A Pagan View of Death

One of my earliest memories is watching a Sunday morning religious show when I was about four years old. When … Continued

One of my earliest memories is watching a Sunday morning religious show when I was about four years old. When they talked about people dying and going to heaven, I remember clearly thinking, “That’s stupid, everyone know when you die you come back as another person.” Learning that neither my parents, relatives or Hebrew school teachers shared this belief didn’t shake it in the least, so I was delighted, when I grew older, to discover other religions that did, including Paganism.

Our understanding, however, is a bit more complex than my childhood certainty. In The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, I wrote: “The heart of the Pagan understanding of death is the insight that birth, growth, death and rebirth are a cycle that forms the underlying order of the universe. We can see that cycle manifest around us in every aspect of the natural world, from the decay of falling leaves that feed the roots of growing plants, to the moon’s waning and waxing. Hard as it is for us to die, or to accept the death of someone we love, we know that death is a part of the natural process of life.

“Therefore we can trust that death, like every other phase of life, offers us opportunities for growth in wisdom and love.” (1)

Our metaphor for death is of a journey . When we die, the soul voyages across a dark sea to the Shining Isle, the Isle of Apples. There, we walk beneath the apple trees of the Goddess, trees which are in bud, blossom, fruit, and decay all at the same time, reviewing our life and its lessons, and growing ever younger, until we are at last young enough to be reborn.

“You warriors, here your battles are over,
You workers, here your tasks are done.
You who are hurt, here find healing,
You who are weary, here find rest,
You who are old, here grow young again,
For this is the Shining Isle, the Land of Youth, the Isle of Apples,
Here, what is remembered lives…”
(From Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance ritual.)

While some Pagans believe this story literally, others of us see it as a poetic expression of the cyclical nature of birth and death. Pagans are not trying to escape the wheel of birth and death. We see birth and life as a great gift, and the reward of a good life is to be reborn again among those we have loved before, so we can know and love them again.

At this time of year, as we move toward Samhain or Halloween, the ancient festival of the ancestors, we say ‘the veil is thin’ that divides the world of the living from the realm of the dead. The ancestors return to visit us—and that is the origin of our Halloween customs of setting candles out in jack-o-lanterns to light their way to our doors, of giving offerings (once harvest offerings, now candy) to children, who are the ancestors returning. In our Samhain rituals, like the large, public Spiral Dance ritual that Reclaiming creates every year right before Halloween, (2) we often take an imaginative journey to the Isle, to meet and talk with our beloved dead, to receive help and guidance, to finish what is unfinished, to offer our love. I have many times had visions and a deep sense of connection with my loved ones who have passed on. The meaning is often very personal, a message of hope or approval or advice.

My mother was a meticulous, well-organized person. When she was dying, one of her great worries was what would happen to all of her files. On her deathbed, she wanted to go through her Rolodex, instructing my brother about whom to invite to the funeral. (He got through the ‘E’s, and then balked.) My brother and I tend to be messy and disorganized, our desks piled high with papers and our shelves crammed with books out of order. A month after our mother died, we were both separately struck with an overwhelming urge to clean up our offices, reorganize our files, and generally straighten up. Living on opposite coasts, it was only after days of dusty filing that we compared notes, and realized that Mom might be gone, but death had not deterred her from her mission to finally get us to clean up our rooms!

I’ve had many similar experiences. If there is a theological meaning, it is that the community continues to hold us, even beyond death. And death itself teaches us to value and embrace the fleeting, fragile gift of life.

(1) Starhawk, M.Macha Nightmare and the Reclaiming Collective. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying, San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1997, p. 58
(2) This year Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance ritual will be held on October 27 in Kezar Pavilion, San Francisco.

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  • wiccan

    Merry Meet, Starhawk!Like you, since I was a child I believed ““everyone knows when you die you come back as another person.”” I wonder if other Pagans have had the same belief since childhood.I posted this on the readers response page but got no answers. Maybe I’ll have better luck here.In the weeks before my brother-in-law died, he saw and spoke to “people” that my sister and I could not see or hear. When I told a co-worker about this, she said her mother-in-law did the same thing before she died. The hospice workers at her mother-in-law’s hospice said that they see this happening frequently. So I ask you, has anyone else had similar experiences? Do you believe other souls come to help us make the transition from this world to the next?

  • lepidopteryx

    Even as a little Baptist girl, I wondered why, if people could come back from the dead at the Rapture, couldn’t they come back before then? It’s a wonder I wasn’t burned for heresy with some of the questions I asked. I’ve never seen or spoken to the dead, but I was very close to my maternal grandparents. My grandmother taught me to cook, and to see it as a creative outlet, not a chore. The woman could serve you a cardboard casserole and have you begging for seconds. I sometimes smell her perfume when I’m performing the culinary experiments my family fondly refer to as “dinner.”

  • Priver

    Merry meet all! It’s good to see a question where Starhawk is able to get back here. Other voices are needed these days, especially in a forum like this.I’ve considered three possibilities.I believe I have a soul. That little something extra that makes me who I am. Therefore-If the energies that make up my soul rejoin that of the Earth after I’m gone, I’m ok with that.If whatever powers that may be decide that I’ve got more work to do and would be coming back in this or some other form, I’m ok with that. I’m having a blast in this life, why would I expect the next one to be worse?If it all just stopped after this? That’s ok too. Wiccan: Have you heard about the cat who lives in a hospice home who only snuggles with dying patients right at the end? They had a really interesting story about it not that long ago. If live animals can sense when death is around, why not people? I don’t know if those types of phenomena are some sort of psychological call for help when the brain knows the body’s shutting down or not- but if such things help those pass over or give peace to those who will be affected by such a loss, it can’t be as bad a thing as some make it out to be.Blessed be!

  • Jihadist

    Madam StarhawkMerry meet and welcome back. Thank you for this essay that clarifies for me on life, after-life and rebirth as per pagan beliefs. Admittedly, I had confused it with the reincarnation and rebirth as held in Buddhism and Hinduism prior to reading your essay.Thank you again.Peace be with you. J

  • Gaby

    Merry Meet, All!Although I can appreciate Pagan belief about rebirth, I am not so sure I want to be born again. I am so sick of disaster, famine, war, murder, disease and suffering, etc. Humans have the capabiity to be a wonderful species, unfortunately we don’t use our gift of love and understanding as a society.I know I sound like an idealistic dreamer, but I would so much prefer to live in a state of peace. If I already must come back, I think I’d prefer to be a rock.Namaste!

  • wiccan

    Gaby-I still have my fingers crossed that I’ll get to come back as a housecat!

  • Nameless

    Dear Pagans,Why trouble with life if we do not know the origin of life? Who has been creating life has always been capable of preserving us (you and me) in the life after death. What is the joy of life if we do not have hope in the life after death?Have you tried to believe in Jesus Christ, the giver of life? Try Jesus and I’m sure you will like the heavenly life after death.

  • Possum

    Wayne: “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris”

  • Nameless

    Dear Pagans,Why trouble with life if we do not know the origin of life? Who has been creating life has always been capable of preserving us (you and me) in the life after death. What is the joy of life if we do not have hope in the life after death?Have you tried to believe in Jesus Christ, the giver of life? Try Jesus and I’m sure you will like the heavenly life after death.

  • Patrick

    As A Nichiren Buddhist, Nichiren encourages, “If one is to understand life, one must first understand death.”Both life and death are functions of life itself!It appears this wiccan author understands the basics of life and death, beyond the usual Christian approach of Heaven or Hell as the final resting place, versus heavan and hell as life conditions we experience daily.All I would add is this life and it’s circumstances surrounding it were determined by past causes or karma from previous lives; manifest in this lfe; we created ourselves. No more Why me!I would encourage everyone to explore what does life and death mean to them individually, as the answer may motivate action in one direction or another.Patrick

  • Terra Gazelle

    Starhawk,I was talking to my Hp last night and we were discussing Reincarnation. It got to what is the Spirit…what is it a part of…is the brain involved in spirit? We decided the brain was involved with spirit. For one example;There is documented evidence of the reality of Near Death Experiences. They do happen… Those experiences are stored in the brain…the Spirit is not in a box somewhere…it does exist and it is part of the material plane.Spirit is energy…energy does not die, like a light bulb does not die when the light is flipped off. The light bulb might die when it is worn out…but the energy will light up another bulb. And another…and another.In my tradition we have Summerland..a place to renew our spirits, to ponder what we need to learn for enlightenment. What is the best way to learn those lessons? Yes, I believe we choose our families…also the Lords of Karma has their hands in it.If you are a bigot there then is a lesson you need to learn. You may well come back as what you were bigoted against. It’s not a punishment, its the laws of return. What you put out returns to you. A simple concept.I can look back and I can see where I was led to the people in my life. They gave me what I needed to grow as a person. I was taken by the hand and led to these people, and we have enriched each others lives. I was born into a family that fostered in me what I needed to be, to be whom I am. I can see my path from where I am to where I was, and I know I was born to be who I am, with those I am with. A horrible run on sentence…Oh and Wicca’s ideas of reincarnation is not like that of the Hindu or Buddhists..People are people and animals are animals..it is belittling the animal to think that they are a lower form…they are honored as their own spiritual beings. People have the choice to be good or bad…they have choice, an animal has instict. Animals are true to what they are created to be; a dog is a dog, a cat is a cat, a lion is a lion…a person can be a saint or a killer. Blessed be..

