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Thealogy in the Braided Wheel Tradition of Wicca

Tolerance

It is the catma of the Discordians that all things are true, even false things are true. This is of course true and a catma of the Braided Wheel tradition as well.

What it means in this case is that Paganism in general and Neopaganism in specific does not necessary insist that just because we are right that everyone else must be wrong. Some pagan religions have done this and some Neopagans still do but it is not necessary. The general trend in the Neopagan community is much like that of the Unitarian Universalists and the Bahai. It is a multi-culturalist attitude that different people have different needs and no point of view is more valid than any other. Reasonable people of good will can see that all religions try to reach the same goal and tolerance is preferable to intolerance.

Most Pagans believe that all Gods are equally valid. But what do we mean by Gods? Some people believe that Gods are astral beings that live on the astral plain and come to visit us. They believe in the literal truth of the Gods. If the story says Prometheus was chained to a cliff with buzzards eating his liver, than that really happened. They are very much like Christians who believe in the literal truth of the Bible. But that is not the view of Gods that is expressed in most Neopagan literature.

Immanence

One recurring feature of Neopagan divinity is its immanence, the idea that the divine nature is within this life. "Immanence means that the Goddess, the Gods, are embodied, that we are each a manifestation of the living being of earth, that nature, culture, and life in all their diversity are sacred. Immanence calls us to live our spirituality here in the world, to take action to preserve the life of the earth, to live with integrity and responsibility." (Starhawk "Spiral Dance" p10)

Immanence opens the door to the divine in all aspects of life. "one of the foremost characteristics of Neo Paganism is the return to the ancient idea that there is no distinction between spiritual and material, sacred and secular" (Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon p12)

The idea of immanence is one of the aspects of Neopaganism that makes it pagan. Paleo-pagans did (and do) not separate the spiritual world from the mundane. They lived not in two worlds but in one. "Order within the classical Chinese world view is 'immanental' - indwelling in things themselves - like the grain in wood, like striations in stone, like the cadence of the surf, like the veins in a leaf. The classical Chinese believed that the power of creativity resides in the world itself, and that the order and regularity this world evidences is not derived from or imposed upon it by some independent, activating power, but inheres in the world. Change and continuity are equally 'real'." (Sun-Tzu. "The Art of Warfare" Trans. Roger T. Ames. p49-50)

The ancient Greeks understood how close we are to the divine and were sometimes vague about the qualities that destined one for godhood. Ancient Chinese culture too blurred the lines between secular and sacred in a way that I suspect was the origin of all religion, great people become first legends then Gods. As in this passage where the chinese character 'shen' is described as meaning both divinity and human spirituality thereby demonstrating the concept of immanence in ancient Chinese culture.

"...the character shen does not sometimes mean 'human spirituality' and sometimes 'divinity.' It always means both and, moreover, it is our business to try and understand philosophically how it can mean both. Given the prominence of transcendent Deity in our tradition, human beings do not generally get to be gods. Reflection on the range of meaning represented by shen reveals that gods in the Chinese world are by and large dead people - they are ancestors who have embodied, enriched, and transmitted the cultural tradition. They are cultural heroes, as in the case of Confucius, who do the work of our transcendent Deity by establishing the enduring standards of truth, beauty, and goodness.

"Culturally productive ancestors such as Confucius are not like gods - they are precisely what the word 'gods' conveys in this alternative tradition. Gods are historical, geographical, and cultural. They grow out of the ground and when neglected, fade and die. Such gods have little to do with the notion of a transcendent Creator Deity that has dominated the western religious experience, and unless we are sensitive to the 'this-world' presuppositions that ground the classical Chinese world view, we stand the risk of willy-nilly translating Chinese religiousness into our own." (Sun-Tzu "The Art of Warfare" Trans. Roger T. Ames. p72)

Anthropomorphic Personifications

Neopagans tend to treat the Gods as Anthropomorphic Personifications of ideas. This is in keeping with traditional pagan views of Gods. Prometheus is the personification of forethought, Epimetheus is after thought, Eris is discord, Phobis is fear, Themis is justice, Sophia is wisdom. It can become confusing because Gods can personify many things depending on the situation. People often confuse the Goddess Earth with the element Earth. The element Earth is the personification of physicality, all things solid as opposed to liquid, gaseous or incendiary. The Goddess Earth is the personification of the life sustaining capacity of our world. Most of the planets are made of the element earth but only one of the planets nurtures life.

