Sunday, 1 January 2012

Raw Paganism

Midgard Serpent (Jormungandr), destined 
to battle with Thor at Ragnarok (when this 
world will end and a new world will begin)
To me, part of the appeal of Pagan practice is the potential link it gives one to ancient or even pre-historical spirituality  to something raw, to something fundamental and continuing in the human spiritual process. The Religio Romana interests me partly because I see it as an ancient European religion about which we are reliably informed – much of the source material on Roman Paganism existing today was written by Pagans writing in a Pagan world, but, of course, there are other ways we can inform ourselves about authentically ancient spiritual practices and that is by looking to that which is common to a multitude of cultures and timelines – as a child of Europe I am naturally interested in the beliefs of the Indo-Europeans, from whom I am (at least partly) descended. Common themes in their belief systems include/d:
  • The deification of natural forces such as the sky, the dawn, rivers, the sea, the sun, the moon, spirits of nature (nymphs) and so on.
  • Folklore involving a battle with a serpent which may represent a battle between order and chaos (eg, Hercules and the hydra; Thor and the Midgard serpent; Krishna and Kaliya).
  • Cyclic myths (eg, of the seasons).
The first of these mentioned beliefs is core to polytheistic belief. Paganism and a species of animism usually go hand and hand  certainly for me in any case. 

The second belief, involving a malevolent serpent, suggests that we revere the Divine because it is the Divine which protects us from that which harms us, from disorder, from chaos. Chaos may come in the form of invaders who destroy our towns and cities (as happened in ancient Rome when polytheism was abandoned), criminals who sneak into homes and rape, steal and/or kill and chaos comes also, possibly, in the form of mental illness, whereby peace of mind is eroded.

Krishna dancing on the head of the serpent Kaliya
The third belief, in cyclicism, to me is testimony to the changing nature of all things. My life circumstances, desires, physical appearance – everything in fact – are constantly changing. I cannot think of one thing in the vast universe that is permanent and this is a source of comfort and discomfort all at once. Misery cannot be taken too seriously for its lifespan is finite, happiness is grasped at because it is so susceptible to slipping away. 

It seems to me that these ancient beliefs have continuing relevance – naturally they are, like all things, in a constant state of evolution but there is something about them which continue to resonate. The recognition of the Divine in nature, the will to live in a world of order, and not of chaos, and the acceptance of the continually changing nature of all things are statements of spiritual purpose and understanding which reflect my headspace beautifully.


By M. Sentia Figula; find me at neo polytheist and on Facebook

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