  • doubting sock puppet

    “. . .documented evidence of the reality of Near Death Experiences”Yet nothing in that ‘evidence’ indicates that a soul or spirit exists outside a living brain. In fact that which you call a soul or spirit may indeed be nothing more than screwy brain activity. Deprived of oxygen the brain certainly has a tendency to get a bit wacky.. and once recovered the images and thoughts, queer and corrupted as they were during the chemical failure, store themselves in peculiar ways… much like the images on a damaged VHS tape (remember those?) pause over a corrupted part of the tape, sure if you stare at it long enough, you’ll make out some details, but most of the indecipherable stuff is merely your brain trying to apply known templates to scrambled data…. This is not unlike what hard doses of brain-effecting narcotics will do for you.. the NDE can be pretty much chemically duplicated with LSD…There is no evidence or physical indication that there is a spirit or soul, or energy field AFTER brain death.. ‘near death’ can also be defined as ‘not dead’ therefore ‘afterlife’ does not get proven or authenticated until actual death.Energy does not die… true… it does change, in fact, once released it NEVER regains original form intact. “but the energy will light up another bulb” Yes, but never the burnt-out one again.

  • Paganplace

    Wow, that was long. I hope it was worth reading. 🙂

  • wiccan

    Have no fear, PaganPlace, your post was precisely long enough to say what needed to be said. And very gracefully, at that. 🙂

  • Mugsy

    She turned me into a newt!

  • E favorite

    Merry Meet – so THIS is where you all went off to. I posted this on the Epstein thread earlier today: I was hoping I’d see you gathered somewhere soon, because I have a question for you.Would you say you believe in supernatural Gods? Would appreciate responses from any/all of you lovely pagansthanks

  • Doubting sock puppet

    Paganplace…With all due respect though I have no idea what you said… could you jack it down a notch or to for a poor layman?thanks.

  • Paganplace

    OK, Sock… *jacking down a notch.* Do you know the premises of what you asserted, or did you just start assuming something about em? 🙂

  • Doubting sock puppet

    Sorry, paganplace.. My assertions were merely that I could not reason, or even imagine that what appears to be neuron misfires and chemical tricks are anything other than that. How does one make or justify the leap that previous lives occured and what is the metaphysical vs. physical significance of an NDE?

  • rungus

    Well, it’s reassuring to find that pagan beliefs about life and death can be every bit as goofy as those of Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. What I find interesting is that, in the posted comments on the article, there is a less harsh and acrimonious response than one often sees here to articles either for against the standard book religions. Why is that, I wonder? Because paganism is seen as enderaingly whacky and fringe, and certainly less threatening than the triumphalist ravings of Christians and Muslims?

  • Paganplace

    Or you could just call us a bunch of foot loops who don’t come on the Internet and demand the ‘Way, Truth, And Life’ lies in deny ing anyone has a subconscious. You could do that, too. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    ??????????????????????????????????????????????

  • Orbinalis

    May your delusions continue to support you.

  • Paganplace

    I’m not sure how to respond in kind, there. :)May your reason and dreams share housing harmoniously. 🙂

  • wiccan

    Merry Meet, all. Jihadist, good to see you again.Priver-Yes I saw the reports of the “angel of death” cat, and had to call my sister in NY. You see, she had a cat named “Schnapps” that was a “nurse” kitty. She was a rather stand-offish lady, unless you were sick. The she would come and lay down beside you, and stay with you til you were well. She knew before you did if you were getting sick, and she wasn’t wrong once.

  • lepidopteryx

    E favorite: Would you say you believe in supernatural Gods? Would appreciate responses from any/all of you lovely pagans**I can’t speak for all Pagans, but I’ll gladly give you my view.For me the Divine – the gods and goddesses – are not entities separate from myself to whom I offer petitionary prayers and who must be appeased in order for me to escape their wrath, but simply aspects of the living Universe of whom I am a part, not from whom I am apart. I hope that makes things a little clearer for you.

  • fcsanders

    When your mind dies you die with it.You are your mind and it’s a function of the physical brain….period.

  • Terra Gazelle

    Abby,The question was how you see the after life. So Starhawk, I and others answered that question…you don’t like what Starhawk said, give your own answer.Paganism covers alot of ground…there are many religions and traditions under it’s umbrella. No Pagan can answer for each one that calls themselves Pagan. Starhawk takes her time to answer these questions and to be a presence here for the Pagan community. She is the token Pagan but at least she is here..and she is a beautiful example of who we are. So, if she does not represent your tradition…do it yourself. I am curious on what your view of the after life is.Good Goddess,~~First what is meant by supernatural? Do you mean out side of nature? Super Natural (Ultra Natural)? Well…my deities are of nature. There is nothing outside of nature. I think people kind of see nature as the trees and rivers and mountains and of course the wild animals…but that is it. They see their God as a seperate being…That god is seperate from it’s creation. It’s all very psycotic. I will not go into it, there is no time. But in Starhawk’s book, Spiral Dance, a question is asked..”Do you believe in the gods?” The answer is, “do you believe in rocks?”~~~cut an apple crosswise. There you will see the Pentagram…ancient symbol of protection, rebirth, wisdom. It has been important to almost every ancient culture; from the Mayans of Latin America, to India, China, Greece, and Egypt. It has been found scratched on the walls of Neolithic caves, and in Babylonian drawings, where it marks the pattern the planet Venus makes on its travels- a secret symbol of the Goddess. The pentagram is seen as the microcosm of the universe, and has been the symbol of many Goddesses as well as Man.The five points bring together the four corners of the world with Spirit on top above all.Witches and Pagans in general can take a small thing and see something huge. An acorn is seen as a symbol of our god…an acorn has within it a forest. An apple also is balance and seen as representing a core belief…the fruit of the apple is healthy and good for you…the seeds contain poison-arsnic. A symbol that there is always death in life…and life in death. So The Isle of Apples is one name of our after world.terra

  • Terra Gazelle

    FCSanders, you are mistakeing the mind with the brain…two different things. The brain is an organ that we can hold and see…the mind is our conscousness. Both can be diseased, but one we can operate on and the other we can only treat in other ways. They both exist but only one is visible.The brain can be diseased, the mind healthy…and visa versa.The brain is like a computer, made of many smaller parts. The Consciousness does not understand words… but pictures, sounds, symbols, colors…etc, and is a unity. Our consiousness is part of who we are…we are more then the brain, if it becomes damaged we are still who we are.The brain may die but does the mind- the consciousness? terraterra

  • GOOD GODDESS

    Pretensiousness and arrogance are not the monopoly of Christians it seems.

  • Derek Setterlund

    Thank you very much for printing ” A Pagan View of Death”. As I read each sentence, I found myself completely identifying with each comment as something that I have also seen these things as self evident.

  • E favorite

    Priver, Paganplace, Terra, Lepi, – thanks for your responses. I’ll wait a bit to see if others respond, then tell you why I asked

  • Abby

    I resent Starhawk cavalierly representing her rather narrow Reclaiming Wiccan belief as the beliefs of the Pagan Community and spouting her views as if they were ours. Some Pagan share her beliefs about death, but many do not. Not all Pagans are so Eurocentric. It would be far better if Starhawk had stated that these were HER beliefs. Starhawk does not represent me, and has no right to speak for me as a Pagan, and never has. Abby

  • lepidopteryx

    Nameless: Why trouble with life if we do not know the origin of life?**Just because I don’t attribute my origins to your god doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own beliefs about those origins. And even if I had no particular beliefs about the origins of life, why would that prevent me from enjoying it? I have no idea where the lone purple flower that appeared in my garden the other morning came from – I didn’t plant it, and i’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s still lovely,a nd I will enjoy it’s beauty as long as it lasts, even though I have no clue as to its origins.**Who has been creating life has always been capable of preserving us (you and me) in the life after death. What is the joy of life if we do not have hope in the life after death?**Dearest, the joy in life is in the living of it. I’m alive, there are people, animals, and plants whose presence in my life gives me joy, there are activities I engage in that I enjoy, the list goes on and on. If the only thing that mattered was the life after death, then why would I have any reason to go on living? Why would I not hasten my death in order to enjoy the life after death that much sooner? **Have you tried to believe in Jesus Christ, the giver of life? Try Jesus and I’m sure you will like the heavenly life after death.**I tried Jesus – didn’t work for me. He seems to have been a really nice guy who had some good ideas about how to treat other people, but I don’t believe that he was a god. And the Christian concept of heaven really doesn’t appeal to me anyway.

