Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What are the Summerlands?

Pagan Magic said:

As a Pagan — what is your view on life after death? Do we go to the Summerlands, cease to exist, or are we re-incarnated?  Have you had any experience in communicating with those that have crossed over — and if so, how have they explained what has happened to them?  Perhaps you've had a near death experience that you want to share.

I said:

I work as a psychic medium, work which I did not seek but was given. Doing this, I learn a lot! I certainly know that individuals continue beyond the physical, and that they present themselves to those they have left behind with the same personalities and physical characteristics as in life.

Where they go is not so clear, but I do know they can be simultaneously there and with their loved ones still here. I have come across cases of people resting awhile after trauma from this life/death, and other cases of people finding work, e.g. acting as guides. Everyone seems pretty happy, I must say!

I have also had plenty of indications that reincarnation is a fact, and would say I know it to be so.

I have to accept what I “get” but I haven’t always been able to explain to myself the apparent contradictions, except to think that people don’t all experience the same things in afterlife. Now ®ø††en ƒLuƒf¥Ð@rKLiñG explains it perfectly!  [This refers to another respondent to the question, who said: In my experience in communicating with the deceased, I'm told that it is our choice. That there are 4 paths which we have the choice to follow. The first path is that of reincarnation. We are all connected, and are always able to find eachother and recognize eachother in every life. We may choose to be once again with those we love on this plain, and to experience life once again. Another being the Summerlands. The end of our road into a place of peace and rest from which we may decide to leave later on. Yet another path is the spirit world. We may choose to become a guide for the rest of our existance which is eternal. We can devote ourselves to helping others in a spiritual capacity. The last path is the river leading to the source when we decide to return to the Divine, the Great Source of all.] That all makes absolute sense in the light of my experiences as a medium, and I’m glad to have been given the understanding at last.

I have not had a near-death experience, but am acquainted with people who have. I have had visits from dead people, long before I perceived myself as psychic or thought to work as a medium.  When my Nana died when I was four, I walked outside alone into our back yard, felt her energy with me and realised she had not been snuffed out (though of course didn’t think of it in those terms then, just that she was somehow there).

When a friend who had a troubled life crashed her car and died, I didn’t find out until later; but I woke up very early in the morning, at what I later learned was very soon after her death, into a beautiful feeling of peace — and more, something I have experienced after some other deaths since, which I can only describe as “a white feeling”. And the thought of my friend came into my mind. Afterwards I was sure she had come to tell me she was now at peace. I grieved but was not as devastated as I might otherwise have been.

There are more such stories I could tell. So I have known from an early age that death is not the end.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How can we [Pagans] educate the general public?

Pagan Magic said:
How can we educate the general public?

Around this time of year the media often focuses its attention on pagans and witches - usually by choosing a stereotypical nutter to speak for all of us. My question this week is how can we educate the general public about paganism in a way that is positive but does not force our beliefs on others? 

Should we have craft mornings, moots, leaflet drops, retreats, public forums? - or are you against the idea of drawing attention to our path?

I said:

A vexed question all right! Like others here, I am reluctant to do anything that smacks of taking an official line. I love that we’re not evangelical or preachy; I love that we don’t have a written text like Bible or Koran. I love that we are individual; I love that ours is a religion of joy and freedom.

Yet I do believe in education as a way of minimising misunderstandings and prejudice.

I like the idea of comparative religion being taught in schools from an early age – if only we could find enough free-thinking teachers to run the courses and open-minded parents to let them. I am not sure that would be much more likely in Australia than the United States!

I do take very seriously the fact that in some places being known as pagan can cost people their jobs, their marriages, custody of their children, their social standing…. So yes, it is vital to educate the public. But how? As many have pointed out, the public is not much disposed to listen!  Clearly it is going to be a slow business.

I treat it as a duty to speak up if I hear things said that bear correcting. I always, as a matter of principle, take exception to the word “witch” being used as an insult. However I don’t seek arguments. I say these things firmly but politely, with good humour.

I’m “out” but not in-your-face. Many people wouldn’t notice it about me; others would. For instance I wear a pentacle that looks like a Celtic knot. Any pagan would recognise it immediately. Others, who might get scared off by something more obvious, have a chance to get to know me before they realise. When people do find out, I become a representative of the pagan religions, whether I like it or not. I don’t think this means having to be extra good, though. I think it’s important to just be the human being I am, and let that be seen.

Above all, I’m  writer, so I write about it. I write blogs, I write poems. I’m even writing a memoir, though it’s going slowly.

What all that adds up to is doing what I can. I think that’s all any of us can do. Band together, and we can do a lot. In Australia there was for a number of years a glossy magazine called WitchCraft. It was produced by and for witches, and it was excellent. Many people who were not witches, but were open-minded, learned a great deal about us from that magazine. It eventually finished, but another one started, called Spellcraft, which is good too. Initiatives like that are good, but they only work with members of the public who are already open-minded. The closed-minded would never look at such a publication. We can only hope for a widening ripple effect.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What is the best form of religion?

Pagan Magic said (in 2009):
Earlier this year the city of Canterbury in the UK was host to the Goddess Festival and Parade.  During the course of the celebrations a Canterbury Cathedral spokesperson commented that 'Christianity is the best form of religion'. 

So this weeks question is - what is the best form, does the church format have advantages? What are your feelings on this attitude - should people still even be making claims over who has the best religion, in this day and age.  Are you religious - or do you follow your own path?  Have you had a profound religious experience that you would like to share?

I said:
I agree with others here who say it's a matter of what's best for you.

I also agree in disliking evangelism. One of the many things I like about Wicca is that it's not an evangelical religion, and has no attachment to being the one right path for everyone.

I followed my own path for a long time, and even as a Wiccan I'm what's known as contemporary eclectic - I don't see what little tradition we can point to as being in any way "gospel" - though it's nice in creating a sense of ceremony and continuity, and the deeper meanings of those practices are things I can relate to. (But then, as a youngster, I adored midnight mass on xmas eve when my Catholic cousins took me along - and did not on that account think I had to embrace the whole belief system.)

For a long time I distinguished between religion and spirituality and felt I was on a spiritual path but was not religious. I love that Wicca is a religion without dogma, so am now happy to find spirituality and religion united – which is no doubt how sincere adherents of other religions feel too.

I understand the wish of many Pagans to have their path accepted as a valid religion with equal status to others, nevertheless I am uneasy about attempts to create anything resembling churches. I dislike hierarchy and loathe institutionalism. Ours is a free and down-to-earth religion; let's keep it that way. Once you institutionalise something, I think it's a short step to creating rules, regulations ... dogma. And once you've got dogma, it's dangerously easy to start thinking there is only one right Way.