Wiccans in military service, is it “against our religion”

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Yesterday in Australia we celebrated ANZAC day, a commemoration of the service men and women of Australia and New Zealand who fought and gave their lives to allow the peace and freedom that we enjoy in this country to be a reality. As I am an American by birth I also identify with the American holiday of a similar theme, Memorial Day. Both are great examples of citizens giving thanks for those who have done what many of us would not be able to do- serve under life-threatening circumstances where lives could, and were, easily lost.

As a Wiccan I wonder how my religion justifies war? Arguably the purpose of an army (or navy or air force) is to provide a violent and overwhelming force capable of delivering death and destruction onto any forces who threaten it. But this flies in the face of the Wiccan code which states “…and it harm none, do what ‘ye will”. Yes, the ultimate purpose of a military force in a country is to be a deterrent for other countries to attempt attacks. But to be an effective deterrent you must be willing to sacrifice lives and assets to destroy other lives and assets.

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Looking at Pagan societies and their history of war and armies the most prolific and most noted would have to be the Romans. Well known for their Pagan beliefs the Romans systematically used well-trained armies to attack and secure land from many other countries.  The Vikings, who were Pagans from Scandinavian countries, again utilized armies and navies in organized attacks on weaker forces. The early German Pagans also were involved in many wars, some as the aggressors.  While this list includes several Pagan-based cultures, Wicca is not amongst them.

That is because Wicca, as we know it, did not come into popular being until the 1950s; with it’s origins dating back to the 1800’s with Gerald Gardner. (I am looking to do at least one blog posting on the origins of modern Wicca at a later date.) Additionally Wicca is a mixture of British and American influences where both countries were almost entirely Christianized prior to the development of Wicca and both were secularized with the government separated from the church. Alas the Wiccan rede by which most practitioners follow did not appear until at least the 1960’s.

So Wiccan’s are left to their own beliefs to justify military service. As Wicca is a ‘natural religion’ as some would say we could by-rights look to nature to see if military-type action is accepted. Arguably we see many examples of animals using violence both to defend and attack to gain reputation, land and status. So even the animal world has groups within it whom utilize many traits found in modern forces. And the threat of violence and possibility of death does not deter animals from using their ‘instinct’ as it has been described.

In the end I give credit to all servicemen and servicewomen, no matter their religious heritage. Should a Wiccan feel that they are best suited to put their life on the line to defend a nation of which I occupy I have only respect for them. The rede does say ‘harm none’, however the spirit of that law applies to magical workings. One could argue that the use of weapons and military tactics is not magical, and therefore falls into the mundane existence- outside of the rede.

Unfortunately my adopted home is not as progressive towards Pagans (specifically Wiccans) as my birth-country. The Guide to Religion and Beliefs in the Australian Defense Force  (ADFA) does have a passing mention of Wicca as a ‘nature-based religion’,

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however that is where the effort ends. The U.S. Army Chaplain’s handbook has an entire section devoted to Wicca. Wicca is also recognized as a religion in relation to burial headstones and on dog tags in the U.S. I have not found any mention of this within ADFA.

In fact looking at the guide from ADFA several religions are included, however as stated earlier Wicca is not. I am wondering if this is because Wicca does not have a hierarchy, and therefore no governing body to drive its inclusion in the defense force. Or, conversely there are no firm numbers of Wiccans, let alone Pagans, within the Australian military. Either way it would be good of the Australian government to be inclusive of Pagans as they are of other religions.

Despite the lack of federal recognition of Wiccans and Pagans more broadly within the Australian military I, for one, am proud of every serviceman and servicewoman despite their faith. I can see how Wiccans could have an internal conflict justifying the use of violent force on others while defending its use to defend the freedom and protection of Australia and its interests.

I would be interested in the thoughts of others on this topic.

Until next time, Blessed Be.

Garrettlonewolfe

References:

U.S. Army Chaplains handbook: Wiccan

Guide to Religion and Beliefs in the Australian Defense Force 

Encyclopedia Britannica (online)- Wicca

Thoughtco- Gods and Goddesses of war and battle

Thoughtco- Pagans in the Military- U.S. based information

Excerpt from U.S. Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains

Wikipedia- Wiccans and Pagans in the U.S. Military

The Wiccan Rede, a Historical Journey

Wikipedia- Germanic Paganism

Roman history timeline- detail of Roman wars

Wikipedia- Viking age

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Another ignorant comment from the media… or was it?

