Personal Deity: Neopagan Norm or Evangelical Christian Hangover?
Thinking aloud here, and as ever, having to make large generalisations: Do Neopagans (Pagans & Heathens, as well as other non-Christian New Religious Movements) instinctively reach for personal relations with the divine out of cultural habit?
That culture, specifically an English speaking, generally white Protestant one that emphasises a personal relationship with deity, viz Jesus Christ, still affects those who are not adherents to/of the umbrella of Protestant Christianity, by placing them in a minority status, Even atheists (particularly militant so called New Atheists) seem to relate to divinity in some relation to this culture.
Thinking about it, it seems to me almost as if, without the comfort of established dogma, many Neopagans view divinity and/or the numinous as “about them”, If divinity exists, it “must” be interested in them.
Contrast this with the view of several African Diasporic Religions, wherein the Creator is distant and the numinous is represented/manifest in the form of intermediaries. The lwa of Voudon, as an example, are not gods at all. This is precisely why the syncretism with the Saints happened so easily, because despite Jesus having served as ultimate intercessor for all humanity, there are nonetheless other intercessors/intermediaries in the form of the Saints. One may have a personal relationship with Jesus, and also any number of saints.
In contrast, having such relations with any other than Jesus is actively discouraged in the majority of the Protestant milieu, unless you are perhaps high-church Anglican (mind you, the Church of England does recognize certain saints and the Virgin Mary but praying to them is distinctly The Old Religion, as it were).
Christianity as we know it today is ultimately founded on the Jesus Is All You (should) Need model, with obvious denominational and theological differences as to what that means and what you should do regarding that fact.
As such, many Neopagans (usually, it must be noted, white and from relatively affluent societies) who reject the JiAYN model often find themselves casting about for divinity which may mimic in some form (or so they believe) a better way to connect with divinity.
At worst, this can result in gods and goddesses being reduced to Jesus(es) in Neopagan drag, or simply not being aware that there are other forms of the numinous, such as genus locii, landwights, ancestors etc. At best, it can cause one to reflect on one’s cultural inculcation.
As I reflect on my post-Christianity life - some 18 +years at this point - it strikes me that Christianity is a profoundly Magical (and I mean that in a technical sense) religion. A Jewish-originated Mystery Cult turned Imperial State Religion which, by turns politically and militarily, beat, subsumed or sycretized its way to supremacy.
Now, this isn’t to say that pagan religions weren’t magical - indeed much of what we hold to be trappings of Christianity today (altar rails etc) actually came out of contact with so called Barbarians. But if we compare Christianity to other world religions it becomes fairly obvious that one of the religion’s primary selling points is Ease Of Access To the Divine. Anybody could be an initiate and once initiated, anybody could partake of the central Mystery.
It’s almost impossible to state how revolutionary that was. A religion where a beggar had the same access as a Senator! That didn’t care who you were or where you came from - because the Son of God, his most beloved died for you.
The Protestant Reformation levelled things further - no more were the ritual trappings needed. Just two or three gathered together were enough to summon His Spirit. And anyone could channel that Spirit to speak an inspired way, and even some quarters, perform miracles! No longer was the magical operation of ordination necessary, the Apostolic Succession and other rites were dangerous! Catholics were worse than those Ancient Pagans - at least they had never heard of Christ! They deliberately spurned the Spiritual Gifts in favour of a corrupt Priesthood! They were actively preventing good Christians from meeting their Lord, and hence were in league with Satan!
And so the narrative went, or, more accurately, still goes in some quarters.
These are the things I’m thinking about - and I wonder if some of the way Neopaganism is…marketed(?) a la “find your patron deity/spirit guide/appropriated terminology” is, as well as consumer culture, due to the larger Protestant infused worldview. I suspect, for many ancient Pagans/Heathens, gods were not the usual de facto manifestations of the numinous - but rather, dealings with the dead/ancestors and hearth/local spirits were more the norm in many (but not all) cultures. Contact with gods would very well have happened at festival, but intrusions in daily life would probably necessitate a trip to your local spiritual expert.
Is this me advocating for some kind of priesthood? Not at all - in fact I’m generally suspicious of people who proclaim themselves Priest of X, not because I disbelieve their spiritual credentials (that’s another post) but because I always wonder where the community they serve is. Maybe it’s because I’m the son of an Anglican priest, to say nowt of my own spiritual credentials. but I always find myself asking who they minister to!
