Samhain and Modern Paganism

I fucking love Ronald Hutton.

Specifically, I love how he relentlessly roots out the facts behind various ideas and notions regarding modern Paganism.

I’m reading his “Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain” (the Samhain section, in particular) and he actually shows how there’s no proof that the ancient Celts recognized Samhain as either a festival or remembrance of the dead OR as the “Celtic New Year”.

They celebrated a holiday called Samhain, yes, and it was an important time of the year, but the association of October 31/November 1st with the ancestors or the dead seems to originate from the Christian celebrations of All Souls’ Day or All Saints’ Day which came from the Germans.

Just like that, Hutton demolishes cherished notions of Modern Paganism.

This leads me to my own thoughts on the matter, which is that Modern Paganism is too mired in the past. Or rather, its own idea of the past (which, as Hutton establishes in both this book and Triumph of the Moon, rarely has much to do with historical evidence).

I admire the scholarship of the various Reconstructionist Pagans out there but in many cases, as with the Gaels, we lack the knowledge or information to tell us what the religious celebrations of these cultures entailed.

Then it becomes guesswork. Or at the very least, what we do know is taken out of its original context and brought into the modern day.

I believe that if we are to consider ourselves to be modern Pagans, we must not look towards the ancients for rituals or worship. We must create new forms of worship, not just try to apply ancient myths or concepts or superstitions into the modern-day.

We must not try to justify our Paganism by its ancientness or its pedigree. We are creating something new here (much as there can be any new ideas in the world).

Let’s do away with all of the faux Celtic stuff, the dross of Wicca, the re-creation of folklore and superstition. The circles and pentagrams and all of that other ceremonial magick stuff. Create something new.



~ by sacredblasphemies on 10/29/2011.

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