sings of the God. It can be as long or as short as a person wants. For example a letter can spark an entire paragraph of spiritual writing.

An example:
For Neptune, God of the Waters
A is for the abundant water of the world.
B is for the bounty of fish that You provide.

Z is for the zest of the life-giving waters.

Praying in “Mystical languages” (Note) is a third way to communicate with the Gods. It is how to have the God inside your person. According to alchemists, “The Language of the Birds” is believed to be the language of the Gods since the birds are from the heaven. John Dee, the famous magician, with Edward Kelly invented Enochian as “celestial speech.” They received visions from angels who told them the script. Dee said that Enochian was the language used by God to create the world.

A modern example using a mystical language is the song “Now We Are Free” by Lisa Gerrad and Hans Zimmer for the movie “Gladiator” (2000). Lisa Gerrad said, “I sing in the language of the Heart. It’s an invented language that I’ve had for a very long time. I believe I started singing in it when I was about 12. Roughly that time. And I believed I was speaking to God when I sang in that language.”

Note: This is glossolalia or the speaking of tongues

Suggested Reading:
Dr. Raymond Moody, “Making Sense of Nonsense”
Christine Valters Paintner, “Earth, Our Original Monastery”
Paintner, “Lectio Divina: The Sacred Art”

Prayer Beads: The Nine Muses

The Nine Muses inspire artists, philosophers and others in creating their works. Prayers to the Muses will bring the fire of creation to those who ask.

Materials:

Charms
Cameo 1
Goddess 1
Flowers 10

For the Muses:
Stylist or pen for Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry
Book for Clio, Muse of History
Musical Note or Clef for Euterpe, Muse of Music
Dancer for Terpsichore, Muse of Dance
Comic Mask for Thalia, Muse of Comedy
Tragic Mask for Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy
Lyre for Erato, Muse of Love Poetry
Geometric shape for Polyhymnia, Music of Sacred Poetry and Hymns
Stars for Urania, Muse of Astronomy

Beads:
Black 4
Purple 4
Lavender 4
Rose 4
Yellow 4
Red 4
Orange 4
Teal 4
Blue 4

Pattern:

Cameo
Flower
2 black beads, stylist, 2 black beads
Flower
2 purple beads, book, 2 purple beads
Flower
2 lavender beads, musical note, 2 lavender beads
Flower
2 rose beads, dancer, 2 rose beads
Flower
2 yellow beads, comic mask, 2 yellow beads
Flower
2 red beads, tragic mask, 2 red beads
Flower
2 orange beads, lyre, 2 orange beads
Flower
2 teal beads, geometric shape, 2 teal beads
Flower
2 blue beads, stars, 2 blue beads
Flower
Goddess

Prayers:

Cameo:
I sing of the Muses, born of Mnemosyne, taught by Apollo
I sing of They who inspire the People

Flower:
Sing to me, O Muse

Black beads: I sing of Calliope, blessed Muse
Stylist: Calliope inspire in me, heroic epics, Sing to me, O Calliope.

Purple beads: I sing of Clio, blessed Muse
Book: Clio inspire in me, true records, Sing to me, O Clio.

Lavender beads: I sing of Euterpe, blessed Muse
Musical note: Euterpe inspire in me, sweet music, Sing to me, O Euterpe.

Rose beads: I sing of Terpsichore, blessed Muse
Dancer: Terpsichore inspire in me, graceful movement, Sing to me, O Terpsichore.

Yellow beads: I sing of Thalia, blessed Muse
Comic mask: Thalia inspire in me, laughter, Sing to me, O Thalia.

Red beads: I sing of Melpomene, blessed Muse
Tragic mask: Melpomene inspire in me, tears, Sing to me, O Melpomene.

Orange beads: I sing of Erato, blessed Muse
Lyre: Erato inspire in me, pleasing poems, Sing to me, O Erato.

Teal beads: I sing of Polyhymnia, blessed Muse
Geometric shape: Polyhymnia inspire in me, pleasing hymns, Sing to me, O Polyhymnia.

Blue beads: I sing of Urania, blessed Muse
Stars: Urania, inspire in me, heavenly awe, Sing to me, Urania.

Goddess: I thank the Muses, born of grace and fire, for my creation. I thank Those who inspire the People.