  • John Griffith (Bright)

    I like the poetic flow of your explanation, you have a talent for writing. The idea your words express is comforting and I even enjoy the thoughts and emotions evoked. It’s also wishful thinking. I do, however, have a serious question. Why apples?Yous curiously–

  • The Moderate

    Dear Starhawk,Or should I say Merry Meet? I am always interested in understanding more about the religions, and your essay gives me welcome occasion to learn of your views and doctrines. Thank you for the kind apology (in my theological tradition that means “defense”) of the modern Pagan doctrines on the great cycle of life.A couple of interesting books I have found recently on Pagan religion that may be of interest to some of the regulars here include:Iamblichus: “Theurgy of the soul”I shall get you’re your Spiral Dance book. If it is as thoughtful as your essays here I am sure it will be a great read. Most of my knowledge of Pagan Cult comes from the Greco-Roman writers who are probably a bit out of date after two thousand years on the shelf. Do I take it correctly that neo-Paganism is more firmly anchored to Celtic tradition than Greco-Roman?Thanks for the thoughts, and all the best.

  • The Moderate

    Dear fcsanders:”When your mind dies you die with it.You are your mind and it’s a function of the physical brain….period.”Then we are truly “computers made out of meat” lost in an uncaring universe? Possibly. But not probably. And certainly not “…period.” It may be that the Universe presents evidence to the contrary.

  • Terra Gazelle

    Derek,terra

  • Priver

    The Moderate:Starhawk’s books are wonderful reads, and even though I don’t always agree with everything she says (the history is quite a bit more scattered rather than one direct lineage) I can certainly respect her for illuminating one path of many. And I really respect her for being able to go out and stand up for what’s right, without being asked to, often at her own peril. She doesn’t just talk about doing things, she is one of the first ones there in a time of crisis. A lot of people have read her work and suddenly found that they had a spiritual home in Paganism. There is much that she offers.. and she’s not the only one.Neo-Paganism isn’t based off of any ‘one’ tradition.. it’s an umbrella term for a wide range of belief systems, some of which may have Celtic elements, and some of which may not. The Celts did exchange ideas and information with the Greeks and Romans even while assimilating into a new society, so there is much common ground.E Fav:I guess what probably needs to be said here is what’s been assumed is already understood- that what we call ‘Divine’ or ‘God/dess’ is not something outside of us or outside of Nature. The aforementioned mystical experiences/NDEs are a part of the human experience. Therefore, they are a part of Nature- just one that we can’t empiricize. For Pagans the universe we live in is somehow alive- and somehow self aware. It makes its presence known in such subtle ways that we often overlook it until such overwhelming emotion- whether found in relationshps, creative endeavors or the natural world- smacks us over the head and forces our jaws to drop and yells at us to pay attention.When you see the Divine everywhere, in everything, you try as hard as you can to understand and work with Nature-learn about it, on its own terms, honor it, preserve it as best you can.

  • Priver

    Hi Jihadist,For most of the Pagans I’ve met, there seems to be a wide range of belief about what happens after we die. No two that I know have really reached an agreement. Can’t speak for everyone though. It’s just been my experience.E Fav:”Would you say you believe in supernatural Gods?I guess you could say that I’m in the same camp as those here who have said that what if Nature includes stuff that we don’t understand/can’t yet measure empirically. Sorta have to redefine what constitutes Natural vs. ‘Supernatural.’ Some Pagans will say that what is perceived through those NDE/out of body/mystical experiences is aspects of our own psychology, getting us to pay attention to what needs it. Others will say differently. Most likely it’ll depend on who you ask.Maybe it’s just me but I really don’t understand why it’s illogical somehow to see cycles of life, death and rebirth in Nature and to think that maybe death works the same way.What really puzzles me is when I ask some folks about the Christian heaven. Wouldn’t Jesus/God know if you were lying about believing in them just to ‘hedge your bets’ a la Occam’s Razor? If lying is supposed to be one of the ‘Big 10’, as it were, then the exercise is useless regardless.Besides, why would I want to be someplace where my loved ones aren’t just by virtue of being born to others or not thinking like everyone else? I think we may all be surprised after we’re dead. How about this- we’ll have a good laugh over our misconceptions- reverence and mirth, you know- and I’ll bring the cakes and ale. 🙂 What do you say?

  • Arachne Priestess

    Namaste StarhawkGrowing up as a Methodist Minister’s daughter, I had no concepts of birth and death, except heaven and hell, until the age of 12 when I started looking at Native American spirituality. I wasn’t one of those people who just knew and always believed that people came back as other people.So in stepping from one religion to another, it was like rewriting not only the way I viewed the world around me, but the way I thought, spoke, and lived my life. The beliefs were so patently different, that it was like being reawakened after a long state of sleep.And from that reawakening, I viewed the beliefs I had taken for granted as a child with eyes of disbelief. I didn’t understand how people could believe in just one deity by such a generic name as God, and deify his son in the same sentence.But as one grows, one learns that while our beliefs are perfect for us, they do not apply to all and sundry. The monotheistic religions have their place for people that have a certain need, just as ours offer comfort to us. It doesn’t mean their wrong, it just means their different.So when I look at my Christian brethren, as they tell me I’m going to burn in hell, I don’t see separates. I see human beings, kindred, whether anyone else believes it or not. Despite differing beliefs in death and the afterlife, I see many paths leading to the same door. And from there, their words wash away like raindrops upon a windshield. Who’s right……who’s wrong….it doesn’t really matter once you step off the path and walk through the door.

  • a person

    not everybody under the christian umbrella condemns people to heaven or to hell, although the christians who would do those things would tell the non-condemners they were going to hell. just didn’t want to be lumped in and wanted to defend a sector of christianity that by default gets a bad rap.

  • Chiguaga

    Paganism is the doctrine of SATAN.

  • Terra Gazelle

    Chiguaga: Well if it is, he goofed up…a doctrine by something you do not believe in is a failure from the start, isn’t it?We have a guide that says…Do what ye will, but harm none. Well that kind of creates a stumbling block for your god of evil.Because we have to think about what our deeds will effect. Will what we do bring harm to anyone? You believe in that being, he is your evil god. You have given it more power then your good God. He is a non- entity to us. He is not in our pantheon. In other words, he’s not a member of our myths, not in our lives…he is a big part of your’s. You have made him into a god. So you follow satan’s doctrine, for you give it credance. And to a Witch what you give strength to, you give power over you.

  • LIfe Changes

    Please, everyone, know that all Pagans do not share Starhawk’s beliefs of the afterlife. For her to make a blanket statement like that is harmful to the very differences that lie within the Pagan community.

  • Ja Joz

    A sucker suckling a sucker? Ya Ya

  • Chiguaga

    If pagans don’t believe in Satan, then they don’t have any moral basis to know what is good or what is bad. They live in a moral vacuum.

  • locomoco

    It’s a pleasure to hang out with wiccans because as a whole, y’all are so much more openminded. (Though I see a couple of exclusionists have crept into the big circle, even so…)As a practicing Christian, I long ago rejected the “eternal torment in hell” theology as being completely inconsistent with the concept of a loving creator who made each of us as unique souls, sparks of the divine fire. No such creator would lovingly birth us and then condemn us to be tortured throughout eternity. Not under any circumstances.This physical life is a precious gift, not “in spite of”, but precisely “because of” all its temptations, inevitable setbacks, frustrations and our physical infirmities that ultimately devolve into “death”. What makes it so precious is that these represent a spiritual “obstacle course” much more challenging than any we could face in the discarnate state. As such, we are given the rare opportunity for a crash course in spiritual growth; it’s up to each of us to see how much we can make of this opportunity.Here, we are given a power to create and nurture new life in a manner not available to us in our spirit form. It is, therefore, a perfect “boot camp” for all of us wannabee co-creators. And we cannot achieve our intended stature as such, until we have thoroughly grasped the nature of cause and effect, and how our choices beget consequences. Our physical world, governed by linear time, demonstrates these consequences unequivocally and rigorously — hence — “Schoolhouse Earth”.In spirit form once again, we can recuperate in our Summerlands, review the successes and failures of our most recent efforts, and map out the next steps of the path that leads us ever on and on. The study, practice and learning continue apace, of course; but the focus is necessarily different. What a rare and challenging time to be here! What marvelous opportunities for rapid growth! Let’s help one another along the way rather than tearing each other down — can we try?

  • E favorite

    Lepi, Terra, Priver, Paganplace — I asked about supernatural Gods abecause I thought that was the one absolute distinction between atheists and believers. For instance, both could be rational (most of the time) freethinking,, liberal/ conservative, smart/dumb, nice/nasty, sensitive/ doltish, etc. But the one thing that separates them is their position on belief in invisible supernatural beings.Then I got to thinking that Pagans probably don’t believe in supernatural Gods either and it sounds like you don’t.However, you consider yourselves religious, right? and you do believe in gods, right? so you are “believers” sort of, is this right? You could also be thought of as naturalists, I think, which is a term atheists also identify with, but I don’t think Christians would.So I guess the next question is – if you don’t mind — which stance on god/religion seems closest to yours – the athiests’ or that of religious people who believe in a supernatural god?Thanks.

