Over the past couple of years I've slowly revealed some of my spiritual beliefs to my Mom. My parents aren't Christian fundamentalists by any stretch, but they care about their nice, mainstream Protestant beliefs and would, I suspect, like it best if I shared those beliefs. Not being one to want to disappoint my folks, and having something of a "good girl" complex, I've been less than forthcoming where my religious beliefs deviate sharply from theirs. (I'm more outspoken about politics.) Over Christmas, after declining to go to the altar for communion after the minister invited "all Christian believers," I finally copped to my Mom that I'm not a Christian. Being my Mom and clairvoyant in the way many mothers are, she wasn't surprised.
Now, like most Pagans, I'm faced with the challenge of describing my beliefs to someone with no frame of reference whatsoever. (During the Christmas conversation, my Mom asked me who I pray to. "Do you just make up a goddess or something?") I've turned to Isaac Bonewits, in his handy Essential Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft, for a pithy summary of Pagan belief, one I can more or less take home to Mom.
Here are the first five ideas:
1. Neopagans believe that divinity is both immanent and transcendent. Isaac glosses "immanent" as internal and "transcendent" as external. I would define those terms somewhat differently. The Goddess is immanent; she is around and among us. She is concrete. She is the earth, trees, soil, animals, water, stars. And, yes, she is in all things and all beings. But the Goddess is at the same time transcendent; she is the Mystery at the heart of life. She is more than what we can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear. She is more than we can rationally understand.
2. Neopagans believe that children are born holy. We don't believe in original sin - that children come into this world needing to be cleansed. Nor do we believe that we need to be saved from sin. We don't need a Messiah. All children are sacred.
3. Neopagans believe that divinity is just as likely to manifest in a female form as it is in a male form and that the word "Goddess" makes just as much sense as the word "God." A lot of Christians would have a problem with this, but I chalk that up to sexism in the culture. More progressive Christians have sought feminine god-language in the bible. My Mom thinks that God is ultimately beyond male or female, so she has no problem with describing God as "She."
4. Neopagans believe in a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, as well as "lesser" beings, many of Whom are worthy of respect, love, and worship. OK, Mom is not going to buy this. She'll think it's weird. Isaac says that "Neopagans have a wide variety of nonexclusive concepts as to the nature of these entities. Among Wiccans, female deities are usually seen as aspect or faces of a single 'Triune' Goddess, most often described as a Maiden, a Mother, and a Crone. Male deities are likewise usually seen as aspects or faces of a single 'Biune' God, most often described as a vegetation/hunting and solar deity.... Thus, Wicca is predominately 'duotheistic'."
5. Neopagans believe that no one religion, philosophy, scripture, or other approach to understanding can explain the infinite complexities of the multiverse. There are many paths up the mountain. Again, I find that progressive Christians are hip to this and have no problem with different people having different faiths.
Next week, more Pagan thealogy for Mom.