Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Take on "Primitive" Paganism

Paganism is perhaps the oldest religion on this planet. It started out with animism and pantheism. Animism and pantheism are concepts which seem to go along together, although they have subtle distinctions from each other. Pantheism is where the Supreme Being is in everything. Animism is where there is an animating spirit inhabiting each thing in nature. Trees, plants, animals, and even stones have spirits or souls.under this belief. This belief originated when primitive people observed steam arising from the wounds of animals in winter. Many of these spirits later became deities, especially the larger forces of nature.

Shamanism is usually a part of these beliefs. The shaman or wise wo/man, or cunning wife/man serves hir community by walking between the worlds, soul journeying to heal members of the community or defend the community as a whole from forces that would seek to tear it apart. S/he is skilled in the arts of spiritual warfare, as well as herbs and healing techniques.

There is a movement within the American Pagan community towards primitive Paganism. Just because it bears the name “primitive” does not mean it is unsophisticated. Its practitioners simply want to balance high tech with a high touch spiritual experience. To that end, many of them have taken to primitive means of permanently adorning their bodies with piercings, scarification, and ancient methods of tattooing.And these are not people who live in the country, forest, jungle, or mountains. These are urban Pagans, who live either in towns or cities. For example, there is a sizable “primitive” Pagan population in San Francisco, which is less than 2 hours by car from where I write this.

There is a growing contingent of techno-Pagans, cyber-Pagans, and cyber-shamans. Because they reside in out lying areas where there might not be physical groups accessible to them, they practice their religion and spirituality online in environments such as IMVU, Second Life, and Red Lantern. Others use chat programs such as IRC, Yahoo, Chatango, and the chat facility available on Paganspace.net. Together with my partner-in-crime, Stephen Abbott, we have done Druidic ordinations online.

As humankind moved from hunting/gathering cultures to settled agricultural communities and cities were built, priesthoods began to be developed. Unfortunately, these often became insular and hidebound, full off their own importance, and forgot their necessary connection with the people they served. In fact, they forgot that it was the people they served, not the gods. The ancient Khemetic priesthood is one sterling example of this. May we who have been called to be priests and priestesses never forget that it is both the people and the Mighty Ones that we serve. Returning to our prehistoric roots and “primitive” Paganism is one way to remember where our duty lies.

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