  • Roy, Chiapas Mexico

    What is cool about Pagans is that they don’t try to shove their beliefs down the throats of other like the religions of Abraham. Read the Pagan posts – friendly, sincere, easy going. Compare them to the know-it-all punitive, bossy, judgemental attitude of Chiguaga above. By their fruits ye shall know them.

  • Laurel Yves

    Chiguaga,I don’t know any Pagans who believe in “centaurs, talking deer, goblins jumping around in the forest”, at least not in the literal sense. I don’t know where you get your information on Paganism, but it doesn’t sound like an informed source.I also disagree that you need to believe in Satan in order to have a moral basis to know good from bad. The concepts of good and bad are culturally derived values. The culture from which Christianity sprang assigned what they considered “bad” to Satan and the “good” to God. At least, that’s my opinion.

  • Christopher W. Chase

    Thanks, Starhawk, for sharing your insights from the Reclaiming tradition. I also appreciate that you titled your piece “A Pagan view of Death,” rather than “The Pagan View of Death.” Many of us have our own covenants with our own Gods and Goddesses, and I’m glad to see that you and many others recognize that there can be more than one Pagan pathway. I hope that more people will realize you were being descriptive rather than prescriptive.

  • lepidopteryx

    LOCOMOCO:Welcome to the family.

  • lepidopteryx

    LOCOMOCO:Welcome to the family.

  • E favorite

    Locomoco – thanks for your post. You sound more like a pagan than a “practicing Christian” to me. I wonder what the pagans will think. I’m assuming by “practicing,” you mean you attend church. Do you mention this point of view to your fellow parishioners and clergy? If so, how do they respond. Also, as pleasant and reasonable as it sounds, it goes against Christian doctrine as I understand it. Even though some denominations don’t emphasize hell, as far as I know, none of them have decided it doesn’t exist.

  • The Moderate

    Dear Terra:”I am of the Greco-Roman tradition.”Me too. Along my path from Atheism, I found a great interest in the Greco-Roman traditions. It was kind of funny, really. For the first forty years of my life I read everything focused on the future. Then it began to dawn on me that I would not live forever. I sought to learn from cultures that were much closer to the whole cycle of life, death, and rebirth. I did some readings on Greco-Roman Paganism, and found much there that is useful to understanding how to live and die well. I also studied with some Christians who were quite accepting of my whole history. Very nice people, they are. On the whole, I find the religious, be they Jews, Christians, Pagans, or Unitarians, to be more at peace than those who are completely out of touch with (the) God(s). I also find that, as much as the modern secularists struggle to deny it, science and religion have developed together and until quite recently have supported each other. Of course you have to get past the front pages and into the actual history to find that.A couple of other books next on my reading list that might interest a fellow Greco-Roman are:Philip Freeman: “The Philosopher and the Druids”All the best

  • The Moderate

    Dear locomoco:”As a practicing Christian, I long ago rejected the “eternal torment in hell” theology as being completely inconsistent with the concept of a loving creator who made each of us as unique souls, sparks of the divine fire.”Well said. I, too, have always had a problem with the idea of infinite punishment for finite sin as sound doctrine. C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce discusses this at length. His thesis is that some souls choose to separate themselves from God, and God allows this as part of allowing independent beings to exist. A tiny place not illuminated by God’s presence is reserved for these souls so that they may freely choose to live apart. It is called “Hell” by some, because of what these souls loose by choice.

  • Christopher W. Chase

    Chiguaga, your statement that “*If pagans don’t believe in Satan, then they don’t have any moral basis to know what is good or what is bad. They live in a moral vacuum*” is obviously and patently false. Plato, Aristotle, Gilgamesh, and other ancient Pagans lived long before any Christian notion of “Satan” and constructed sturdy moral philosophies that are studied to this day. Other religions, from Confucianism and Taoism to Hinduism and Buddhism have no notion of a supreme personal source of evil, yet have long and proud traditions of ethical thought. If you wish other people to take your comments seriously, then you should consider whether they fit historical fact.And regardless of what Pagans may or may not believe about Other-Than-Human-Sacred-Persons (as Native Americans and many other religions do), it is certainly no less believable than professing faith in what other religions might characterize as a “resurrected Jewish zombie.”

  • Terra Gazelle

    Arminius,It is good to see you though. NDE’s are real…and can be transformational. I don’t know a Pagan that is really afraid of death. I think its because we expect a wonderful place, because our gods would not give a stone to a thirsty child.Terra

  • Mad Love

    E FavoriteIt seems to me that nothing is supernatural in the true sense of the word. Just because there are things in the multiverse that are beyond our understanding doesn’t make them beyond nature. I think I know what you’re getting at – an anthropomorphic being removed from his creation while looking down and playing with it- but no, I don’t think many Pagans see it like that. Probably most see their Gods and Goddesses as useful metaphors, more poetic than literal. It’s more Pantheism that anything, seeing the world as a living interactive immanence that tends to offend atheist, theists and deists equally.

  • David

    “death as a journey….” And we think that is an original idea? Just because one puts ideas in natural, poetic-imaged scenes certainly does not make it so.

  • Thumbelina

    The fool in his heart says there are no pixies.

  • wiccan

    Dia Duit, Arminius, and Blessed Be to all. Yes, it is nice to have a hiding place from all the Sturm and Drang on the other threads. :-)I’ve been reading about some NDEs on the other threads, but none that have answered my question. Before my brother-in-law passed over he would talk to people that my sister and I couldn’t see. This happened on two occasions that I witnessed. I told one of my co-workers about this, and she said she had the same experience before her mother-in-law died. She also said that the hospice workers told her it happens frequently. I wondered if anyone else had heard of these “soul guides” appearing to usher the dying over to the other side?

  • Anonymous

    Merry Meat!….Is good to eat..Especially..When cooked with heat!

  • Aeosop

    Vesuvius,By chance, did you see goddess at the town square the night afore? Give me a sign if you did. Ho, I do not know what she looks like. Many talk of her, but alas, no one has ever seen her or has broken wind with her. Later, dude.A

  • Arminius

    Ave, Wiccan!Indeed, so far this discussion has been an Oasis of Civilization compared to other threads. Only a matter of time, I fear, before the nutcases get here. Ah, well, we will endure.As to what you witnessed at the passing of your brother-in-law: that is something beyond me. I cannot speak against it, though, especially given the experience of my sister.Arminius

  • Vesuvius

    Yo, A…Nay…I did not see goddess nor has anyone else I know.Know ye, I am beginning to think she be a figment of the imagination of some minds. Possibly envisioned by and through a leaping gnome (or in this case, gnomette)…or perhaps a unicorn with the head of a greek babe. Or possibly even a jackalope.Know ye what I mean? Say I..a fairytale.Later,V

  • E favorite

    Wiccan: “I wondered if anyone else had heard of these “soul guides” appearing to usher the dying over to the other side”The hospice nurses told us to watch for it when my uncle was dying, because it meant he would go soon. They did not refer to them as “soul guides” though, or give any indication that it was anything but a typical phenomenon of dying. I was there at one point when my uncle was calling out to some of our mutual deceased family members – using their ancient nicknames. It was lovely.

  • VICTORIA

    hi wiccan- i posted a story on the main blog about my brother when he was dying that is similar- he saw what i later thought was the angel of death- and died 2 hours later. ive spent alot of my life in hospices with those waiting to die, and in hospitals with those in the direct process- one of my dearest friends in the world is a gay episcopalian priest- who for the past 30 years has spent almost every single day of his life sitting bedside with the dying- in hospice and hospital situations, it is often difficult to get a real feel for what is real and what is the result of opiates- ive certainly had many supernatural experiences in my life, but not related to death. i am confirmed that there are unseen forces that are active in this mortal sphere- i was actually expectng to see some stories on this blog, which is why i came here animals certainly do have a response to death- but it seems to be a repellent one for them the hospice cat is certainly tangible evidence of the unseen affecting the seen

  • lepidopteryx

    Arminius, merry meet! How have you been? I thought of you the other day while savoring a Guiness….

  • Arminius

    Lep! Hail, and Well Met!A Guiness! You wound me to the heart, er, stomach. Here I am drinking American yellow beer, instead of the nectar of my forefathers. Ah, well, I am glad for you, and thanks for thinking of me.Well, we’re all gathering. Time for song and dance? And yummy Cajun food?!?Arminius

  • Chiguaga

    Is BAMBI a pagan goddess?

  • Arminius

    Victoria,You said, “animals certainly do have a response to death- but it seems to be a repellent one for them”.I disagree. I think it is more compassionate and grieving. Dogs especially. But maybe it has to do with whom they love.

