Can polyteism and Wicca overlap?

That's a question! The topic is so big, one can write a book about it. My intention is not to write a book about it, reason being that my answer to this question is that I simply don't know the answer. 

The problem of it is (as well as many other questions that has a word 'Wicca' in them) that understanding of the divine is vastly different between traditions and individuals, even if we talk only about the Wiccan world itself. When it comes to basic practices and principles of doing things, one can always say something general that is pretty much applicable to any particular lineage or coven. But when it comes to the beliefs in the Gods, one has to be much more careful. The reason behind this is, that in my view Wicca teaches you how to do things, but the way one interprets them is up to him/her. Who are the Gods and what are they? Question just as complex as the question "Who am I?". One does not simply find the answer in The Book of Shadows.

What I do know however is what are my opinions on an overlap of Wicca and polyteistic world view. More precisely, how do I percieve the divine. The reason why I want to elaborate on this issue using the basis of Polyteism vs. Wicca contrast is one specific observation. It seems to me that from all the possible ways of understanding the divine principles there are two particular ones that are often subject to heated debates and clash on regular basis. The question that best defines this contrariety could be put like this. Are all the Gods and Goddesses different faces of one God and Goddess (often a description for Wiccan beliefs), an ultimate divine principle or are they individual divine beings (an opinion I call a polyteistic paradigm)?

I think many of us spent lot of time thinking about this. I did too. Worshipping the Gods, doing sacrifices, conducting the rituals to their honor, enjoying their living presence and inviting them to our lifes and our hearts is the best answer I was able to come up with so far. However let's have a look at the second best answer, an answer that can be shared among us via internet.

I noticed that both paradigms often misinterpret each other and they are sometimes even used to invalidate different paths or to provide a feeling "we know it better". I have seen and heard quite a few proponents of both paradigms describing their view of the divine. There are few statements that often repeat themselves and several assumptions being taken as a definite.

Those  who are of the opinion that Gods and Goddess are various aspects of one God and one Goddess (Wiccans, ecclectics, Dianics, etc.) seem to perceive this opinion as the ultimate esoteric truth behind all religions, implying that all Gods and Goddesses are essentialy the same. Ofthen this 'same' has a name. The problem with this assumption is that it is being taken as standing above religion or transcending it. The logical consequence of this is that those individual religions that are transcended by this 'truth' are then necessarily below it and unenlightened. Their adherents are therefore living in delusions, not knowing the 'mystery' that their Gods and Goddesses are parts of some Great God and Great Goddess of someone else. Often someone they never even seen in their entire life. This might seem as an example of blasphemy if there was such a thing within Wicca, but in my opinion this way of seeing it needs to be given some thought.

First off all because many of these people are pagans as well, and therefore our potential friends and allies. How would I feel if someone told me that my Gods are just aspects of his God and that it's just my lack of spiritual insight that prevents me to see the obvious truth? Nothing special, I know. I would simply not be interested in his proselytising and eventually walk away. All of us who share this opinion do this mistake from time to time and to me it is the biggest weakness of it - the assumption that this is somehow more true than other interpretations.

I myself have no problem with this paradigm and there is a large part of me that finds it to be essential for my spiritual way. What I think is one of its best aspectcs is the inspiration towards spiritual goals, the potential to interact with a bigger whole through this and then a certain paralel or link to the animistic paradigm. Animism is a belief that everything has a soul. If all Gods and Goddesses are just one spiritual being transcending all then everything else is this spiritual being too. When we follow this logic further, there is no difference between the Gods and a heap of fresh dung. Or a river. A giant rock, a tree, a flower, the landscape around us. The Moon above it. Or Diana the Moon Goddess, The Great Mother. All this is essentialy a circle for me, in which monotheism and animism are close relatives. It may sound bizzare, I know.

