Blessings everyone! I’ve been away for work over the last couple of weeks. Every time that I take such an extended leave from my writing, it brings home the fact that it has become such a life-giving part of my life and that the interactions I get with all of you are worth a million!

My Samhain was quite different from the past few years. For the first time in a long time, I went to a public ritual with the rest of the Wiccan community. Up to now, my contact with the Pagan community was limited to Crescent Moon and a few offshoots. My spiritual circle extended to a few spirit-minded healers, shamans and psychics. But this was the first time that I attended a public Wiccan ritual that was not organized or run by students of Crescent Moon or its affiliate teachers. I had other plans for that evening, but something within yearned to celebrate in a purely Wiccan way. I was curious of how it would feel.

There were over one hundred people at this ritual, most of whom I did not know. I had met some of the organizing members at Gaia gathering in May. I have to lift my witch hat to these people who pulled an amazing feat. It is difficult enough to lead an open ritual with people who are not familiar with one another. They lived up to the challenge of a huge crowd, with people of different backgrounds, different levels of knowledge of the Craft, from the seasoned practitioners to the merely curious. It flowed seamlessly, they took the time to explain the proceedings at the beginning so that everyone would be on the same page and the ceremony was simply poignant.

I had been removed from the organized Pagan community for more than 5 years, while I lived up north. All this time, I spent writing and forging my own identity and practice. Coming back to Montreal and reconnecting with the Pagan world brought home a few things. First and foremost, I realized how varied the community was and how established. And those who adhere to Wicca as a religion really live it. Some have lived this way for decades, so that they are no longer just dabbler and explorers. They are Wiccan in all its expressions. Their rituals are organized, their wording shared. They share common songs and expressions. As the organizers explained before the ritual, the ritual was conducted in a pure Wiccan style. Having studied in an eclectic setting with a little bit of this and little bit of that, this was not something that I was used to. But it made me understand a little more some of the backlash that I got when the book came out. There is a purely Wiccan tradition and I have a tendency of forgetting that.

This being said, the ritual was beautiful. The symbolism and the songs brought me back to what I had looked for from the beginning: the raw connection to the earth cycles and the Goddess. We chanted about death and passing, we called our ancestors and asked for guidance for the coming year. So, I found there what I came to find. But at the same time, I looked around at the people gathered there (OK it was Samhain and everyone looks a little odd dressed up…), but I did not feel like these were MY people. There were a number of the usual suspects: the dark, the eccentric, the dramatic, the seekers, the curious, and for sure the priests and priestesses of a Craft that needs to be preserved. There were also some of the people that I was also used to in my initial circles. In a crowd of over one hundred, it is obvious that I could not talk to everyone and learn their stories. But I would have liked to do that, just to know how all these people had gotten to be in the same place that night.

As I looked over the crowd, it struck me that I have a Tradition of my own that may differ quite a bit from a purely Wiccan practice. Part of that is the eclectic background that we may share as Christian Pagans or Witches. Another part is that we have a Christian tradition that inspires the kind of liturgy that we may include in our rituals. This includes a certain attitude and way of attending that may differ from Wiccan practice.

Maybe we are our own tribe…

On this Samhain, may the ones you loved be with you and may the new year bless you with the inner fire of Spirit!

Cover of "Drawing Down the Moon: Witches,...

Cover via Amazon

Someone emailed me a question that I thought may be of benefit to many. I was asked the difference between the terms Witchcraft and Wicca, and between Pagan and Neo-Pagan.

Witchcraft vs Wicca: Wicca is an official religion and is usually regimented in covens, with the passing of a book of shadows between initiates. Witchcraft is an umbrella term which may refer to Wicca, but also to other forms of folk magic or traditional witches that are not necessarily structured into an organized system with initiates and a high priest/priestess. So Witchcraft encompasses everything from the cottage witch, family traditionals (passed from one generation to the next) to Wiccans of diverse traditions (there are MANY!) 
 
Pagan vs Neo-Pagan: The ‘Neo’ distinction comes from the fact that the Pagan revival is a relatively recent thing. It is a 19th century phenomenon brought about after the lift of the laws against witchcraft in England. Many Pagans claim primitive roots, as if they are resurrecting old prehistoric Goddess worship systems. The term Pagan is, again, an umbrella term to describe all practices that stem from earth-based, Goddess worship. ‘Neo-Paganism’ reminds people that this refers to the new organization of Pagan beliefs into a modern system. Its use is to distinguish between what is generally called a Pagan practice and the new way of expressing these practices in organized religions, such as Wicca. In short, Neo-Paganism has as much connection to ancient Goddess rites as we do to the chimp. People coined the term the term Neo-Paganism to really remind people that this type of Paganism is a modern expression of ancient ideas. But it is a modern practice nonetheless.

