Sunday, September 18, 2011

ninety-third visit: Sept 18th 2011 Paganism

11am-6pm sunday
(me: 3:45-6pm)
Greater Pittsburgh Pagan Pride Day
Buffalo Inn
Buffalo Dr, South Park Township, PA 15129
south park township

Both Christian and Pagan scholars have written books on the fact that many Christian rituals and traditions practiced today contain elements carried over from the Pagan belief. However, there is a lot of unrest, especially amongst Christians, when it comes to this topic. I do not mean to upset anyone in this respect.
This troubled relationship is important to me for several reasons, including the fact that over the past year I've had more than one college art student address this issue in their work.

Some of the emotion surrounding the conflict between Pagans and Christians comes from these two facts: in order to leave Paganism for Christianity, Paganism must be rejected. I feel that the negative emotions surrounding this issue results from sentiments left over from this rejection that happened 1600-2000 yrs ago. Additionally,
in order to motivate people to convert to Christianity, it was declared kosher for some Pagan elements to be carried over into this new religion called Christianity. This is not the only instance of this kind of fluidity (see 75th visit, 7th paragraph). Honestly, it's so hard for me to see why this is something to get worked up about. Why is this bad?

Pagan Pride Day:
PPD is inclusive to Wicca, Heathenry, Shamanism, Druidry, the Neo- forms of the aforementioned and a few other beliefs. These each fall within the broader practice of Paganism.
Inclusion and tolerance are driving forces of gatherings, and there is plenty of both at PPD. This typographic image:
appears repeatedly in pamphlets, on T-shirts and in the theme of the ritual performed at day's end.

Here's a side note: I found out shortly after naming this-here project, that the word "gatherings," is precisely the term used for meetings held by Pagan religious groups.

Another side note, as many have asked me recently about the relationship between Paganism, Wicca and WItches: All Witches are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Witches. All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. Is Wicca different from Witchcraft? Some say yes, some say no.

So, my experience at PPD...
My first and immediate impression: here is a gathering of people to whom the expression of one's individual identity is very important. In appearance and beyond.

I attend a lecture on the history of runes presented by Ann GrĂ³a Sheffield, a runes scholar. Pretty interesting. Especially since I am studying German—regarding the link between these.

The first person I meet while exiting the lecture is a fiber artist. Everyone I speak to thereafter seems to be involved in creating things of some sort. Besides short lectures and workshops, there is a whole roomful of tables with creations for sale: candles, clothing, and a food counter. The portobello mushroom hoagie I order is delicious.

At this event, I receive by far the most numerous and most positive comments on my dress than anywhere else so far. Perhaps partly because this event is more social than other worship services, but none-the-less, the fact remains. Most want to know whether I had made it myself, or if someone else had done so.
There are no puzzled looks. No one asks me to explain myself. No one expects me to explain anything, even when I really wanted to talk about my impetus for attending PPD. But when I do, always an interest: "Very cool. You must be seeing so much and learning so much. Have you been to (this church or that synagogue) yet?" One one thing that made the dress stand out a bit: its whiteness as opposed to blackness, which was rather omnipresent.

A man named Cameron looks, pauses, and asks if I am Semitic (as in the Ancient Semitic, or Proto-Semitic religion). He also gives me a bracelet he has made, and tells me about a religious group that he belongs to, that meets in the same building on Ellsworth, where I attended a Quaker service (23rd visit) and Zen Buddhist meditation (81st visit).

As the ritual time nears, just outside the building, a fire is built in a cauldron on a hill. A woman named Rowan sits near me during the ceremony. She explains that the ritual is specifically intended to be inclusive to all forms of Paganism—in purpose and actions performed.

I can't stop thinking of Hinduism during the ritual. Hindu pujahs begin with a fire in a small or sometimes large (as at my wedding) metal pot. And the first action in both: spirits are invited. At the ritual today, a large ring of participants encircle the cauldron, many carrying hand-written scrolls. The spirits are addressed in Calling the Four Quarters. Because different Pagan beliefs refer to the quarters differently, today they are referred to as north, south, east and west. Following this, an appointed representative from each of the beliefs present today steps forward from the circle, toward the cauldron. He or she then speaks about his or her group's intentions, focus, and spiritual contribution to the community and to the world (which has been written on the scroll), then surrenders the scroll to the fire.

Related to this: the remarkably universal quality of the elements involved in ancient Norse Pagan rituals—that which I learn about at the rune lecture: a sacred cup or chalice, chanting, symbolic blood, and taking in, imbibing, drinking. I still know so little, but as perceived by outsider, I have to ask: how many other observances in how many other beliefs involve these elements? At home I talk to my husband about this. "In the end," he says, "we simply are all human beings." In some ways it would make sense if this was my 100th visit. But not yet: seven more to go.

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