THIRTEEN QUESTIONS, define and describe a pagan.
(homework from a 1984 class)
1. define and describe a pagan.
"For the pagan and primitive peoples whom Jews and Christians alike
have always reviled as idolaters, the moving air, the fire on the
hearth, the rhythm of the seasons, the bird on the wing, the markings
and movements of the beasts, the streaming waters, the circling
stars ... all these, and the works of man's own hand, are alive with
an intelligible presence. They are symbolic doorways that invite the
imagination through to high experience."
"It is necessary to treat the animals well, and to regard all things
as if they were living beings who hear and understand."
MITTALUS SAMID BIRRA
In historic times a pagan would have been any number of peoples wor-
shiping nature gods. This worship seems to have been based in pre-
historic forms of religion including shamanism with a pedigree of it's
oldest forms echoing back more than 30,000 years. Because these
religions were based mostly in tribal cultures emphasizing tradition
rather than sophistication, the sources tend to be entirely oral.
Verbatim memorization, while it's possessors survive, tends to be a
more exact method of transmitting data than holy texts which can (and
have been) altered or completely changed.
With the complete suppression of the tradition, however, knowledge of
paganism has faded to a faint glimmering of references and supposi-
tion. In modern times a pagan would tend to be someone feeling the
lack of purity, lack of originality, lack of rootedness, lack of
foundation in over-theologized religions whose original message has
been overgrown and altered to suit priestly interests, whose leaders'
preachment is motivated often by self-interest and whose 'qualifica-
tions' are primarily glandular and (sick) psychological rather than
The pagans I have met are, in general, more sensitive than normal and
'feel' the world directly, in contrast to this miasmatic culture which
submerges us in 'safe' anonymity, relegating us a guaranteed role as a
consumer unit. The religions that fail to give us more dignity than
that, that fail to foment rebellion against such an insult naturally
lose those more sensitive people. They fail to grant us a path of
rejoining to ourself. A pagan seeks this and it is the very lack of
structure which allows the freedom of thought and feeling and practice
that attracts so many people that have been 'lost' by other religions.
In our 'culture' traditions regarding the manner of living are rele-
gated to the 'ignorant' past and lost. Responding to this need the
neo-pagan will try to re-create a life-enhancing religion open to
individual experience based on whatever gleanings of the ancient forms
are left. Given enough intelligent application and sufficient politi-
cal freedom, a reasonable facsimile, true in spirit and similar in
some forms will evolve. Truly, much of what was lost was priceless
and will never be recovered, but also a great much of what was lost
had decayed beyond recovering so that the last people to suffer under
these benighted superstitions that had once been vital religions,
probably were better off without. We have the opportunity to rebuild,
to renew with vitality, to recover what was good that is still known.
People being what they are, divergence seems to be the rule, yet we
live in a 'global village' and cross-reference and cross-fertilization
is inevitable. It is the talent of wicca to seek that which works and
as we relearn what can create a life that is true to the heart we will
share. Given the degree of computer interconnection in our society,
it would not be surprising that techniques rediscovered in one place
would be known world wide within a season, just by word of computer.
It is a time for hard work for what we do now will be what those who
come after will have to build on. The freedom of choice and associa-
tion and abundance of sources almost guarantees that bull in the name
of the gods will quickly get trashed. It is a time for honesty and
A pagan is a being in a state of becoming.
2. Define and describe a witch.
I would say that a witch is someone belonging to a coven and worship-
ing nature gods. A witch may have special knowledge and powers re-
garding herbal lore, magic, divination, magical flight, separation of
the body and soul, love philters, amulets, exorcism, trance-medium-
ship, hypnosis, communion with god/dess', communication with spirits,
drawing down the Moon, invocation of good and exorcism of evil influ-
ences, and more, perhaps. The means of producing these results may be
in the traditional circle, guided by a priest and priestess, by chant-
ing, drum-beating, dancing, ritual invocation and supplication.
These powers have been supposed to be special wild or inherited tal-
ents to do evil by intention alone (1) but I feel they are, when
possessed, no more or less than the natural power of life, consciously
directed. This power is automatically controlled daily without our
conscious direction or realization. As our digestion or circulation
function without express thought, the life power is utilized at an
even more basic level to create our life and world. Expressed uncon-
sciously for whim or feat, self-destruction or in creativity, it is
not without us but a part of us, a part of every living cell. Thus,
not only is it a very legal power to us, but to miss to direct it
consciously would be like missing the oars in a rowboat, the doors of
a house. Some people brag that they never read the directions sup-
plied in the package. To avoid discovering the 'directions' supplied
with life would seem to be to miss most of the glory of being alive.
(1) Witches were and are supposed to be entirely evil and opposed in
every action to the expression of life. (Surely such a creature would
self-destruct!) This is an expression of the 'alien' theory which has
been used by many (ignorant) cultures to explain the presence of evil
and imperfection in a world that is 'supposed' to be perfect. It is a
terrifying theory but apparently people would rather be scared silly
than say, "I made a mistake" or "What seems evil to us is just the
natural working of life." The appellation of 'witch' has been given
to Huns, Jews, heretics, and recently to men by some feminists.
