Modern pagan practices may hold wisdom that is desperately needed for our time.
As Awyn Dawn reminded me in our recent interview, paganism is far older than “paganism.”
The word pagan means “rural” or “rustic” and was used (perhaps coined) by fourth-century Christians to refer to all religions other than Christianity and Judaism. Basically, it was the Christian term for polytheism, the worship of more than one God, and an epithet lobbed by Christians at their polytheistic “enemies.”
Given that the word is so closely tied to Christian imperialism, it may not be surprising that today’s pagans are taking proud ownership of the word and promoting their earth-honoring, often Goddess-centered spiritualities in a world where mainstream Christianity is in decline.
While I do not identify as a pagan, I do believe that nature is sacred, a manifesting of the nondual God my tradition calls YHVH and whom I encounter in the form of Chochma/Sophia, Lady Wisdom, the first of YHVH’s manifestations according to Proverbs 8:22. My relationship with the Goddess goes back to my freshman year of college, and the words I use to honor Her come from an experience I had with Her at Miriam’s Well in Nazareth. Meditating on the image of Miriam/Mary, I heard what the ancient rabbis called a bat kol, literally the Daughter’s Voice, which they associated with the Voice of God.
The Voice urged me to honor the Mother this way, “Hail Chochma, full of grace; the Divine is You. Blessed are You and all women and blessed is the fruit of Your womb: all being. Holy Mother, fount of Wisdom, guide us seekers now and into the moments of our death. Amen.” I have recited these words daily as part of my spiritual practice.
The element of paganism I believe is desperately needed in our time is its realization that Nature is sacred—God’s Body, if you like. In this way we know that all life is holy, something all religions once knew but have long forgotten in their various quests for dominance and control over both people and planet.
Ours is a time of darkness marked by the collapse of civility and the crumbling of social, political, economic, and environmental systems that once contributed to the thriving of life and liberal human civilization. Indeed, for many, the word “liberal” is as much a term of derision as is the word “pagan.”
As I said, I don’t claim the title “pagan” for myself, but my understanding of God and Truth is an earth-honoring one.
I would go so far as to say that any form of religion or spirituality that is not earth-honoring but seeks salvation off-world either on another planet or in heaven or in some other spiritual realm is contributing to the demise of humanity and millions of our fellow beings as well.
Listen to the podcast episode that inspired this essay here.