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Author Topic: Earth based v.s other systems  (Read 15841 times)
Odjn
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« Topic Start: December 31, 2008, 11:36:25 am »

Aside from polytheistic tendancies, what makes "earth based" belief systems any different from all the other belief systems out there?

In the so-called 'earth based" ones you have apparently a implied freedom to choose whatever deity suits you and implied freedom to choose what, if any, rituals to perform. However it seems that there is still this seemingly implied requirement to worship and cater to a deity to the point of having your life being run by said deity...so it SEEMS.

AS for "magic" it also SEEMS that a disproportionate amount of emphasis is being placed on tools and symbols to the point that it SEEMS that they are being viewed as magic rather than mere tools and intermediaries.

So what makes earth based paganism any different from any other belief system. What is the point of switching when it SEEMS one ismerely making a lateral transition from one method of worship to another?

I am not trying to offend but attempting to understand. Thanks
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« Reply #1: December 31, 2008, 12:00:17 pm »

Aside from polytheistic tendancies, what makes "earth based" belief systems any different from all the other belief systems out there?

I think calling a specific religion "earth based" is kind of like using the term "pagan".  To my knowledge, there are several religions that are very different, but all fall into the category of being earth based, or at least earth-honoring. 



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AS for "magic" it also SEEMS that a disproportionate amount of emphasis is being placed on tools and symbols to the point that it SEEMS that they are being viewed as magic rather than mere tools and intermediaries.

Wicca is one of these earth centered religions, and in Wicca there are tools that are required, rituals are important, etc.  I also consider my religion to be earth based and I use very few if any tools, and do no elaborate rituals whatsoever. 

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In the so-called 'earth based" ones you have apparently a implied freedom to choose whatever deity suits you and implied freedom to choose what, if any, rituals to perform. However it seems that there is still this seemingly implied requirement to worship and cater to a deity to the point of having your life being run by said deity...so it SEEMS.

I also have known no pagans (earth based or otherwise) to really have their lives "dictated" by a deity.  In paganism, it seems to me that the focus is much more on working *with* the deities, rather than for them.

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So what makes earth based paganism any different from any other belief system. What is the point of switching when it SEEMS one ismerely making a lateral transition from one method of worship to another?

Do you mean what makes them different from other pagan beliefs, or what makes them different from other beliefs alltogether (ie Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism)  Either way, I think obviously in an earth based religion, there is an emphasis on honoring and protecting the earth, sometimes to the point of seeing the earth, trees, plants, animals as deities themselves, and sometimes not.  I am not an animist, but I do have respect for the creatures on the earth.  There are also many Christians out there who make it a priority to protect the earth, not because they see her as a deity, but because they see it as a creation of their deity.

And to answer your last question, what is the point in switching religions at all?  Wink
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« Reply #2: December 31, 2008, 12:27:02 pm »

Aside from polytheistic tendancies, what makes "earth based" belief systems any different from all the other belief systems out there?

As folksymama says, this is not the most useful category - 'earth based' beliefs is one of a number of often-convienent umbrella labels (similar to Paganism), but there are also a lot of differences between different paths under that umbrella.

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In the so-called 'earth based" ones you have apparently a implied freedom to choose whatever deity suits you and implied freedom to choose what, if any, rituals to perform.

Depends on the path. Specific traditions in Wicca (and related paths) do have a number of specific requirements: if you aren't doing those rituals, or aren't doing them *that way*, you're no longer following that particular path.

For example, in the tradition I work in, it is expected that you will be generally having ritual on the full moons and Sabbats, and that there are other specific rituals of the tradition (in our case, initiations and one annual ritual that is considered central to the trad.) If you're not doing these, you're no longer practicing the trad. You might be doing other wonderful things, though.

(Note that this allows for "I was miserably sick, and didn't do ritual for Midsummer" or other practical considerations: missing one ritual is not the end of the world. We're looking at the whole gestalt of practice and action.)

We also have some specific requirements for what we do in ritual - things that are generally done in a specific way. There's a fair bit of variation possible in these, but we do have an agreement about what must happen for a group to be considered part of the tradition. (For example, my new coven uses a different circle casting text than the founding group in the tradition. The two texts do have the same intentions and actions involved, however.)

