Civilization totters, it needs a new Hierophant to show forth the Sacred, the values that bring about a successful life for All. Pagans are positioned with the skills to fulfill this holy task, and as the Shadow of Western Civilization, we have the power…
Yes, I am an optimist. I see in our Pagan community a powerful force for changing the world. As I discussed last time,we are in a unique position to cause that change. Here are some of the ways how…
In our subculture, we preserve the art of ritual. No other part of Western Civilization has this capacity: not the Catholics or Orthodox, not the Freemasons, not even theater folk. Only we Pagans have the ability to build new, effective, spiritually-rooted ritual, and we do so most every week. Thus far most of our attention has been on ourselves, and rightly so. We are usually attacked when we become visible, and ours is a way of self-reliance rather than proselytization and so our care has been for our own. Our rites are often small and intimate, and there we find much power. But the need of Civilization is upon us: our culture is self-destructing and planet-damaging—
yet it is not for the lack of capability, but from an absence of values that would sustain life on our world.
Values are of the mind, and we have the ability to change minds through ritual. Five hundred years of Protestant preaching shows that telling people to be good may last the afternoon, but by Monday morning business-time, that good is long forgotten. But give someone a taste of the good in ritual, give them the chance to embody that change and internalize the consequences of the failure to change, and the change lives on in their minds, their hearts, and their actions. For thousands of years, this is how humans have transmitted values down the generations. This is what we have the power to deliver.
I see two strategic avenues for doing this: rebuilding the Cults of the Gods and restoring the Mysteries.
The Cults of the Gods
It is vitally important that we rebuild the cults of the Gods. These become the pillars supporting all we build thereafter. (Re-)Establishing and cultivating our connections to the Gods with regular offerings and feasts brings Their powers and presences deeply into our lives. This is what was taken away from our forebears by Christianity and Islam, and with the same urgency as they were destroyed, we need to restore the ancient practice. Places consecrated to the Gods and activated through offerings radiate Their blessings into the world about about them and into the lives of those who worship. Our culture’s lack of alignment with the Gods is a fundamental dimension to our self-destruction. Without cultivating pluralism, without honoring the Many and the Particular, we will continue our descent into barbarity.
Restoring the Mysteries
Mostly I would expect Pagans to come and worship in the restored cults, although if open enough others—not Pagan, or not yet Pagan—will come join us to eat and drink with the Gods. But we need a more outward-facing strategy: we need to rebuild the Mysteries. There have been and continue to be efforts in this direction, many powerfully successful, but mostly focused on serving our community. I propose that we should be designing rituals to which we can invite the broader communities in which we live. These would be the lesser mysteries requiring no secrecy, but they can be momentous experiences for those unfamiliar with the transformative power of ritual. These can be supplemented with rites requiring more commitment, but opening up our rites, especially those designed to communicate our ways and transmit our values, can reach out to the many individuals looking for spirituality without the constraints and demands of church and doctrine. Ritual is self-interpreting, and each can understand it in accord with their own insight.
“Where there’s fear, there’s power,” as Starhawk says. Terror, we must remember, is a kind of communication. Whether used by states, like the fire-bombing of Dresden, or non-state actors, like 9/11 & 7/7, the importance is not the immediate action but what the act communicates. We Pagans have no choice: we have a terrifying aspect to many who see us. We can’t fix that just by saying we are nice people, but we can transform their fear of us by using it to attract and hold their attention until they change. Fear is exciting; fear is sexy. Think of the spate of vampire (etc.) videos today. We are the actuality of the viewers’ longing, except that we are not predators. We are just their Shadow, and that alone brings on the fear. There is power, and we should use it to change the world and how the world sees us.
We are uniquely situated to perform a sacred service consecrated by the very terror they have of us. We can be the Hierophant for our world, the Show-er of the Sacred. This is especially true for the West, as we are their Shadow. Thus we become the Lurker-on-the-Threshold, the activating challenge that precipitates initiation (if only into that mystery), for those that come to us to share our Mysteries. It is here that we can create rituals that embody the values we hold: sustainable, interconnected, compassionate, and so on (long list). We can teach the world to embrace the essence of mystery itself, that not all will be known, that there will always be the ineffable, that humility in the face of the vastness of Being is strength, honor and compassion. We don’t even need to agree with each other in our constructed mysteries, just build what we each think the world needs, set the table and invite all to the feast. In our many-ness and our contradictions is infinite insight unfolded.
This is the Pagan Restoration of Civilization, the ability to live and thrive alongside and in deep collaboration with those who are different from us and with the natural world. The only requirement to participate is to affirm the right of each and all to exist unmolested and the will to contribute to the common good / weal of all on this world, human and non-human. Are we up for the job?