Annoyed with "old" paganism

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Post by Debbrah » Wed Apr 02, 2003 7:29 am

Asatru in Arizona wrote:You have to remember something: Paganism and Wicca are two separate things.


Yes and no. There is something created by Gardener that is called Wicca. I'll leave it to others to debate how much derived from older traditions and how much he and others invented. There are also alot of smaller traditions that didn't really call themselves anything that got assigned the label "wicca" and accepted it as they had "witch": useful for establishing some connection, but not unifying. They are as authentically pagan as any other group that doesn't have extremely obvious proof of being a living tradition (say--native american, Hindu, oceanic, etc: the ones that were converted late and visibly not entirely. The ones who hid less.) as opposed to a reclaimed/reinvented one. Ask a strega: some will use "wicca" as PC for witch, some use witch as PC for what they are (strega.) The word "pagan" has many uses as well: any-non-christian, non-christian-judaic-islamic, non-christian-judaic-islamic-ect(insert selected terms), polytheistic only, some polytheistic and some monotheistic....



Not everything called "wiccan" is derived from Gardner.


Remember, there never was and never will be a unifying religion known as Paganism.


Again yes and no. There was not a single religion recognized in the ancient world as being the unified faith. However, most recognized the validity of the other religions and the interchangability of the divinities. One could worship diferent divinities and still be practicing religion. Divisions weren't some are true, some are not, but were considered to be diferent ways of approaching divinity, some more respectable or more effective then others. Quite early theologians claimed that in the end these diferences were human, not actually part of the divinity/divinities. So there was a sort of spiritual unification with the human (religion) part of it having a myriad of expressions. Woden could combine with other divinities as he himself had been formed of the combination of other divinities. Mars could combine with Lugh. Isis took over much of the grecco-roman world by also being Approdite, Venus and Cyble. It was accepted that the details changed, but the Gods remained the same. The idea of it actually being monotheistic was also quite early, but not as widely written of.
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Post by Asatru in Arizona » Wed Apr 02, 2003 9:36 am

While it is true that not everything called Wiccan is derived from Gardner, the core of Wicca is derived from Gardner's re-creations and inventions. Also, many non-Wiccan elements are called Wiccan nowadays. The Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three, for example, are post-hippie explosion after-the-fact additions to Wicca. And the idea that the God dies and becomes reborn every year owes itself to certain Wiccans studying ancient Greek matriarchy. In this matriarchy the ruler would take a new male lover every year. At the end of the year the lover would be killed and replaced, and the man would have no choice in the matter.



Originally in Wicca, back in the 1950s, the God was not the Goddess' son and lover, but rather just her lover. According to the original Gardnerian texts, the God came upon the Goddess and upon seeing her beauty fell in love with her and gave her his power. This is a significant difference from what most modern Wiccans believe. In the nearly 50 years since Wicca's birth it has changed significantly from its original seed-form.



While witchcraft itself is a very old practice, the derivation thereof known as Wicca is relatively young. And me saying that isn't disparaging anyone's faith, just citing academically verifiable facts about the history surrounding Wicca. Thank you for being open-minded enough to know the difference.
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Part II

Post by Asatru in Arizona » Wed Apr 02, 2003 9:57 am

Although there are some similarities between Gods of different Pagan faiths, they are still very separate and distinct. Some theorize that all European Pagan religions stemmed from a common Indo-European polytheistic religion, although there is no real evidence for this.



Lugh and Heimdall, for example, are known respectively in Celtic and Norse religions as the Shining God and do have strong similarities. However, I'm not about to say that Lugh and Heimdall are fundamentally the same deity. They aren't. I think both would be insulted by that notion. Although Lugh and Heimdall have a similar cleverness, Heimdall is clearly more warrior-oriented than is Lugh. Heimdall blows Gjallarhorn to indicate the coming of the Giants across Bifrost (the Rainbow Bridge that separates Asgard, the world of the Gods, from Midgard (Earth)), the main indicator of the coming of Ragnarok (otherwise known as "Doom of the Gods"). Lugh is not charged with any equivalent responsibility. Also, Lugh has youth and beauty in common with the Norse God Balder; however, Lugh does not get killed by mistletoe as Balder does. These are stark fundamental differences that call into question the interchangeability of deities from different Pagan cultures.



