Sábios e entendidos

"The Sword In The Stone", T. H. White, ilustrated by Alan Lee. Merlin and the child Arthur.

“The Sword In The Stone”, T. H. White, illustrated by Alan Lee. Merlin and the child Arthur.

Poucos equilibram estudos, contemplações, viagens, vivências e práticas, embora alguns consigam atingir uma complementaridade entre diversas formas de desenvolvimento pessoal, por vias intuitivas, vivenciais, e intelectuais. No entanto, muitos enaltecem claramente uma destas vias, afirmando ser a mais válida, profunda, eficaz. Existem aqueles que não escondem a reserva face à ausência de habilitações académicas, mesmo que não as possuam. Por outro lado, não falta quem subvalorize ou despreze as vias intelectuais. Ou que as considere, mas apenas na medida das suas próprias habilitações, preferências, opiniões, e só até onde ache que os outros as devem explorar. Fortemente subjectivos, são adeptos do escapismo, mas nunca se coíbem de opinar, reagindo facilmente a análises críticas que questionem e criem fricção com a sua área de conforto. Esta é sempre apresentada e até promovida como sendo a via menos percorrida, a mais alternativa, original, inovadora. Ou seja, aquela que, a seu ver, é desconhecida daqueles que “ainda estão presos” às doutrinas. É comum terem tentado trilhar, em algum momento do seu passado, uma ou mais vias académicas, que abandonaram por desapontamento, dispersão, falta de motivação, de perseverança, ou como manifestação de uma certa rebeldia contra o “sistema” ou excentricidade, por contraste ao “rebanho”. Como se teoria e prática, razão e intuição, intelecto e vivência, criatividade e metodologia, ensino institucional e aprendizado autodidacta fossem inconciliáveis. Predomina o dramatismo e o desejo de notoriedade. Estes serão para sempre os entendidos. Outros, porém, permitem-se experimentar diferentes abordagens, alternando rumos e pontos de vista, quebrando limites subtilmente auto-impostos, arriscando mesmo seguir vias que antes consideravam redutoras ou inúteis para si e, por vezes, também para os outros. Praticam a modéstia e aprendem a seleccionar os debates a que se entregam. Estes podem um dia vir a ser sábios.

Seguem testemunhos de Ethan Doyle White, Caroline J. Tully e – last but not least – Emma Restall-Orr. Desta feita, sem tradução, para que a expressão pessoal seja autêntica e, enfim, para me poupar a um trabalho inglório nos dias que correm.

“They have never revealed any academic qualifications of their own — no PhDs, MAs or even BAs, nor do they appear to have ever published in peer-reviewed journals — and yet they proceed to pronounce on academic matters using language which attempts to convey a sense of authority. I have encountered individuals like this before, both within Paganism and in the wider world; people who are fairly intelligent and knowledgeable, and who may even have some university qualifications, but who like to see themselves as better than the professional or semi-professional academics, whom they then proceed to viciously attack in a very un-academic manner. Of course, the internet provides the perfect setting for these individuals, better than the realms of self-publishing that they were formerly often constrained to.” Ethan Doyle White, in Albion Calling


“I started off in Paganism via Ceremonial Magick (Aleister Crowley), and then moved on to American-style Wicca (Starhawk). I’ve got interests in, and been through, several types of Paganism. I’m a Witch, I’ve been involved with idealistic “green” Pagan groups such as the Church of All Worlds, and am an initiate in the Ordo Templi Orientis among other things. I have a strong leaning toward Reconstructionist Paganism – the type of contemporary Paganism that strives to revive ancient Pagan religions through a close adherence to ancient textual and archaeological sources, but I see good points in modern or ‘pop’ Paganism; its ecological and feminist aspects particularly. In the early 2000s I became aware of the academic study of Paganism and found it so interesting that I had to make an effort to educate myself (by going back to university) so I could participate in this international scholarly scene. I guess my primary interest in that regard is in “Reception Studies”, specifically the reception of the ancient world by modern Pagans.” Caroline J. Tully, June issue of PHENOMENA Magazine, 2012