  • Lots of Questions

    Hello wiccans…can you tell us who goddess is? What does she look like? How do you know what/who she is? Do you have a pagan bible or something similar? Was the story of goddess passed down through the ages or something like that? How are you so sure about ‘goddess’ yet many of you question Christian beliefs. What makes you so sure of yours?Also, NDE’s? Can you pagans only have them? How about Christians? Atheists? Mickey Mouse clubbers?How can I come back as a monkey? or a dinosaur? This is very intruguing. Who decides how I come back? Or when? Is there a ‘head pagan or wiccan’ that passes out the return trip tickets?Inquiring minds would like to know.Thanks

  • E favorite

    Lots of questions: Are you Christian?If so, do you really think bread and wine turn to flesh and blood? How does Jesus go to the bathroom in heaven? Are there Micky mouse clubbers in heaven? Do you know anything about pagans besides what you picked up from Sunday school?Have you even heard of Aristotle and Plato? Did you know they were pagans?

  • TDAY

    E favorite stated: Actually, though relatively small in number, there are several non-denominational groups (ie groups that dont follow the Nicene crowd, etc) that realize, through scripture, there there exists no everlasting hell..only a consuming (gahenna) fire that will be only at judgement, reserved for those who will not wish to know God as he is, not as man has fashioned him. Additionally, these groups also see that scripture plainly speaks of several resurrections and that all that have died now sleep until the time of Christ’s return, setting up of the millenial reign on earth, and finally the Great White throne judgement. Its all in scripture. No one sitting on clouds playing harps. No one turning on spits deep in the pits of the earth. All mythology, too…the adversary has decieved the world as a whole (Rev 12:9)

  • Terra Gazelle

    Victoria,He had been in a great deal of pain…the kind of pain nothing really can help. His face had been tight with strugle and pain and then all of a sudden his face changed. His eyes opened and his face was calm…he smiled, slowly breathed and left. terra

  • Arminius

    Terra,You said, I have never seen that. But I believe it.Arminius

  • wiccan

    Thanks for the responses, friends. I find this fascinating, no matter the cause. And I can tell a story:My grandniece was born two years after my brother-in-law died. In form and moving, she is her grandfather. Just about the time she started saying real words, she went to visit my sister in NY. She went into the dining room where hangs a picture of her granddad as a young Marine. She looked at the picture, then at my sister, pointed and said, “PopPop!” That’s the name his grandkids always called him. My sister asked her parents who told her that was PopPop in the picture. The weird thing was, no one had. A few weeks later she was visiting with her parents at my house. We were in the family room watching TV when she pointed at the ceiling over the sofa, yells, “PopPop”, and started going a mile a minute in her own little language. We figure he’s been visiting her. After all, a Marine wouldn’t let something little like death keep him away from his grandkids. Semper Fi!

  • Arminius

    Lots of Questions:Are you a Seventh Day Adventist?

  • Arminius

    Lots of Questions:Are you a Seventh Day Adventist?

  • JD

    The Wiccan religion is like spittin into the wind.

  • Lots of Questions

    Arminius asked:>>Are you a Seventh Day Adventist?No

  • Priver

    Wow! away for a little bit and the site is jumping. Go figure. :)E Fav: you wrote”However, you consider yourselves religious, right? and you do believe in gods, right? so you are “believers” sort of, is this right? You could also be thought of as naturalists, I think, which is a term atheists also identify with, but I don’t think Christians would.So I guess the next question is – if you don’t mind — which stance on god/religion seems closest to yours – the athiests’ or that of religious people who believe in a supernatural god”i never really thought about it but I guess I could be considered religious. I honor the turning of the Wheel of the Year and celebrate the Sabbats (the main seasonal holidays) with a joyous, loving group of people who enjoy coming together to honor the Divine in each of us, and to give back to the Earth. I guess for me it’s less about ‘labels’ and definitions and more about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. To carefully consider what the consequences could be. And it’s a never ending process.When not celebrating, I enjoy learning about how Nature works, through science and other studies. I feel closest to the Divine when engaging in some sort of creative endeavor. It increases my appreciation and love for the place we all live on. An act of worship for me can be as simple as harvesting herbs from my garden or kissing my husband. Therefore I’m always participating in and try to remain aware of the Divine around me. My ‘church’ could just be a wooded glen and the ‘service’ could just be a song or poem. I learn to find meaning everywhere. It doesn’t have to have all the elaborate trimmings of what constitutes a traditional religion. Having said that, I can say that the other Pagans I’ve met certainly know how to throw a party when they want to! :)I really do understand where the atheist is coming from- and I agree with some of it, especially how religion can be used to justify horrible things-and I think they are often given a bad rep. There are some things that I disagree with them about, but I certainly can respect their position as long as they can respect mine.

  • Virginia

    The discussion of community is directly in line with Catholic beliefs on the communion of saints, which refers to not just to saints of the Church, but to all the dead. Don’t forget, Catholicism is based a lot on paganism, though some would not like to admit that.

  • VICTORIA

    no animus- i didnt mean presonal pets or animals with ties to humans- i menat instinctively when they encounter other animals or even sickness in those they arent comfortable with

  • Arminius

    Victoria,You said: “no animus- i didnt mean presonal pets or animals with ties to humans- i menat instinctively when they encounter other animals or even sickness in those they arent comfortable with”Reply: OK, I’ll buy that. But careful with our typing and spelling! (grin!)Arminius

  • Thumbelina

    Merry Meet,merry meet.O how sweet.

  • Terra Gazelle

    Questions,You are compareing your Christian faith with a Pagan faith. It is like compareing a Peach with a Pomagranate. terra

  • Terra Gazelle

    Arminius,The Animus is the personification of all masculine psychological tendencies within a woman, the archetypal masculine symbolism within a woman’s unconscious. A little Jung… ; )

  • VICTORIA

    must have been subconscious (or unconscious as my typing might suggest)

  • E favorite

    Priver: “I certainly can respect their [atheists’]position as long as they can respect mine.”Interesting – I’m having a discussion on another thread with a moderate Christian who is upset that I can respect HIM in many ways and can completely respect his right to believe what he wants, as long as it doesn’t impinge on me, yet not respect his position of belief in invisible supernatural beings and events.In contrast, it’s easy for me to say that I respect Pagans’ position. It seems like another approach to the same material – nature – motivated by feeling rather than reason, without reliance on fantasy or superstition.

  • Arminius

    Pagans, Well Met!Lord, but it’s good to be where you are gathered again. You too, E-Fav!I’ve got to read all these posts in depth, just wanted to say I am interested in all you have to say. And… my sister, rest her spirit, had a NDE after a serious car accident. No, not the tunnel with the light. She talked to a light that told here that she must go back, as she wanted, because she was not finished. She remained Christian, but was forever changed, and had no fear of death thereafter.God bless all,Arminius

  • Terra Gazelle

    The Moderate,I am not a reconstructionist of the Greek religion, I am Wiccan. So my gods are more nature oriented. We tend more toward the Titans and the second gen gods… The Gods started in the cradle of civilization and migrated with people and trade outward. On the journey through different cultures and eras the gods had name changes, but amazingly most kept their attributes.So gods from different cultures are very simular.So while I honor the pre classical Greek/Roman gods, I do so in a Wiccan frame work.terra

  • Lots of Questions

    From Lepidopteryx: >>”My Goddess gave birth to your God” refers to the fact that Goddess religions were being practiced long before Judaism, and the fact that the dates of Christian holy days were chosen becausae they were Pagan holy days amd many of the rituals and symbols used by Christians have Pagan origins. Not to mention that the dying/resurrected god concept is also Pagan in origin and predates Christianity.There was no Judaism, nor Jews, when Abraham practiced religion. Same with Noah. et. al. and those before that are chronicled to have walked with God.True, Christmas, Easter and the like and their symbols and rituals are equated to and chosen by modern Christianity, but are also error..according to scripture. Hence, why the word ‘holiday’ came from ‘holy day’…they are counterfeits, of which Christ, nor his disciples kept. Christ kept the Holy Days of the Old Covenant, which are also kept by today’s remnants of the early church in a New Testament light (ie. Christ is the center of Passover now, different to what it was in the time of Egypt. The Day of Atonement pictures the putting away of Satan at the return of Jesus Christ in the new covenant, the old covenant used physical reminders of putting away sin/evil in using goats. The Day of Trumpets signaled a new beginning beyond bondage in Egypt in the old covenant…in the new covenant, it pictures the new beginning when the trumpets are blown at Christ’s second coming, etc)With regard to your other comments…it is good to share thoughts, but we certainly disagree on our origins and what is to be worshiped. But to agree to disagree cordially is paramount to our coexistence in the physical life we have been given.Thanks for your comments

  • lepidopteryx

    LOQ: There was no Judaism, nor Jews, when Abraham practiced religion. Same with Noah. et. al. and those before that are chronicled to have walked with God.My Jewish friends would beg to differ with you.