On the 4th of April this year the website Newshub released a story titled

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Credit: The Herald Sun

Paedophile ‘witch’ released from jail, moves in next to school

This article describes the granting of convicted pedophile Robin Angus Fletcher to live within close proximity to a school. I was made aware of the article through the Austrailan Pagan Awareness Network  (PAN) Facebook site. The article describes Robin as using ‘witch’ techniques such as hypnotism to lure girls and commit his crimes. The PAN president, David Garland, contacted Newshub and requested a modification of the article stating that hypnotism is NOT part of the accepted practices of a witch (read the PAN response here).  I applaud David in contacting Newshub and writing a clear and objective letter stating that hypnotism is not an recognized accepted practice by witches in their magical work, particularly if it is not consented by both parties.

Wanting to research the article further I found the original news story The Age posted an article on Mr. Fletcher in 2006 where he claims to be a Wiccan and associated his Wiccan practice to justify his behavior. In that article Marion Dalton from PAN was mentioned distancing Wiccans and their values from Mr. Fletcher and his actions. An article in March of this year via News.com detailed Mr. Fletcher’s release into the community. In February of this year the Herald Sun described Mr. Fletcher as a ‘sex witch’.

So I ask the community: does this reporting by the media hurt Pagans by portraying them as using sex (and hypnotism) in their magic? Or does it simply show a very disturbed man using a religious belief to justify morally- inhumane actions?

I would like to hear your thoughts,

Blessed Be.

Contemporary Paganism turns the big 50!

Russia Summer Solstice
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John Halsteed, writing in the Huffington Post, comments on the modern Pagan movement which started in the 1960’s both in the US and in the UK. Three organizations pioneered the modern pagan movement, with the Church of All Worlds the most significant- gaining government-recognized status in 1968.

Modern paganism, unlike previous revivals, served to take the best components of previously known pagan religions and incorporate them into practice. This forms the basis of neo-paganism. The issue, I think, in relation to the Christian world’s acceptance of paganism as a viable and true alternate faith is the lack of accepted practices. Modern pagans do not have a codified structure with which to hang their beliefs. Therefore, it would seem that it is every man/woman for themselves.

Further complicating the issue is that there are few statistics regarding the total number of pagans in the world currently. John’s article states that through approximation there are 1 million pagans in the U.S. However, this is difficult to verify as there is no formal census procedure which asks for religious affiliation. In Canada and Australia, where religious affiliation is part of the census, growth of non-traditional religions such as paganism is growing. However, again here the ability to accurately determine statistics are difficult.

I believe there are several reasons for this. The first, and most prominent, reason is the secrecy that most Pagan practitioners show. We have a modern world society that values individuals being able to (within reason) do what they wish. Homosexual marriage (previously outlawed and frowned upon) is being seen as a future possibility. Stem cell research is pushing head-long to providing new medical breakthroughs. But tell someone that you worship the moon and believe in reincarnation their judgmental walls erect quickly.

I don’t practice spell-craft. I don’t use voodoo dolls, nor do I attempt to mess with the laws of nature. My belief, and I feel the common belief amongst modern pagans, is to co-exist and work with the existing natural energies found on this planet. I don’t believe that a conscious human-like spirit rules all. Instead I feel that we are all connected by our common energies, and therefore what I do affects every other living organism on our planet.

Here is the link to the article by John Halsteed.

Pagans seventh largest religion in the UK

Beltane celebration            Pagan pride picnic

Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations               Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham

According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.

The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.

From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient  religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both  in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex  tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions  of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West  as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”

The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?

Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?

Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870

Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Retrospective repentence for Pagan ancestors?

Now for those that have followed this blog for the short period of time it has been in existence, firstly I would like to thank you, I have stated I try to bring at least semi-intelligent discussion into the debate between Pagan beliefs and other ‘mainstream’ (primarily Christian) religions.

One of the often recurrent themes of these mainstream religions is the belief that Pagans are ill-informed and simply lacking in firm beliefs. We are represented as those fringe-dwellers amongst the religious community. However, sometimes even the mighty Christian faith- the most popular religious faith in the world- has its share of those who can be considered one verse short of a psalm (sorry for the bad pun- just could not help myself).

Cindy Jacobs  Cindy Jacobs

A ‘television prophet’ named Cindy Jacobs has posted a video amongst her “10 minute prayer school” series stating that Native Americans, Mexicans, and all others with Pagan descendants must repent retrospectively for their forefathers. As reported in the Huffington Post Jacobs has stated that a spirit named Leviathan “…is very territorial, very active and has ‘supernatural’ powers”. Wait, a Christian prophet stating that a spirit has supernatural powers? Isn’t that something that is against their doctrine?