Then on the other hand there is a polyteistic paradigm (wich is shared mostly by reconstructionist and related groups). From its point of view the Gods are separate individuals. Not only is Thor and Odin different from each other and they both have separate identity, but also the Norse Thor and Slavic Perun have separate entity, even though they share quite a few attributes. What I like about this paradigm is that the myths seem to come alive and that it makes the relationship to the divine much more personal and intimate. I am convinced that there is a part of a human being (at least mine) for which it is essential to percieve the divine as having human form, which is something one can easily relate to. In the same time it is polyteistic paradigm that is invaluable when one wants to put his/her spirituality into a context of certain culture. Suddenly all the myths, runes symbols come together and create a unique atmosphere.

The problem with this paradigm however is that it does not have much open space for inclusion of other faces and forms of the individual Gods and for certain questions related to our existence in this universe. The Gods seem to be separated from this world, since they live (in case of Thor and Odin) in their Asgard, not making the question of what is Midgard and how it relates to me easier in any way. Polyteistic paradigm seems to have a tendency to be definite, leaving the question of the essence of human beings and life itself no only un-answered, but even un-asked.

The proponents of polyteistic world view also seem to be very defensive about who and what the Gods are. Ideas such as the Gods being part of our nature and psyche freak them out completely. I have seen many articles and opinions dismissing anything just slightly different from a literal interpretation of mythology. This defensiveness might not be unprovoked, hence the assumption that certain deities transcend other deities, etc. But I see it as one of the biggest weaknesses of contemporary polyteism. I could go even that far that conserving the Gods and making them unchangeable strips them of their divine nature and makes them jump off the train of time and developement of a human race - essentially leaving them in the hands of the past again.

What is my position in all this? I am a practicing Wiccan and a polyteist. I am convinced this is perfectly possible. Why? Because the Book of Shadows does not really tell us what to believe in. Neither have it ever done any Wiccan I have ever met. In Wicca we are encouraged to develop our own understanding of divinity. And so I did. I would whole-heartedly encourage any other to do the same. Because trying to understand the Gods is a fascinating journey. Sometimes they seem individual indeed and sometimes some of them seem to be so big that they encircle the entire universe. There is much to explore in this life.

Yet in the same time I am of the believe that the Gods are the ultimate divine principle. So I acknowledge an existence of such thing as the Greater Divinity, however you want to call it. But I refuse to label it within myself in any way other than The Gods. Because all of them have an equal right to represent this ultimate divine principle, since they all posess its very essence. Therefore to me the believe that the Gods and Goddesses are made of a primal divine spark equals the one that they are separate entities. This necesarily creates many other questions for me and makes me change how my spiritual practice looks like over time.

It sure is a dynamic thing for me, similar to day and night, winter and summer. The Great Mother is the Mother Goddess of the cosmos, yet in the same time she is one of other Goddesses which I see important in my life and in my understanding of the divine and the universe. Could all the Goddesses be daughters of just one Great Mother? I think so. Could this Great Mother be represented by any of them? I think so. Does this mean that the Goddesses are not independent beings? I think it doesn't. At least I can't see how.

I don't actually believe this question even has an answer that would be independent on it s context. Therefore I don't think my view is better then any other and I am aware of its certain logical inconsistency. I definitely not think I will ever come to a definite answer and I don't even want it. Becasue the very best one is the spiritual life itself and I am more than happy with it. What is easy to comprehend by mind is often far from reality and the essence of a given thing. When it comes to politics, sicence, daily life, driving a car, I am fine with comprehensive schemes. When it comes to the Gods, I prefer life in its complexity.

So. The simple answer to the original question would be: In my case, pretty good. And how do you see the Gods?


How we almost had a Pagan Church. (Thanks Gods for the failures)

There is one specific topic that comes up in the Czech pagan world every few years. Although I don't find it that big, many people apparently do. Therefore my guess is that it could be interesting for quite a few. 

Even though there is a large variety among Czech pagans and there is virtually no chance they would be willing to come under one highly organized umbrella (see one of my earlier blog posts on this), for some reason many of us think this is a good way forward. I have few experiences and observations related to these ambitions I would like to share. Before I do so, I would like to clarify that the topic here are the past (and possibly future) attempts to register and establish a religious society recognized by state with the legal status of church. So this is neither about PFI nor is it about any other similar organization such as The Czech Pagan Society. The scope of this blog post is limited to the legal form of religious society, which is something many Czech pagans view as a next natural and logical step in our development.

