Sunday, 7 August 2011

Pagan Pride on the March

"I am pagan. I am proud" reads some of the posters in Nottingham's Arboretum today.

Yes, I've come across another 'festival'. This is the third annual event held by the local organisation, Pagan Pride. According to the Founder, the event is "a celebration of Pagan spirituality and of modern Paganism, designed to be inclusive of anyone and everyone who identifies themself as Pagan - as well as reaching out a hand to non-Pagans to come and celebrate with us and find out more about us. Our aim is through understanding and tolerance we'll be able to build acceptance of our spiritual identity and what it means to be Pagan in the 21st Century".

If hands are being reached out to non-Pagans, what is on offer? What is Paganism? I'm sure that to many people, Paganism is seen as a rejection of Christianity, and as such a rejection of God, so they are Atheists. But while some Pagans may well be Atheists, this does not tell the whole story. The Pagan Federation in the UK says that it recognises the rich diversity of traditions that form the body of modern Paganism, and gives this definition of a Pagan. "A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion". But what does this mean?

Pagan Pride, Arboretum 7th August 2011
The word Pagan comes from the Latin 'paganus' which means a country dweller. According to the Pagan Federation, "The Pagan outlook can be seen as threefold. Its adherents venerate Nature and worship many deities, both goddesses and gods".

In the veneration of Nature, the spirit of place is recognised in Pagan religion, whether as a personified natural feature such as a mountain, lake or spring, or as a fully articulated guardian divinity such as Athena, the goddess of Athens. "The cycle of the natural year, with the different emphasis brought by its different seasons, is seen by most Pagans as a model of spiritual growth and renewal, and as a sequence marked by festivals which offer access to different divinities according to their affinity with different times of year".

Pluralism and Diversity is seen in the practice of Polytheism. The many deities of Paganism are a recognition of the diversity of Nature. There is no one Pagan view as to how these different deities react and inter-react with each other. Some see the goddesses and gods as a community of individuals much like the diverse human community in this world. Others see all the goddesses as one Great Goddess, and all the gods as one Great God, whose harmonious interaction is the secret of the universe.

There is also often a belief in ancestral deities, and local spirits of a place "either as personified individuals such as the spirit of a spring or the house's guardian toad or snake, or as group spirits such as Elves in England, the Little People in Ireland, Kobolds in Germany and so on". A household shrine focuses the cult of these deities, and there is usually an annual ritual to honour them.

"Through ancestral and domestic ritual a spirit of continuity is preserved, and by the transmission of characteristics and purposes from the past, the future is assured of meaning". So today, Paganism celebrates the Earth, living creatures, nature, and so on. This all helps to understand a little of what was going on at the Arboretum.

Bandstand Music
There was music all afternoon, but the only group I listened to (don't know the name) was a fascinating mix of what to the untrained ear seemed like Elizabethan sounds which suddenly turned to head banging heavy metal. Not having the hair style for head banging, I was content with tapping my feet. They were good though - god my musical tastes are expanding the older I get.

The essential look seemed to be of coloured hair, flowing dresses and capes, with garlands of flowers in the hair (females of course). Males have a boring look in comparison. I couldn't help but think how similar it all looked to the hippie movement of the 1960's. I was definitely out of place with my cords, fleece and baseball cap. The Green Man Tree (designated as such for the afternoon) was a focal meeting point, where you could listen to stories from Nottingham Story Tellers, as well as meet people from local or further afield 'Moot's' (these are gatherings or groups). There was even speed-mooting at 4.00pm.

Speaker's Forum Tent
For five hours there was a succession of speaker's at the Forum tent, talking on a variety of subjects related to Paganism. I'll say one thing for the attending Moot's, they've got stamina.

Fairies seem to play a part in the lives of many Pagans, which would explain a section at Pagan Pride called 'Fairy Land'. I was a bit confused, but I think that this may have been for children, but there were plenty of adults around as well. I confess to being a bit embarrassed to get too close, so I missed out on some important stuff. "How to make a Fairy Skirt". How to make a Fairy Door". "How to make a Fairy Peg Dolly", and "Fairy Meditation".

So what did I take away from the day? Here we have again the quest for spirituality. Paganism is of course different from the monotheistic religions, and is far more tolerant of the views of others, but in another way it is the same. Their aim is "to build acceptance of our spiritual identity". The question that comes to my mind is, 'what is man'? A subject I shall return to in another blog. Leonard Pelkoff, in his book, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand", starts with this, "There is no question more crucial to man than the question: what is man? What kind of being is he? What are his essential attributes?"

Is man, body, mind and spirit? Or just body and mind? If he is spirit, then this goes some way to answering the question as to why there is this continual search for a spiritual identity. If he is just body and mind, without spirit, then why this search, and why should it be important? To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. As always,John, I learn so much when I read your blogs! The points that you make in your last paragraph are interesting. A couple of weeks ago in the New Statesmen various prominent people(e.g. Richard Dawkins/Polly Toynbee)stated their case for there being no God and their personal lack of religious belief. I am not especially religious but found the comments/arguments made by many of these people at best unconvincing. The questions that you pose in that final paragraph are the same sorts of things that I was thinking - but put far more eloquently!