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Lecture Summaries 5

Over the years, Pagan Pathways has presented many talks of potential interest to pagan and magical folk and the following is another brief survey from a selection of diverse and informative topics that various speakers, experts in their respective fields, have explored at one time or another.

Atlantis – a Warning for Our Time? (Silverspear)

Whether fable, fact, or possibly a prophecy of an event yet to unfold, the legend of Atlantis resonates deeply within the human psyche; a resonance perhaps felt more profoundly today as a consequence of ecological issues and humanity’s impact on the planet. The talk began with a brief background to the Atlantis story, and then posed a few questions upon which to ponder, such as: Can we rely on our scientific know-how to preserve us as a species? Or are we doomed to go the way of countless other species that have inhabited our planet over the centuries? Will our obsession with materialism, consumerism and our dominating nature finally be our downfall?  Like the legendary citizens of Atlantis, are we ultimately sowing the seeds of our own destruction? For earth-based and life-affirming pagans, these are highly relevant questions, which elicited a lively response from those present.

Reincarnation (Liz)

Belief in reincarnation is common in many cultures both historical and current and many pagans accept the idea as a possibility.  Some of us may have tried or witnessed past-life regressions.  In this talk, Liz examined the idea of reincarnation throughout history within a religious and cultural context and questioned our definition of 'consciousness'. For example: could past life 'memory' be genetic is some cases?

Haunted Landscapes (Liz)

This was the third of our winter ‘Dark Season’ talks in which Liz examined alignments in the landscape and the psychic phenomena connected to these.  Such phenomena tend to occur at sites such as churches, crossroads, tumuli, old wells and coffin and 'ghost roads'.  She also looked in some detail at the occurrence of 'time slip' (with photos). Liz also discussed in some detail Canewden church, in Essex, and St Peter's, Bradwell-on-sea, two very haunted locations, it seems. Nearer to home (in Sheffield) Bunting Nook and ley lines in the immediate area were also put under the spotlight.

Loki the Goddess (Jamie)

Loki is usually thought of as a male trickster god, yet the ancient surviving stories about 'him' include references to Loki changing sex and even giving birth. This talk looked at two of the myths involving Loki to consider why this god found it beneficial to become female, and what the implications might be for us all.

Our Personal Paganism (Group Discussion)

We all know that paganism is not a single belief system, but a variety of beliefs loosely tucked under one banner. This is clearly reflected by the people who come to Pagan Pathways. But what is it that each individual wants from a particular version of paganism? How do we enhance our paths and where do we look to do so? In some cases, we may not even be clear about these things ourselves. This was an opportunity to talk about the things we like about our own pagan paths as well as the things that we may struggle with.

Fundamentals of Paganism: Reverence for Nature (Rosa Mundi)

The first of the Pagan Federation’s three principles states: ‘Love for and Kinship with Nature.  Reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing cycles of life and death.’ While nothing is truly fundamental in paganism, the love of nature is common throughout pagan spirituality.  But what do we actually mean when we use these words and what is required of us as a result? Rosa decided to try and find out. In this illustrated talk she discussed the first principle and argued that our proclaimed “love of the Natural World” may not be as unconditional and as straightforward as we all tend to assume.

Influences in Modern Paganism – Eastern and New Age (Rosa Mundi/Group Discussion

Many influences have fed into modern paganism in its various forms and practice. Having previously looked at Christian influences, this event looked at the influences that came to paganism from Eastern cultures – including ideas about reincarnation, karma and a number of energy related ideas such as Fung Shui. Many of these things overlap with the New Age, and much discussion also revolved around where one ends and the other begins.

Practicing magic: (Group Discussion)

A central feature of Pagan Pathways has always been to delve deeply into a topic or issue, and the subject of magical practise is no exception to that requirement. For this meeting, a degree of homework and personal research was called for, as can be appreciated from the questions that one needed to consider in advance. Here are a few examples: Should magic be used for personal gain? Does the type of personal gain make a difference? Is it somehow less ethical to do a deed by magic than to do it in a practical way? Is it ok to use ‘negative’ magic’ for the greater good? Who decides? Should you always have permission?  What if the other person is not able to give permission? Is working magic for yourself more powerful than working it for someone else?

Ethics of magic:

How do we avoid the problem of the ego and justifying the action? What about collective unconscious, karma and the Threefold Law of Return? Must you always truly and totally understand what you are doing? Do we? And, how can we? Ethics is a complicated subject with many different positions that can be taken. How do we decide what is right and wrong when there are so many ways in which to view a problem? Ethics is a fluid, dynamic thing.

A few common ethical stances: An action is right or wrong regardless of the consequences (Deontology). A given action is ok if the consequence is positive, but not if the consequence is negative (Consequentialism). Everyone’s interests count but you can’t please everyone – do the thing that satisfies the most people. (The greatest good for greatest number) (Utilitarianism). Does the "good" brought about by your action outweigh the potential harm that might be done to anyone? (Mills' Harm Principle / Cost/Benefit analysis). Will anyone be harmed who could be considered defenceless? (Paternalism). To what degree is your choice of alternatives based on your own best interest? (Objectivism). There you go, mate – that puts that lot to bed, doesn’t it?

Fifty Years of Modern Paganism (Silverspear)

Modern paganism has a long, complex and rather interesting history, and in this illustrated talk the history and development of paganism over the past five decades was examined, beginning with the founding in the UK of the Pagan Front (later the Pagan Federation) in 1971, the development and re-adaption of paganism and Wicca in the USA, and culminating in the rather eclectic and diverse forms of paganism throughout the world today.

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