I hope that’s clear. One thing that became apparent when I attended Gaia gathering this year is that Paganism is starting to have its own history, and it is quite a complex one. There are a number of books of shadows that have been circulated, lineages and traditions branching out in various directions. It is fascinating to hear the oldest members of the Pagan communities talk about all that history. One excellent source on this topic is ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ by Margot Adler. A must read for anyone who tries to understand where Paganism came from.

When writing the book, I had numerous debates about terminology. What do I call this practice of mine? Is it Christian Witchcraft? Christian Wicca? Christian Paganism? Mystical Christianity?

You will find that at times I oscillate between Christian Witchcraft and Christian Paganism. Most often, it tends to be Christian Witchraft. I felt that this was the term that offered the most freedom, being two umbrella terms. Witchcraft, rather than Paganism, refers to an actual practice rather than a set of beliefs. That is what I was looking for: a practice to regiment my life. Also, the term Witchcraft gave me a sense of reclaiming that which the Church had robbed from me: the essence of my femininity. It was a way of saying that I would not be an accomplice to the crimes of my Church against women throughout its history. When I talk of Christian Paganism, it is in the hope that more people feel included by this even wider term. Here I refer to a common belief in the sanctity of nature, in the many faces of the Divine and in the existence of the unseen, while upholding the teachings of Jesus. The terms Christian Paganism and Christian Witchcraft are not mutually exclusive as far as I am concerned. They simply talk of different things and will suit different people on the pursuit of their own Truth.

This blog is coming out of a heated discussion on the Christian Pagan Fellowship on Facebook. It is a question that I have been pondering for a while and for which the community has to come together: Is it viable (or even desirable) to organize the Christian Pagan path into an organized Church?

Several issues arise from this topic. First and foremost is the definition of Christian Paganism. Some describe themselves as Christian Witches, Christian Wiccans, Mystics, Druids, Gnostics, Catholic Witches, Spiritualists, non-traditional Christians…. the list goes on. Is there enough common ground to even rally all these traditions together? I will tentatively say ‘yes’, that there is enough common ground to rally people together. After all, a growing number of us are getting together in various ways. However, I do not know if there is enough common agreement in practice at this point to make it possible to structure a liturgy around this. Nor do I think that it would add to the practice. Don’t forget, much of the Pagan community is facing the same challenge. The central topic at this year’s Gaia gathering was the topic of a common liturgy. Pagans in general are very attached to the freedom and flexibility that their practice offers. Many like and need to be eclectic in their practices. But obviously, the call of the group is also a strong one and there has to be some concessions made to achieve a balance between the two. I think that a Pagan practice, whether Christian or traditional, will always have a strong blend of solitary practice and community involvement. The question remains as to how much structure we really want in our community life.

I like my solitary practice. I am probably going to be a solitary all my life. But I wouldn’t have written a book if I didn’t feel the need to reach out to others who shared the same beliefs. What I do not want is a structure that sets my beliefs down in stone and that gives someone the authority to lead my worship. All I want is a place to go to, a place that is sacred and where I can offer my prayers in the manner that is most holy to me. A place where I can be surrounded by my symbols, where I can offer worship to my Mother and my Father and where I can receive and share wisdom and blessings with others of like faith. This may be possible within a structure that is fluid enough to offer freedom to contemplate and to share. Such a structure could be as simple as preparing the sanctuary, making an offering, making time for contemplation, passing on wisdom and blessings and sharing a meal. I could see that work. Much of this can be achieved in a solitary practice. Remains to see whether there are enough others who want to gather in a common place to make group services possible.

If I stop and think about what a Christian Pagan Church would look like, I see something along the lines of what the early Church looked like. I see a network of houses identified with the ichtus where patrons welcomed prophets, priests, disciples and fellow Christians whenever they passed through their town.

I see a house where people gather and perform a simple devotion and share stories and teachings. I also see the organization of the Church to be similar to what the Gnostics did. Members would rotate between the different functions of the service, which was assigned by a draw. This way, it was not always the same person who presided worship. You could be the one to set up the house, or take care of the meal, or do the readings or make the offering. This allowed everyone to be involved and prevented power to be assigned to only one person. That’s the way I think a Church aught to operate.

When the topic of organizing Churches came up, my first reaction was that I would much prefer to have an international gathering of Christian Pagans. This way, we can all start to get to know one another, share what we believe and offer a common prayer. That is my dream for now. I leave the rest in God’s hands.