I could write an awful lot about what I believe, how I practice my faith, my definition of Christo-Paganism, and my attitude/s toward the concept of deity. However, for the moment I’m going to stick to the (hopefully) fairly easy-to-explain stuff.
I’ve defined my religious affiliation as ‘panentheistic eclectic Christo-Pagan’, and in my first post I stated that:
I was brought up Methodist … I still go to church, sing hymns, say prayers, and listen to sermons. I also light candles, use prayer beads, cross myself, and enjoy being in decorated churches with statues and stained glass – definitely not Methodist. I also cast circles, use crystals, herbs, and coloured spell candles, celebrate the eight Sabbats in the Wheel of the Year, and use divination methods such as Tarot cards – definitely not Christian.
There is some debate (and some heated argument) over whether Christo-Paganism is a syncretic religion in its own right, a synthesis of Christianity and Paganism, or even whether it’s a valid spiritual path at all. This is something I’m planning to address at a later date, so let’s ignore the theological implications for now and look at the basic definitions.
Christianity – one of the world’s major religions, with the largest number of followers across the globe. It dates back nearly 2,000 years, and contains a vast number of denominations and sects with differing beliefs and practices, but on the whole adhering to the same theology. This can be summed up in what is known as the Apostles’ Creed (given below) which is used by the three main branches of the Church – Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was concieved by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again,
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
From there he will come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic* Church,
The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
* In this sense catholic (small c) means ‘universal’ or ‘whole’, whereas Catholic (capital C) refers to the Roman Catholic Church. In the same way that we have Conservative (political party) and conservative (traditional or conventional).
Paganism – a word that defines both the oldest of the world’s religions, and some of its youngest. Traditionally a word that described any faith that wasn’t Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), but now used for historic and prehistoric religions around the world as well as an umbrella term for contemporary religious and spiritual movements either inspired by or based on the historical pagan faiths, sometimes referred to as neo-Paganism.
Like Christianity, there are many different paths and sects in modern Paganism, but with vastly different beliefs, practices, and theology. The most well-known path is probably Wicca, but even that can be devided into Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and Seax-Wicca, among others; and the line between modern and historical Paganism becomes blurred with Reconstructionist paths, whose followers try to accutately re-create the religions of past cultures such as Ancient Greece or Egypt.
Panentheism – the belief that the Divine, however one concieves of Deity, is part of everything in the universe, but also extends beyond the physical. Pantheists believe that the Divine and the universe are identical – All-is-God, whereas panenthiests hold that All-is-in-God, that Deity both animates the universe and transcends the universe.
Christo-Paganism – defined by Joyce and River Higginbotham as ‘a spirituality that combines beliefs and practices of Christianity with beliefs and practices of Paganism, or that observes them in parallel’. I use the hyphenated version, as Christopaganism is already used in academic terms to describe the blends of Christianity and various forms of historical paganism that occurred as the Church expanded.
So, how do these definitions fit into my faith? Well my theology is predominantly Christian – I believe in an omni-etc. God, and that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are part of this overarching God. However, in common with certain Gnostic branches of Christianity, I also believe the Holy Spook to be female and the Daughter of God, in the same way that Jesus is considered the Son. So I have the Christian Trinity, but with an equal male-female balance, as I believe God is neither male nor female but both, otherwise Genesis 1:27 makes no sense to me – ‘God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’
So already we have something that looks very much like the Lord and Lady balance that is the focus of belief in several pagan traditions, especially Wicca. Because I believe in panentheism, everything contains a part of the divine, from myself to a rock – so if I light a prayer candle at home I’ll use corresponding crystals and herbs to lend that spark of divine energy to help the prayer along, in the same way that I’d ask someone to pray for me/my friend/etc. As for my other pagan practices such as circle-casting and the tools I use, a lot of it comes from one of the reasons why I was drawn to Paganism in the first place (the subject of a future post) – I didn’t feel I could be very active in my private worship as a Christian, whereas my Pagan friends, who are all solitaries, could create their own sacred space and administer their own sacraments.
Overall then I follow the basic Christian beliefs, tempered by Gnostic and animist ideas, my physical practices are a mix of Catholic/High Church Anglican and Pagan, and my preferred style of worship is relatively simple, whether I’m celebrating at home, attending a regular church service, or reading the Tarot – I enjoy ritual, but my attitude is far more practical than mystical.