  • Lots of Questions

    lepidopteryx,I would really like to talk to your Jewish friends. It would be intriguing to get their views on those who followed God, for instance, pre-flood..before there were 12 tribes of Israel..only one of which being the tribe of Judah. Its interesting stuff to discuss those who followed God since Adam, and where, for instance, the tribes of Israel have landed since, such as the tribe of Dan, who are traced to NW Europe (Denmark), etc. If they are available for discussion, perhaps you could invite them on to this blog.thanks

  • E favorite

    Priver – please do repost this first chance you get – I’d like to hear atheists’ responses too.In my experience, the word “God” or any derivative (e.g., deity, divine) makes many atheists nervous – because the assumption is that it’s our society’s current general definition of “supernatural God, accompanied by the various myths-presented-and-believed-as-facts by the numerous supernatural-based religions being practiced.” I’m speaking strictly from my experience with an active group of atheists I’ve known about a year now. I’ll ask some of them individually when the opportunity arises.You say: “But if you’re going to take away the idea of any deity from your kids, you’ve got to take away ALL of it. Get rid of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny. Drain them of any innocence and all wonder in the world. Spare them disappointment later on.”This conclusion seems extreme and I personally don’t agree with it. Unlike religion, Santa, etc. are exposed as myths when children are still very young. When children themselves get wise of the unlikelihood of these gift-giving fantasy friends, their suspicions are confirmed by trusted adults (or mean older siblings). This is in stark contrast to religion, in which children and adults are taught and strongly encouraged to believe, despite their natural doubts, that the unlikely god in the sky and the questionable stories surrounding him are indeed fact-based and ought to be believed. When natural rationality interferes with their ability to believe, trusted adults and even society-sanctioned revered leaders encourage them to rely on faith, touting the benefits of faith without evidence. Children are naturally full of imagination. Some invent imaginary friends of their own, whom they eventually shed as they mature. Psychologists tell parents not to worry about this phenomenon. It’s a natural development process for some children. Personally I haven’t heard one account of children being harmed by temporary belief in Santa or any other imaginary friend. (You’d think there’d be a whole literature on it, if such a widespread practice were actually dangerous to children). I do know of many accounts of children, adults and society being harmed by religion that requires belief in the supernatural.Regarding “wonder in the world” – Many atheists are completely awe-struck by nature. Many are scientists who devote their lives to learning more about it – for the betterment of all of us. Instead of assuming “god did it” for anything not yet understood, they are intensely curious to investigate how nature works. Lucky for us they’ve been allowed to for the last few centuries, or we’d be back in the dark ages.

  • lepidopteryx

    LOTS OF QUESTIONS:>>Questions,Interesting. Christians believe God is the giver of life. So you worship the creation, and do not beleive anything could have created the creation, as you and I do with our own hands in a much, much, muuuucch smaller way, that would merit our awe and worship?Pagans do not see a separation between creator (or creatrix) and creation. All are part and parcel of the same integrated whole. We are part of the Goddess and she is part of us. >>What does She look like? You.Me. All.By all, I believe Terra meant ALL life, not just humanity. (Terra, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Because the Goddess is present in all life, she has no single form. When you look in the mirror, you’re seeing the Goddess. When you look at your dog, you’re seeing the Goddess. When you look at a fish, you’re seeing the Goddess. When you look at a flower, you’re seeing the Goddess. When you look at a drop of pond water under a microscope and see all the microscopic critters swimming it int, you’re seeing the Goddess. >>Was Goddess passed down through the ages? Read the bible..Goddess was old when the Hebrews were young. An old bumper sticker comes to mind: “My Goddess gave birth to your God.” Obviously, the above is merely a myth that you/those who think similar to you have accepted. It seems to have merely a ‘feel good’ sound has some claim that Christian beliefs have.Merely a myth? There’s part of your difficulty in understanding us. To us, Myth is not “merely” anything. Many (I daresy most, if not all) use the word in the way Joseph Campbell uses it – those stories that people use to describe and name the numinous and/or the mystical aspects of their lives. Myth is not a derogatory term, nor is it a dismissal of Truth; rather it is a recognition that Truth has many faces, and she does not show the same face to all, but reveals herself to each in the way s/he can best understand. >>I know of no proof nor chronicled historical fact of a realm that existed before/along with/besides the Christian God.Honey, you have no more objecive proof of the Christian God than we do of the Goddess. That’s why the word “faith” is used to describe your rligion and mine. But there is plenty of archaeological evidence that Goddess worship was being practiced long before Judaism. >>NDE’s? NDE’s are not according to religion.Depends on the atheist. I seem to recall at least one post on this blog from an atheist who briefly died clinically, and saw nothing in that interim – no light, no envelopig warmth, no waiting friends and family members, no voice telling him to go back – nothing. So perhaps what a person sees in a NDE depends in part on what one expects to see. >>Does the pagan believe that one who does not believe in God, gods, etc can be reincarnated?I can’t speak for all Pagans, but I believe that reincarnation is a universal occurence. But I won’t think any less of you if you don’t believe it. >>A Pagan Bible? Well we sure have loads of books..which is what Bible is Greek for,A book. Do we have scripture? Yes, we have laws. We have myths. We have poetry and music and art. But it is not writ by any god…it is inspired by our love of the gods.Does that mean your gods arent able to guide, write, or at least inspire toward love? What exactly is a ‘god’ to a pagan. Physical?You’re still working from a presupposition of separation of the divine and the mundane. Since my gods are part of me and I of them, everything I do has their essence in it. There is no extrinsic guidance, and no, my gods don’t write, any more than yours does. As for insoriing towards love, my gods are IN the love I feel. To inspireit, they would have to be outside of it,not part of it. To this Pagan, the gods aren’t physical, they’re simply the means by which my spirit is linked to that of every other living thing in the Universe. >>Reincarnation? Most Wiccans do not believwe that humans come back as anything but humans. We believe that thinking that a bad human will come back as an animal belittles the animal. A human comes back as a human. If you are a bigot, you may well come back as that person you were bigoted against. You will learn that lesson in your next life. An animal is what they are created to be, a man has choice.Interesting. Who figured all this out and has been noted as the authority to know this really happens?Who figured out that a spiritual home had streets paved in precious metals and buildings with walls encrusted with precious and semi-precious stones? There is no single authority who “decides” what others believe. I simply beleive what makes sense to me, and reincarnation makes a lot more sense to me than the heaven/hell business. >>There is no head Pagan or Wiccan, though we have many leaders.Seems so. Thanks for the reply. I personally believe that a creation is not to be praised or worshiped, rather tended to, appreciated and thankful for.. It would be the same in our realm if we praised the TV and not its inventor. I believe that it is logically safe to assume that our little speck in the universe is not a fluke….just as most good things that mankind can create with their hands and plan with their minds are not flukes.That’s because you are unable to see the interweaving of the creator/creatrix and the creation, and if you insist that they must remain separate in your mind, that’s certanly your prerogative. We also believe that the earth and its denizens are to be tended to, appreciated,a nd thankful for – and also respected and hom=nored because they contain the same spark of divinity that we do.

  • Priver

    “As for flukes, I’m not convinced that this is the only planet in the univers that has life on it.”- Priver”Um.. that wasn’t me. I’m anal about spelling. Sorry. :)As far as life on other planets goes, I have to go with Hobbes.. as in Calvin and Hobbes: ‘The best sign that there IS intelligent life in outer space is that it has NOT tried to contact us.’ :)E Fav: Interesting. I guess my underlying implication is that for me what we call Divine is a product of our imagination and emotional intuitive life. By definition that would also include things like Santa and Co. So basically these days people are fighting over one person’s interpretation of someone’s imagination versus another. I just see the other side of the extreme, as you called it, as what seems to be what some of the more strident atheists are advocating these days. And the end result of such a thing is just as scary to me as religious fanaticism. I just think imagination is given a lower status in our society when our country here in America started as someone’s vision of what freedom could really mean. To the detriment of all. We used to revere innovators. Visionaries. We really don’t anymore. And that is what’s going to leave us behind.*stepping off soapbox* Sorry. I get a little carried away- it’s just something I’m really passionate about these days. :)I do agree with you that these days those stories are presented as fact that must be taken literally, and I think that defeats the whole purpose of what may have been meant by them. I think Campbell had it right on.If I can post it on any other atheist thread I will- but there seem to be about as many atheists and questions about them as there are Pagans most of the time. We have a lot in common that way, I think.I’d be interested to know what your other atheist comrades think as well. Feel free to pass it along. 🙂

  • wiccan

    “As for flukes, I’m not convinced that this is the only planet in the univers that has life on it.”- PriverI’m beginning to think that “life” is the default position. We keep inventing instruments that reveal new aspects of our world, and everywhere we look, life is there. Life thrives at hot water vents, in total darkness and in water hot enough to a crab boil. Life also thrives at cold water seeps, where the basis for life is methane. When we finally start exploring outer space, I’m sure we’ll find life there. And it will have the same spark of the Divine that it does down here.

  • lepidopteryx

    LOQ,I don’t generally go about scheduling theosophical debates for my friends. But if you’re ever in my neck of the woods, stop by and I’ll make a pot of Cajun coffee (so strong it walks by itself from the pot to the cup) and we’ll have a confab.