Wiccans, because of their pantheism, tend to view deities from different ancient Pagan paths as interchangeable and the same when perhaps they are not. I'm not knocking Wiccans for this, I'm just asking Wiccans to be careful when they do this. It is an insult to polytheists to tell them that their deities are merely aspects of one or two deities that you happen to worship, or that their deities are merely the same deities that some other culture worships in a different form. Although it isn't intended this way, it comes across as you believing your religion to be superior to all others. Why not just worship your God and Goddess while at the same time recognizing and respecting other Gods and Goddesses from polytheistic cultures as separate and distinct?
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Post by Wbdsgnr1 » Wed Apr 02, 2003 10:19 am

I consider myself pagan and wiccan and i do not worship any dieties as I know, I dont even know the names of any or any of their traits. Maybe thats wrong, I dunno since I am rather new at this. I just worship the God and Goddess, thats it, I like to keep it simple.
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Post by Asatru in Arizona » Wed Apr 02, 2003 11:28 am

And I have no problem whatsover with you worshipping the Wiccan God and Goddess. What I do have a problem with, however, is the tendency of many Wiccans to declare all Gods and Goddesses from other beliefs as mere shadows or aspects of the God and Goddess they worship. This sort of declaration is insulting to a polytheist. That was the main point I was trying to get across.



I certainly hope that those who read this message can delineate (distinguish) my specific bone of contention from the deplorable and immature Wicca-bashing that I've seen other Asatruar engage in and that I too am guilty of having engaged in at certain points in the past.



PS--WBDS, I certainly recommend that you at least learn about Gods and Goddesses from other Pagan cultures. That way you can understand other Pagan points of view more readily. In all fairness, I too am guilty of not readily understanding certain other paths, Pagan or otherwise. However, I am in the process of curing my ignorance in that area. This kind of ignorance is never fully cured in anyone, though, which is just another reminder that learning is a lifelong process.
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Post by Debbrah » Wed Apr 02, 2003 12:58 pm

Returning to the interchangability of divinity. The ancient world simultainiously accepted that they were same and distinct. It is why the idea of aspects came into play. Isis isn't Cyble but there is something they both are that is a goddess. The Golden Ass (one of the few ancient texts to explicitly make this claim) has a great explaination by Isis of what she is as a goddess. People accepted for the most part that there were different faces to a single god. And gods were combined to produce larger gods. And gods were divided to produce lesser gods. The aspects are different (and it was wise not to forget that--like asking dad for something as opposed to your employer even if they happen to be the same person) but the greater god was the same. Follow this logic up the chain and you get a single god and goddess. But some had also crossed gender and sex lines already. So: a single being that is all divinity that can be broken down into smaller pieces. This wasn't claimed often, but it shows up in some philosophical tracts and in a lot of mythology.
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Post by Asatru in Arizona » Wed Apr 02, 2003 7:17 pm

As valid as your example is, that is but ONE definition of divinity. It was certainly not universally used. Of course deities have in common that they are deities. However, most polytheistic cultures accepted that the Gods and Goddesses they worshipped were separate and distinct, regardless of who was whose son or daughter in any polytheistic line. The Norse, the Greeks, and the Celts never believed that any of their deities were anything but individual deities. Although Ares was Zeus and Hera's son, he certainly wasn't just an aspect of Zeus or Hera any more than I am merely an aspect of my father or mother. Even you admit that the "all gods are one god" philosophy, in your own words, "wasn't claimed often." It certainly wasn't claimed by any pre-Christian Greeks.



Although many deities can be divine at one time, this does not mean that they are all merely aspects of one source divinity. Odhinn in Norse culture was also called Alfadhr (All-father), as he fathered many of the Norse deities; however, the Norse deities have NEVER been considered to be mere aspects of Odhinn and Frigg (Odhinn's wife). They have in common that they're deities, but they also have their distinct character and flavor as SEPARATE INDIVIDUALS! Not all of them are even sons or daughters of Odhinn or Frigg. Heimdall, for example, was born of an Etin-maid(giantess), and he is still a respected Asgardian God.