I have two personal experiences with this matter. One goes back to 2003/2004 and the second one is relatively fresh. It is not older than few months actually. In both cases I have realized how ill driven they were and the only difference was that in the latter case it took me few minutes to come to the conclusion that I have 'nothing to do here'.

Both cases had some interesting things in common. They started on the basis on another activities that were already establishing themselves. In both cases more than one tradition or group started to work on something very specific together. It went slowly, bit by bit.  In the first case it was a pagan magazine, in the second case it was a discussion and contact group on pagan funerals. And suddenly there always came someone who wanted a big jump and to turn the natural flow of things into some monstrous project 'to rule them all'. That is to create a religious society for all Czech pagans and to start with the big things. In both cases these specific activities I mentioned were to some extent 'hijacked' and turned into a starting point for a pagan religious society. And therefore both activities also ceased to exist as the big ambitions vanished into nothingness. 

The first case was really interesting. The whole process started to develop around a pagan magazine which was a mutual project of Czech Asatru, Slavic reconstructioninsts and ecclectic wiccans. The Czech Asatru part was probably the most problematic, because it was this group from which came those people who were most supportive and also those who had strongest objections against such thing. The Slavic reconstructionists as far as I remember didn't have any strong feelings about it, but had a very good idea about terms under which they would cooperate. The ecclectic wiccans simply wanted to be done with the whole thing soon and do something meaningful again. So while all the endless discussions and arguments between all the super-important people (chiefs of clans consisting of two or three people mostly) went on, a christian friend of us wrote the entire documentation and pretty much did the entire work. All that was left to be done was getting 300 signatures and sending the application to the Ministry of Culture. And at that point the whole thing fell apart for good.

Actually, I didn't know it was for good when it happened. Our christian friend wrote the whole story down some years after and presented it as a lecture on the Faculty of Theology on the Charles University in Prague. The document is fun to read, but it's in Czech language only. 

It helped me to refresh my memory later and to really start to understand what it was all about. I was already 30 at that time and no longer naive. I think there were two complementary issues. The interesting one was a vast difference in approach. Majority wanted just to create some necessary bureaucratic minimum to keep the official authorities happy while enabling everyone to do officially what would otherwise not be possible. Others strongly disagreed and wanted a church-like structure with study programms, training, hierarchy, etc., but acted like it was exactly what the first group was saying. The other issue was of course the question of who will be the representative of what, etc. The usual phenomenon of power struggle. Which is essentialy the first question in its nakedness. Not that any of the groups mentioned would really know what they were doing at that time or what was really going on. 

After years I came up to a conclusion that the whole story was nothing else than a successfuly sabotaged attempt of creating 'One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.' So, good riddance I say.

Now, why do I say so? First of all, I have strong believe that paganism in its many forms should retain its tribal structure. And therefore anything that is done together and has a potential to affect many 'tribes' (groups, groves, clans, covens, whatever you have) on spiritual level cannot be forced, cannod be driven from above and cannot have any ... and this word is super important to me... ANY central authority in ANY way. It must be always perfectly clear that such thing is a charade for the authorities which would enable us to do what we want and be taken seriously by the establishment. There must always be the understanding  that it has nothing to do with telling other people what to believe in, what ethic principles are the right ones and how to worship the Gods. Translated to other terms, anything that serves to fulfill the needs of individuals (people and tribes - no matter how you call them) is the good way. Anything that serves to fulfill the needs coming from power hunger of either people or the entities assciated with them should be (and out of principle will be) doomed to failure.

I have seen many unspoken lies and cheap cover-ups related to this. Pretty much everywhere. And many people believe them. In all these situations when some things are not mentioned and you feel something is not right and people are made believe certain things. But when it comes to what really matters, the Gods seem to know this whole thing won't actually serve them and all their people. I think. But who knows what all the Lokis and other tricksters can do. But it is not just them. I believe many people with few years of experience of actually living in the 21st centrury seem to understand the basic equation here. 

