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Concepts Of The Divine In Neopaganism Essay, Research Paper
Concepts of the Divine in Neopaganism
?As to who or what our deities are, you will get nearly as many answers as there are Witches,? spoke Ilyana Moonfire who led the Samhain ritual at the Onion. Consensus opinion seems to be that there is a transcendent Divine, the sum of what is what was, and what will be. However this divinity is more than the mind can conceive. Therefore, the idea of divinity has been broken down into many pieces. These pieces are conceived of in many forms.
One of the primary forms Divinity takes is the Goddess or the Divine Feminine. She can have many names and many functions. Some Neopagans even worship only the nameless single Goddess, others worship her under all the names by which she has been known to other ancient faiths: Ishtar, Diana, Ceridwen, Athena, Venus, Hecate, Isis, Demeter, Brigantia and more. Although there are many Goddesses and not all worship the same ones, they can usually be seen in three aspects: the Maiden, who is representative of youth, self sufficiency, and often love, the Mother who is nurturing and provides fulfillment, and the Crone or the Wise Woman who is responsible for wisdom, mystery, initiation, and death and rebirth. The Crone was a center of focus for Ilyana Moonfire who is a part of the Reweaving group of Neopagans, and she wore a small Crone pendant on her neck. It seems that the Goddesses are chosen according to personal need or developed through the elements of nature. There is also a representation of the female divine in the directions. In ritual, practitioners do what is called ?casting a circle,? which ensures a safe and whole worshiping area. They invoke the energies of the North, East, South and West. Each of these directions represents a human emotion and element of nature. For example the East is the feminine Mother Nature. East represents nature and land, and the human characteristics associated with her are loving and nurturing. The Moon, the Sea and the earth can all be personified as Goddesses.
Some Neopagans stop at the worship of the feminine Divine. Others go on to include the Divine male. He can be called a Father and yet is not always represented as a father. The Sun is often personified as a God as well as plant life. The grain God is also a common masculine divinity who is represented as a dying and reborn God and is common to all agricultural myths. Some name him the ?Horned One? and others call him under the names of the ancient, as with the feminine Goddesses. Apollo, Osiris, Adonis and Tammuz are just a few of the many.
Nature is central to the Neopagan belief system. Elements are interrelated to deities and are interchangeable with the word deities. The belief is that all that is, is sacred. And this includes nature, and humans. Their deities are both transcendent and immanent and are therefore difficult to describe. During the Samhain ritual attended in Los Angeles at the ?Onion,? many different aspects of deity was seen. At the start of the ritual, the practitioners first cast a circle. This involved the invoking of nature spirits from the North, East, South, and West and Center. This was the beginning of the ritual and was said to aid the practitioners in meditation. Then chanting began and the people leading the ceremony called upon Hecate, the Goddess of the crossroads. She was said to have the power to guide the practitioners into the underworld so that they may be with the dead. Hecate was known as a Goddess who traveled with a pack of wolves on moonless nights and dwelled in graveyards with ghosts. The person leading the ritual spoke of an ?ebony moon? which would mean a moonless night, and invoked her by asking her to guide ?us to the Isle of Apples? (the underworld). At this point a meditation began that included breathing, dancing and relaxation, and during this time it was said that the practitioners had a chance to meet with their deceased loved ones. The ritual climaxed with a ?Spiral Dance? that consisted of people holding hands moving in concentric circles and finally a downward spiral into the center of the room where drummers stood. Once the entire group of people reached the center the drumming beat faster and the practitioners began chanting and screaming and clapping, which led to hysteria that was almost contagious. Then the drumming slowed and the people relaxed and the ritual was over. The Goddess was thanked and the circle was made again where they said goodbye to the energies of the directions. Lastly there was a sharing of food with one another, and the ritual was finished.
It was apparent that deities were present in their Samhain ritual and yet it was said that the deities are present at all times. There are deities to represent every function, every emotion and every element of nature in Neopaganism. There is no separation between the sacred and the people. The underlying theme in the tradition is that the universe is a cycle of constant death and rebirth and everything within the universe is sacred. Divinity lies in all things and all things lie in Divinity. For outsiders, it is difficult to understand such different and not concrete explanations of divinity. And yet for the people of Neopaganism, they are as close to divinity and they are close to themselves.
21st Century Wicca: a Young Witch?s Guide to Living the Magickal life. Citadel Publishing. 1998
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