The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #20699   Message #218920
Posted By: SDShad
27-Apr-00 - 11:37 AM
Thread Name: The Pagan Alternative. What's the music?
Subject: RE: The Pagan Alternative. What's the music?
T-Bird, I don't think you have anything to worry about on that score. You're definitely not a flamer, and you've made some very valuable contributions to this thread.

Myself, I'm mainly a pagan-friendly Christian, and in addition to practicing the Christian faith, I also practice a faith that gets classified as pagan a lot of the time, and certainly has a lot in common with Western paganism, that of the Dakota Sacred Pipe. Of course, many Dakota/Lakota/Nakota I know would tell you that their spiritual ways are in fact monotheistic. There is a creator god in their mythos: Grandfather Great Spirit. The Goddess motif is also present, and I see no conflict. A Grandfather needs a Grandmother, and so the Dakota call the earth Grandmother.

So I'm very careful never to question or debunk another person's spiritual beliefs, since I think the whole framework of spiritual belief systems, including my own Christian and Pipe ways, is just a gauzy metaphor through which we get a glimpse of Unity. Thus I'm probably not quite as skeptical of neopagan claims as you are, but I'm a little skeptical when they venture into historical claims that may well be true (rather than spiritual claims, whose truth is in their meaning, not their happening), but my understanding of history and how it works (my father is a historian) tells me that there's no way we could know for sure some of the things that are claimed as certain fact about the distant past by a lot of neopagans. Many of the claims strike me as more wishful thinking as anything else--though I must add that people of my own faith are often guilty of the same thing.

But then I'm skeptical of many of the historical claims of my own faith(s). I don't believe that a universal flood literally happened (although I think it's entirely possible that it does come from some specific cataclysmic flood, like perhaps the filling of the Black Sea at the end of the last Ice Age), or that Methuselah, if he existed, actually lived 900 years, or that Eve was made from Adam's rib, or that the two of them, if they aren't just mythic archetypes and were real people, were actually the true "first humans." By similar token, I don't believe that the Lakota have lived in the sacred Che Sapa (Black Hills) since the dawn of time, or that the Che Sapa are literally where creation began, or that all land came from the back of a giant turtle in the middle of an endless sea (although I love "This Turtle Island" as a metaphor for our continent). The earth-centered creation myths of all our religions are marvelous tales at a symbolic level, but they fly in the face of (and pale in comparison to) the much grander cosmological truth that scientific inquiry has brought us.

Other historical claims, it doesn't particularly matter to me if they're true. I don't need to believe that Mary was actually a Perpetual Virgin, or that Peter actually considered himself the first Pope, in order to be a Christian. I don't need to believe that the White Buffalo Calf Woman story actually happened to believe that the original Pipe at Greengrass is very sacred, or that there's power in the Sacred Pipe way of prayer.

I do believe in the Resurrection, but never claim it as historic fact.

I believe that pagans and neopagans are on a path to the One that is just a valid is my own. I do think we all are mistaken in assigning gender to the Creator; "the Goddess" is just as gender-centric as the old white-haired, bearded Canaanite deity on whom our monotheistic "Yahweh" seems to be based. Creator and creation are far beyond all that, to me. "The Goddess" is just as effective a metaphor as "The God of Abraham," but they're both exactly that: metaphors.

So when someone I know finds spiritual comfort in ritual practice that involves the Goddess, I share in the joy of their path of spiritual discovery. But when historical claims are made that neolithic, pre-literate societies were idyllic, matriarchal, exclusively-Goddess-worshipping societies, all networked together in planet-wide love and harmony until those nasty patriarchal IndoEuropeans or Kurgans or whatever happened along, I cannot agree. The archeological record shows us instead, that sadly women were often devalued in ancient societies as well, if Neanderthal burial practices, for instance, are any indication.

I'm on board for anything spiritually that uplifts and unifies; but I'm with you, Okie, in objecting to "men and Christians (and often Jews and Moslems) are the enemy, if only we could undo everything they've done" type historical claims. I agree that I've not seen that attitude from an 'Catters, they being a special breed. But I have seen it in 3D World, in spades.

Wow, that was much more rambling and far less cohesive than I'd thought. But it does pretty much say what I believe.