The Pagan Next Door

by Ella Mentry, Corvallis Pagan

Let me introduce myself: I am the pagan next door. NO, I am not a Satanist! Sorry to be a little defensive, but we have had a bad rap in the last 1600 years. We really are very nice people. You may actually know some of us in the community and not realize we are pagans. Most of us are still in the broom closet.

So what do pagans believe?
I guess you could say we are a blend of animism and pantheism, but I can’t speak for all of us. We have no set dogma. The word pagan comes from the Latin paganus, which meant someone who lives in the country. These are people whose lives are intimately intertwined with nature. Where the world’s great monotheistic religions are guided by their sacred books, our sacred book is nature itself, the original work of the creator. We see this first gift of the creator as something not just to protect, but also to honor and to learn from. Pagan traditions are found all over the world and include polytheistic, earth-based, spiritual paths such as Native American traditions, Druidry, and shamanism, while some pagans follow a particular pantheon such as Egyptian, Norse, or Greek.

In even broader terms, a pagan is one who believes everything in creation is imbued with a spirit, including people, animals, plants, and even rocks. Some see pagans as any spiritual tradition outside of the big three monotheistic religions. That would include Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and many others.

I personally believe in one Divine Source. I also enjoy learning about all the gods and goddesses of different cultures. I see them as a face or facet of the one God. Just as you may call on a different professional to help with projects, so you may call on a certain god or goddess for help. The bottom line is that we see and celebrate the Divine in everything. That’s magical!

Will you be doing crazy rituals next door like dancing naked in the backyard or sacrificing puppies? 
Doing rituals? Yes. Puppies are safe; the only thing we may sacrifice is a little cake and wine. Rituals are important to us as a way to commune with the divine. We may be generating some energy through dancing, drumming or singing, but nothing too crazy. We call on the four directions or elements to assist us. Those are air, which brings inspiration; fire, which energizes our creativity; water, the vehicle of emotion; and earth, which grounds and stabilizes us. By the way, the fifth element is spirit; so when you see one of us wearing a pentagram, understand that it represents the five elements. Then we may do some personal work, spells, or divination. Sometimes rituals are conducted alone and sometimes in groups. You might see me performing a ritual in my garden in the spring to bless it. At that time, I invite the elementals to bring their magic and help in creating a productive, healthy garden.

What kind of spells do you do?
When the moon is going from dark to full, we use creative energies to increase something such as patience, opportunity, or abundance. When the moon wanes, we focus more on inner work or try to lessen something such as bad habits, illness, or indecision. Some pagans I know like to focus on raising energy for the purpose of creating something, some like to connect with the forces of nature in reverence and gratitude, some like to use ritual time for bringing the metaphor of nature into their lives, some like to work with herbs and crystals.

What about “dark arts?”
The dark is not something to fear, but is a part of life. Half the year, half the month, and half of a day are in darkness. These are times for inner work, rest, and renewal. It is the place where the seed germinates.

However, I assume you are wondering about black magic or sorcery that controls people, or causes harm. Many pagans understand the laws of Karma, cause and effect, or follow the Wiccan rede, which states “And it harm none, do what ye will.” Any magic returns to the sender three fold. I imagine there are people in town who practice dark arts, knowingly or not, but they are well hidden. Knowing how to protect yourself against such things is important. Surround yourself with light; keep your mind on the divine, and make prayer a way of life.

Are there many pagans in Corvallis?
I am sure there are, when you consider how broad that definition can be. Some pagans, and Wiccans in particular, are a secretive bunch. However, there are organizations in our area that offer group activities like shamanic drumming, energy work, and pagan rituals like the Wheel of the Year. These are a time to celebrate the turning of the seasons at the equinoxes, solstices, and the four points in between through ritual and metaphor. We may be hidden, but if you search us out and you will find us a welcoming bunch.

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