Scott Cunnigham, was he a benefit or hindrance to modern Wicca?

quote-read-as-much-as-you-can-discarding-negative-or-disturbing-information-learn-by-doing-scott-cunningham-100-36-84
Image Source

I feel that I must dedicate at least one post on this blog to Scott Cunningham. He is the author who introduced me, and I am sure thousands if not millions, of men and women to Wicca. Before his book Wicca: the Solitary Guide for the Practitioner I was merely lost as to my religious identity. The information on Scott is somewhat muddled, but here is an account of who he was and how he became the influential author within the Pagan community.

At the outset I must give special thanks George Knowles of Controversical.com from whose page much of the detail of Scott’s life has been documented. 

Scott was born in Royal Oak, Michigan in 1965. Scott’s father was a professional writer, which may explain how Scott was able to so prolifically document on the subject of Wicca. Any one who knows Michigan can attest that it can become very cold and harsh at times of the year. Scott’s mother, Rose, was ill and was advised by doctors that a more milder climate would be beneficial for her health. Due to this the Cunningham family moved from Michigan to sunny San Diego, California.

San Diego, for those who have not been there, is an amazing city bordered by Mexico to the south and known for its military bases and beach-side activities. It can be a progressive and at times ‘alternative’. In San Diego Scott met Raymond Buckland, who was a very active member of the American Wiccan community. Scott became involved in the Serpent Stone Family. Scott also enrolled in a creative writing degree at San Diego State University, however within two years of the course had produced so much published work he left the university to continue is writing career.

Scott’s transition from coven Wiccan to solitary practitioner is somewhat unclear. However, the reason behind his popularity is unmistakable. He has an amazing list of books to his name. A good list of those works can be found here. He had an amazing way of writing that took complex and intricate concepts and made them easy to understand and follow. Patti Wigington in an article published in Thoughtco.com I think best describes Scott’s style:

180930
Image Source

While Cunningham often comes under fire from lineaged Wiccans, who point out that his books are in fact about NeoWicca, rather than traditional Wicca, his works typically offer a lot of good advice for people who practice as solitaries. He frequently points out in his writings that religion is a deeply personal thing, and it’s not up to other people to tell you if you’re doing it right or wrong. He also argued that it was time for Wicca to stop being a secretive, mystery religion, and that Wiccans should welcome interested newcomers with open arms.

Interestingly, Scott was able to take his knowledge of natural magic and translate it into language that beginners to Wicca could easily understand. He shared his belief of the Divine, and of symbolism, and although he never dumbed it down, he managed to take complex information and explain it in a way that someone who had no prior understanding of Wicca could still absorb. (https://www.thoughtco.com/about-scott-cunningham-2562615)

Scott unfortunately was not with us for very long. Originally contracting and overcoming Lymphoma he contracted cryptococcal menigitis of which he succomed to in 1993 at the age of 36. His legacy lives on as his writings are continued to be sold globally and I would imagine occupy the shelves of many practicing Wiccans.

There are some who feel that Scott’s teachings have not helped the proliferation of traditional Wiccan teachings, and in fact may have caused some set-backs due to their simplistic and otherwise one-sided disposition. I would agree that Scott’s books are simplistic, at least to some extent, and a practitioner may use his teachings as a jumping-off platform to expand their knowledge. But without his kindhearted introduction to Wicca many teenagers like myself at that time would not have had the courage to embark on the discovery of such an amazing spiritual experience.

Let’s face it, being within a minority population can be daunting. Mainstream society approaches minorities with an array of concern, disapproval or even fear. My hope is that through writers like Scott, bloggers like myself and the general shift of a more accepting society we can come to a place where the minority may not be celebrated but at least welcomed and moves made by the majority to understand.

Until next time, blessed be.

Garrettlonewolfe

Articles

Controversial.com- Scott Cunningham

Wikipedia- Scott Cunningham

Thoughtco.com- Author Profile: Scott Cunningham

Wild Ideas- The Temple Library: Why I don’t like Scott Cunningham

Wikipedia- Raymond Buckland

Biblio.com- A list of books written by Scott Cunningham

 

 

Advertisements

Are animal familiars important to a Pagan home?

RecenIMG_1731tly my partner and I brought home an 11 week old Tabby kitten. While I have had several cats in my life I have been mostly a dog-person (so to speak). In my travels as a Wiccan I do see regular references to cats being an important part of a Wiccan household, so I decided to do a bit of digging to see where this comes from. At the outset I will say that there is not a lot of helpful objective information, but I will share what I have.

With regards to cats as Pagan pets this belief seems to centre around the Egyptian god Bastet who was worshiped for magical powers. Bastet appears to have been revered for her female magical energy, and was first recorded in Egyptian history in 2890 BCE. Bastet was originally depicted as a lion and was associated with the power of the sun. Later that depiction changed into what we more commonly associate with a cat. Her power remained that of protection, particularly in cat form for the pharaoh Ra.

