Sacred Bodies

Many people have been drawn to PaganismThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... because it affirms the sacredness of their bodies, their sexuality, and their gender expression. This belief has been shaped, to some extent, by various political liberation movements. Beginning in the 1960s, feminism provided an important impetus for the growth of contemporary Paganism as large numbers of women began to seek out forms of religious expression that felt more empowering than those of their inherited traditions. Two modern movements grew out of this exploration: the ecofeminist movement, which emphasizes the relationship between environmental issues and spirituality, and the GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... spirituality movement, which employs feminine language and images for divinity. Both movements have been influential in shaping American Paganism.

Like many populist reform movements, the feminist movement begins with lived experience and affirms that “the personal is political.” In feminist Paganism, the personal and political are also spiritual. Many women are drawn to the way Paganism helps them put spiritual ideals into practice and how GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... imagery in particular can be used for both spiritual and social liberation. Ancient mythologies include goddesses who are powerful, nurturing, and protective as well as those who are wrathful, destructive, and warrior-like. According to those in WiccanWicca is the name of one of the major streams of contemporary American Paganism. It is a form of religious witchcraft, sometimes simply called the Craft. Many Wiccans in America today call themselves “witches,” claiming the name under which women and ... and other PaganThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... traditions, these images of divinity enable women to honor multiple aspects within themselves. For example, the Wiccan Triple Goddess embodies the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, sanctifying each stage of a woman’s life and experience. The Maiden is honored for her physical strength and initiative, the Mother for her generativity and nurturance, and the Crone—the wise old woman in the third and final phase of her life—for her insight and endurance. As a Crone, a woman may offer guidance to less experienced women and provide a positive model for the middle-aged, celebrating the wisdom of the old in a society often focused on youth. In feminist Paganism, every woman can be a leader, for every woman embodies the power and creativity of divinity.

Pagan priestessesA priestess is a female leader of a religious community, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Pagan traditions have many forms of priestesses. The ma... and priestsA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the... are people who have practiced a Pagan spiritual path for some time and have trained in group ritual. Although in some groups, especially in women-only feminist groups, the role of leading rituals is rotated among members, others recognize high priestA priest is the leader of a religious community or congregation, specially trained and often ordained to service, who leads members of the community in the rituals and practice of shared and individual life. Many traditions have forms of priesthood.In the.../esses, who have an additional level of training and experience. Zsusanna Budapest, for example, served as High PriestessSome Pagan traditions refer to their ritual leader as the High Priestess and/or the High Priest. Generally a High Priestess or High Priest has been formally trained and initiated and has substantial experience. Some Pagan groups practice shared leadership... of the Susan B. Anthony CovenA coven is a community of Pagan witches (often Wiccans) who gather for ritual. It is usually a small, intimate group of no more than thirteen that meets privately. A coven may also offer open rituals to the public. #1 in Los Angeles, the first visible women’s coven in the United States.

Describing herself as a hereditary witch born into a long line of traditional healers, Budapest is a controversial figure in the movement for a variety of reasons, including her use of spells to stop rapists. In 1975, her arrest and conviction for reading TarotTarot cards are used for meditation and divination by some Pagans. Tarot cards are usually elaborately illustrated using symbols and images from Western mysticism. Many artists have created their own variations on the Tarot, and dozens of different decks ... cards politicized the local community of Venice, California which fought for nine years to overturn unconstitutional laws declaring divinationDivining or divination is the ancient and pervasive practice of attempting to discern hidden dimensions of present situations or future course of events through sacred techniques, such as casting cowry shells or reading tarot cards. illegal.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgenderTransgender is a term that refers to a range of unconventional relationships to gender. Transgender people do not identify with the sex and gender roles they were assigned at birth, and they may feel that their psychological gender and physical bodies are..., and queer-identified people have also found empowering religious practices in Paganism. Because most PagansThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... believe that the body and sexuality are holy, Pagan communities tend to affirm all loving, consensual adult sexual relationships. In contrast to many other religions, GLBT and queer“Queer” is an umbrella term for a wide variety of sexual minorities and their allies, but primarily for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people (GLBT). Because many Pagan groups hold sex-positive and body-affirming values and accept queer and G... Pagans can hold positions of leadership and be open about their sexual orientation and gender expression. In Paganism, gender fluidity is associated with shamanic talents, and unusual gender expression may be considered valuable in priest/esses.

Many prominent Pagans today are GLBT or queer-identified. T. Thorn Coyle lives in the California Bay area, where she combines the feminist heritage of her Reclaiming witchcraft background with the queer theology of the Anderson Feri tradition, among other influences. Coyle is a spiritual director and founder of Solar CrossThe cross is the central symbol of the Christian faith, pointing to the significance for the church of the whole Christ event: the life and teachings, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... and Morningstar Mystery School and has championed transgender inclusion in single-gender rituals at PantheaCon, one of the largest annual Pagan conferences in the United States. Raven Kaldera lives on a farm in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, where he practices Northern Tradition shamanismShamanism refers to practices and beliefs that involve communication with the gods, the spirits of nature, or the dead through a medium or shaman. Certain groups of Pagans have specialized in reviving shamanistic practices and beliefs., honoring the godsThe term god with a small “g” is used to refer to a deity or class of deities whose power is understood to be circumscribed or localized rather than universal, or to refer to a plurality of deities. of the Norse or Northern European pantheon. Kaldera, who identifies as transgender (female to male), explores gender fluidity and transgender themes in ancient and contemporary stories of the gods in his work Hermaphrodeities (2002). Kaldera is a founder of Asphodel Press, a writer’s collective and publisher serving a polytheistPolytheism is a belief in many gods. Most Pagans are polytheistic. Some are soft polytheists, believing that all gods are aspects of one greater God/dess (or sometimes aspects of two greater deities, a Goddess and a God). Other Pagans are hard polytheists... Pagan audience, and of the First Kingdom ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... of Asphodel, which offers participatory sacred dramas and rituals to the public.

Although Paganism offers special opportunities for women and sexual minorities, it is not unfriendly to heterosexual men. American Druidry, for instance, has produced a number of highly respected male leaders including Isaac Bonewits and John Michael Greer. Men seeking a community that embraces more conventional gender roles have also found a home in various branches of HeathenryHeathenry is the reconstructed practice of ancient Northern European religion. Heathens devote themselves to the Norse gods and view the Icelandic Eddas and sagas (originally oral poems recorded in the thirteenth century) as sacred texts. Ásatrú is one ... (Northern European Paganism). As a movement, Paganism continues to embrace an enormous diversity of gender expressions and roles.


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