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I have read a lot of debate about the right of parents to deny their children access to information about other religions. The growing number of young people interested the Pagan religions makes this a hot topic. Awhile back a young girl called into a talk show called "Dr. Laura" to ask about this. The host, Laura Schlessinger, said things that I both agree and disagree with. She said that Wicca is not a religion, itís a cult. She and I do not see eye to eye here, but thatís another essay subject entirely. She also said that the girlís parents have the right to not allow this young woman to practice or buy books about Wicca. Brace yourself...
Why? Children do not always have the wisdom to make good decisions. Any religion has its share of people that cannot be trusted around youngsters. The only real way for a parent to be fully sure that their child is in good hands is to attend and/or participate in the childís activities. If these activities do not agree with the parents set of religious beliefs then they should not have to allow their children to cause them to violate their own religion.
However, that does not fill the hunger in their child for the religion in question, and leaves the child feeling conflicted. I feel there is an answer for this, luckily. Paganism is more than the tools and the books; groups and covens. Perhaps the best way for one to responsibly affirm that this is the path for you is to learn the basics of it, the foundations of Pagan beliefs. This can be done without buying a single Pagan book, without constructing an altar, and without a teacher. And these foundations are not specifically Pagan in themselves, so there can be little religious opposition to them, except perhaps in extreme cases. But when placed together with a framework that can be constructed when you are old enough to make these decisions, these foundations can make a knowledgeable, powerful Pagan indeed.
What are these foundations? This list may not be all of them, but some of the ones I think are important are below, with a bit of explanation on how they relate to all of us, in both Pagan and non-Pagan ways.
Many Pagan traditions are based on historical groups in specific times. If you are going to follow a path that is based on things that people did centuries ago, find out what they really did, how they lived, instead of blindly following without understanding. It will give your religion a rich, deep history to draw from. On the flip side, it is said that he who is ignorant of history is doomed to repeat it. There are many lessons to learn from the history of man.
- World Religions and Mythology
This includes Christianity. Much of modern literature and language has been influenced by Christianity and Judaism. Turning away from this knowledge is like shutting an eye to the world.
Learning about religions other than Christianity will give you an understanding of other peoplesí cultures, practices, and habits. It gives you a point of view that can see the similarities as well as the differences. This can be important in everyday life -- it is essential to not offend others through ignorance. This can close doors -- both of the social and business kind.
Every culture has its collection of myth and folklore. It is interesting to compare and contrast them -- finding the archetype and situations that are common, and observing the differences in attitudes and endings. Mythology shows us that there are things that cultures look at in the same way, and events that we need explained on a very basic level. It introduces us to the Gods and Goddesses that may someday call us.
Many spells and charms involve knowledge of herbs. They are also useful in medicine and personal care. There is a rich tradition of folklore and uses that are not necessarily Pagan, but have influences of a mystical nature. Gardening is also incredibly fun and relaxing. Itís a lifelong activity that helps lower stress and produces wonderful results.
- Visualization and Meditation
Of the nine foundations listed here, this is possibly the one that has the most danger of being religiously argued against. But there are methods that do not use a religious framework. Many athletes, actors, and others will use visualization to give themselves the courage and mind-set to accomplish their goals. Meditation reduces stress, calms, and allows you to learn focus. In a pagan view, they are also a great basis for magickal or spiritual work, and very commonly used methods.
History, folklore, mythology and religion have all been passed along by way of music. It was one of the earliest ways to make events easily memorable to pass on to others. There seems to be a basic need in all humans to create rhythm and song. Music is used to express emotion, memorialize events, and simply entertain. It has the power to impress the soul, no matter the message.
It is said quite often that many Pagan religions are "Earth-centered." What better way to honor the deities of those religions than by learning to heal their greatest gift to us? Learn the effect that we are having on this planet and how to correct the harm we have done to it. We will not be able to celebrate any religion if we canít even live here.
Many of us celebrate events based on lunar and solar occurrences. Instead of looking on a calendar and seeing when the almanac says spring has sprung, learn what makes it spring. Learn what effect the moonís movement has on our waters here on earth. The events of the heavens were of momentous importance to the ancients. The stars told them when to plant, and when to harvest. There are many parts of astronomy that bleed into mythology -- our planets and constellations are named after mythological beings. Learn what other cultures called these arrangements and why.
- Minerals and Geology
Many Pagans use stones and "crystals" in their workings and spells. There are meanings assigned to each. But some stones only occur in certain places and under certain conditions. If you learn this, it may give you a deeper understanding of what property to give each stone. As you dig through the layers of earth, you can see different events that happened on both local and global scales. Itís a time-line that takes a little digging to get to.
Taken as subjects by themselves, none of these items are particularly inherently Pagan. Some could even lead into a career, even if you decide that Paganism is not for you. But they give a deeper understanding of traditions that you may want to follow someday. They allow you to see how so many things are inter-related. In the end, you will have a better grasp of your religion than if you just picked up a couple books. You will be more skilled than many of those who have followed this path for years longer. If you canít follow Paganism openly, you can still learn about the world around you and in your heart be quietly Pagan.
Copyright © 2002 by Leigh.
Used by permission of the author.