The association between cats and witches in the US and Europe

5bb8b6ae0d7cbe8082bd08adefd0e7fb
Image Source

In more contemporary times witches have been associated with cats. Every year in America news reporters across the country warn that owners of black cats keep them inside on Halloween for fear of pranksters causing harm. The association with ‘witches’ and cats in the United States stems back to the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Christian persecutors felt that cats were somehow spiritual extensions of witches, and therefore could walk relatively unnoticed amongst the population doing the witch’s deeds. Dogs were also represented in the massacre, as they were also said to do the evil bidding of witches, however It is my opinion that based on the cat’s ability to climb and move quietly through spaces they would cause more concern.

In Europe the association with cats and evil-doing started long before. In the 12th century cats were scene as both an aid to society and an animal to be feared. An article during by Irina Metzler described how cats were recognized as valuable in controlling the rat population (known for spreading disease), however they were seen as stealthy hunters who could not be domesticated as dogs can. This lack of domestication (obedience) I believe caused the distrust and  eventual fear.

Modern cats in Pagan homes

A search of today’s modern information stream (the internet) reveals that many modern-day Witches and broader Pagans believe in utilizing the magical power of cats (and other domestic animals) in their spells. Often these are in regards to harnessing the collective power of the animal’s spirit with your own to create a broader and stronger magical connection. Others are about protection and security. In any form Cats and other domestic animals seem to have a strong place within a modern magical home.

So what’s my take?

Any animal member of a family plays an important role in the magic of that household, just as any human members would. I believe that cats share an air of mystery and magic over dogs due to their inquisitive nature, ability to climb and jump, and their inherent lack of domestication (we all know that cats want to do their own thing!). Are cats particularly magical as opposed to other animals, I am not convinced. There is no doubt that having a pet within a household, magical or not, brings a new added facet to the spiritual crystal within. We love our Max, and he will be welcomed for years to come.

I hope you have found this article as interesting as I have. I would be interested in your feelings on the subject of animals and Witches.

Until next time,

Blessed Be

References:

Cats in Ancient Egypt

Wikipedia- Bastet

Wikipedia- Familiar spirit

What is a Animal Familiar?

Why are cats associated with Witches?

Animals in the Salem Witch Trials

Why were cats hated in Medieval Europe

Cat Magick

Animal spells- Witches of the Craft

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

2013 Pagan Values Event

 

Thought it was worth this event having its own posting, so the link is up twice.

You are invited to take part in the 5th annual Pagan Values Event!

Held each June, the Pagan Values Event seeks to encourage the public discussion and provide resources for exploration of Pagan Values.  We do not care if you are a blogger, or podcaster.  We do not care if you are Pagan, Neo-Pagan, Witch or Heathen,  Druid or Hellenic or Dirt Worshiping Tree Hugging Neo-Hippy.  We do not care if you are liberal or conservative.

What we care about is encouraging the public discussion on what it means to be any of the above paths in the 21st Century, and how our many Paganisms influence our daily lives and our interactions with the world.  How has being a Pagan changed you?  How has your way of carrying yourself in the world been touched or transformed by your life as a Pagan?  If you could cite one (or more) thing as a deeply held value, virtue, or point of ethics, for you as a Pagan…say for someone who had not heard of Paganism before…. what would you say or talk about?

Participation is as easy as publishing a post or putting out an episode ,or mini-episode, of your podcast during the month of June 2012 on the topic of Pagan Values!

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

Is there enough room for Pagans? Part 1

A map of the world, showing the major religion...
A map of the world, showing the major religions distributed in the world as of today. A different type of map which views only the religion as a whole excluding denominations or sects of the religions, and is colored by how the religions are distributed not by main religion of country etc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let me start this post with a few figures:

– There are more than 7.12 billion people. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
– Approximately 190 countries exist

http://www.worldatlas.com/nations.htm
– Although figures varies there are approximately 19 ‘major’ religions currently
http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm 

– Religions affilliated with Christianity are the most popular wofldwide http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm 

I start with these facts to illistrate several points to be made in this post and the next. Christianity is by far the most prevelant religiln in the world, but in no way is it the only religion. Why, then, does it seem that there is constant friction between Christians and Pagans. Maybe it is just me, and others can correct me if I am wrong, but it seems as though we do not hear the same rhetoric from Muslims and Jews as we do from Christians?

After all, what is a religion? To me a religion must have the following:

1. Answer the ‘big three’ questions: where did we come from, why are we here, and where do we go when we die.

2. Have some acceptance and belief in a ‘higher’ power.

3. Subscribe to at least a basic set of values- I have deliberately left out moral in this term as it seems the people’s view of moral varies wiedely.

Taking these three items into account both Pagan and Christian religions fit the bill. However, there are some fundamental issues which I feel causes the friction.

The initial rift between Christianity and Pagan beliefs started, based on historical accounts, when the Roman empire moved away from the polytheistic Pagan beliefs and accepted Christianity. The patiriarchal and all-encompassing nature of Christianity purposefully excludes other religions. In some ways I also feel that Christianity feels under threat with the current nature of our society, especially in light of current issues within the Catholic church and falling participation numbers, and could believe that ‘alternative’ religions such as those of the Pagan ways could start to become more prevelant.

In part 2 I will talk about some issues with the Pagan faiths which could be inhibitting us from greater recognition and acceptance.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe