Vertical Paganism

19 10 2014

Vertical Paganism

19 10 2014

There are four ways to control a population – a strong religion(s), a strong imposed moral code, a strong voluntary ethical code, and a strong police force – in practical terms, some combination of all of them. So the ruling elite always wants to control and shape religion into a branch of government. The many European pagan religions were a threat to the unification of the Roman empire, which created the vertical religion that became the Roman Catholic (“universal”) Church, which strangled thought and innovation for a millenium.

Historically (in any context) the Pagan religions (philosophies, practices) which we modern Pagans practice, have been modeled on the small and scattered groups of rural Europe, organized horizontally is small groups (circles, covens) of a dozen members, led by a Priestess. You know all this, but please bear with me —I’m just trying to remind you of the foundations of today’s witch theory. 

Modern sociology shows that fifteen is the largest number of persons that can remain cohesive in a group: over that number the group will fragment into two or more factions. Why is this? Because, analogous to Bucky Fuller’s “closest packing of spheres,” the largest number of spheres that can be simultaneously in contact with one sphere (the Priestess) is twelve. Even the most talented and dedicated Priestess has her limitations. When the number of members gets close to thirteen, some will “hive off” to form another coven, usually supervised to some degree by the parent coven.

When the ‘hived-off” group grows to thirteen, some of its members, will, in turn hive off to form a third coven, which will have no group memory of the first circle. Thus, back in the “Burning Times,” members of one coven, even if tortured, could not name many members of other covens. Today, touch wood, that’s less of a factor, and we trust that before a coven initiates a new Priest/Priestess, the new leadership team is well-educated for the job. While the first Priestess will continue to have some influence, that influence will decrease as the hiving process continues, and it also means that no one person can dictate to, or have too much power over, a 3d generation coven.

Most of us agree that today, we need stronger organization to negotiate with governments, other authorities and the media, but what form should that organization take? Look on the internet and you’ll find several groups vying for the job, like the Covenant of the Goddess and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Most of them have “ordains” saying what you must believe to belong. For example, the “small print” insisted on by many of the “umbrella” organizations (or “churches”) that claim to represent multiple or _*all*_ Pagan religions, often states that *all* the Deities are facets of One Deity, perhaps a God with feminine characteristics. Politically that may relate to the fact that “God” is mentioned in the first sentence of both the American and Canadian constitutions. The Aquarian Church, founded by members of the American military, is, as you might expect, a vertical organization where the clergy are considered officers, can have titles like “The Right Reverend,” and be knighted in the manner of some Masonic-modeled service clubs.

Maybe all Deities *are* One — some of us believe that and some of us don’t. An It Harm None, we have the right to believe what we believe. But to me the acceptance of large authoritarian structures suggests that we have fallen into the trap that Starhawk warned us about –that, in times of stress, we fall back on the patterns we grew up with — vertical, authoritative, political (rather than religious) structures, like Xian churches — whereas we might better be working to change the current culture rather than fall into step with it.

 I happen to believe that the Universe is Two- Spirited — one Feminine, one Masculine. They argue, they agree, they joust for power, they manouever(sp?) around each other, but eventually dance together and unite in love.  But, for at least the organizations I’ve considered joining, that’s not politically correct. I guess it’s important to read the small print, and, with all due respect, ask anyone, especially an ex-military, used to giving and following orders, if they really want to create, or be part of, that kind of Pagan organization.



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