I will not go on with the comments made, as they are simply ludicrous. However, in reading the comments from the story Bert Dodson stated ” ah do Americans of European descent need to ask forgiveness for their ancestors pagan past? either in ignorance or due to malice she has forgotten that no one in the world was Christian before the 1st century C.E. and everyone who profess Christianity descends from a pagan of some sort or other faith system?”

My point with this posting is that when a faith which is fundamentally different from Christianity attempts to enter the public arena either by a public gathering or through media representation those leaders of the Christian faith are quick to condemn. However, when someone like Cindy Jacobs looks to use the religion of Christianity to proclaim very hurtful and otherwise delusional comments to others she is not reprimanded by these leaders, and instead is given a publicity on a respected site. Where is the condemnation, where is the exclusion of Jacobs from those within the church?

There is one thought that comes to mind: silence is as much an indication of acceptance and agreement as the most well constructed remark.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Link to the Huffington Post news story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/05/cindy-jacobs-native-americans-repent_n_3390601.html

Update on Summer Solstice Pagan festival in Pahokee Florida

In reviewing the recent news feeds regarding the Christian opposition to the Pagan festival I am pleased to report that the opposition seems to be subsiding. If you can recall one of the points I made was that no representative from the Pagan community had been interviewed, or was apparently available during the meeting (that was reported).

Peter Dybing Reverend Peter Dybing

Reverend (Pagan) Peter Dybing met with opposing members of the community to discuss and interject balance to the discussion around the Pagan festival. Dybing stated “I am a fire chief. We have fire chiefs, nurses, doctors, and people who deliver your mail. We’re just like any other community… We’re peaceful people. We’re just like any other religion. We don’t want to be molested… we just want to hold our events without any problem.”

Peter Dybing is the task force coordinator of the Lady Liberty League. In a statement made to another report Dybing stated “Lady Liberty League has established a task force with the specific objective of providing education and insight to residents and clergy in the local Pahokee community about Paganism. It is our approach to utilize education and information first in order to avoid escalation of this situation.”

It appears from both reports that public opposition to the event is lessening with the public statements of Peter and the Lady Liberty League. This reinforces the need for valuable organizations like Lady Liberty, and for those who head them, to provide truth and understanding. Through this measured and rational debate we can strive to reach the minds and hearts of moderate Christians in accepting our religion as peaceful, caring, and appropriate for today’s society.

Article from WPTV news: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_the_glades/pahokee/pahokee-pagan-summer-solstice-festival-pastors-in-pahokee-worried-organizers-say-they-are-peaceful#ixzz2VIb3EON5

Article from Pagan News Collective, Florida: http://florida.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/05/30/lady-liberty-league-task-force-to-engage-pahokee-community/

Lady Liberty League logo

Facebook page for Lady Liberty organization: https://www.facebook.com/LadyLibertyLeague

Personal blog for Peter Dybing: http://paganinparadise.blogspot.com.au/

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Do we need Pagan festivals and events?

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...
Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This comes from a posting made by the Pagan Awareness Network on their facebook page last night asking for responses from Pagans about what would make them organize their money and time to attend events. From what I gather the back-story stems from a failed attempt at organizing a Sydney-based event recently which ran at a loss and was not well attended. It started me thinking of what would compel me to take time out of my busy schedule of work, family, and personal interests to attend such an event.

What can a Pagan event give us that we cannot already access ourselves within our own home? Here are some ideas which come to mind:

– Speakers of particular interests and specialities (meditation, Pagan history, spell casting or other ritual formation)

– Group circles, festivals, or gatherings (i.e. full moon, sabbats, rituals)

– Vendors with Pagan-specific products to see/touch/buy

To my mind all are quite valid, however why do we not come out to support our religion and meet with like-minded individuals? From my experience (mainly online) Pagans are very social people- so what is the issue?