“After around twenty years participation in contemporary Witchcraft, Neo-Paganism and Ceremonial Magick I went back to university as a mature age student in 2004 in order to assess, from an academic standpoint, the claims to historicity of the Neo-Pagan founders I had encountered both through literature and in person. I wanted to find out what academic professionals who specialised in the ancient societies whose religions Pagans purported to be representing and practising had to say about the character of ancient pagan religions. Did they look in any way like modern ones? This was definitely motivated in part by Ronald Hutton’s investigations into Modern Pagan Witchcraft in his book ‘Triumph of the Moon’. I think Hutton inspired a healthy phase of self-reflexivity within the more honest quarters of modern Paganism and I for one believe we should not be afraid to look critically at both those who were integral to the formation of contemporary Paganism, as well as its current practitioners. Critical investigation is not going to kill Paganism. I was also inspired, on the other hand, by Pagan Reconstructionism, a historical approach to the practice of ancient pagan religions rather than the ‘ceremonial magic format’ approach of the ‘magic circle and four elements’ which derived from Wicca and is generally believed to be representative of ‘pagan religion’ by those who can’t be bothered doing much research.” Caroline J. Tully, in Necropolis Now

“Not all Pagans want to fossilise in a pseudo-primitivist mental utopia.

Pagan Studies scholars have the capability to invigorate Paganism from within. By inhabiting the grey area between ivory tower academia and on-the-ground Pagan practitioners, the Pagan Studies scholar is a go-between, a translator, but not a proselytiser. The hybrid nature of the Pagan Studies scholar can work to reduce dissonance and hence trauma and aggression, diffusing black-and-white antagonistic, combative positions and facilitating reconciliation. A religion that is static is dead. The Pagan Studies scholar infuses Paganism with hybrid vigour and can enable Pagan practitioners to perceive academic research, not as a repressive ideology, but a liberating one. Such hybridity does not shut down multivocalism but contributes to polyphonic discourse within contemporary Paganism.” Caroline J. Tully, in Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History of Pagan Religions [The Pomegranate 13.1 (2011) 98-105]

“It’s true, the vitriol is not only confined to the internet. In fact, much (not all, but a lot) of my experience as a Pagan, when meeting other Pagans who I have never met before, is characterised by iciness, haughtiness, and paranoia on _their_ part. I used to get disappointed about this, a friend would say, “Oh, you must meet so-and-so, she’s a Druid” or whatever, I’d meet so-and-so and she’d be wary, paranoid, and competitive – BOR-ING

Well, we can hardly have a sensible conversation when it’s about competing about whatever it is we’re apparently competing about. Only last year I met some Pagans at a festival that a very old associate assured me were really nice and whom I simply must meet. Well, I’d never met such icy, unfriendly sour-pusses in my life. In fact I hardly ‘met’ them as they made a point of scowling at and ignoring me. And why? Because, I can only assume, they were terribly concerned with their status vis-a-vis mine and everyone else’s’.

I don’t think I’m imagining that. I’ve had years of dealing with magical and Pagan groups in which prestige and hierarchy is important, although it is never admitted in polite circles, so I think I can detect it when I’m confronted with it. That’s what this – this hostility – is about, it’s about hierarchical posturing. And the possession of knowledge, or what is thought to be secret knowledge, linked with in-group [and out-group] membership, or lack thereof. One must shun the [perceived] outsider. One simply must! Especially if they look like they might be competition… competition for what…? Fans, followers, prestige, leadership, increased self-esteem… shrug.

Hierarchy and prestige, “power over”, are characteristics that modern Pagan Witchcraft specifically pretends _do not_ pertain to it. And I’m sure that in some [ideal] situations it doesn’t. (And Witchcraft is just as magical as magic(k) groups, so don’t bother saying “Oh, it’s just those hierarchical ceremonial magic groups that are like that”). I’d say that in most cases a dominant individual or couple loves nothing more than being – and staying – the “boss” in a group… when what should be happening is that everyone should be being encouraged to develop and become amazing… to graduate out from under the “teachers”.