3. Are you one of the above or both?
4. If so, say what and why.
I am myself. I am what I do. I have avoided labels for myself and
would not start sticking them onto myself based on the attendance of a
few functions. Precisely, I have not been accepted as an initiate, an
essential step in a tradition oriented to group membership. I am not
a pagan in the sense that, outside of weekly circles, I do not worship
any god or goddess.
5. What do you see as positive in paganism?
I have always felt good in the circle. I have said it previously that
I am happy to be here. But in thinking how to answer this question I
have found some answers that have much reinforced these feelings.
What is here in paganism is unique and precious.
Here there is the encouragement of individuality and also a strong,
positive and unique group identity; this is very rare, especially in
Here there is spiritual expression within a true construction of
religion and including respect for the need for personal freedom of
expression; this is very rare in any society.
Here there is tradition in a society that has eschewed tradition in
favor of the new, especially new products; yet what is the meaning of
products which have no context?
Here there is honor to each sex in a society that is very divisive and
competitive and generally derisive of everyone especially women. Here
there is a celebration of life in a society that seems to have forgot-
ten where it came from and remains; which if it recognizes nature as
valuable converts it into a prepackaged commodity. Indeed, the value
of nature is a matter of constant debate, a debate that is inevitably
won by those who see value only in dollar signs.
Here there is a group of intelligent people large enough to be inter-
esting yet small enough that each is important, whether one attends,
who one is and especially if one participates in helping, each is
important. All these things are RARE in our society; their conver-
gence here is unique and precious.
6. What do you see as negative in paganism.
I don't know. I haven't had any problems so far. The need for secre-
cy is inconvenient in some respects particularly at work and with some
friends who, I am certain, will never be able to grasp the notion
correctly. But then secrets can be kind of fun, too. I have found
the essential facts of paganism not directly accessible but I am
beginning to understand that it is a fairly large subject. (Added 15
June '89) A certain lack of focus. It is understandable since there
is no central authority to impose goals. Yet is should be possible to
agree on basic needs and goals and though there would be no overseer,
a kind of competition based on comparison of results (apparent in
fests, perhaps). To achieve this, however, we need to understand what
is needed and why. Still there does seem to be a good deal of work
being done in different places. The quality and amount of information
is expanding every year.
7. What is your concept of death?
An incomprehensible, insensible condition concluding our actions here
on earth. A period of summation and consolidation; having shed to the
earth the accumulation of errors and age in the body, one is reborn,
washed clean in the blood of the new life. I particularly like the
idea that it might be something like Scrooge's Christmas Eve; seeing
and understanding the events of one's life, then the regrets of unex-
pressed love would be the motive impelling the soul to rebirth.
But then I don't really know. It might be nothing.
8. What do the following words bring to your mind: god, goddess,
God, Goddess, ineffable, incomprehensible being beyond our concept of
good or evil. The notion of sex in gods is our convention to aid
philosophical discussion and to assist in forming an emotional rela-
tionship. (added 15 June '89) "Maybe something more, rooted in our
nature.", Daniel's comment.
Priest, priestess: persons who have made a commitment to further their
religion by their personal effort. Being ordained or initiated and
all that. The sexual distinction is trivial, relatively speaking, of
course. The essential act is that of spiritual guidance and this is
more a matter of training and talent.
9. What are the privileges and obligations of a teacher?
To share knowledge, to have one's expressions listened to, to enjoy
the responses of one's students. To be responsible in what and how
things are taught. To admit freely areas of one's doubt or little
knowledge to be clear in expression and patient in explanation. To
respect and respond to the students efforts as the teacher's purpose.
10. What are the privileges and responsibilities of a student?
To share knowledge, to enjoy the attendance of a teacher to one's
education. To work actively toward the development of one's educa-
tion, to respect the teacher and cooperate and trust, within reason.
The teacher's responsibilities are greater.
11. What do you seek from Wicca?
A personal path and some help along the way. Friends that don't say
things like "You don't believe THAT, do you?"
12. Are you more attracted to the religious or practical side of
I can't say. My conception of any sincerely religious person is that
he tries to express his convictions into his life. To me, it seems
that the most potent form of prayer is in work. Or like Gurdjieff
said, "Work as if everything depends on work. Pray as if everything
depends on prayer." It seems to me the lack of practical work leaves
a religion without a skeleton, the rest of the tissue has nothing to
hang on. I would say that the practical side, including much of the
wisdom teachings, should not be separated from the religious except as
a convention to facilitate teaching.
13. Are there any areas of this framework that you particularly wish
to study. What and why.
I'm not sure. Right now I'm just taking it all in in any order what-
ever. I would like to understand the philosophical framework better.
(added 15 June '89) Moon lore has happily occupied me this last year
and promises to be a long-continuing interest. The laws and the
social framework of wicca are also very intriguing. My idea now about
ritual work is that it is possibly best as a form of self-therapy, at
least in the beginning, since all of us come to this very demanding
subject full of flaws enough to trip us up constantly unless our
personal peculiarities can be pinned down and dealt with.