PaganSpeak topics for November 2002:
Topic #1: Faith (courtesy of Wren's Nest) What is faith? Is it simply a decision to believe in something rooted in our psychological needs, or is it deeper than that? Is it illogical, or based in a logic that goes beyond what our conscious minds can grasp?
We Pagans might try to "reclaim" the word "faith" from the abuse it has suffered at the hands of monotheistic religions, but I don�t have much faith in faith, the concept has been battered too much. I don�t think "a decision to believe" is possible; one either believes something or one doesn�t. One could decide to claim to have faith in something, and I suspect many do, and there is a theory that acting as if one had faith might generate such faith, but why would one fake it to begin with? There are possible reasons, like entry into a group seen as desirable, but I see great dangers in faking anything. I "believe" or "have faith in" what my own experience, including that of a spiritual nature obtained through meditation or reflection, tells me is true. Yes, I could be horribly wrong, but I "have faith" in the teaching of the Buddha: "Be a lamp unto your own feet". I don�t expect anyone else to have faith in the same manner I do and I feel inclined neither to burn at the stake nor in any other way to harm those who don�t share my faith.
Faith (as in "keeping faith") also has the meaning of loyalty to a group. I have the highest regard for loyalty, but I believe in keeping in mind the story of Plato being bested in an argument by an opponent, to Plato's great embarrassment; a close friend of Plato's agreed with Plato's opponent and another friend protested: "How come you agree with his opponent, being that you are such a good friend of Plato's?" "I am a friend of Plato's, but I feel even greater friendship for the truth".
Ultimately I suspect that our experiences and what we believe in form a mutually reinforcing network.
Topic #2: Magic for Personal Gain (courtesy of Wren's Nest) Do you think magick/spells should be used for personal gain? What constitutes personal gain (e.g. love spells, money spells, healing spells, self-improvement spells...)
In my opinion any magick that harms no one is ethically acceptable; however I would strongly recommend GREAT caution in asking for anything too specific like money, and I would also strongly recommend NEVER doing any magick without including some formula like "for the good of all and according to the free will of all", as recommended by Marion Weinstein in "Positive Magic". Remember Oscar Wilde's wise dictum about there being two tragedies in life: one being not to get what one wants and the other, even worse, to get it; one difference being that in the first case the onset of disappointment does not occur so fast.
Love spells geared to influence another person's feelings without her/his consent are a form of psychic attack, as are healing spells done for someone else without that person's consent and preferably active self-initiated request.
Rather than love, money, health or special abilities in my opinion it is better to ask for wisdom and insight to understand the reasons why things happen, the strength and ability to cope with them and the awareness to learn from the experiences. I believe Goddess knows what's best for us better than we do. And invariably gives it to us, even without our asking.
Topic #3: Thanksgiving In the USA we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. This doesn't mean it has to be an American-only holiday however, what are you thankful for this year?
Gratitude to the Gods for their boons is a feeling that ought to be cultivated and practiced at all times. That is one reason why I'm not fond of the Thanksgiving holiday as observed in November. The pictures of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians sitting together in unity like brothers is totally false: the Wampanoag Indians helped the Pilgrims establish themselves and avoid starvation and other dangers, and as soon as the Pilgrims were settled and comfortable they proceeded to exterminate the Wampanoag Indians (do you know of many Wampanoag Indians in Plymouth, Massachusetts at the present time?).
As to the exchanges of gifts also depicted often in connection with the Thanksgiving holiday, it actually went more or less like this: the Indians gave the Europeans the constitutional decentralized form of government the US has used so successfully (at least until the Republican coup d'�tat of 2000), a number of useful plants, including some that are now staples all over the world, like potatoes, tomatoes and that most wonderful of foods, chocolate and the ability to survive in the American continent, while the Europeans gave the Indians syphilis, genocide, smallpox-contaminated blankets, pollution and a level of poverty and incarceration in Indian communities at the present time that defies imagination and is higher that for any other group in the country.
I am thankful to the Gods for many things, including enjoying the system of government we owe to a large extent to the Indians, but I don�t observe the Thanksgiving holiday, and I wish white people would use the day off to contemplate what has been done to the original inhabitants of this continent and attempt some reparation and restitution.