Anyway, as Anton La Vey says, if you pretend that you got into Witchcraft for any reason other than power, you’re deluding yourself. But (let me draw breath…) just because Paganism can be annoying, that should not let you be put off from publishing projects or doing any other creative activity. Although the “scenes” can be frustrating, depressing, distracting and exhausting, the topic itself is fascinating and NOBODY OWNS IT or can forbid you from it!!!

Oh, before anyone has an apoplectic fit, can I just say that although I have mentioned a Druid in my post above, I’m not singling out any particular “types” of Pagan here… the example I was talking about was a Druid, the other example were Wiccans (I [or they] think). Paranoid hierarchy-jostling is evident in many types of Pagan and Magickal groups.” Caroline J. Tully (31 January 2013)


“I have always read a huge amount. At school there was a policy of sending me to the library when I became impossible in class, and there I happily quietly read.  When my boyfriend was doing his degree at university, I read his philosophy books, and without the constraint of needing to write an essay within specified parameters I often read more widely around a topic than he did.  My search for god, for the sacred, for meaning, meant that by the time I was 25 I had read all the key sacred texts of mainstream religions, and then continued to read narratives and explorations around them.  And you are right, it wasn’t this reading that took me Druidry: in terms of literature, it was the Arthurian mythos that led me there, Robert Graves and WB Yeats.

As a kid studying Latin, though, I had read in Caesar that Druidry was a tradition of learning, but I found little appetite for learning in the Druid community. Teachings and rituals seemed to place more importance on some sort of personal salvation through self-development and self-celebration.  While there is, of course, value in self-reflection and soul growth, I was frustrated with what I felt was a lack of more intense education, so I continued reading even where there was little encouragement to do so.  At the same time, what I did find myself able to dive into within Druidry was the connection with nature, with mud and rain, the emotional and intuitive, the sensuality of being, the experience of living, and I have written a few books on Druidry which celebrate that expression of the tradition.  That I am now sharing some of my philosophical learning in my writing is simply because I have come to a point where that is necessary to communicate what I am exploring.

“A good many of those who are moving into academia are looking at the archaeology, history and literature that is directly or indirectly associated with Druidry. While I have explored these, as has any good student of the tradition, my religious practice has always been more profoundly inspired by the currents of nature and the idiosyncrasies of human nature. Hence my focus has been on both the visceral experience of life, of consciousness and deity, and also in the exploration of how we understand and language that experience, through philosophy and theology.   And no, I never coped well with the structure of school, with its hierarchies of authority and limited academic pathways, and knew that university would be even worse, requiring the student to reach so many prescribed goals before a whisper of original thought could be entertained.

Perhaps I have done just the same with my Druidic learning and practice. The Druidry I encountered in the mid to late 1980s is far removed from the Druidry I described in my first book, Spirits of the Sacred Grove (or Druid Priestess) ten years later. And my unwillingness to work within the boundaries of defined belief system or set of rituals got me into trouble a good number of times.  I was grateful to meet Philip ‘Greywolf’ Shallcrass in the early 1990s, and in him find someone who was willing not only to support my wild exploration of natural British religion and philosophy, but to welcome it as a valid expression of Druidry. Without him, I suspect I would have walked away from the notion of ‘Druidry’ into a broader shamanic animism, and in doing so lost a great deal.

I continue to write. I am by my nature a writer and I can’t help but explore how words cohere into language and communication.  That some of my writings are published as books or articles under my own name is, I think at times, simply where patterns co-incide, syncronicities offering currents of being.  After a while, however, unless you are seeking celebrity, the name under which you publish can become a burden. When I finish a manuscript and hand it over to the publisher, I have a very clear sense of giving it away, allowing that book to take its own path of becoming.  In that way, I don’t feel attachment to the book, I am happy to move on, following my curiosity.  As such, I very much hope that there are some inconsistencies between earlier and later books, for they reveal my growing, changing, thinking, being.  But the name on the cover, the name that is known, has in some ways become an abstract, and as such it can feel as rigid and two dimensional as a cardboard cut out.  On the other hand, affirming oneself as a person in the public eye removes layers of privacy and seclusion that are enormously valuable.  There is a balance to be honed.” Emma Restall Orr, in Pagan People, with Nimue Brown