It’s pretty evident to anyone who frequents the PaganCentric web site that we’ve been largely inert for awhile. Honestly, I’ve found myself scratching my head as to how to proceed with PaganCentric. The truth is, I created PaganCentric primarily for the use of the small group of Pagans I hang out with, and later thought of using it to support my students. But there have been times when it has taken on far more significance in some people’s minds that I ever expected or intended. For example, our posts on Saint Patrick’s Day and the Pagan origins of Christmas trees are quite popular outside of the original target audience.
This has left me in a quandary. Do I continue PaganCentric as it was originally intended, supporting my work in Asheville and the audience it was originally intended to serve? Or do I adapt PaganCentric to the larger, more general audience it sometimes enjoys? The former would limit growth. But the latter would present a number of unexpected problems. While I prefer the latter, I won’t tailor PaganCentric to a larger audience by betraying its original intent – namely, presenting useful information and articles to seekers who are, frankly, tired of the dressed-up, melodramatic malarkey that comprises so much of modern Paganism and Wicca.
Here’s our dilemma…
Wicca is a new religion. Face it. Certainly there were people called Witches, or who called themselves Witches, in America before the arrival of Gardnerian Wicca in 1963. But Wicca does not pre-date Gerald Gardner. It was founded in 1954 when Witchcraft Today was released (maybe a few years earlier if Gardner’s previous works are included). That doesn’t negate those religious beliefs in any way (Scientology is about the same age as Wicca). It just means that those who are seeking instruction specifically in Wicca generally aren’t interested in what came before (although they’re certainly comfortable with laying claim to “The Old Religion”).
Far before Wicca came along, sometimes the term “witch” meant nothing more than people who practiced some sort of folk magic or had usable psychic gifts, and who generally, believe it or not, thought of themselves as some flavor of Christian. But there were others who considered their Witchcraft to be their religion (though they rarely called it by that name). Data on their beliefs and practices have always been difficult to find. Gardnerian Witches play at secrecy, often in a melodramatic but ultimately transparent way. But the old-style Witches really were secretive. Reliable data on them only exists because people like Aidan Kelly, whom I’ve plagiarized slightly for this article, took advantage of personal contacts and sought to publish the information, or at least make it public themselves, not wanting it to be lost.
Such was my motivation when I accepted my fate and began teaching, and such was my motivation for creating PaganCentric. People are often confused when I explain to them that I am not a Wiccan. I freely accept the term “Pagan”, but fear it is too all-encompassing to be of any real use. However, I’m reluctant to come up with a name to ascribe to my own teachings. That’s how religious institutions begin. The world certainly doesn’t need another religion to spill blood over.
So, what exactly is it that we intend to do with PaganCentric? Are we Wiccan? Are we Pagan?
To understand where we’re coming from, you must reject these words for having no real meaning. Words in and of themselves have no power. They’re like spells that self-important teenagers with heavy mascara jot down in the back of their notebooks, which are then forgotten as they linger in boxes as those kids grow up to be proper Christians and rabid Republicans. Those words have no meaning without the intent. They have no power.
The first thing I try to teach my students is to reject everything they’ve ever been taught, because most of it is so much bunk. If you think Wicca is an ancient religion, you’re wrong. If you think Paganism is an ongoing modern manifestation of an ancient religion that was suppressed and supplanted by Christianity, you’re wrong. Well, mostly so. And that’s where the problems lies with PaganCentric. Do we put up articles and information that promotes Wicca, even though much of it makes us roll our eyes, simply because it’s popular and might attract a lot of traffic to the web site? Do we take a more generic approach and post a lot of Pagan-related information that might be popular, even though we believe most of it is made up? Or do we stick to our guns and start outright teaching the same thing that I’ve been teaching my students?
In the end, the problem with PaganCentric is that its very name invites generalities, and draws people who are looking for information about Pagans and Paganism. So if we concentrate on information that is specific to what I am teaching my students, does that betray the expectations of those people who came here looking for general support?
There will be some changes around here. What they may be I cannot say just yet. The central tenet of my teachings is that everything you need to know about religion and spirituality were a part of you when you were born. You didn’t have to learn them. And you especially don’t have to learn them from people like me. They’ve been there from the beginning. That’s why so many Pagans can recount being astounded, as they discovered Paganism in one of its many forms, that their experiences were not like learning new information, but rather felt like remembering things they already knew. That realization is at the heart of everything I do as a teacher. And while we have drifted about somewhat here at PaganCentric for lack of real direction, that is what I would like to do with this web site.
So, what you are likely to find here at PaganCentric, just as an example, are discussions about spell-work but no archive of spells. As I’ve said repeatedly to my students, spells have no power in and of themselves. I believe writing them down and publishing them is pointless. It is the intent that gives spell-work their power, just as it is the intent and focus that gives Christian prayer its power. You can write them down as reference if you like, but they’re just words. Students and seekers should not be foolish enough to believe that they can acquire a book of spells and suddenly find themselves in possession of power. And, as a side note, if power is your goal, you’re really going about this the wrong way.
My teachings are about stripping everything down to its core, and rejecting the built-up notions and predispositions that have been added to religious thought like layers of varnish. At the center of every world religion are the same basic ideas. That’s because we take what we’ve known instinctively from birth and we shellac it with our own bullshit, and for our own purposes. If enough people come along who believe in the shine, you have a new religion. But it never takes long before the varnish is the only part that anyone sees, and somehow it puts the material it was built upon just out of the reach of your fingertips. Once you’ve built up those layers, it’s difficult to get back down to the foundation.
That’s what I intend to do with PaganCentric. We’ll still post articles of general interest to Pagans and the Pagan-friendly, but my intent is to strip away the layers of varnish that have been built up around spirituality and religious thought, but especially as pertains to Paganism – which I believe is the simplest, most natural religious thought in the world (given a chance). Our only agenda here is the truth. And by that, I don’t mean “our truth”. Our guiding principle is the rejection of all religious indoctrination, including Wicca, to discover our inner foundations and the ancient spiritual awareness that is a part of our DNA and which we all know from birth.
We’re not quite sure how we’re going to do this just yet. But I will say this… PaganCentric is finding its way and its purpose. It’s been a long time coming.
~ Claire Mulkieran