Likewise, if you are a grove in the ADF, there are some requirements. If you want to be part of the broader Reclaiming community, there are some (very basic) communal tenets. And many of the reconstructionist paths (and groups within those paths) do in fact have some specific expectations about deity work and worship.

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However it seems that there is still this seemingly implied requirement to worship and cater to a deity to the point of having your life being run by said deity...so it SEEMS.

Depends on the person. I do actually know a few people who have long-term major commitments to deity, that effect everything from work to relationships to other parts of their life. (Some of these, though not all, are what are sometimes called god-spouses.)

I know far more people who have extensive ongoing commitments to service and honor of a particular deity that have an impact on their life, but not 'run by'. I put myself in this category: there are lots of parts of my life that are tied up together - my profession (librarian), some commitments to my deity about reaching out in particular ways connected to learning and understanding, etc.

I consider it about the same level of 'control' as in a healthy romantic relationship or very close friendship: m'Lady has a lot of influence on my decisions, and I take her input very seriously when it happens, but I also make my own decisions (aware that our relationship may change if I make certain kinds of choices she disagrees with.)

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AS for "magic" it also SEEMS that a disproportionate amount of emphasis is being placed on tools and symbols to the point that it SEEMS that they are being viewed as magic rather than mere tools and intermediaries.

Give some examples?

Personally, I'm in the "We have tools because they're *useful*" category. I think tools are tremendously useful in magical work for assisting in focusing intention, helping us step outside of the box in terms of how we think, and in terms of storing and otherwise helping us manipulate intention and energy over a longer period of time.

I do place a high value on tools - because I think that a well-designed tool is a glorious thing, and it's worth using the *right* tools. But I'm also quite capable of doing a significant amount of magical work without them. But I see that differently from what you seem to be suggesting - that the tools are an end in themselves.

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So what makes earth based paganism any different from any other belief system. What is the point of switching when it SEEMS one ismerely making a lateral transition from one method of worship to another?

What's the point of being involved romantically with one person, and not with another? For most people, there's a big difference.

For me, a huge part of religious practice is about choices in relationships - how I relate to myself, to the world around me, and to other entities in that world (both other humans, on similar and on different paths, and to other deities).

For me, things that are particularly important in my current path that were not available in the same way in my past religious life (Episcopalian and Catholic)
- Gender not being a barrier to any level of religious leadership.
- Being able to do liturgical design and ritual creation on an ongoing basis.
- Being able to develop multiple deity relationships - personal deity work, coven deity work, tradition deity work, in my case. My limits are based on my own needs and commitments.
- Being able to integrate an understanding of personal energy and how that fits into the broader community into my life - this includes magic, but also includes all sorts of things like personal energy management and grounding and centering, and responding to crowded settings.
- The focus on working with a small intimate community of people interested in similar practices (my tradition and coven) rather than either a much larger community (hundreds to thousands of people) or working on my own (which I also do, mind you.)

You'll notice that many of those come back to relationships and interactions between people and Gods.
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« Reply #3: December 31, 2008, 12:31:51 pm »

Do you mean what makes them different from other pagan beliefs, or what makes them different from other beliefs alltogether (ie Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism)

Yes. Basically what makes Wicca, for example, fundamentally any different from any other system..pagan or no.

And to answer your last question, what is the point in switching religions at all? 

That is what I am trying to decipher. It SEEMS to me that many who make the transition from, say, Christianity tend to repeat the same methods in Wicca, for example; the only SEEMING difference is they have more deity choices available to them.

I have been feeling quite frustrated lately because it seems like way too much emphasis is placed on tools, deity and suchwhat that these symbols SEEM to take center stage and obfuscates the real issue.

All I want is to go beyond symbolism..ritual is okay yet I never seem to find how it pertains to the real goal. It SEEMS that the ritual is viewed as THE magic itself rather than one of many means to accomplish it.

I probably make no sense right now. I truly would like to know more but there has to be something behind the tools, symbols and rituals that go beyond just doing specified movements.

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« Reply #4: December 31, 2008, 01:26:52 pm »

Yes. Basically what makes Wicca, for example, fundamentally any different from any other system..pagan or no.

That is what I am trying to decipher. It SEEMS to me that many who make the transition from, say, Christianity tend to repeat the same methods in Wicca, for example; the only SEEMING difference is they have more deity choices available to them.