Having said that, it’s totally unsurprising that new iterations of old things use the dominant culture to orientate themselves. By and large, this website and its users are US based, and America does indeed exert a large cultural gravity which means that it’s influence on Neopaganism is perhaps disproportionate - I’d be interested to survey say, a Catholic, non English speaking country. I’d suspect there might be significant differences.
While not wishing to disparage Neopaganism as an umbrella term, it strikes me, as an operative magical type, that the mythical Old Religion would have been closer to a Catholic or Orthodox worldview - in terms of the veneration of dead Heroes/Saints and places sacred to them. In Britain, as an example, there are far more Sainted Holy Wells than there are Officially Recognized Saints!
Add to this that the majority of witches and cunning folk used pieces of Catholic liturgy and Psalms - including the witches that were hanged here in Lancaster, and one begins to wonder at the irruption of folk magic in the US both during its settlement and also now - a strong thread of Dominionist “spiritual warfare” emerging since the 70′s in the Religious Right, contrasted with an increase in the prevalence of ADRs and Spiritist religions, pus an upsurge in interest in magic.
Tie this Dominionist strain of Evangelical Protestantism to the colonialist attitude of many American settlers, many fleeing religious persecution and one has a climate of, well, almost (unconscious) entitlement to divinity wherein one has to do very little to gain attention of a deity.
Do we (unconsciously) expect the numinous to appear in a shrink-wrapped, easily digestible packaging? Has Protestantism produced an expectation of a spiritual supermarket? Is this good, or bad?
The concept of Familiars can be found in European Folklore dating back to the early Medieval period. Familiars have appeared throughout history in multiple forms but often being in the form of an animal such as cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some cases even describe them in human form or humanoid form. Others even describe them as being faeries.
Familiars are described as being companions to witches and assist them in their magickal work. In early times, familiars were feared to be lesser demons that fed from the blood of witches and assisted in malevolent magic. They were even considered to be imps, bestowed upon witches by the Devil. Many cats were killed around the time of the Black Plague which only brought more death in Europe. The cats would eat the mice and rats carrying the fleas that spread the Plague. The mass murder of cats caused an increase in the flea population leading to more deaths. Almost poetic justice.
How do you choose a Familiar?
Familiars are not chosen; they choose the person. Typically, a strong link or connection is felt between the person and their Familiar. This can be with any animal the person feels an affinity to but in modern times, is typical a household pet. These pets are treated as a member of the family and are often considered magickal partners.
However, some people do not discover their Familiar in the physical realm but instead accumulate pictures, statuary, or other research of an animal or creature that they feel strongly drawn to. This can be a Familiar that has reached out to you from the astral plane.
You may also have more than one Familiar. It is not uncommon to have a connection to multiple Familiar Spirits as they all may have a different function in your life to better assist you.
Magickal Workings with Familiars:
As partners in the Craft, Witches tend to treat their Familiars with respect, love, and wisdom. You can learn a lot from having a Familiar, such as patience, love, understanding, partnership, respect, and gratitude. These creatures can not only teach us about ourselves and our own Craft but also about nature and the Universe.
They can assist you in ritual or with spells by bringing with them a certain mood or tone you wish to set within Circle. They are able to enter and exit the Circle without breaking the energy surrounding you. Sometimes, they allow you to use their fur, scales, and nail clippings within your magickal work.
Familiars are beneficial mentally and emotionally. They provide stress relief and help keep people emotionally balanced. They tend to know our moods and will often act on a course of judgement to put their partners (us) in the right frame of mind so that we can continue with our path.
Familiars can also assist us on the astral plane. Since they live between worlds, they can enter with us on our shamanic journeys. In this plane. They may appear in a different form or even be able to speak. They can guide us to the answers we seek in our Craft.
Honoring Your Familiar:
Familiars are our partners, not our servants. The idea of a Familiar and their role in the Witch’s Craft has greatly changed over time. At first, Familiars were believed to be servants to Witches, doing their bidding without hesitation. Since the New Age, that thinking has changed. It is accepted that we show our gratitude towards our guides and honor them. This can be as easy as giving them love and attention during the day.
I, personally, spend time with my Familiar every morning and every night. I give him love and affection, I brush his fur, I brush his teeth, I keep him fed and healthy, etc. I also keep a small statue on my altar just for him. You can even work with Familiar Magic which helps strengthen your bond. Brown is the traditional color for Familiars if you wish to use candle magic. There are also stones and herbs that show your appreciation. Go out and buy your kitty a new toy or some catnip. Or you can get your dog a new rawhide.