Ultimately, my point is that to apply pantheistic views to strictly polytheistic cultures is fallacious and could be perceived as arrogant. Just because one polytheistic culture is closet pantheistic doesn't mean all of them are. Thusly I reject the notion that all deities are merely aspects of two, although I certainly don't mock you for believing it, I merely disagree with you--STRONGLY! The first civilizations that came about on Earth, e.g. the Han Dynasty and the Sumerians, were POLYTHEISTIC. Monotheism and pantheism came later, the former being invented by a power-hungry Egyptian prince named Akhenaton in the 1300s BCE.
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Post by Debbrah » Thu Apr 03, 2003 7:43 am

It may not have been universally accepted, but it was very widely held. It was almost necesssary for any of the more major dieties because of the mythological confusion they aquired. As they increased in popularity or as their followers conquered neighboring (or even distant) lands, a divinity's mythology had to explain the relationship between him/her and the divinities their followers were now exposed to. Many times the gods were combined. Every pantheon has a few divinities with several options for their parentage for this reason. Gods like Pan had scattered followers and multiple streams of worship had to be reconnected when he became popular. Many areas (the Celts, the Romans, the Greeks, the Hindus, the Egyptians...) had local divinities primarily who they would combine with cultural divinities and not always the same one. Frigg, when you follow the research into the history of her mythology, very likely started as a larger goddess who was divided later. This happened alot as well because the composite divinities became unwieldy. It was not frowned upon to equate divinities and worship as if they were the same: consider the greek-egyptian fusion (whose name escapes me) that was extremely popular in the ancient greek world. Consider all of the inscriptions to divinities that list multiple cultural names for each.



I'm not trying to claim that there were many explicit claims to eventual monothesism (although there were pre-christian ones other than Akenaton. Some of the pre-socratic Greek philosophers for example...) There are realtively few texts on the nature of divinity, especially any with any sort of mystery tradition associated. What I'm claiming is that it was a generally accepted practice to combine divinities across cultures. There was no taboo against it. It was a common govermental practice. It was not the sole approach, but it was one found in every culture that I've read much of, among both the educated and the common people, the more religious and the more secular. It was this practice that lead to the explicit claims, which were fairly well accepted.



Consider your Odhinn example and the Poetic or the Prose Edda: how many of the titles which he is given or stories refered to are seperate gods? There are myths that use some of these simultaniously for clearly distinct entities. These were combined by people who knew what they were doing, and didn't have a problem. I don't believe they were ignorant to the implications.



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Post by Asatru in Arizona » Fri Apr 04, 2003 9:23 am

As much research as I have done into various Pagan paths, I must wholeheartedly disagree with you. The idea that the Gods native people worshipped were actually one God and one Goddess was NOT widely held. This concept is FOREIGN to classical polytheistic understanding of divinity. Even if the Gods of some cultures were combined, this does not mean that they did not objectively retain their individual identities. The myths of Pan and Cernunnos, by the way, developed independently of each other. A lot of pastoral cultures commonly had goats. The Romans had a lot of deities in common with the Greeks because the Romans PLAGIARIZED the Greeks. The Romans had NO THEOLOGY OF THEIR OWN! In a similar manner, many of my faith believe that the Wiccan God and Goddess are merely copies and culminations of preexisting Gods and Goddesses--of many different faiths. As for your comments about some Greek-Egyptian "fusion," they had some contact and some influence upon each other. However, the deities each culture worshipped were disparately different, in modes of thought and in cultural context alike. As such there was no real "fusion," merely a cultural exchange like most any other cultural exchange in history.



I am well aware that you are claiming that combining divinities across cultures was common practice. However, this claim is insubstantiable. The people of the various cultures to which you refer were very proud of THEIR DEITIES. These deities were home to them and were understood and separate and distinct entities. Also, people in pre-Christian Europe generally specialized in one or two of the deities and possessed only cursory knowledge of the other deities, much less deities of any other culture. The various polytheistic cultures thusly remained more or less intact, the Roman Empire's subjugation of Mediterranean Europe notwithstanding. Granted, there was no official taboo for combining deities of different cultures. However, it was largely not done for the fact that the natives of various European Pagan cultures understood their own deities to be THE ONLY OPTIONS FOR THEM, although they didn't knock other people for having other beliefs.



Yes, let's consider my Odhinn example. In the Prose Edda he was referred to as He of A Thousand Names, or something to that effect. All these names were understood to be the same deity though. Odhinn can be called Har (referring to the Havamal section of the Poetic Edda), One-Eyed, or any other of his names. However, all these names from the beginning are understood to belong to the SAME DEITY! Odhinn did, after all, roam the WHOLE of Midgard (Earth) in search of wisdom. A lot of Native American legends in fact tell of roaming travelers in search of wisdom, none of whom were regarded as divine. To that effect Odhinn often disguised himself as a common Midgardian. Coincidence? I think not. Odhinn has NEVER BEEN and NEVER WILL BE portrayed as separate deities.



As for your notions of Frigg, they are way off base. There is NO evidence linking Frigg to any other female divinity of any culture. Frigg has always been Frigg, Odhinn's wife. "Frigg knows the fate of all men, yet she dareth not speak." Yes, she has the gift of prophesy. She is her own Goddess, separate and distinct from others. The closest anyone has come to any "evidence" linking Frigg to any other deity is mere speculation about a possible correlation between Frigg and Freya, although this too is insubstantiable. Frigg and Freya have very different characters, Frigg being the more "conservative" of the two.



As a corollary to my last paragraph, just because two names look alike doesn't mean they are actually of the same person or divinity. Look at how many people are named John Smith. Does that mean they are all the same person? No. Same principle with Frigg and Freya.



So you see, the claim that polytheistic people really believed all their deities to be one or two deities holds no water. Even you admit that certain Gods were later "combined" into a composite deity image, although it wasn't all of them. A few deities being combined into one deity per HUMAN PERCEPTION and all deities OBJECTIVELY being aspects of one deity are two entirely different realms of thought.
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Post by Debbrah » Fri Apr 04, 2003 12:10 pm

Asatru in Arizona wrote:...As for your comments about some Greek-Egyptian "fusion," they had some contact and some influence upon each other. However, the deities each culture worshipped were disparately different, in modes of thought and in cultural context alike. As such there was no real "fusion," merely a cultural exchange like most any other cultural exchange in history...


There was a religion that was explicitly the fusion of Greek and Egyptian divinities. Consider Serapis, who was extremely popular.


Odhinn has NEVER BEEN and NEVER WILL BE portrayed as separate deities.


I think we're going to have to agree to disagree for now as I don't have time to hunt down the exact refrences. When I do, I'll post them. I know there are times when clearly multiple divinities are refered to that, in other places, are clearly a single being. If you read the research into the mythology, many of the names were historically initially concieved of as seperate and later the myths were acquired by Odhinn, along with the attributes. This later Odhinn I consider to be different from the early Odhinn and the early Har, etc, but yet still the same.




There is NO evidence linking Frigg to any other female divinity of any culture. Frigg has always been Frigg, Odhinn's wife....The closest anyone has come to any "evidence" linking Frigg to any other deity is mere speculation about a possible correlation between Frigg and Freya, although this too is insubstantiable.


There were some very interesting papers presented at a fairly recent (at most five or so years past) convention on folklore and mythology (held in Oslo) that discusses this. I know my school has it (as that is how I first saw this claim.) I'll see if I can find it again if you're interested. There is some interesting evidence besides names.


The myths of Pan and Cernunnos, by the way, developed independently of each other.


Yes, they did. So did most of the myths of Pan and Pan.
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Post by Asatru in Arizona » Fri Apr 04, 2003 1:13 pm

Debbrah wrote:There was a religion that was explicitly the fusion of Greek and Egyptian divinities. Consider Serapis, who was extremely popular.


Perhaps there existed such a religion, but neither of the source religions came close to fading from existence, and both still retained their native flavor and character.




I think we're going to have to agree to disagree for now as I don't have time to hunt down the exact refrences. When I do, I'll post them. I know there are times when clearly multiple divinities are refered to that, in other places, are clearly a single being. If you read the research into the mythology, many of the names were historically initially concieved of as seperate and later the myths were acquired by Odhinn, along with the attributes. This later Odhinn I consider to be different from the early Odhinn and the early Har, etc, but yet still the same.


Har and Odhinn were always the same deity, just different names. Again, Odhinn is known as He of A Thousand Names. The only thing that changed about Odhinn was the perception of Odhinn, as the stories of the Gods and Goddesses were passed down orally. Human perception has a funny way of making subtle "changes" to a deity.


There were some very interesting papers presented at a fairly recent (at most five or so years past) convention on folklore and mythology (held in Oslo) that discusses this. I know my school has it (as that is how I first saw this claim.) I'll see if I can find it again if you're interested. There is some interesting evidence besides names.


I'm certainly interested in these papers. I'm also interested in the sources, academic or otherwise, for the information contained in these papers. I'm not one to accept assertions on blind faith.


The myths of Pan and Cernunnos, by the way, developed independently of each other.

Yes, they did. So did most of the myths of Pan and Pan.


Perhaps, but that doesn't mean Pan and Cernunnos are the same deity. Again, that notion lacks proper evidence.







