This part two of my conversation with Amadahy — a Pagan considering becoming a Catholic (RCIA).
Growing up in the Christian tradition, we always refer to the persons of God (Holy Trinity) as male (“He”). Why is it that most (if not all) Pagans and Wiccans I’ve met (mostly women) refer to God as female (“She”)? Is Paganism more of a female-driven faith system or does it mostly emphasize on the Mother Earth concept? The following explanation doesn’t quite satisfy my curiosity.
“It’s absolutely not meant to deny the value or place of men in Wicca (or Divinity), but merely to provide some balance to our cultural understanding of God and people as male. And it’s too cumbersome to have S/He and Her/His all over the place.”
The following seems a little better, but what’s your take?
“Also, remember that many Pagan religions were originally fertility religions. Wicca itself certainly is, and some sub-branches of reconstructionist faiths are as well. By its very nature, a fertility cult confers high status upon the feminine.
So what does this mean in terms of the men folk? Does it mean they aren’t welcome in modern Paganism? Hardly. Most traditions of Paganism have room for both the male and the female. Although there are some groups that honor only a goddess and not a god, far more are dedicated to both a god and goddess, or in some cases, multiple deities of both genders.”
By the way, going back to my interest in Wicca, I understand that it’s what many call an “earth religion” (nature, earth, forests, etc). Hopefully I’m not confused or way off in my uneducated understanding. In any case, this concept’s probably what makes me most curious. After all, as a child, I helped my maternal grandmother care for her garden (over 100 plants and a handful of small trees, not counting in-door and water plants). Needless to say, I developed an interest in botany, which I never really became my field. In high school, I liked chemistry better than biology. Perhaps this same interest’s now why I’m a vegetarian (not to be confused with “vegan ” as pizza would be taken off the menu).
You mention that you’re NOT a witch , but you mention joining a coven. How does that work? Why’s the term used so vaguely used to denominate a group of witches or a group of Wiccans?
“A coven or covan is a gathering of witches. Due to the word’s association with witches, a gathering of Wiccans, followers of the witchcraft-based neopagan religion of Wicca, is also described as a coven.”
In response your comment about your journey in and out of Catholicism (not to mention, your “detour” into Paganism), it could never be too long. Faith’s supposed to be a long journey. Said this, let me tell you [mine] as briefly as possible. I was baptized Catholic, grew up with both my non-religious parents till they separated and eventually divorced when I was 14, went to various Catholic churches (even St Patrick’s Cathedral) for periods (several years here and there), strayed for 13 years, returned to church in 2008 (Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church; 4 blocks from St Pats and 2 blocks away from Saint Thomas Church), became in small groups for about two years before my second son started having seizures, became an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church and continue going to FAPC every Sunday where I help working in sound reinforcement (audio system, a small 16-channel Mackie sound board). As part of my hectic journey, I’ve read about the three Abrahamic religions, various Christian denominations including Mormonism (what my youngest sister practices), Krishna (somewhat similar to Wicca from what I loosely understand), Paganism (especially Wicca), some ancient mythologies (especially Greek/Roman, what I used to read or be read when I was not older than 5 or 6) and even atheism (Richard Dawkins, George Carlin, Friedrich Nietzsche, George Bernard Shaw, etc).
By the way, I found the quote that you made a reference to. It’s 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. You do know the Bible. :)
“7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, KJV)
All of your questions revolve around a very structured point of view, and you have to keep in mind that Paganism is a very fluid and each person is encouraged to develop their own understandings. There is no set teaching. If you join a coven, you follow that covens teachings, but there is no Bible or guide book to be Pagan! The questions you’ve asked are actually very complex. I’m not sure I can provide you with an acceptable, understandable answer. I’ll give it a go.
So what’s with all the He/She business? That’s tough, really. I good percentage of Pagans follow a Goddess, in the female sense of deity. They recognize, or it’s been revealed for them personally, the female Goddess. Some basis of this is the concept of mother earth, and the history of fertility religions. Paganism is a female heavy religion, there’s not really any getting around that. Most Pagans are completely comfortable with the idea that different concepts of the divine exist, even within their own coven, so it’s not difficult for Pagans to switch gender associations. Christians have a difficult time with this, I understand. It’s my belief that we shouldn’t really get too absorbed in the limiting human gender associations of any kind of divinity. I mean, these associations are man made as to what “Feels” female or male. If you have a transcendent moment that feels very comforting, guiding, and loving, those concepts are associated with femininity in most cultures. Those associations are both male and female, but the majority of people associate those roles..of sorts…to women. Most humans can’t even work out gender associations among other humans, let alone deity! You see where this question can get very complex very quickly?
Paganism is an earth centered religion, you’re correct. I don’t want you to think, however, that is exclusive. You can be a magnificent gardener, or someone who connects to God through nature and be a part of any religion. When discussing the Pagan concept of this keep in mind that Pagans don’t see time as linear, the way Christians do. What is meant by Paganism being an earth centered religion, besides the obvious reverence of the natural world, is that the year and life move in a cyclical format. Pagans follow that circle of the seasons and a circle of life, whereas Christians generally follow a linear year and calendar. You can be reverent of nature and be a part of any and all religions, or none at all! Pagans do have a big emphasis on living close to the Earth and seasons, though.
I understand, the politics and Pagan terminology can be awkward to navigate unless you’ve been around Pagans for a while! No, I have never identified as a Witch, it’s mostly Christians that have called me that. I identify as Pagan. I’m a non denomination Pagan, like non denominations Christians! I joke… sorta. What I mean is that I don’t participate in witchcraft , and most Wiccans do. Categorically I would have been pegged along the Wiccan lines, but it was my personal choice to identify as Pagan. Don’t think as covens exclusive to wicca or witchcraft . Each coven is their own, and follow their specific set of beliefs: i.e., Gardnerian, Eclectic, Dianic, Druidic, Heathen, Alexandrian… oh the list is endless! It’s a group of people working together as a family who participate in a certain Pagan ritual and belief pattern, not exclusive to Wicca or Witches. I don’t fully agree with Gardner, who had a major influence on modern Wicca, and so I chose not to identify with that association. It’s about finding the right coven for you, there are at least ten covens in my current area, each with their own structure and system.
Why are all of these terms so fluid? Because there is no set definition of Pagan. Many Christians feel that anyone who is not Christian is Pagan. People who identify as Pagan can vary wildly in their own perceptions of divinity , so if there’s no set limit on what the basis is… all the words associated with that vague label can run just as rampant in definition. You’ve probably run across this issue, not all Wiccans are Witches, not all Witches are Wiccan, craft is an entirely different topic of discussion, and Pagan could be anything at all depending on who you talk to. It takes some times and a lot of conversations to begin to sort through this.
I wouldn’t consider my Paganism a detour. I consider Paganism my first religion. I was baptized, but never brought back as a child, and I didn’t really know about the Baptism for a long time. I feel that my first religion is Pagan, that is where I learned my morality and concepts of right and wrong. It’s more that I have a current detour into Catholicism, but my faith in divinity is the same as it always has been regardless of labeling.
Please, note that it’s not my interest to be arrogant, pushy or offensive. I admit that I’m coming with ignorance on the topic, loose concepts, wrong concepts and perhaps too much eagerness to learn that might actually get on the way.
I’d forgotten the concept of fertility as in harvest (food), but does it also cover human fertility (having children) as well as animal fertility (future transport, food, etc)?
You’re right about no “limiting human gender associations of any kind of divinity.” We, as humans, tend to personify everything — even Divinity or Godhead. I guess the correct way to think about the Divinity or Godhead is as an asexual or male and female (at the same time) entity. I must admit the latter sounds like such a heresy for Christians as we can’t let go the idea of the Father (male), the Son (male) and the Holy Spirit (asexual). Catholics also hold the Virgin Mary as a divine entity and called the Mother of God (female).
You mentioned the lack of a formal instruction set — Bible, Catechism, Book of Confessions or even written prayers. Perhaps this is why I’m a Christian. There’s an instruction set and tons of written “holy” material. I like my religion to be a form of controlled chaos where each step’s decided by tradition even worship services (bulletins). As a matter of fact, the church I go to started printing the text [Spricture lesson] that the sermon would be based on. This way people can take that snippet of Bible home or chuck it in the garbage as some do.
I’ve seen what you mean as cyclical format of time. The Sabbats follow the seasons rather (northern and southern hemisphere opposite seasons, winter in the north and summer in the south, the Wheel of the Year) than the “common” calendar. Personally I like Christmas (the Mass of the Christ) or Yuletide with snow. By the way, for a second, I thought you meant that time itself is not linear as in Doctor Who (preset to past to future further into the future to past, etc), which has many subtle references of various religious Pagan concepts (many of which I borrowed when writing my first book). Are you familiar with the Doctor Who British serial (1963-1986, 1996, 2005-present)?
I’m glad you corrected me (not so much for being wrong, but rather to avoid misunderstandings and/or misconceptions). I now understand that you’d not detoured into Paganism. If anything, we could say that you’d possibly taken a “current detour into Catholicism” in past several months. So what made you consider Catholicism rather than other denominations, perhaps the charismatic denominations like Pentecostalism?
On a personal level, I feel much better going to a Presbyterian church, rather than a Catholic or Episcopalian (very similar to Catholic) church.
I don’t find you pushy at all.
So, Why Catholics?
This year I started wandering denominations, and I’ve been through a large number of Christian denominations ranging from Catholicism, every mainline Protestant, all the way to the more modern-ish megachurches and pentecostal churches. I think they are all lovely in their own right, and Episcopalians stood a fighting chance with me, but the Catholics got a hold of me in the end. Actually, I think the Catholics got a hold of me back in January, but I made a grand attempt to deny it. Obviously, that didn’t work out. It’s fairly impressive any denomination got a hold of me; I tend to be a wanderer.
It was just in the Catholic church I felt comfortable. Although I am not used to the patriarchy, I am used to the ritualism. Really, it was just where I felt most comfortable, which was odd. I felt comfortable as a Pagan, religiously uneducated, tattooed, punk-esk, twenty something kid. It has only been in the Catholic church (besides Natural settings) where I have had the persistent moments of somewhat transcendence (honestly, for lack of a better word). Also, it was within the Catholic church and with a wonderful priest that I recently started finally healing from some emotional familial wounds I’ve had for a very long time. It was very unexpected to feel that, because I felt I patched myself up “good enough.” I didn’t, and now I’ve started being put back together in a much stronger way. Not saying that’s easy or a wonderful experience, it’s difficult… but it’s very good as well.
I appreciate the Catholic representation of Mary. I feel she is a very important player in this theology, and should be revered for that. Many protestant denominations downplay that, and I understand how that developed, but I find it unfortunate. I feel that they are missing out on a spiritual figure who can be of help and assistance in their spiritual journeys. Keep in mind I come from a female heavy religion, so having that stepping stone of Mary to help me become more comfortable with this Jesus fellow is something I need. I also have a background that has made me distrusting of men; I do try not to be that way, but it’s an unconscious reaction much of the time. Having that representation of Mary makes me comfortable and open enough to explore the more male heavy theology, and this Jesus fellow.
A lot of people have suggested the charismatic , Pentecostal Christians to me, and I’ve visited some versions of those denominations. I didn’t care for it, personally. It was like a free for all to me, very individualized and random. Maybe that’s nice on occasion, but I couldn’t function like that all the time. Again, I gravitate towards the ritualism in both Paganism and Christianity.