Protecting your Familiar:
Most people look at the Familiar as their protector. They are protectors but they also need it too. You can place protective amulets or charms on their collar. I actually enchanted my Familiar’s collar so he would be protected even when I’m not home. I also have a certain space for him in the house where he can go to a be protected. You can do this by enchanting their bed.
Collar (blank or with symbols)
Bowl of Water
Incense such as mugwort or St. John’s Wort for protection and calming
Begin by creating a salt and water protection Circle around you (and your Familiar if present). You may cast any Circle you wish. At this time, state your intention within the Circle and light your candle and incense. If you have chosen a blank collar, you may wish to draw your own protection sigils upon it or you can simply proceed with the next step.
Pass the collar through the four elements. Sprinkle the color with the Salt of the Earth and state your intention.
Pass the collar over the flame, but not too closely, and state your intention
Sprinkle the collar with the water and state your intention.
Pass the collar through the smoke of the incense and state your intention.
The collar has no been imbued with the power of protection from the four elements and is ready to be worn by your Familiar.
I would like to introduce my own Familiar as I find him quite the character. His name is Salem, a 2 year old Tuxedo who rescued me from the animal shelter. He loves creating magick with me! I’d love to see pictures of everyone’s Familiars if they would like to share!
Hi friends! I’ve decided to open commissions for custom Tarot or Oracle cards of you, people you know, or your original characters! Exciting, eh??
No knowledge of Tarot is required! I have 13 years experience reading Tarot, so if you’d like to tell me about yourself/your person/your character and let me pick the card–or create a brand new one, Oracle style–I can totally do that. On the other hand, if you totally know what card you want to be on, don’t be shy!
THIS IS FOR INDIVIDUAL CARD COMMISSIONS, NOT FULL DECK IDEAS. Please do not email me about illustrating your full Tarot/Oracle deck!! I am already working on my own deck, I’m opening these so I can pay my bills in a more fun way, haha. I mean, if you want to pay me like $10,000 up front for 78 cards that’s something else, but, you know. *thumbs up emoji*
Payment is through paypal invoice, payable by credit/debit/paypal. I take 50% up front and 50% at completion of the card, so it’s actually two payments of $62.50 USD if that helps you out.
Email me at email@example.com with your idea(s), and we’ll chat it up!! <3<3<3 If you can’t commission, then please reblog, it would mean the world to me <3
My Tarot ideas/knowledge is trans/queer friendly, I am a trans & queer artist and I strive to break down the binary associations in traditional symbolism!
A spell to call forth the vibrant and excited fall energy you felt as a child around Halloween time
You will need:
🍁a scented candle that reminds you of Halloween (pumpkin spice, apple cider, candy corn, etc)
🍁a bowl of salt (I used seasalt)
🍁various trinkets that bring back memories of Halloween to you (I used a bone, dried Mayan moss, a scorpion figure, and various dark shells and stones)
🍁two obsidian stones (but any darker stone or crystal with strong energy will do!)
🍁a clear crystal (or any positive clean energy item!)
🍁a friend or journal
🍂arrange your ritual similar to above. Place the candle in the center, the clear crystal in front of it, the items splayed out along the side, and the obsidian stones capping it off on either end. Set the salt off to the corner.
🍂light the candle and take a moment to meditate. Let the scent begin to call back memories.
🍂either talking to your friend or writing in the journal, begin to write down every childhood Halloween memory you have. Or just say them out loud to the room! Talk about your costumes and favorite candies, who would take you trick or treating, what would you do to prepare before and after, did you decorate, what did you get most excited about, did you watch any Halloween movies, and did your teachers let you dress up for class. Think back on all of these moments and let their memory fill the room. Encourage your friend to talk as well.
🍂as you talk, the candle will revive these energies. Now, Halloween energies can sometimes be complicated as some of them can be dark. Have no fear. The black obsidian will trap these energies within the confines of your ritual. The clear crystal will direct the good energies into the candle wax and the bad energies into the salt. You can think hard on this intention as you meditate prior to the sharing.
🍂when you’re done, leave the candle burning as you return the items to their respective homes. The only items you will keep is the candle and the bowl of salt.
🍂blow out the candle. Place it in a central, elevated part of the room. Place the salt in a corner or by a window.
🍂light the candle once a week for as long as you want the spell to last, or more if you desire! Every time you smell it, let yourself think back on the memories.
🍂 when you’re done with these energies, put away the candle and take the salt outside and bury it (not near plant life, please! I like to use gravel lots) and light a new candle to clear the energies.
I used this the other day and I am loving it so far!
Please send me any feedback you have and Happy Halloween vibes people!