You know, Debbrah, you're a very interesting debate partner. I look forward to whatever evidence you have that you can bring to the "table."
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Post by Debbrah » Fri Apr 04, 2003 5:47 pm

[quote="Asatru in Arizona
The myths of Pan and Cernunnos, by the way, developed independently of each other.

Yes, they did. So did most of the myths of Pan and Pan.


Perhaps, but that doesn't mean Pan and Cernunnos are the same deity. Again, that notion lacks proper evidence.



I never tried to claim they were. My point was that Pan developed from the fusion of smaller Arcadian gods. I wasn't the one who brought up Cernunnos.





I'll try to find the Frigga article sometime next week. It should be properly cited. (I'm not exactly the type to take assertations on blind faith either.) As I noticed in another post that you're at a university, you should be able to get ahold of the book or possibly a journal with the article or those cited. If your school doesn't have it, most have interlibrary loan deals with other schools. I remember it was in the antropology or archeology section.





Back on subject, my point is not that it was the sole conception of divinity but that it isn't merely a post-christian approach: there is some strong evidence for it being an accepted ancient theological stance.
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Debbrah, don't be offended by this, I just speak my mind.

Post by Asatru in Arizona » Tue Apr 08, 2003 10:42 am

I'll take a look at the "evidence," but I doubt it will change my mind. There is no way to substantiate that pantheism was an accepted state of mind in blatantly POLYTHEISTIC cultures! It IS a post-Kristjan approach to say that pantheism is at the root of ALL polytheistic cultures. The only polytheistic cultures with ANY possible element of pantheism were Egyptian and Hindu.



My Gods and Goddesses are valid as they are, and are NOT aspects of any other deity! I maintain this with fervor, because I KNOW who my Gods and Goddesses are, despite what some historians may assert. Yes, I'm interested in looking at this "evidence," although I AM going to subject it to the utmost academic scrutiny, as I always do with claims.
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BTW, Debbrah

Post by Asatru in Arizona » Wed Apr 09, 2003 3:04 pm

What is this university document to which you refer? What is its title? I'd like to know so that I know what I'm looking up.
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Post by Anonymous » Tue Apr 22, 2003 1:06 pm

Just a thought as to the age of the pagan faiths. It is true that no one can claim that every rite and ritual they perform is completely authentic, no matter what religion. A few thousand years will make that impossible for any set of practices, including Christian ones (something about a council somewhere around 300 AD - my date may be wrong - in which the Roman Catholic Church decided to keep some books of the Bible and abandon others). However, the point of the argument is not whether every iota of practice is observed, but rather that we are placing our faith in deities that predate Christianity significantly and we are doing our best to find out what our ancestors did and to follow it to the best of our ability. The Moslem practices have changed considerably since the faith's inception and there are numerous denominations there, but each worshipper will tell you they are no-two-ways-about-it Moslem and this is when the prophet Mohammed spoke and when their religion began and why. So will Christians, and Buddhists, and Jews, and Hindis... the list goes on. And who are we to argue with them? They are right. That is their faith, that is how old it is, and they are practicing it to the best of their ability, even if those practices are not exactly the same as when the religion began.



In the same turn, who are they to argue with us? We are not making our gods up. Our names for them and ideas about them come from historical texts and traditions. We pore over every scrap of evidence we can find and try to piece the picture together as best as we can. I'm downright jealous of those from generational families, who probably have much better information than the rest of us, but nonetheless a man with only a few pages of a Bible trying to worship his god is no less a Christian than one who has a whole Bible and goes to church on Sundays. The same goes for us. These faiths are that old, these gods are that old, and we are their faithful worshippers.



As to the whole holiday thing, no one ever said the holiday dates between pagans and Christians were ever exactly the same. I should hope not, because to my understanding every culture had their own calendar back before Julius put our modern western calendar together, as modified by the Roman Catholic Church. The whole point is that the church went into a lot of areas where its new faith was being scrutinized by some very war-like people and it generally preferred to have its missionaries return in one piece. The answer? Put these new ideas in terms the locals could grasp and would want to integrate into their own, and slowly lead them away from their current practices into the new ones. Hence All-Saints' Day right after the Day of the Dead, Christmas right near Yule, the incorporation of rabbit and egg symbols into Easter, and the proximity of The Ascension of Queen Mary into Heaven to Lughnassadh (I'm still looking for this Ascension in the Bible and no dice.) We aren't looking to have Christian holidays invalidated, we just want them to stop trying to invalidate pagan holidays while they fill their celebrations with pagan symbols.

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