  • lepidopteryx

    PriveR,I really CAN spell, honest I can. Verbally. But I don’t type worth a damn….

  • E favorite

    Priver: “I just see the other side of the extreme, as you called it, as what seems to be what some of the more strident atheists are advocating these days. And the end result of such a thing is just as scary to me as religious fanaticism.” I’m lost. What do you mean “the other side of the extreme?” and what are strident atheists advocating these days? And what do you see as “the end result?” Do you mean you’re concerned that some atheists want to rid the world of all products of the imagination, including Santa? And that the end result would be a colorless world? Take heart – scientists can be very imaginative.PS – I love Joseph Campbell – he was a major non-strident force in my journey away from religion.

  • Lots of Questions

    Lepidopteryx said:>>stop by and I’ll make a pot of Cajun coffee (so strong it walks by itself from the pot to the cup) and we’ll have a confab.Now thats what Im talkin’ about (siiiiipppp)

  • E favorite

    Chiguaga: “Christians in heaven are full of the Holy Ghost. They don’t need a digestive system or other internal organs.”But I’m taking about Jesus, not your average ordinary Christian. According to the Bible, the son of God went bodily to heaven. And there’s nothing in the bible saying Jesus turned into a spirit once he got there, so he must have a digestive system and the whole works.The Virgin mary is up there bodily too, (if you’re Catholic), so she must need restroom facilities too.

  • Priver

    E Fav:I wanted to mention before too how I felt that your questions came from an actual interest in wanting to know what someone else thought- you’ve I wonder how you would respond to a question I posed a long time ago and got one answer to from someone else. i’d love to put this up someplace where a lot of atheists congregate to see what kind of answers I’d get.Pagans tend to see the links, commonalities in between all the different types of imagination, creativity, natural processes, and people’s experiences, and seek to honor all of it, and use it in ways to heal self and others whenever possible. To not be naive, but proactive. To find a healthy balance, to question, always, but to enjoy the journey and use whatever means we have at our disposal to benefit those around us.I wonder if the atheist sees the end results of these clashes, the power grabbing, etc. and want to get rid of any and all deity. Given the state of affairs today, I can’t blame them. They do make some really great points. Still, sometimes I want to say to them, ‘hey, I understand your position. And even emphathize with a lot of it. But if you’re going to take away the idea of any deity from your kids, you’ve got to take away ALL of it. Get rid of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny. Drain them of any innocence and all wonder in the world. Spare them disappointment later on. I mean, at least be consistent about it.’ I wonder how many would actually go for such a thing? Where does one draw the line?At what age does one break a child’s heart? And why on the Mother’s green mantle does being an adult in so many parts of the world have to mean having your innocence and sense of joy and wonder of the possibilities of what might be trampled on?I’d be curious to know what others had to say about this idea too.

  • Priver

    I hate it when I forget to sign my posts. The anonymous was me. Sorry about that. It happens- especially when I was headed out the door. :)Those types of things seem to be the implications of some of Hitchens’ work, for example. While I’d have to recheck it to be certain, much of what I’ve read of his appears to lead in that direction, at least implicitly.I’m equating Divinity with imagination in the sense that that appears to be the mechanism involved whenever someone has an experience that leads them to find whatever religion they end up in. Myself included. It just seemed to me to be the natural extension of the argument that somehow the world would be better off by getting rid of all ‘childish fantasies’. But as I’m not an atheist I’d be curious to know if maybe I am reading too much into their arguments. That’s why I’d be interested to know what the authors and other atheists would say to it.I’m actually not disputing your take on the Greek Myths. I agree with you. (They’re great, aren’t they?) I don’t think any mythology should ever be taken ‘literally’ and I do also think it’s wrong to tell someone they’ll be punished for not doing so. I apply this to all mythology, Biblical included. For me they are there as teaching tools and can sometimes give great lessons. And sometimes they’re just really cool stories. You said “I loved Campbell as an adult because he gave additional context to the stories, linking them to religion – something I hadn’t done on my own. Campbell was instrumental in opening up my imagination, not shutting it down.”What I referred to was my ‘worry” in reference to only the first part of your post dated Oct. 16th at 11:49 that began with “I’m lost. What do you mean “the other side of the extreme?”..etc.I never meant to say that I was worried that Campbell shut anything down for you. In fact just the opposite. He opened up my imagination as well and got me thinking too. I’m glad he had that effect on you as well. Looks like I’ve got to structure my responses better. 🙂

  • Paganplace

    And, just if Christians wanna quibble about interpretations having something to do with “love…” *ready to burst into tears, here,* I mean, Bright Lady, Torchbearer, and Holy Mother of Punk… I don’t suppose while you’re talking whatever talk you’re talking, you Christians could you like not make your queer kids feel they gotta be so suicidal?You talk abstractions out of a book, like it’s a good reason to hurt people, and your kids are screaming.

  • Mad Love

    References to Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell? Now were getting somewhere! The Power of Myth and the Numinosity of the Archetype. All that and a fresh pot of coffee t’boot? Somebody pinch me…

  • Paganplace

    Well, Mad, Jung and Campbell, that’s starting toward getting somewhere. More people paid attention to that, and I probably wouldn’t be so cheesed off lately. 🙂

  • E favorite

    Priver – I can say with some confidence that none of the authors I’ve read want to do away with childish fantasies. They are opposed to “indoctrinating children” into religions. Dawkins’ oft repeated line is that there is no such thing as a Christian child, just a child of christian parents. He has made a point of saying the same of children of atheist parents.I wouldn’t be surprised if your impression is from slanted articles that you’ve read.

  • Anonymous

    E Fav: You wrote:PS – I love Joseph Campbell – he was a major non-strident force in my journey away from religion.”That is exactly my worry. Some of the atheists (certainly not all) love to talk about how people who believe in Divinity are simply deluded and how the remedy for that would be to put away all ‘childish’ fantasies and only rely on what’s accessible through the senses. By so doing, there goes such concepts as Santa, etc.. leaving.. what?I know the scientists can be imaginative- but so can the artists and dreamers. I just think there’s great value to someone who is still able to keep their dreams alive within the context of day to day life. Even as an adult. What I see a lot of these days is parents who tell their children that they can do whatever they want to when they grow up.. until they get to a certain point and then they, or the surrounding society, take those dreams away from them because that’s what they had done to them. It stifles innovation and real creativity.And I enjoy them all.. Jung, Sagan, Asimov, Campbell.. and still find that Divine Spark in everything. Especially in great works of literature/art/music and the natural world.

  • Mad Love

    Pagan Place, I’m with you…I think if Dr. Jung were to pop into this thread he might have a thing or two to say about some Christians and the Shadow, no?And regarding NDE… I read about a study a while back and it’s seems like it’s a fairly universal phenomenon, the only differences being due to cultural expectations. Those who return seem to think that the mission was to love more and to learn more. Seems like good advice.

  • Anonymous

    Seems paganplace thinks he/she is the grand poo-bah of all knowledge. Makes cynnical references to Christianity, yet he/she reeks of cynnicism.Sorry, youre not the pied piper here, Paganplace

  • E favorite

    Anonymous – who are you – someone I know who forgot to sign his/her name or a new person chiming in? It helps to have context.Meanwhile, you say, “That is exactly my worry [Campbell being influential in my journey away from religion].” Some of the atheists (certainly not all) love to talk about how people who believe in Divinity are simply deluded and how the remedy for that would be to put away all ‘childish’ fantasies and only rely on what’s accessible through the senses. By so doing, there goes such concepts as Santa, etc.. leaving.. what?”Who suggests this remedy – can you provide some names and some direct quotes? This is not the message I’ve gotten at all. Are you equating divinity with imagination? Perhaps the only source of imagination? I loved the Greek myths as a child – they were imaginative stories, with important life lessons, and not a hint from any adult that we kids were supposed to believe they were factual – or be punished if we didn’t. I loved Campbell as an adult because he gave additional context to the stories, linking them to religion – something I hadn’t done on my own. Campbell was instrumental in opening up my imagination, not shutting it down.

  • Priver

    “Priver – I can say with some confidence that none of the authors I’ve read want to do away with childish fantasies. They are opposed to “indoctrinating children” into religions. Dawkins’ oft repeated line is that there is no such thing as a Christian child, just a child of christian parents. He has made a point of saying the same of children of atheist parents.”Agreed. The same also applies to Pagan parents. Most of those I know would rather discuss why they celebrate what they do, but encourage their children to learn about other religious practices and then allow them to figure out what they would do when they are old enough.”I wouldn’t be surprised if your impression is from slanted articles that you’ve read.”That’s probably true. And those types of articles are growing in number in the days since Dawkins and Harris and others have laid down the gauntlet and made it ok to openly talk about their atheism. What bothers me is the fact that in order for any point of view to be even considered these days you’ve got to shout back.. but it’s sadly understandable given the environment we live in today. It’s one where one is assumed to be Christian until told otherwise.. and then once people find out they are afraid of anyone who’s different. And we know all too well where fear leads us.It’s when someone like Hitchens comes along talking about how religion ‘poisons everything’ and leaves no room for those whose way of life doesn’t involve trying to convert others- that’s what makes me wonder.