I think personal choice and freedom may have something to do with it for some people. If they have come from a particular sect of Christianity that says it is the one and only truth, then finding a religion that doesn't say that is like a breath of fresh air. You can begin to think in different ways, as opposed to being limited to only one understanding of deity/spiritual issues.

Personal responsibility is often something important to members of various Pagan traditions. If a person has come from a sect of Christianity where Satan plays a big part, it might also be refreshing not to be told that Satan has influenced you if you have not followed accordingly to said sect's beliefs. Rather you can hold yourself accountable for your own actions.

*shrug* Just a thought.
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« Reply #5: December 31, 2008, 01:33:53 pm »


I see. Thanks everyone for the responses. I do appreciate the time you took to respond.
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« Reply #6: December 31, 2008, 01:42:44 pm »

I probably make no sense right now. I truly would like to know more but there has to be something behind the tools, symbols and rituals that go beyond just doing specified movements.

Well, there is - and I touched on some of this in my response.

But a lot of it is stuff that doesn't get discussed in public much, for all sorts of reasons.

Emotion: some of it is just very personal. I've had tons of deeply meaningful ritual experiences, but they're not usually something I talk about. You can see a few mentions of rituals and experiences I found easier to talk about here: http://gleewood.org/threshold/2008/05/28/experiencing-the-song/ (and I suggest following the link back to the post that inspired it: there's more examples there from other people.)

Confidentiality: Because I work in a group, a fair bit of my ritual experience involves other people - and I am very careful to respect their privacy and confidentiality. This does, however, limit what I talk about and how in some cases.

Setting: There's a huge category of things I'll talk about much more freely in person than I will online in part because I can read body language (especially confusion/uncertainty) a lot more clearly and handle it more quickly. Likewise, there's a lot of stuff I'm more willing to share with a specific individual than I am with anyone who happens across an online forum.

Context: One of the things that's sometimes most challenging for me is the context. In order to understand why a particular group ritual was so powerful for me, a fair bit of the time, involves understanding the context of that group ritual. Which means knowing something about my tradition, something about the people I'm working with, about what my background is, and all sorts of other things.

Looking back at the last year of rituals in my new coven, I can really only talk about 2 or 3 of them very clearly - the rest really require more context and information to understand why something was our focus, or why we picked a particular approach, and a number of those reasons involve my covenmate's background, choices, and preferences as well as mine.

All of that said, I do generally do best when I'm asked about a specific topic (like "When was the moment you were absolutely sure you were in the right place, ritually speaking" - which was my first Samhain with the group I trained with, incidentally.) For me, at least, it's easier to speak to a specific question, and I have a much easier time navigating the more complicated stuff because I know what I need to explain clearly, and what bits I can not discuss or can handwave over, because they're not as relevant to the question.
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« Reply #7: December 31, 2008, 01:51:54 pm »

That is what I am trying to decipher. It SEEMS to me that many who make the transition from, say, Christianity tend to repeat the same methods in Wicca, for example; the only SEEMING difference is they have more deity choices available to them.

Going a bit off-main-topic to address this in particular - I'm one of those Christians who made the transition to paganism in general, and I certainly noticed the tendencies within myself toward what you're describing here.  That's a big reason for why I still consider myself "in transition" 4 years later.  Granted, I'm not really in an "earth-centered" path, but my eclecticism has me trying to find what I feel is worthwhile in all religions (including Christianity, for that matter), whether it be the ritual, the daily practice, or anything else that truly seems to resonate as worthwhile (incidentally, I still haven't found a ritual practice that I feel truly comfortable sticking with).


Quote
I have been feeling quite frustrated lately because it seems like way too much emphasis is placed on tools, deity and suchwhat that these symbols SEEM to take center stage and obfuscates the real issue.

All I want is to go beyond symbolism...ritual is okay yet I never seem to find how it pertains to the real goal. It SEEMS that the ritual is viewed as THE magic itself rather than one of many means to accomplish it.

I probably make no sense right now. I truly would like to know more but there has to be something behind the tools, symbols and rituals that go beyond just doing specified movements.

In certain religions, deity/ies is/are meant to take center stage (such as JCI), while in others, the deity helps provide an overall framework, rather than BEING the framework.  Like Jennett said, a well-crafted tool can act as a powerful focus, and "using the right tool for the job" can help tremendously in magic work, ritual, or any other aspect of religious practice.  I certainly understand what you mean about too much emphasis being placed on tools or ritual, but this is something that varies from person to person, and really isn't based on any specific religion.  

