Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Religious Tolerance in an Intolerant Age

When I began this blog it was my intention to discuss all-things Wiccan and Pagan, and in so doing provide information to those unfamiliar with the beliefs, but also to promote religious tolerance.

Wiccans and Pagans have suffered from religious persecution for literally millennia, since the days of the original Druids. While attitudes have certainly improved (we are no longer murdered by governmental decree!), we still suffer from the intolerance of others.

As I was reflecting on this, I realized that in this modern age, religious intolerance abounds against so many faiths that I wanted to remind Wiccans and Pagans to contemplate the prejudices they might hold within their hearts. Do you merely tolerate other faiths, or truly accept and welcome them as your brothers and sisters?

It is so common in today's world to condemn, judge, to hate and jeer. Just because we are Wiccan, does not mean we do not remain so very human. In fact, it our humanity that we most often rejoice in during our personal rituals.

As a Wiccan, I follow several religious "laws" that can be combined as:

"Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust...Mind the Threefold Law ye should – three times bad and three times good...Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will."

This means that I choose my actions, that I am not merely a bit player in my own life waiting for the ultimate Cosmic Director to act. Having said that, it also means that I take responsibility for each and every one of those choices, whether yay or nay, I cannot avoid the consequences.

It is March, when my spirit soars with the expectation of Spring, and the joyous celebrations ahead to honor the God and the Goddess. It is a time of the Earth's renewal, a season so powerful that anyone regardless of their beliefs who takes time to try, can feel it surging through their own human limbs. Where do you think the expression, "Spring Fever," comes from, for it is a fever — a fever of being alive. A time when Spring Cleaning overtakes even the messiest, and tulips struggle to push their beautiful petals from the winter-hardened ground to burst forth in amazing colors.

Is it any wonder then that this time has been celebrated throughout the world's religions, including the Abrahamic faiths, which all have sacred holidays and rites during this glorious time?

I am deliberately writing this on Ash Wednesday, the traditional beginning of Lent for Catholics and Christians, which culminates in that faith's most holy celebration: Easter. Soon, those who follow Judaism will prepare Passover Seders, and Muslims the world over will begin fasting for Ramadan.

These faiths promote inner reflection, personal sacrifice, and purification to honor their deities — much as we do prior to our celebration of the Sabbat of Ostara, which coincides with the Spring Equinox on March 20.

For us, it signals the re-awakening of the Earth after the long slumber of late Fall and the deepening coldness of Winter. It is the core knowledge — faith — of Wiccans and Pagans that the Earth was not dead, but merely asleep and gathering its strength to burst forth with beauty and fertility.

As Wiccans, we embrace Ostara as a point of balance in our lives, a moment in time where both dark and light and night and day are in perfect harmony before the light is victorious, and carries us on to the bounty of summer pleasures. Ostara is packed with rituals, spells, recipes, crafts, and customs to celebrate the joyous awakening of the newly fertile earth.

It is also a time to reflect on our inner spiritual life. Thus, we share many of the actions of those who follow the Abrahamic paths.

During this time of joy, as you soar to amazing pleasures, I urge you also to reject hatred. Instead, work to embrace those who are "other," whether they follow a different faith path, are of a different race, sexual orientation, or political party. Let us celebrate and honor the Goddess by turning toward each other in compassion and love, instead of away.

— Danu's Daughter

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