For many Neopagans the validity of Gods does not lie in their literal existence but in their metaphorical existance. Whether there was a being named Gaia who mated with a being named Uranus to bring forth life is questionable. The fact that a man and a woman had sex to produce us or that the primordial seas catalyzed by lightning were the beginnings of life is less so. To call the oceans the womb of the Goddess and lightening the phallus of the God is to make an anthropomorphic metaphor for what probably happened.

To call the Gods "Ideas" is very much the same as calling them archetypes. Archetypes for natural forces and archetypes for human behavior. Anthropomorphising is a recursive process, it goes both ways. When the Gods behave badly in myths it is usually because human weaknesses are being used to explain physical phenomenons. When the Gods behave well in myths it is because godly virtues are being used to teach social values. Gods behave well or badly in the stories depending on what is being explained.

Mono-Duo-Poly-Pan-A-Theism

Witchcraft is more a matter of practice than belief. We are not a doctrinal religion we have no creedal tests. In Witchcraft everyone is free to believe whatever they want to believe. There is no one who has the power or authority to stop them. But What do we believe?

Monotheism

This is the belief that there is one divine force animating the whole universe. Some times this is expressed as the belief in one "God". When we discuss "God" as an omnipotent, omnicient, ubiquitous force this is what we mean. In Neopaganism it is expressed as a belief in the divinity of the natural world, and in the basic unity of all parts of the world. Everything arises out of one divinity and is united in that divinity. A being that is all powerfull, all knowing, and existing everywhere is of a differeant nature than anything else. I call this idea of divinity "God Prime" (or God' for short).

Duotheism

This divides that force in two. In Witchcraft the two halves are Feminine and Masculine, and their relationship is one of sexual union. They are always trying to rejoin and achieve unity.

We contrast this to the Zoroastrian duality that has been embraced by most Christians. The Zoroastrian heresy is that the universe is divided into the forces of Good and the forces of Evil constantly at war and trying to destroy each other for possession of the whole. Christianity can be visualized as two men, God and Satan, battling for possession of souls. Whereas Neopagan Witchcraft is expressed as a man and a woman, the Lord and Lady, having passionate sex. While good and evil are reduced to subjective experiences.

Goddess Worship

Some Neopagan and Wiccan traditions considered the Goddess to be superior to the God but they are a minority.

For most Neopagans the Goddess is not necessarily more important than the God only more characteristic of the religion. The difference between Neopagan and Jewish/Christian/Moslem theology in one sentence is "Neopagans worship the Goddess and the others don't." The Divinity of women is the only concept that can not be found anywhere in the Abrahamic faiths of today.

Which is not to say that there are no other differences. The Goddess means a lot more than just Herself to Neopagans. She means the embracing life rather that the rejecting of it. She means reverence for the Earth and all life rather than domination of it. She means the sacredness of pleasure and fun. She means cooperation rather than competition. She means power from within rather than power over. Love of the Goddess is love of life. To find divinity in the feminine side of reality it to have an entirely different world view. And it truly makes one a Witch in the Christian world.

Polytheism

This is the belief in many Gods and Goddesses. In Witchcraft we further divide the Great Feminine and the Great Masculine into more anthropomorphic deities with finite personalities and specific Names. Since all gods are equally true we dip into whatever pantheon is most appropriate for what we want to achieve. All gods are facets of the one Divinity.

Pantheism

Pan means all. Pantheon means all the gods of a specific religion. Pantheism is the belief that all things are aspects of the divine. Pantheists believe that every tree, every stream, every rock, and every living thing contains a divine spirit. Which brings us full circle to the one divine force that animates the whole universe.

Atheism

Neopagan thealogy also includes a kind of Atheism. If all things are aspects of Deity and that Deity is the sole substance of reality than there is no God higher than ourselves. We are all aspects of God' and can appeal to no higher authority. There is no God for God'. This last concept is rather esoteric and not very useful in ritual.

1998-99 Sheherazahde, Braided Wheel Tradition
For more information contact: sheherazahde@yahoo.com

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