In year 2012 I took part in a discussion evening on this topic. Most people seemed to be very concerned about who will organize and lead the whole thing. For some reason this is always the topic number one. Another concern was a 'rehabilitation of swastika'. Which is a connection I fail to understand completely. Getting rid of the far-right political agenda in the public pagan space would do the job much better as far as I am concerned.  Then there are the usual issues, such as officially recognized rituals, funerals, weddings and so on. Which are meaningful for many and I can clearly see why. 

I was also invited to a closed meeting on this. And as soon as I heard of 'using the potential of enthusiastic young people' and the need to 'stream-line them' I knew that this time I won't listen to this crap. I went off and never turned back.

Despite all this I believe this will happen one day. It can still take some 20 to 30 years. First of all, a significant portion of Czech pagans needs to grow up. This will enable them to no longer be impressed by people who are after power in the first place and to recognize declared motivations from the real ones. It will also open a space for a reasonable debate on the issue from which could slowly, bit by bit, naturally, emerge something big, meaningful and beautiful. Similarly to other topics meantioned on this blog so far, I am optimistic.


Few thoughts on the Priesthood

The Priesthood is a topic often debated. I wanted to write something about it. It is fascinating on one hand and it seems overwhelming and incomprehensible on the other. I realized I once written something about it. I think it was three years ago. So I read the article, rewrote it, shortened it. Hopefully corrected any major grammar mistakes there. I think the following text does not give many answers. It opens many questions instead. In that sense it pretty much reflects my own extent of understanding the term. You may also notice I somewhat imply being a Priest myself. That is because I am, but do I really know what it actually is? That is a completely different question. Another specific thing about this article is the way it is written. It is a pure speculation based on my own thoughts and experiences and the language is probably not very attractive. There also won't be any references. I won't bother with backing up my thoughts with evidence and reasoning. I would like to use the article as a starting point for some future blog posts about the topic, but I don't want to promise anything. Because the topic is so big, I don't want to blog often about it and I am not sure I am really ready to write another article on that.

Well, enough for the introduction, now to the topic.

Priesthood for me is the way the Gods choose their vessels to carry their power to inspire other beings and to manifest in a particular way. That is my simple definition. Now, the Priesthood that always returns in many forms, throughout the ages and that always is loyal to the mystery, to the love and to the knowledge of the Gods, I call the Eternal Priesthood. As such it is an open group of people that got into this territory through their actions and stay there not just in one life, but in future lives as well. They also that don’t know each other on a personal level, so it's not a group in the usual meaning of that word. This Eternal Priesthood to me is the essence of Priesthood as such, and if any debate on the topic should be meaningful, I prefer to start there. At the roots – with the Eternal Priests and Priestesses.

I believe that the path leading towards Eternal Priesthood is the love for the Gods and their creation and manifesting this love. On the opposite I believe it is the Gods who love people that understand them to a certain extent; exactly the same way human beings prefer to communicate and be present with people with whom they can share a certain level of mutual understanding.

I believe this is the way they ensure that they are not forgotten and lonely and it is through this special group they connect with the humanity. I am convinced this phenomenon has been here for thousands of years, it’s just the outer religious forms that are changed. It is the service and mysteries that stay. And I am not talking specifically about Wicca here. I am talking about all those more or less hidden aspects and schools within various religions. I have a strong feeling that Wicca in the form I have been initiated into is definitely not the only one.

To me, the service to the Gods means to manifest them in those actions and that way the Gods ensure their apparent presence in the human world. Enacting the mysteries is the way. The mysteries are the main way of communication and sharing, as far as I understand it. All those symbolic acts that are essentially the way we partake of the world of the Gods and becoming its part. It is the mysteries that make the Eternal Priesthood different from others. There is a vast difference in the level of communication (compared to prayer for example) and therefore a vast difference in understanding as well.

When it comes to the idea of reincarnation and having many lifes, I believe that there is a certain layer of the soul from which there is much deeper content and this content is preserved when we die and return to be reborn. The knowledge and experience of partaking of the world of the Gods and their presence is something that is below that particular layer and therefore it survives death and rebirth as a part of our souls.

When we are born in a new life and get older, it is this part that suddenly starts to communicate with us the way it is used to. We might have weird dreams or tendencies we can’t really understand. This part of us simply wants to join the Eternal Priesthood again and to continue its task. I believe that in certain cases the outer conditions may be stronger and may send us into a direction where we inspire others and where this part of us manifest in a beneficial or at least powerful and direct way. Maybe we must simply wait couple of lives before we find better conditions or do better decisions that would lead us into the family of the Eternal Priesthood again. But in most cases I believe the longing for this destiny is so big that it makes us search for it wherever possible. We would do all sorts of crazy things and deal with the strangest coincidences, just to make sure we answer the call the way it should be answered.

So far I haven’t actually learnt much of what the Eternal Priest must be. I believe that doing rituals and enacting the mysteries is the essential part of it. That is the deep level of sharing understanding and communication and presence. The Eternal Priest must also be the person of truth in the sense of being what the Gods require him/her to be. The actions of Eternal Priesthood that manifest the Gods are not only in rituals, but in the subsequent real lives too. That is the eternal challenge of it. In each life there are different aspects of reality in which one needs to learn to be true to the service to the Gods and in manifesting them. There is no end of it as the reality constantly changes and evolves and so must we.

To me, the Eternal Priesthood is also the link between the Gods and the broad community. The service to the community is the service to the Gods in that sense. And it does not end there. There is also a service to the world itself. It is through the Eternal Priesthood how the Gods make this world better and it is one of many ways how they made it move and evolve. There are many ways of this service and the Priests/Priestesses die and are reborn again to learn new and new ways of service that particular time and place requires.

In the smaller scope, we provide opportunities and crossroads, things like festivals, gatherings, workshops, public rituals, all sorts of these things tec. Why? Because we want to inspire people and support their own links between each other and the divine. That is one of our ways of external service. We are asked for advice or we listen to other people’s problems. We help people magically, sometimes. In what we do we try to manifest the Gods. Finding a way to manifest the Eternal Priesthood in the outer world is a very important task we all have. I myself haven’t yet fully figured it out. It is a multi-layered, multi-faceted thing that takes lifetimes to comprehend.

From my point of view, the concept of Eternal Priesthood and what lies behind it is a combination of two distinct, but intertwined things. Being a Priest is one thing and it means being the link and the vessel for divine power and doing the divine service, both internal (rituals) and external (service). Then there is the concept of eternity in it that comes with being a part of the mystery of the Gods. It is the experience and flesh of spirituality which is mystery – that is what makes Priest(ess) and eternal one. Although one does not become Eternal Priest through understanding only. There must be a conscious choice to take that path. However I believe that the choice comes naturally with the understanding. The understanding brings openness to the will of the Gods and the deeper the understanding is and the deeper is that link between us and them the closer we get to a threshold that means dedicating our future lives to the Gods.

Now speaking in terms of western Qabbalah, I believe that the layer beyond which we become Eternal Priests is the one between Tiphareth, Chesed and Geburah. Tiphareth for me is the sephira of individuality and of inner self. Everything of us that is below Tiphareth dies with our mortal bodies. All that is beyond Tiphareth stays and therefore the Eternal Priesthood must be part of that layer as well. In that sense it is a part of us that has nothing to do with ego or our physical body. In that sense, our Eternal Priesthood is the extended arm of the Gods that descends from the upper realms close to Tiphareth, but... different.

That leads me to a conclusion that it is actually not something we can consider as belonging to us and be owned by us. It is not. Eternal Priesthood transcends our being and is beyond it. It is bigger than us and our lives and is above them. Eternal Priesthood in its broader sense is a single entity for itself, a collective consciousness of all Eternal Priests and Priestesses on the entire universe. And is it us who choose the path of Eternal Priesthood or is it the Eternal Priesthood that chooses us? That is a question we can never answer just as we never know and understand Eternal Priesthood fully. It seems to me to be that kind of “Chicken and the Egg” thing. On some level I don’t believe thing this question really exists. Time works strangely there and the effect is the cause and vice versa.