Ask a pagan

It’s Halloween, a day of witches, magic and embarrassing costumes. But who’s holding down the magic fort the rest of the year? Pagans, that’s who. J.D. “Hobbes” Hickey dispels some of the myths about the group.

Photo via Flickr

At this time of year, it’s not uncommon to see witches walking down Montreal’s streets. You can easily identify them by their pointy hats and, all too often, their revealing costumes (whatever happened to warts-and-all?) But during the other 364 days of the year, pagans are holding down the fort in the magic department — and it’s not all eye-of-newt and toe-of-frog, guys.

The Montreal Pagan Resource Centre is just coming off last Saturday’s witches’ masquerade ball and is gearing up for Samhain. We asked J.D. “Hobbes” Hickey over at the MPRC to dispel some myths and misconceptions about paganism on All Hallow’s Eve.

— Tracey Lindeman

1. Pagans worship the dead on Halloween
Pagans refer to Halloween using the Celtic word “Samhain” (pronounced sow-when). This is a time when pagans honor their dead ancestors, but they do not raise the dead, nor do they worship the dead. Mythology states that when day and night are the same time, the veil between the living and the dead is thin, so spirits can pass into this world and visit their families, and pagans can reach out and reconnect with their past loved ones. This is a time for remembrance, keeping memories alive, and letting things go or “die.”

2. Pagans have no morality
Because pagans have no central doctrine, they are often accused of having no morals or no ethics. The truth is, many traditions and religions within paganism have many codes of ethics and standards of morality. The Wiccans often refer to the Rede of “Harm ye none, do what thou wilt,” which basically means that you should take care not to cause harm to anyone (including yourself) before taking action. The Druids have moral codes governing their behaviour with each other and with others. So while there is no central ethical code or morality to paganism, most traditions do have standards on how to behave in an ethical, moral manner.

3. Pagans use black magic
While it’s true some pagans practice magic (which is essentially directing energy with intention to achieve a goal), there is no morality associated with magic; it’s the intention that you have when practicing magic that determines its morality — not the energy itself. For example, I could use a hammer to build a chair, or I could use a hammer to hurt someone. In either scenario, the hammer has no morality: morality resides in the person wielding the hammer.

4. Pagans worship the devil
The concept of the devil comes from a Christian context and does not relate to paganism at all. The deities that pagans work with are capable of a great many things, both light and dark. Pagans do not have a deity that is pure evil or pure good. This belief or accusation that pagans worship the devil generally comes from a Christian misconception of the nature of our deities: in Christianity, there is one god and everything else is the devil. Therefore, if pagans do not accept the Christian god, then they must be working with the devil. But this is not the case.

5. Pagans are sex-crazed
Rather than being a taboo or something to be feared, sexuality is celebrated as a beautiful and natural part of being alive. Sexual diversity and expression can be used to explore spirituality. That being said, pagans regard sexuality as powerful and something to be respected. While pagans can be open-minded about sex and nudity, this doesn’t mean that they will be sexual with everyone or just anyone — they see the body as a beautiful thing that can be celebrated, but also respected, and they believe that partners should exhibit honesty and behave responsibly. ■

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