Since Christianity was my last full-blown exposure to heavy ritual (still trying to find a good pagan group - any path - locally that isn't fluffy), I'll use an example from my time as a Christian.  I was a musician in my church, and I would argue that you could consider the music services held by most churches to be a ritual of varying sorts.  On the one hand, you've got your churches that use hymnals and set times for the congregation to stand, set times for them to be seated, and set times for other aspects of ritual, such as call-and-response.  On the other hand, you have churches that use more modern music and typically divide the ritual up into upbeat/uptempo "praise" music and softer, more melodic "worship" music.

Both types of the music ritual have the ability to set the tone for a preacher's service, and of course that is one of their primary uses, but as a musician, I was able to see that there was power within the ritual itself, IF IT WAS ALLOWED TO PRESENT ITSELF (which it almost never was).  The temptation is to do everything perfectly by rehearsing the song over and over and over again until you sound just like the CD.  Especially for music, you might as well be using CDs if you're just going to do the same thing every week.  You still have the ritual, it still serves its purpose for the preacher, but it loses so much significance (and - dare I say - power) by focusing more on "getting it right" than on using it as the tool it actually is.

What I was able to observe was that there were individuals who really did want to use the ritual as a tool, rather than a means unto itself, but the majority wanted the ritual simply as a comfortable part of their complete Sunday service.  There were plenty of other instances where I saw a ritual designed to be spiritually significant turned into a shell of itself, and it happened in virtually every church I ever attended.  I think there may be a "crowd" mentality to gravitate toward the most comfortable and meaningless version of a ritual (and, to some degree, the tools and deities associated with those rituals), and it leaves the people who truly care about using those rituals (tools and deities) as they were meant to be used struggling to find a way to do so without simply abandoning everyone else.

Pardon me if I got a little rambly there Smiley
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« Reply #8: December 31, 2008, 01:57:39 pm »


Thank you for the link..I bookmarked it so I can read more later.

also thanks for the response...I need to do some mor eintrospection..nothing makes much sense to me these days. I appreciate the information.
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« Reply #9: December 31, 2008, 04:00:08 pm »

Aside from polytheistic tendancies, what makes "earth based" belief systems any different from all the other belief systems out there?
*snip*
So what makes earth based paganism any different from any other belief system. What is the point of switching when it SEEMS one ismerely making a lateral transition from one method of worship to another?

I found your question very interesting, partly because you are approaching the idea of "earth-based" from a very different perspective than I do.  To me, an earth-based religion is one that focuses on or includes as very important the idea that honoring and stewarding the earth is a religious duty.  That can take many different forms, of course, up to and including the concept of the earth as a sentient being and/or a deity itself.  I think that definition is the primary way that an earth-based belief system is different from other systems -- other systems don't necessarily view the earth as a deity or include the duty to honor or steward the earth and its resources.

At least, that's how I see it.

As to what is the point of switching to an earth-based system...  Well, I think it's the same as switching to any other system, as Jenett (I think) has already said.  If you (general "you", not specifically you) are called in some way to honor the earth as a religious duty, then it makes sense to switch. 

It seems from the rest of your post that maybe you're thinking of the kinds of rituals and symbols used by Wicca and druidry and other established pagan paths, and comparing them to the rituals and symbols used by Christianity.  And when you make that comparison, you don't see much difference.  A ritual is a ritual.

I feel much the same way, myself.  I've never been comfortable with ritual, regardless of whether I was in a Christian church or some kind of pagan gathering. 

However, for the people who are committed to those paths, ritual can be very powerful.  And in some cases, ritual is a required element of the path.  That is, if you don't do the rituals, you're not fulfilling your religious duties.  (Which makes me think of what my brother, who is a Methodist minister, calls the "Holiday Christians".  They're the ones who only attend church on Christmas and Easter.  In his opinion, they are not fulfilling their obligations as Christians.)

For my personal spirituality, ritual is not an issue, except in the sense that a daily devotional practice can be called a ritual.  I am starting to shy away from calling my spirituality a "path" or a "religion" because it does not have any formal structure.  Instead of having a religion, though, I have a Goddess.