Wondering what others may think? It is an interesting point to ponder.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Is there enough room for Pagans- part 2

English: Religious symbols from the top nine o...
English: Religious symbols from the top nine organised faiths of the world according to Major world religions From left to right: 1st Row: Christian Cross, Jewish Star of David, Hindu Aumkar 2nd Row: Islamic Star and crescent, Buddhist Wheel of Dharma, Shinto Torii 3rd Row: Sikh Khanda, Bahá’í star, Jain Ahimsa Symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Various neopagan religious symbols (from left ...
Various neopagan religious symbols (from left to right): 1st Row *Slavic Neopaganism (“Hands of God”) *Celtic Neopaganism (or general spiral triskele / triple spiral) *Germanic Neopaganism (“Thor’s hammer”) 2nd Row *Hellenic Reconstructionism *neopagan pentagram (or pentacle) *Roman Reconstructionism 3rd Row *Wicca (or general Triple Goddess) *Kemetism (or general ankh) *Natib Qadish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In part 1 I discussed the Pagan’s place amongst the major religions of the world, particularly the Christian religion as it is the largest with the most members. In part 2 I am considering some issues, and advantages, we face in the present societal context.

First and foremost Pagan beliefs do not consider themselves to be the ‘one and only’ religious faith and all other faiths lead those who follow to wreck and ruin. In other words we keep an open mind. Along with this is the notion that Pagans do not openly proselytize, this has both good and bad aspects. Good as the Pagan followers are more committed than other religions; bad in that our numbers are arguably small and we lack a strong public voice.

Secondly, we do not have any codified belief text or purpose-built buildings with which to conduct ourselves. The bible (I am using this merely as an example please do not get me started on the merits of its validity) serves to solidify the various Christian sects, however this same text can be an issue.

Thirdly is the requirement amongst the Christian faiths to have trained heads, and in so doing the requirement for funds to the church. By reinforcing the need for believers to give money to the church, and governments to give tax breaks to them, a large amount of funds can be amassed by these organizations for publicity. Likewise the appointed leaders and hierarchy can concentrate on duties which serve to maximize the political and public standing of their church over other religions.

We can do things to further acceptance of the Pagan faiths amongst the various religions of the world. Although the bible solidifies the Christian faith, it also helps to make it obsolete. Pagan faiths, from my point of view, are more savvy in communication through the internet and social media than other faiths. Although we are very much solitary practitioners we are good at connecting at least in part.

While churches of major faiths can collect sums of money they also have vast amounts of infrastructure and assets which require maintenance. Again we are able to adapt to changing times. As our path is aligned with nature we understand intrinsically the idea of adaptation and survival.

Finally, our conviction to the Pagan way is our most important asset. We chose our Pagan ways- it did not recruit, badger, or goad us into joining. A founding principle of this path is for followers to become independent practitioners free from required ‘learned men’ who must be a conduit for our relationship with the higher power. That drive and devotion to our ways has overcome past attempts to silence and stamp out Pagan ways and failed. Let us make sure it does so in the future.

One of the most important (from my view) methods we can employ to spread our faith and increase acceptance is through sharing of knowledge. As much of the material on Pagans is found through the internet the knowledge of what websites exist are important. To that end I am posting two sites which I have found of value over the years, and invite others to share websites which would be of value to the wider community:

The Pagan Awareness Network is a Sydney-based site devoted in part to media awareness of the facts surrounding Pagan beliefs:  http://www.paganawareness.net.au/PAN/

The Witches Voice is a site devoted to articles of a Pagan nature on various aspects of natural spirituality and is worth a look: http://www.witchvox.com/

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

“Living in a pre-Christian age”

An interesting story from the website Catholic online regarding Paganism in our modern society. While the rhetoric talks of converting a Pagan to Christianity some of the more subtle items in the article are of note.

Written by Deacon Keith Fournier the article describes this era in society as a time in which the Christian churches must win over the hearts and minds of others- particularly mentioned was Pagan (exact meaning not stated) believers. He admitted that the Christian church could no longer simply expect people to follow their faith.

Another interesting item was the description of the conversion of Justin- an individual who moved from Paganism to Christianity. The article describes how Justin did much searching for his belief system: studying Greek philosophers, investigating various religious beliefs, and openly listening to the views of others. Eventually, according to the article, Justin converted to Christianity.

The moral I think is important for this forum is the fact that individuals like Justin actively search out their path, instead of simply accepting blindly the views of others. It is easy to follow the spiritual path of those around you- for acceptance is a core societal goal. However, for those of us who feel that the ‘mainstream’ faiths do not fit we have the courage to travel our own path. I do not object to others holding firm Christian faiths- I do object to those individuals not feeling it necessary to accept mine.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Link to the story: http://www.catholic.org/homily/yearoffaith/story.php?id=51198