  • E favorite

    Priver: “It’s when someone like Hitchens comes along talking about how religion ‘poisons everything’ and leaves no room for those whose way of life doesn’t involve trying to convert others- that’s what makes me wonder”I’m pretty sure Hitchens is not talking about pagans — because I’ve heard him speak and he’s never mentioned them. His “rap” is against religions (christianity, islam) that insist you believe a certain way or face the consequences. He says he is anti-theist (vs A-thiest), but even that does not in my mind include pagans.As to the “shouting” – I’m pretty confident that it’s a phase – a necessary one to get people’s attention. It’s happened io evey successful movement I can think of. You can’t make any progress without first getting people to notice that something new is happening.

  • Paganplace

    *wandering in.* Sorry about being so cheesed off last time. I’d been doing some unexpected crisis counseling for an abuse victim, and some of the things Christians so casually-seem to say on boards like this, I have heard too many times coming from kids in crisis who were badly-hurt based on these ideas. It may seem perfectly reasonable to talk about ‘ultimate evil’ and ‘fallen humanity’ and ‘Satan’ and all kinds of things like that, …but insert a credulous, unbalanced parent, and you get kids who grew up with someone trying to ‘exorcise’ them. Things that’d be ‘torture of a young human being’ by any other definition except maybe the Bush administration’s.And, well, I’m at the point where it can make me furious at times. I certainly don’t think I’m any kind of Grand Poobah of anything, though, Priver. In fact, I’m pretty studiously-anonymous. I don’t think we need a Hitchens-like spokesperson, cause frankly, any such person the media would have would be ooky-spooky and easily-used as an effigy for people to discount or be threatened by, like Wiccans on daytime talk shows or Hitchens himself. It does so happen that I’ve had certain experiences, and worked on certain ways to talk on them that I hope in this forum occasionally say, ‘Hey, could be there’s at least as much to this Pagan stuff as there is to other, more accepted religions,’ …even stuff that a lot of people, and other cultures, in fact, experience that actually says more than ‘Ch ristianityis not for me,’ …that there is something to us… and our ancestors, in our own right, really. That we’re not just poised between the Christians and the atheists and modern values, even. Take it FWIW.

  • Priver

    “I’m pretty sure Hitchens is not talking about pagans — because I’ve heard him speak and he’s never mentioned them. His “rap” is against religions (christianity, islam) that insist you believe a certain way or face the consequences. He says he is anti-theist (vs A-thiest), but even that does not in my mind include pagans.”I hope you’re right. I really do. But so many people have such distorted images of us that I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t think we existed at all. Or if he did, that our numbers were so small that they didn’t matter.We’re either seen as flaky, nonexistent, or worse yet- worshipping a devil we don’t even believe exists or sacrificing animals/people. None of which is true. There’s no real way to get a good count of how many of us there even are because a lot of people can’t admit to it because of the dangers involved. We also tend to get dismissed out of hand because to look at the Pagans that existed pre-Christian times occasionally may include some things that we would never practice these days.”As to the “shouting” – I’m pretty confident that it’s a phase – a necessary one to get people’s attention. It’s happened io evey successful movement I can think of. You can’t make any progress without first getting people to notice that something new is happening.”I hope so. I just don’t want the baby to be tossed out with the bathwater.

  • E favorite

    Priver – So there’s more we have in common! some people think atheists are devil worshippers too, and that we have no morals (no god = no morals)Maybe pagans need their own Hitchens – well you know what I mean, I hope – a spokesperson who commands a lot of attention.

  • CALVINATOR

    Arminius, why aren’t you preaching the Gospel to these pagans? Is it because you think salvation rests with *you*, so you’d better be careful?I don’t envy you your poor impotent God who depends on you to fill his Kingdom.

  • many thanks

    I was looking for something to help further this spiritual journey my heart has been crying for much of my life and stumbled upon this thread.

  • Priver

    Hi Paganplace:I’ve never noticed that throughout your posts, and I do understand your concerns. I think I already made that mistake on the first thread I’d had with a Christian biblical literalist. I was still pretty new to the community and was so excited I probably ended up coming off more arrogant than I’d ever meant to. Hopefully since then I’ve worked through the ‘fluffy’ stage and have learned that not everyone will be ready for us, and that it’s ok, even necessary sometimes to keep my mouth shut, and to recognize the difference between honest questions and those looking to ‘save my soul’.Blessed be

  • E favorite

    Paganplace – thanks very much – it’s been fascinating thinking this through and getting the input of Pagans.I have another developing hypothesis, which I’ll post somewhere for your comments when I’ve thought about it more. It relates to likely temperaments for pagans, atheists and believers, using the Myers-Briggs personality indicator as a frame of reference.

  • Priver

    To ‘Many Thanks:You said: “If anyone has suggestions for reading material for a “lost soul” whose heart bursts with joy at the mention of a Goddess or Gods and a belief systemt that celebrates nature, I would be deeply grateful.”There’s something about the quiet that comes over the world, the utter stillness during a big snowstorm that just does something to me too. I can definitely relate to that. There’s a lot out there but when I was just starting to look around it was recommended to me to start with a book called “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler (from NPR). She did a really great in depth journalistic look of the phenomenon of modern Pagans. It’s a good starting point because she touches on a LOT of the major branches within Paganism. She interviewed hundreds of people to get their perspective and how they describe their own personal path. She presents the facts whenever possible and the debates that exist within the community. Reading that helped me zero in on what resonated with me and discovering authors that described one path in more detail.Starhawk’s books are also really good, but the history she presents has been disputed since her book came out. Her overall concepts though are beautifully written.Hope those help. Bright blessings!

  • Paganplace

    Hi, all. Not sure how much time I have, just now. 🙂 Glad something was helpful, though, Manythanks. As for your impressions of snowfall, you could doBut I thought I’d mention this: “I have another developing hypothesis, which I’ll post somewhere for your comments when I’ve thought about it more. It relates to likely temperaments for pagans, atheists and believers, using the Myers-Briggs personality indicator as a frame of reference.”I know a number of Pagans that have played with these scales, and really, we seem to be pretty well-sorted according to them, …we really get all types, at least as a gross observation: it’s a matter of what you bring. Since the test relies on a self-sorting process, this may be somewhat inevitable, … people tend to compare themselves to their peer groups. I tested myself on it once or twice, but forget just how it came out. I think one might guess I tend to go about some things not considered hard rationality, in some pretty analytical ways. Certain types, of course, will tend to gravitate toward more scholarly traditions, and others, other variations… usually full pracitcing traditions are like tribes and incorporate all types. Could be the same for any belief system.

  • Paganplace

    “So sorry, didn’t mean to ramble. If anyone has suggestions for reading material for a “lost soul” whose heart bursts with joy at the mention of a Goddess or Gods and a belief systemt that celebrates nature, I would be deeply grateful.”On this, hrm, reading material…. I’m a poetry person, most of all. But that inspiration is, really, where you find it, not always or even necessarily often where things are deliberately about the Gods or Paganism… but maybe that’s in part the bias of someone who found her hymns in the strangest places, before ever knowing from Wicca or that there were other Pagans out there. Could be that echo in the snow is your own way of tapping yourself on the shoulder, so to speak, …ashes are much about things past, and winter brings spring, where these ashes feed new life. , so try not to focus on what troubling things one might imagine brought them, too much. It’s usually important to read a bunch of different things, I’d say, there’s nothing truly authoritative, and that’s actually something which protects us from a lot of the abuses and excesses religions can engender. For some reason, I’m thinking of this book series that isn’t really about Wicca or Paganism, but has prominent Wiccan characters, (it’s actually written by a non-Pagan with some consulting from a Wiccan friend on certain matters,) but speaking of ashes, the first book is called ‘Dies The Fire’ by SM Stirling… there’s a lot of fighting in it, (the premise of the story is that some bizarre and possibly supernatural event takes away most technology, and the main point is to speculate on what happens next: among those best-equipped to deal are some Pagans and some Society For Creative Anachronism types and much Let’s Have a Sci Fi Trilogy ensues. 🙂 I dunno, I just like it and find it a bit inspiring, maybe as an answer to all that apocalyptic vibe we hear from fundamentalist Christians and the deathwish of the Left Behind fans. And, well, I suppose there’s an uncanny resemblance in the main character to a priestess I know. 🙂 But sometimes I think it’s easiest to get what we’re about when the direct topic *isn’t* our religion, and maybe that goes for anyone. 🙂

  • Quibrinee

    Hello!

  • zxevil160

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  • zxevil160

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  • zxevil160

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  • Anonymous

    that has helped a bit, I still have a long road ahead—I miss my Mom so much–it can not be put into words

  • Anonymous

    that has helped a bit, I still have a long road ahead—I miss my Mom so much–it can not be put into words

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