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Pagan Theology/Theologies
08-04-2013, 10:06 PM
Post: #1
Pagan Theology/Theologies
I am hoping this thread will be seen in a positive light, and not a negative way, to explore how different pagans practice their beliefs and not to define one theology for all.

Theology/theologies definitions:
1. The study of the nature of God/Gods and religious belief.
2. The study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially the study of god or gods and their relationship to the world
3. The study of the nature of God or Gods and religious truth.

Most of the people how have contributed to this forum sound very confident in their beliefs and may not want to explore theological concepts when they are secure in what they believe. There are others with less support or have to deal with people who do not understand paganism or worse see it as a threat to society. I personally live in an area of the country which is less accepting of paganism. My children were ostracized at school when they told other students they were pagan and we had graffiti in front of our home. My son could not date his girlfriend after the father found out. He was told he was a worshiper of the devil and that pagans do and believe evil things. He told me he did not know how to explain his beliefs. We suspect that one of my friends who is pagan lost her job because she was pagan. She lost her job shortly after one of her co-workers found out she was pagan and although her faith was never mentioned as a reason, the reasons given did not make sense. She discussed it with a lawyer but gave up when he seemed disinterested. It seems that there is still too much misunderstanding so I wanted to start this thread to discuss the different beliefs of the pagan faith.
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08-05-2013, 09:57 AM
Post: #2
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
The first issue to look at is the name pagan itself. There have already many discussions about it meanings and a discussion of the definition is not what I want to do in this thread. I made this post just to point out the historic irony of the word and why some polytheists do not like the word is from its origin. From what I have read the original word meant rustic, rural or of the countryside. This would contrast the people from the cities who felt they were more advanced, most of whom had adopted Christianity by the time this word shows up in extensive use, from the rural dwellers who still followed the Greek state religion, Roman state religion, Mithraism, various mystery religions, Celtic religions and Germanic religions. There was mentioned some evidence of the meaning of paganus to mean civilian or non-militant as opposed to solders of Christ who represented Christians. So non-Christians would be pagani. I read a comparison to the use of the word gentile to the word pagan to help understand its meaning. No matter of its origin the Christians by the 5th century and on clearly meant it as a negative term for non-Christians. So if it was used as a negative insult to people uneducated and following incorrect or even evil beliefs why would it be one of the terms of choice in our modern revival of pagan beliefs? There have been other examples of how a group of people take what was a derogatory name and change it into a positive movement with pride in an act of defiance. "Yes I am pagan and I am proud to be one and it is good to be pagan". By using the word pagan in a positive context could change the way people perceive the term and its beliefs. This could include how people view some events of history for example why did Charlemagne kill thousands of Saxons. Can you really justify such an act if pagans were not evil. Finally no matter how it was used, the term continues to be used now in a positive light to describe a religious movement which is clearly increasing with time.
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08-06-2013, 01:04 AM
Post: #3
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
Before discussing theologies in pagan religion, you first must come to terms with the diversity of pagan religions which have developed in the last 62 years. This post is to give short historical perspective. In 1951 the Witchcraft Acts of England were repealed allowing the return of pagan religions. Prior to this time they forced to operate underground or out of the attention of the church. Margret Murry popularized the idea that witchcraft was the remnant pre-Christian pagan religions in her book Witch-Cult in Western Europe printed in 1921 and Frazer’s The Golden Bough. Gerald Gardner became initiated into a reported surviving witch’s coven in 1939 and wrote Witchcraft today and the Meaning of Witchcraft after 1951. There were other books published like the Aradia, or the Gospel of Witches by C. Leland which was published in 1899. And the White Goddess by Robert Graves. These early works had some influence on the developing pagan religion which would be called Wicca including the idea of sabbat, coven and esbat but without the reference to sacrifices and no belief in Satan. Much of this early history is well documented in Ronald Hutton's book Triumph of the Moon. The difference that Gerald Gardner brought to his version of witchcraft was the development of a peaceful nature religion with the god of the forest and the goddess of fertility and rebirth. This represents the break from the image of pagan religions dictated by the church as evil Satan worshiping people who sacrifice humans. There have been many problem about Gardner and how authentic his basis was but he had an influence which increased interest in the pagan religion. By 1964 there are reports that Wicca and other forms of pagan religion were rapidly developing. Frances King wrote Rites of Modern Occult Magic in 1970 where he estimated that there were possibly 2000 people practicing traditional witchcraft and fertility religion by the 1970s. There was some evidence that people up to this time believed there was a universal old religion proposed by Murry but by the 1970s there were people like Bonewits who argued there was never a unified pagan religion but rather many pagan religions. He published a classification in the publication Green Egg dividing the pagan religions into Classical, Gothic and Neopagan. He has changed this and I will present is new classification later. By 1970 we have the New Reformed Druids of North America and the Asatru Free Assembly later called the Asatru Folk Assembly began in 1971 by Stephen McNallen. By the 1970s there was an ever expanding interest in pagan religions with the development of a large diversity of beliefs. Well that's a brief history to get started.
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08-06-2013, 09:51 AM
Post: #4
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
Ethel, this is now your blog thread on paganism. Because it's your blog thread you're free to discuss whatever you'd like here of course, just check the sticky thread on blogs within the blog subsection.
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08-07-2013, 05:51 AM
Post: #5
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
I guess I will take a swing at it.

