Curious - LifeonWry


In the Most Ignorant thing you’ve heard thread, you mentioned a pentacle you wear, and I naturally jumped to the conclusion you were a Wiccan. :o Although I apparently wasn’t the only one, because downthread you quashed that suggestion.

So, as you mentioned I’m showing some genuine curiousty about your religion, that is if you don’t mind sharing on what is basically a public forum.

Personally I’m an Athiest, or maybe Agnostic, It depends upon my mood, and which definition of those words you want to apply. :stuck_out_tongue:

But I’ve always been curious about, excuse this term, “non-mainstream” religions, and their attendant beliefs. If you would care to share a little, I would be interested and an attendant audience.


Geeze, I saw my name there and thought, oh hell, who have I pissed off NOW? :smiley:

I’m an eclectic Pagan, with a strong leaning to the Celtic “tradition.” I put “tradition” in quotes because for the most part, the traditions of pre-Christian era Celtic civilization were not well-documented, but rather passed on orally and through families - in other words, we’re guessing at quite a bit of this. A lot of it is educated guesswork, based on information we DO have, but there’s very little that we can point to and say “Here, here’s where it says we are supposed to do this.”

There are all sorts of “denominations” in contemporary Paganism (sometimes called neopaganism) - Wicca is one of those. All Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccan. I know a little of Wicca, because there’s a lot of stuff out there. I think it’s probably the most organized of the non-organized religions; it’s certainly the most well-known.

You can ask me anything you want, but understand that my answers may apply ONLY to me - Paganism is a broad term and different Pagans believe different things.

We had a thread in Great Debates a while back that talked more about the differences in Pagan beliefs… ah, found it. There are several of “us” here on the SDMB.

I like you. I dunno. I just do. :slight_smile:

Aw, shucks. I like you too. :cool:

Did someone say pagan? :smiley:

Want my quickie pentacle lecture? As LifeOnWry says, this is The World According To Me (and some, but not all, other neopagans), because nothing is agreed upon by every one, including that.

Both pentacles, the “upright” and the “inverted” were described back in 1855 in Eliphas Lévi’s Dogme et Rituel de la haute magie, long before Wicca was a gleam in Gardner’s eye. Lévi described the one-point-up as “when one point is in the ascendant, it is the sign of the Saviour.” and two-points-up as representing “Satan as the goat of the Sabbath”. The symbol, or some form of it, was then used by Freemasons, and by the Church of Satan for internal work in the sixties and made public in 1968. It continues to be so used today, with the head of Baphomet on it. Any neopagan, Wiccan or otherwise, who says that an inverted pentacle doesn’t mean something Satanic at all, ever, is just plain wrong. It means that, and it meant that first.

It may not mean it to the person wearing it, however. Symbols change and reasons change. The Nazis weren’t using the swastika as a sun symbol, and so it became a symbol of hate - except in Hindu societies, where it’s still a symbol of life and rebirth. Here is the way the pentacle is perceived and used now by many neopagans, including Wiccans (according, again, to me.):

The five points of the pentacle symbolize the five elements we hold important (some would say “sacred”.) Four of these are probably familiar: air, earth, fire and water. Each element is associated with, or reminds us, of different parts of ourselves, different qualities of being, different colors – pretty much anything than can be categorized can be done so in an elemental system. Air stands for the intellect, inspiration, yellow and purple, things that are warm and moist. Water for emotions, spring, blue, things that are moist and cold. Fire stands for will and power, red, things that are warm and dry. Earth stands for manifestation, “groundedness”, green and brown, things that are cold and dry. If one of these is out of proportion, a person’s life will tend to go out of balance. Someone with too much emphasis on inspiration (air) who does nothing to make their ideas manifest (earth), is going to be unhappy that nothing ever comes of his ideas. Someone focused on making money (earth) to the exclusion of their emotions (water), is likely to end up lonely and unhappy.

Four of the points of the pentacle represent each of the four classical elements in perfect balance - each of the same size, none predominant. The fifth point is representative of Spirit. Most neopagans who wear pentacles, most of the time, wear the Spirit point up, a symbol that we set Spirit as most important, most of the time. Spirit leads, the elements are used in service of the Spirit - they are literally beneath spirit in the symbol.

It is occasionally the case that a neopagan might be doing a specific kind of magickal work to increase the influence of one or more of the elements in their life. This, ideally, IMHO, should be a temporary thing. If I were to do magick to lose weight, for instance, I might want to increase my fire (willpower) and my earth (power over solid earthly objects, like my giant ass) energies. In this case, I might (as part of a larger working) wear a pentacle with the fire and earth points up - which looks like an “inverted” or “upside down” pentacle. I’d want to be very careful not to overdo it. When I feel like those elements have been strengthened sufficiently, I’d put Spirit back on top.

So it’s not true at all that “good witches” never wear an inverted pentacle. We do, some of us. We’re just less likely to let you see it, lest we have to go on the defensive when y’all see it as further evidence that we’re unwittingly worshiping Satan.
(The Church of Satan (nice folks, by the way. Have way more in common with most of the most vocal Dopers than I think they’d like to admit. See LeVay’s short essay on Pentagonal Revisionism if you don’t believe me.) uses an inverted pentacle in the Sigil of Baphomet which makes its goaty connections very clear.)

Sounds like my 2 daughters. The HS soph wear a pentacle necklace - I think pretty much all the time. We got it while in Salem. And the college fresh favors a pair of pentacle earrings. Both got interested in Irish imagery and legend since their Irish dancing days, and the elder is quite the fan of Arthurian legend - which I believe has significant overlap with ancient Celtic lore.

But I don’t believe either would call themself a wiccan or a pagan. Both profess to be atheist. In fact, at a wedding last summer a group of us were discussing something about lunar celebrations - Samhein, Beltaine, and the like. After my eldest daughter provided a bunch of info I said something stupid like, “Always handy to have a family pagan.” And she specifically asked that I not refer to her as a pagan.

Waitaminute – you’re not a Pythagorean, then? :wink:

Pagan is a pretty loaded word within the community. It tends to conjure up images of silly D&D players running around a Maypole playing Elves and Faeries. And there is that contingent, and more power to 'em. (I personally love Maypoles, and am a Friend of Elves) But a lot of other folks wish there was a different name for them.

Also, it’s perfectly possible to be a pagan and an atheist. Weird, I know. But I myself am one, sometimes. The most common version of this is the Psychological version, where all these things are seen as parts of our own subconscious, and the elements, candles, incense and all that are things which we use to talk to our unconscious in images, like dreams. There are the “Matrix” folks, who like to wonder if all of this, you, me, this chair, that God, are all in my head. If so, magick works because there’s nothing external - all I have to do is change what’s in my head and “the world” changes. There are others who do believe in an external reality, but think that there are strings of energy connecting every atom in existence, so you learn to affect the right string and you can move a rock on the other side of the universe (chaos and string theory is big with these folks). Some are truly polytheist, believing in many gods and goddesses, others believe in One Divinity going by many names. Still others believe there is a Creator who never interacts with people at all and never has, but still exists. Others believe we ourselves are gods.

Theist, Agnostic and Atheist beliefs are all possible under the large umbrella we call neopaganism. I myself alternate between them with exhausting regularity.

I do have to chime in a bit on LeVay - and I have insider knowledge on this subject. His former partner, Diane, is my cousin. Regardless of whether ANY of LeVay’s writing has merit to anyone else, he was a charlatan and a fraud.

You say that like it’s a bad thing. :smiley:
Or even like it’s antithetical to Satanism. :confused:

It may be that I just “have issues” with the guy - but it annoys me to no end when I hear people claim that Levay had some kind of spectacular insight to religion and that he was a prophet of Satan and what-the-hell-ever. He was a crook and a cheat and an all-around not-nice person.

Now THAT would be my son!

Right, but a huge (some would say the main) goal of Satanism is to NOT be nice for niceness’ sake. Not in a child abuse animal sacrifice way - they don’t condone that one bit - but in a “if you’re too stupid to figure it out, I’m not going to pretend otherwise” way. If people are stupid enough to be cheated, they should be relieved of their money. It’s an anti-recruitment religion, and very clear about it. They’d rather the gullible and less-than-intelligent not apply. This, of course, ironically enough attracts those who don’t get the satire inherent in their materials. LeVay never once denied being a charlatan. In fact, he encouraged others to become more like charlatans themselves, to reveal other people’s weaknesses and poke fun of them.

That’s one reason I compare them to a large contingent of Dopers: very anti-ignorance to the point of social Darwinism, very independent and very libertarian.

The only great “insight” I think he had was how people are so wrapped up in Christian symbolism, even if they don’t think they are or weren’t raised in it. If one really and sincerely thinks the Bible is nothing but a book of words written by man, it shouldn’t bother one when it’s smeared with blood or torn to shreds. As his early rituals showed, people are very uncomfortable with it in reality, even if they don’t think they hold it “Holy”. He wasn’t so much trying to tear down Christian symbols as to demonstrate to his own Satanist people how attached they still were to them. The big thing to remember is 'round about the '80’s, LeVay announced that this portion of Satanism was over and done with and it was time to move on. Some people didn’t get the memo, apparently.

You might have nailed it right here.

My personal dislike for the man definitely clouds my opinion of his work, but there are a load of people I’ve known who have been of the “we sacrifice animals and abuse chidren in homage to our master Satan because our leader says it’s what we’re supposed to do” variety.

Eh, people do what they want and they’ll grab any bit of justification and authority they can to enable themselves and their behavior. Some psychopath wants to kill animals and dresses it all up in “satanic” trappings and people go nuts with it–but it’s really just a freak who’s looking for a mantle to hide under.

I see the COS and LaVey as more like Coyote–just a force of willfulness and chaos stirring up the pot for the benefit of christians. Makes 'em think, gives them an enemy to strive against, keeps 'em busy tilting at windmills and fencing with shadows. If godly types don’t have an adversary they tend to invent them and it’s usually pretty uncomfortable for the rest of us when they get going.

If I were ever to personify a god, Coyote would probably be the one. Entropy and chaos are forces so resolute and absolute that they come closest to omnipotence in the universe… Coyote and Eris, there’s the beginnings of a modern pantheon for you!

Pardon my rambling, my head isn’t working well this week…

I don’t know if this belongs in this thread or the “most ignorant thing” thread, but I’d just like to add that, as a child attending Catholic school in the '60s, we gave our nickles and dimes every year to sponsor a child somewhere outside the U.S., but this was described to us by the nuns as “buying pagan babies.” If you were the one to give the dime that enabled the class to meet the purchase price (I think maybe $5 bought a pagan baby…good deal, no?), you got to NAME the pagan baby! :eek:

So somewhere out there is an all-growed-up pagan baby by the name of Mary Beth, because I named her myself! Maybe she’s a Pagan. Kinda hope so. Poetic justice and all.

If you wish to purchase a fully-grown Pagan babe, the going rate is $20,000. What with inflation and all. :cool:

I’m so going to hell.

Once I took a picture of my kids and my kids’ friends, wrapped the picture around a soup can and cut out a slot. The caption, of course, read, “Support the pagan babies” and I put it out where we usually put out the donation basket.
Then I used the money to buy the kids pizza after ritual. :smiley: