I once got angry, because after I mentioned Wicca in passing during a Dreamland interview, someone wrote in and said (accusingly) is Anne Strieber a pagan? I denied it then, but now I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t mind if it was TRUE!
In the context of some work we are doing on a possible documentary, we recently found ourselves at a Druid ritual in Pasadena.
Druidism is a modern reconstructed religion. What their rituals were like in the past nobody can be sure, but a remarkable teacher, Isaac Bonewitz, who Whitley interviewed for Dreamland about ten years ago, set about restoring this ancient faith based on what he has been able to determine it might have been.
There was drumming and chanting (both of which bring up alpha waves in the brain, which is the brain wave state that people are in when they experience what might be called the paranormal). There was a fire in which to burn a sacrifice (something simple, like a pine cone or an apple). During the ritual, I kept noticing analogies and similarities to the Catholic mass, such as drinking from a cup. (In fact, the mass is so similar to another pagan ritual, that of Mithra, that Christian scholars of the later Roman Empire claimed that the Devil and gone back in time and changed Mithraism to discredit Christianity!
The ritual seemed simple at first, but it turned out to have genuine power, led by a couple who were obviously deeply devoted to their belief.
There were strong masculine and feminine aspects to the chanting, as befitted a celebration of the forces of nature, which can be seen as a uniting of the two sexual halves of the planet. I was delighted to see that the female Druid was wearing green, the color of resurrection, of the "Green Man," of Jesus the Gardener and of me–the lady who came back from the dead.
Before and after the ceremony began, we all went around introducing ourselves and took down the names and email addresses of people who said they would be interested in participating in our documentary. We met all sorts of pagans, including a woman who said she was a second- generation pagan, that her father had been a druid who told her that their particular "tribe" practiced something called "fairy magic."
This was all so different and unexpected for us, but also beautiful in its own way, and the idea of turning toward nature with a sense of worship instead of exploitation is deeply energizing and refreshing. It’s a moral relief. It feels good, frankly.
Everyone from the ritual that I’ve gotten in touch with has been adamant that we make it clear, in our project, that some people are Wiccans, some Witches and others Druids. I don’t yet understand the difference and will be interested to see if it’s as little–or as extreme (depending on how you look at it)–as the difference between Baptists and Lutherans.
Whitley and I drove home afterwards, but our producing partner was so energized by the ritual that he went out to meet a friend for a drink before going home to bed. While he was in the bar, he spotted a beautiful red headed woman and went up to her and asked if she was a Wiccan, she said yes. He told her he was producing a TV show about Wicca and got her phone number.
When he told me this, I said, "You know, that’s a PERFECT pick-up line–and the really funny thing about it is, unlike most of these lines, this one is TRUE!"
One of the Wiccans we met runs a bookstore in Los Angeles. When Wiccans pray, one of the things they do is light candles (just like Catholics!) When we went to visit her in her store, she asked us there was anything we wanted. I mentioned a new (unpublished) novel of Whitley’s that we are hoping to sell to the movies. She told us we needed to burn two candles: one called "road" and another called "money."
We didn’t have much confidence in this, but we thought "what the heck," and lit both candles when we got home. The "money" candle burned down much faster than the "road" candle. This went along with our analysis of the project: we knew that everyone we wanted to get the book to had read it, but we suspected that they hadn’t gotten back to us because the project would take a large budget to make, and studios are trying to save money right now.
Then, a few days after the "road" candle finally extinguished itself as well, we got a surprising call out of the blue: a producer we’d worked with on a TV pilot about a year ago thought he’d found a new "home" for our project. In other words, it had finally made it down the long, winding road and might have a chance to come to fruition!
A week later, we were invited to the screening of a friend’s film. While waiting to go in, we were introduced to one of our filmmaker’s friends, who told us he is a professional whistler and gave us his card, to prove it. When movies or story CD’s need some whistling inserted, they call on him. I thought I was at least somewhat familiar with almost every job description around, but this was a new one for me. After meeting all those Wiccans, I reflected that the truth is, most of us are whistling in the dark, when it comes to religion (but some of us are whistling harder than others).
We are planning to have another meeting with one of new Wiccan acquaintances at Easter, another ancient pagan festival that has become an important part of Christian life. I may go to mass first, although this has been hard for us to do, especially for Whitley, who finds the new pope a grave disappointment. Whitley considered Msgr. Corrado Balducci a very fine man, and when the Vatican purposely concealed his death and funeral to prevent him from being honored, Whitley knew that the story he had heard that the new pope has uttercontempt for the UFO community must be true. He misses John Paul’s humanitarianism and open minded acceptance of those who differed with him.
In contrast to this sort of thing, I found the Pagans wonderfully inclusive. They may have different ways of doing things, but they seem to fully accept other Pagan points of view. (Although, as I have dug a little deeper, I’ve found some familiar divisions, too.)
The owner of the Wiccan store also gave me a baseball cap that says "Witch" on it. I may even wear to church, if I get up the nerve. (Whitley says he’ll go to another mass if I do, but stands ready to carry me out of I get mobbed!)
PS: Here are some of the similarities between Mithraism and Christianity that so upset the early church fathers: Both Christ and Mithra have birthdays of December 25; both emerged from a virgin birth; both had twelve followers; both have a ritual that features drinking the blood of the god; both feature a death and resurrection.
But only one has Jesus.
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