So, I am a Gaelic Reconstructionist Polytheist, and as such, the deities I worship are those found among the pre-Christian (and to some degree post-Christian) Gaels (the peoples of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Mann).

Theologically, I am a polytheist and animist, a belief in a multitude of deities and spirits. There are three overlapping "objects" or "figures" of worship: the gods, the spirits of place and the ancestors.

The gods, broadly, are those entities who are associated with some aspect of human endeavour or some broader concepts of a foundational cosmological nature (i.e. justice, fate, sovereignty, etc.). The human endeavour part relates to functional associations with any sort of craft or skill (i.e. poetry, smith craft, architecture, math, music, philosophy, medicine, etc.) or aspects of a developmental capacity (i.e. birth, marriage, death, agriculture, etc.).
Traditionally the main sources for information of the gods comes from the corpus of medieval texts and folk tradition, coupled with comparative studies of earlier or related cultures. This, in turn, is paired with UPG (unverified personal gnosis) or bluntly "religious experience".

The ancestors, broadly, are all those who came before us. There is again some overlap between the gods and the ancestors, and a few examples of deification occurring in the mythic texts.

The spirits of place are the local, regional and geographic entities with which we share the land upon which we live. This is the more animistic element of the theology, and I realize I missed out on a thread debating the relative reality or extent of "animism", but I figured rather than hash it out on an older thread... GRP's are animists as much as we are polytheists, and the overlap between the gods and the spirits of place us such that any definitive line between them is fluid and permeable. There is very good reason to believe that many of the examples of spirits of place from folk tradition were themselves euhemerized deities. At the same time, folk practice also posits that individual spirits can reside within all manner of geographic feature (from stones, to trees, to rivers, wells, lakes, hills and mountains, and so on).

The purpose, or the basis of this religious aspect is to foster a proper and mutually beneficial relationship with the gods, ancestors and spirits of place (often called "the three", Tri na Naiomah , "the mighty three") based upon reciprocity.

We are lightning, straying from the thunder; miracles of ancient wonder.
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08-07-2013, 09:50 AM
Post: #6
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
(08-07-2013 05:51 AM)gorm_sionnach Wrote:  I guess I will take a swing at it.

So, I am a Gaelic Reconstructionist Polytheist, and as such, the deities I worship are those found among the pre-Christian (and to some degree post-Christian) Gaels (the peoples of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Mann).

Theologically, I am a polytheist and animist, a belief in a multitude of deities and spirits. There are three overlapping "objects" or "figures" of worship: the gods, the spirits of place and the ancestors.

