..The Intuitive Times
Spiritual Practices


Paganism Today

by Susan Eaton

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Paganism is a joyous yet reverent philosophy which everyone can share in - for there is not a person alive in the world today who is not descended from Pagan ancestors.

Many of us who follow this path describe ourselves as "Neopagans" because we've taken the most worthwhile philosophies and practices of the Pagan religions of ancient times and adapted them to modern needs and life-styles.

Most Pagans and "Neopagans" believe that Divinity or "God-force" is contained within all living beings and in the material world as well, and honour and observe the cycles of nature.

Although our Pagan ancestors honoured - even deified - natural forces in their religions, they did so because their lives were dependent upon these forces for successful hunting and a good harvest. Today, life is very much changed, and the average person is practically divorced from nature, and it would not be feasible for most modern Pagans to try to return to the life-styles of the past. Therefore, modern Paganism concentrates on a more spiritual ideal, striving for higher consciousness and spirituality. We continue to revere the Earth-Mother, the power and beauty of the natural Universe, and the universal Archetypes within ourselves. By living in harmony with the rhythms, the tides, and the forces of the Cosmos, we will be more complete persons ... enjoying health of body, strength of mind, and greatness of soul.

Take time to stop and appreciate all that is about you. Smell the earth, the trees, the leaves. Absorb their energies and send them yours. Make contact with the earth. Feel it; absorb it. Show your respect and love for nature and live with nature.

In the same way, live with other people. There are many whom you meet, in the course of your life, who could benefit from their encounter with you. Always be ready to help others in any way you can. Don't ignore anyone, or look the other way when you know they need help. If you can give assistance, give it gladly.

In the past, when people lived with nature, the turning of the seasons and the monthly cycle of the Moon had a profound impact on religious ceremonies. Because the Moon was seen as a symbol of the Mother Goddess, ceremonies of adoration and magic took place in its light. The coming of winter, the first stirrings of spring, the warm summer, and the advent of fall were also marked with rituals.

Neopagans still celebrate the phases of the moon and observe the changing of the seasons with eight "days of power" - the endless cycle of the "wheel of the year."

Four of these days are determined by the solstices and equinoxes, the astronomical beginnings of the seasons. The other four - even older - were associated with agriculture and the bearing cycles of animals. They are Imbolc or Candlemas - February 2; Beltane or May Day - April 30; Lughnasadh or Lammas - August 1; and Samhain or Halloween - October 31.

Let's take a look at the two holidays which are celebrated during the upcoming months.

Beltane or May Day

Beltane marks the return of vitality, of passion, and hopes consummated after the bleakness and introspection of the winter.

Beltane has long been marked with feasts and rituals. May poles were the focal point of old English village rituals. Many people rose at dawn to gather flowers and green branches from the fields and gardens, using them to decorate the May Pole, their homes and themselves and Bel-fires were lit on the hilltops to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world.

Beltane Invocation -adapted - Ray Buckland

I am She who turns the Wheel,
Bringing new life into the world
and beckoning those who pass along the ways.
In the coolness of the breeze you hear my sighs;
My heart is in the rushing of the wind.
When you thirst, let my tears fall upon you as gentle rain;
When you tire, pause to rest upon the earth that is my breast.
Warmth and comfort do I give thee
And ask for nothing in return
Save that you love all things even as yourself.
Know that Love is the spark of Life.
It is always there; always with you if you but see it.
Yet you need not seek afar, for Love is the inner spark;
The light that burns without flicker;
The amber glow within.
Love is the beginning and the end of all things
And I am Love.

Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is the time when the daylight is the longest, and the night is the shortest. This usually happens on or near June 21 of each year. At this time, Neopagans celebrate the continued growth and development of plant and animal life, of ourselves and of our Mother - the Earth. This includes aspects both physical and spiritual.

Summer Solstice Flower Seeds Ritual

The participants are asked to choose a packet of flower seeds from the selection provided.The leader says:

In the seeds which we have all chosen, there lie hidden the future flowers. Each flower is different but neither less nor more than the others. Let us recognize this as symbolic of ourselves - with all our varied lives, our different gifts and talents, we are equally a part of the whole, the interconnected web of all existence. We each have something unique and vital to contribute. To represent that contribution, please bring your seeds to the bowl in the centre of the circle.

While the seeds are being brought to the centre, the group chants:

We are a circle, a living circle
With no beginning and never ending

Once every participant has emptied their packet of seeds, the leader says:

May we not let awareness of another's talents discourage us; rather realize and celebrate that whatever we can do, great or small, is needed in the world. We depend on each other for support and nurturing. Now the seeds are all mixed together. We celebrate ourselves and each other by taking some of these mixed seeds. Plant them and with them plant seeds of love and caring. And when you see the varied blooms, remember the many faces of caring.

Each participant is then asked to choose some seeds from the bowl in the centre of the circle. While the seeds are being chosen by the participants, the group chants:

O Great Spirit, Earth, Air, Sky and Sea,
You are inside and all around me.

"Eight Sabbats for Witches," by Janet and Stewart Farrar, Robert Hale Ltd., 1981
"Magical Rites from the Crystal Well," by Ed Fitch and Janine Renee, Llewellyn Publications, 1986
"Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft," by Raymond Buckland, Llewellyn Publications, 1990

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