She is very important in my life, and I consider myself Her dedicant and Her servant.  But in no way do I think She runs my life.  Jenett's analogy to a spouse is very appropriate.  For me, being dedicated to Brighid is very similar is many ways to being married to my husband.  He doesn't control my life either.  But I do consult him on important decisions.

Ultimately, I think switching from one religion to another has to be about much more than the method of worship.  That's important -- if you don't like ritual, you're not going to be happy in a religion that requires it.  But there's more to religion or spirituality than the form of worship. 

Your post seemed to imply that, in you opinion, one deity is just as good as another.  (Please forgive me if I misunderstood you.  I inferred that from your statement about Wicca just having more choice of deities than Christianity.)  If you don't have a connection to a specific deity, I suppose that might be true. 

But, for me, it's ALL about the specific deity.  My spirituality is about Brighid.  Period.  It's not about the form of worship, or ritual, or symbols.  It's about Brighid.  The practices I do and the symbols I use are directly related to Her and my understanding of how She wants to be served.

You asked, what is the point of switching to an earth-based belief system when it seems like you're merely making a lateral move from one form of worship to another.  I would answer that the whole point is that you're moving from worshiping (or serving or working with, or however you want to phrase it) someone or something that you have no connection with, to someone or something that you DO have a connection with.  But that assumes you have a connection or a calling to earth-based paganism.

If you don't have that calling, why would you want to switch to an earth-based system?  Why not look for something that does speak to you?

Sorry for the long post.   Cheesy
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« Reply #10: December 31, 2008, 05:00:27 pm »

I found your question very interesting, partly because you are approaching the idea of "earth-based" from a very different perspective than I do.  To me, an earth-based religion is one that focuses on or includes as very important the idea that honoring and stewarding the earth is a religious duty. 

Would you say, then, that Christianity is an earth-based religion?
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« Reply #11: December 31, 2008, 05:28:55 pm »


Please do not misunderstand..I did not mean to imply I was Christian..that is if that what was assumed. Yes, I am aware that some will be attracted to one or more particular deities, perhaps because of what they represent. But I suppose in some ways it does appear, to me anyways, that the premise is seemingly the same regardless of the type of deity one chooses to focus on..it is worship and dedication.

And this is one of the things I was getting at was that..aside from connections..it just seems like there is little difference between one pagan system and another. But aside from that I keep searching to see if there is anything more than worship, tools and connections.

If it is simply a matter of a state of mind then does one really need a belief system to accomplish this? If "magic" is nothingmore than a personal perception then why should there be a belief system that seems to have become more of a organized religion than a actual path?

I guess what I am trying to get at is what is the actual aim of pagan systems considering that all of these systems do appear to consist of precepts, redes, over focus on symbols and maybe deity and the real intent, I assume there is one, seems to become hopelessly obscurred and lost.

Sort of like someone focusing heavily on the type, color, material construct and placement of mixing bowls while totally ignoring that these things are just used to help you mix ingredients for a cake (and it happens to be chocolate too, thank you very much)

I realize I am not making sense; I am struggling to convey my ideas without stepping too much on toes here.

Anywhoo...thanks.
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« Reply #12: December 31, 2008, 05:34:39 pm »

Would you say, then, that Christianity is an earth-based religion?

You could argue that it was meant to be originally, although there is the corollary of "subduing" the earth, so perhaps it's an earth-dominating religion?
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« Reply #13: December 31, 2008, 05:44:22 pm »

Would you say, then, that Christianity is an earth-based religion?

It certainly CAN be -- and some denominations seem to qualify to me. They aren't all "God put Earth here for humans to use up as a new Earth will soon be provided by God after the second coming" types, after all. LOL.

I think this is one of the reasons that "Earth-based religion" should not be assumed to mean "Pagan religion."  Just as not all Pagan religions are Earth-based, some non-Pagan religions are very much Earth-based.
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« Reply #14: December 31, 2008, 07:14:32 pm »

It certainly CAN be -- and some denominations seem to qualify to me. They aren't all "God put Earth here for humans to use up as a new Earth will soon be provided by God after the second coming" types, after all. LOL.

I think this is one of the reasons that "Earth-based religion" should not be assumed to mean "Pagan religion."  Just as not all Pagan religions are Earth-based, some non-Pagan religions are very much Earth-based.

Paraphrasing Brighn when this whole earth-based shit came up with the PUC: The term is so broad it includes everyone but some pissed off Calvinists.

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