The gods, broadly, are those entities who are associated with some aspect of human endeavour or some broader concepts of a foundational cosmological nature (i.e. justice, fate, sovereignty, etc.). The human endeavour part relates to functional associations with any sort of craft or skill (i.e. poetry, smith craft, architecture, math, music, philosophy, medicine, etc.) or aspects of a developmental capacity (i.e. birth, marriage, death, agriculture, etc.).
Traditionally the main sources for information of the gods comes from the corpus of medieval texts and folk tradition, coupled with comparative studies of earlier or related cultures. This, in turn, is paired with UPG (unverified personal gnosis) or bluntly "religious experience".

The ancestors, broadly, are all those who came before us. There is again some overlap between the gods and the ancestors, and a few examples of deification occurring in the mythic texts.

The spirits of place are the local, regional and geographic entities with which we share the land upon which we live. This is the more animistic element of the theology, and I realize I missed out on a thread debating the relative reality or extent of "animism", but I figured rather than hash it out on an older thread... GRP's are animists as much as we are polytheists, and the overlap between the gods and the spirits of place us such that any definitive line between them is fluid and permeable. There is very good reason to believe that many of the examples of spirits of place from folk tradition were themselves euhemerized deities. At the same time, folk practice also posits that individual spirits can reside within all manner of geographic feature (from stones, to trees, to rivers, wells, lakes, hills and mountains, and so on).

The purpose, or the basis of this religious aspect is to foster a proper and mutually beneficial relationship with the gods, ancestors and spirits of place (often called "the three", Tri na Naiomah , "the mighty three") based upon reciprocity.

Thank you for the response. It is very interesting response and what I was hoping for. I set up this thread to encourage people to describe how they believe to increase the understanding of what can be described as pagan theologies. Most people I know who are not pagan have no idea that pagan have a good foundation of theology with respect to what they believe and there is confusion about the differences within the pagan religion. By expressing what we believe helps to encourage better understanding. This was not meant a blog and I was surprised when the thread I opened up just disappeared but I was hoping for in not to be just what I think but rather an exchange if ways which pagans believe. The more we understand the similarities and differences the better we can interact. So I appreciate your post and hope that others will share how they believe and not see this as just a blog on my beliefs. Thanks.
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08-07-2013, 10:26 AM
Post: #7
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
Any poster can add to any other poster's blog thread Ethel, the subject matter and the way you were approaching it meant that it was probably best in the blog subsection. As you've probably noticed many posters dip in and out of Sat's blog for instance, this will in no way impede any discussion you're hoping for. If they're interested, they'll post.
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08-07-2013, 01:11 PM
Post: #8
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
As Visqueen already mentioned, that this thread has become your "blog thread", in no way impedes discussion about the subject matter. I think that it could be useful in so much as it provides a place where the polytheists/pagans who are on the board can discuss things as well as provide information for those others who may be interested in them.

We are lightning, straying from the thunder; miracles of ancient wonder.
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08-07-2013, 05:39 PM
Post: #9
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
(08-07-2013 01:11 PM)gorm_sionnach Wrote:  As Visqueen already mentioned, that this thread has become your "blog thread", in no way impedes discussion about the subject matter. I think that it could be useful in so much as it provides a place where the polytheists/pagans who are on the board can discuss things as well as provide information for those others who may be interested in them.

Thank you. I was a bit concerned when the thread disappeared but you comments are very much appreciated. The degree of misunderstanding about what is pagan is a real problem and made worse by some of the types of pagan faiths which claim strange ritual and magick. When someone sees the real foundation of pagan beliefs, they will see a legitimate religion.
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08-07-2013, 09:37 PM
Post: #10
RE: Pagan Theology/Theologies
I'm not sure, but what would qualify as "strange ritual and magick"? Any sort of ritual can be construed to be bizarre if taken out of its own context. A Catholic mass could be looked upon as ritualistic cannibalism, for example, yet it is not "strange" simply because of the sheer demographic power behind it.

I certainly do perform a daily routine of ritual, prayer and songs, coupled with a more involved set of practices on the holy days and milestones (marriage, birth, naming, coming of age, funerary rites, etc.)

What would you consider an example of a strange ritual? I'm not asking to be condescending, but out of curiosity.

We are lightning, straying from the thunder; miracles of ancient wonder.
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