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PIC Speech

This is an online speech I gave at the Pagan Internet Conference on March 16, 2000, hosted by Web Witches Network.

Merry Meet!

Like members of all religions, we often know a good deal about our own traditions and rituals and very little about those of any other group. Most Pagans are probably aware of some aspects of one other religion, since many of us did not grow up Pagan, but unfortunately, we may only remember the negative aspects of that religion. All too often, we find ourselves focusing on the differences rather than the similarities. I would like to mention a few of those similarities in an effort to help our understanding of other religions and to give us some common ground to explain our beliefs to those around us (when appropriate).

I started thinking about similarities at Mabon. The folks in my office include Hindus, Muslims, Orthodox Jews and a large Chinese contingent. When a Chinese fellow brought in traditional “moon cakes” to share in celebration of a holiday (partly related to a mythological/historical event and partly to a harvest), several of us started talking about holidays. Within a week of the Autumn Equinox, the Jews celebrate Sukkoth, the Chinese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (on the 15th day of the 8th moon of the lunar calendar), and we celebrate Mabon. Near Samhain, the Hindus celebrate Diwali, a rice harvest. Pagans are not alone in celebrating holidays which are at least partly related to the time of harvests.

Something else we have in common with the majority of the world is a belief in reincarnation. Not only is reincarnation an integral part of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Asian religions and belief systems, it is working its way into the Christian world as well. According to a Beliefnet interview with George Gallup, Jr. (the pollster), “Substantial portions of traditional Christians, for instance, subscribe to non-Christian beliefs and practices, such as reincarnation.”

Another common area is the elements. We have the elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit. We use these elements when we celebrate our religion or when we work magick. We are not the only ones, however. Think about a Catholic church service, if you are familiar with it. There is incense for air remember the priest waving a censer?), candles for fire, holy water (to bless yourself with) as well as wine. Earth is present in the form of manna or the “holy host”, (a.k.a., the body of Christ). As for spirit, that is probably the one element that would be obvious to a Catholic, since it is really a part of the Christian trio, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost). As a matter of fact, I’d be hard pressed to imagine a ceremony in most of the religions I can think of, that wouldn’t contain most of these symbols in one form or another. For the Chinese, the elements are Earth, Wood, Metal, Fire and Water. Not that far a stretch for us to understand.

We should remember that we are all human beings and a sense of ceremony and ritual can be important, no matter which religion shapes the ritual. All cultures have some way to mark the large events in our lives. Whether a birth is accompanied by a baptism, circumcision or a Wiccaning, we are welcoming the new life into our communities and acknowledging that this child is a part of our families. Marriages may be civil, take place in a church or a field, but we are still making a statement to our communities and to our god(s), whatever way we have defined them, the intent is the same. Check out Denny Sergeant’s book Global Ritualism for an interesting look at just how rituals are part of cultures worldwide.

The next time you are called upon to explain your chosen path to someone, remember the similarities as well as the differences. The next time someone
starts telling you about their religion, listen for the things we have in common, not just how we are separate. While we ask other folks to keep an open mind about Pagans, we can do no less than to keep an open mind about non-Pagans as well.