She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, “Which way? Which way,” holding her hand on top of her head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size: to be sure, this generally happens when one eats cake, but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out-of-the-way things to happen, that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way.
So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.
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* Â * Â * Â * Â * Â * Â *
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); “Now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet! (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).
â€”Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
(commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland), 1865
The expression “curiouser and curiouser” originated in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll (pseudonym ofÂ Charles Lutwidge Dodgson 1832-1898). It was used to express a sense of observing something that was completely strange and out of place. Today, it is still used in that context, expressing feelings of bemusement and not being able to quite comprehend something due to its total illogic. In Alice, her body was growing in a quite speedy and unnatural way as a result of eating a piece of cake. She doesn’t understand it, doesn’t fear it, and yet accepts that this strangeness, indeed, is happening.
Four decades ago, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke helped to found the Council of American Witches. Although it only lasted briefly, one of its most outstanding accomplishments was the creation of a document entitled 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief. Getting Pagans to agree to just about anything other than agreeing to disagree is quite an achievement, and that the Council, composed of representatives from over 70 traditions, was able to agree on these points remains amazing. Later, the U.S. Government incorporated the principles into theÂ Chaplains Handbook for use by the Armed Forces.
Although many Pagans today might not accept all of the principles, most would probably still agree with them. One of them, number 10, reads, “Our only animosity towards Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be ‘the only way,’ and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.” This seems very obvious to me: Pagans don’t ask people following other religions to agree with us, but we will stand up to oppose those who not only disagree, but would use their belief in their faith being the only way to deny us civil and even human rights. Treat us fairly and decently and we’ll freely do the same to you.
The Challenge of “The Book”
Virtually all religions begin as magickal and spiritual paths. Over time, people seeking power and control (and money) take over, and the spiritual path, usually one of personal experience and experimentation, becomes written down. One set of beliefs is the religion; anything else is not. That often works quite well at the time the religion is formulated.
But over time, challenges to what is written in the various books of accepted beliefs arise. This can result in attempted destruction of what is seen as heresy, or complete splits of the religion as in the Christian Reformation leading to the separation between Roman Catholic and Protestant sects.
When hundreds of years pass, challenges to the various books of laws will inevitably cause questions by believers. Old books may not have spiritual rules appropriate to modern times. Leaders typically react to challenges to their authority by first denouncing, then eventually outlawing disagreement. If they have, or can gain, control of a culture’s politics, they will enact laws attempting to keep people back in the times when the book was important.
And that is causing people to leave traditional religions by the thousands. They are looking for the same types of experiences the founders of their faiths had: personal experiences. Traditional religious structures are not providing that. So the seekers find their way to other places, including the many paths of Paganism.
This leads me to a wonderful blog post by Jason Pitzi-Waters, on his blog, The Wild Hunt. [And since you're reading my blog, you should definitely subscribe to his blog, too!] In his post he describes how more than 50,000 people amassed at Stonehenge to watch the sun rise on Â the Summer Solstice. Where I live, in Los Angeles (with a population of over 3.5 million, more than twice that of Manhattan), the most famous sunrise service has been that held every Easter at the Hollywood Bowl. At its peak in the 1940s, it attracted around 30,000 people. Today that number is about 17,000 people. In spite of the massive L.A. population and the huge number of Christians likely to attend Easter Sunrise services, the number of Pagans at Stonehenge almost triples the number who rise early on Easter to trek to the Hollywood Bowl.
Make no mistake, the numbers of people involved in Paganism are large and growing.
And as Jason points out, England’s Anglican church is taking note. Quoting an article in The Telegraph, he describes how:
The church is training ministers to create “a pagan church where Christianity [is] very much in the centre” to attract spiritual believers.
Ministers are being trained to create new forms of Anglicanism suitable for people of alternative beliefs as part of a Church of England drive to retain congregation numbers.
Wow. Just wow.
Embrace, Extend and Extinguish
Also known as “embrace, extend, and exterminate,” this was a phrase used by Microsoft to describe how to overcome perceived threats to their monopoly by competitors. At first, they would embrace what the competitor created and make it part of their software. Then they would extend the features to give supposed benefits to users. However, these benefits were only available if you used Microsoft products, so they would eventually shut the competitor out of business.
Is this what the Anglican church is attempting to do? On their web page, the Christian Apologetics & Research MinistryÂ provides a list of what “most Wiccans” believe. I would say that, in fact, most Wiccans and Pagans would disagree with many if not most of these, drawing into question their second list, what Wiccans don’t believe. Even so, if you look at them, I would say that most Pagans and Wiccan, indeed, do not believe in those points, including:Â The existence of the Devil and the worship of the devil, Lucifer, etc., the inspiration and authority of the Bible, aÂ need for salvation, that Jesus is the only way to salvation, aÂ religious authoritative hierarchy, and others, all of which they relate to the Bible. In short, coming from the Christian side, basic concepts of Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism are incompatible with Christian belief.
Am I being overly conspiratorial? Well, according to the article in The Telegraph, “The new move could see famous druids such as druid leader Arthur Pendragon move to Anglicanism.” Aha! So even if you start as a Pagan the goal is to move you over into their sect of Christianityâ€¦embrace, extend, and extinguish. This is similar to the attempt by the group known as “Jews for Jesus” to turn Jews into Christians. They raise most of their money from evangelical Christian groups, and I see no reason to believe that the evangelical groups would give millions to not evangelize Jews.
On The Other Hand
Sometimes, however, there are people within a non-traditional path who see qualities in another tradition they want to incorporate and explore. Note that this is not coming from the outside in an attempt to take over. Rather, it comes from the inside as an attempt to include what is seen to have value in other traditions. Some Celtic Pagans, for example, see value in the Eastern concepts of the chakras, and kundalini energy, and incorporate them into their practices. Some Pagans are very interested in the concept of Mary as the Mother of God. Others want to incorporate ideas concerning Jesus and His practices into their beliefs. See, for example, the books, The Path of a Christian Witch and Â ChristoPaganism. I realize this may not be the path for all Pagans or even very many, but the fact that books such as these are available indicates to me that Paganism is not a fixed path tied to a set-in-stone book, but is a group of paths filled with life and energy that are growing and evolving.
To Whom Should We Listen?
For a long time, Christian groups, including the Anglican church, have accused modern Pagans and magickal people of being Satanists. Should we listen to them? We laughed at this claim in the past, focusing on the fact that we don’t even acknowledge that the source of evil they call Satan even exists. Should we listen to them now? I don’t think so. What do you think?
Live Interview with
Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi
interview me on
Wednesday, June 26, 6â€“8 p.m. Eastern
Yes, this Wednesday, from 6â€“8 p.m. Eastern (3â€“5 p.m. Pacific), Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi will be interviewing me live on their internet radio show, Seasons of the Witch. You can listen in and ask questions. Here’s the LINK to the program. I hope to meet you there. I have been friends with Raven and Stephanie for a long time, and we’ll have lots of stories to share. This will be fun and informative.