Thursday, July 15, 2010

English Speaking Paganism

English Speaking Paganism Cover As practiced in the English-speaking world, paganism in the 21st century is decentralized and diverse. Unlike other religions where organization at the community level often means owning and maintaining a community building (a church, synagogue, mosque, or meditation center), nearly all pagan groups meet in people's homes or in accessible outdoor settings (such as parks or state forests). Some groups, however, do own and manage their own nature preserves. This article examines some common organizational structures among modern North American Pagans; it does not consider how other Pagan groups (particularly among indigenous peoples, or in the past) may have structured their common spiritual lives; nor is it meant to be exhaustive even among contemporary Pagan religions.

Because Paganism involves the experience of mystical communion with, or devotion to, nature and/or Pagan deities, it is entirely possible to be a solitary practitioner of the Pagan path. As a spirituality devoid of dogma, there is no mandate to organize. Many people may engage in Pagan spirituality as a purely private and personal pursuit; some writers of nature spirituality books have thus addressed their work specifically to the solitary practitioner. Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner (1993) is a best-selling book, indicating the widespread appeal of Pagan spirituality to those who do not wish to affiliate with a group.

While solitary practice is acceptable, many Pagans do affiliate with others, typically in small groups that are either governed by consensus or some form of democratic process. These groups are known as circles, groves, tribes, or covens (a term used mostly by wiccans and witches). Some groups (particularly traditionalist covens) have established leadership structures, although the small size of these groups supports direct accountability between the leaders and the membership. Despite a romantic notion that covens of witches should be limited to thirteen members (promoted by early Authors like Gerald Gardner), in practice wiccan and other Pagan groups can have anywhere from three to five or up to 100 or more members. Often larger groups will "hive" or split into smaller groups, thus enabling the religion to grow and allowing new leadership to emerge.

Books You Might Enjoy:

Jacqueline Stone - Death And The Afterlife In Japanese Buddhism
Tuesday Lobsang Rampa - Tibetan Sage
Max Heindel - Teachings Of An Initiate
Stephen William Hawking - Space And Time Warps