Hope that makes sense. I worked late last night, and I’m trying to be coherent this morning! lol
I’m glad for your healing. I’ve got a fairly good idea what you mean. During high school, it meant drinking myself stupid. Finally almost four years ago, it started to mean going to FAPC, but I don’t feel healed at all.
I know what you mean by having the correct priest. There was a good and trustworthy priest at the church I used to go as a child. He was later transferred within the dioceses and it just didn’t feel the same with the new priests.
Regarding Mary, how [do] you feel about female pastors? Many denominations don’t like the idea. In the other hand, a few do. At the same time, what do you [think] of Mary Magdalene that [she] might have been an apostle rather than a prostitute as portrayed by a good portion of the Church.
On a personal level, I don’t think I ever really feel comfortable worshiping and praying to Mary. Said that, I appreciate having a woman at the pulpit and don’t feel threatened as many males. As a matter of fact, a good friend of mine is studying to become a pastor and she’d be a good minister (former group leader of young adults for over a year).
You’ve got tattoos? How many and what designs do you have, so far? I’ve got one, a tribal band with a skull in the middle and a what looks like my skin ripped open (three elements).
Healing takes time… a lot of time, and a lot of help. If you need anything that might help you in your own healing let me know and I will do what I can.
How do I feel about female pastors? Fabulous! I think it’s wonderful that many denominations are allowing that. I wish overall we could see a lot more female pastors, because the ratio is mighty disproportionate. I hope the protestant churches use this freedom wisely. The Catholic church never will, at least I very much doubt it. But don’t ever make the mistake of thinking the Catholic church is discriminatory for women, or anti feminist..that’s not true.
I don’t see why Mary Magdalene can’t be a prostitute AND the apostle to the apostles. I have an affinity towards to woman, the saint, the apostle to the apostles! I was never a prostitute, but I’ve made my fair share of poor discussions, and if that woman can turn it all around to be the person the resurrected Jesus appeared to first…. sounds like an incredible story to me.
In the Jesus story I watch a bunch of men run away, but those women are there for him. They may not have been running the show publicly as the apostles did, but they absolutely were irreplaceable.
Oh geez, my tattoos… if counted separately I have 9, but I prefer to say I have 3 pieces. I have a tattoo on my foot, just below my neck, and one that takes up half my back. They all tell my story, and they are all black and white.
My biggest piece is two artsy -tribal-esk roses, one on each side of my back, emerging from a mess of vines. Each tangled mess of vines is representative of a man who very much hurt me each in their own way, my biological father and my former step father… but something beautiful can still come out of a complete mess, hence the roses. In the middle between the roses is the triple moon Pagan symbol for Goddess…which is what pulled me through that mess, faith. Below it all reads “Danger=Freedom”, “God=Poetry”, “Goodness=Sin”…. in reference to Brave New World by Huxley.
Just below my neck I have the symbols for HIM‘s Venus Doom. The song is my relationship theme song, unfortunately? That entire album is amazing, really. It’s just a reflection on the extraordinarily constructive and destructive power of love. My husband kisses it a lot.
aaaand on my foot I have a small HIM heartagram. lol
My husband and I are considering each getting an infinity tattoo with “In Venere Veritas” on our ribs, but we haven’t quite gotten around to it yet!
So, it’s surprising I’m comfortable in a Catholic church! Not only I am tattooed, but I’m tattooed with a Pagan symbol and the word sin. lol I couldn’t see myself without the tattoos, if the whole heaven and soul concept is real… I hope my soul has my tattoos. I love listening to people talk about their tattoos, you learn a lot about a person!
For more information about Amadahy, visit her blog Amadahy Gone Rogue.
Amadahy, thank you for your patience teaching me about Paganism and your faith journey. Blessed be!
Read parts 1 now and 3 soon.
You can watch the 1980 TV version Brave New World below.