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Sharing this article with you, that was found at the AOL Library with permission to redistribute.
Adam Walks Between Worlds, CAW, OTO, et al.
Voice: 800/370-5263
Lost Legacy
by Otter G'Zell

The idea of searching for our "roots" seems to have
been catalyzed in recent times by the book and TV series
by Alex Haley, in which a Black American seek to trace and
recover his African heritage. Much of the Neo-Pagan
resurgence derives from similar motives, as those of us of
varying ethnic descent, mostly European, feel a deepening
need to discover and reclaim our own ancestral heritage. It
has seemed that such a heritage is more accessible, or
perhaps more romantic, for non-white peoples, such as
Native Americans or Afro-Americans, and in the past few
decades much progress has been made in establishing
ethnic studies programs for "people of color."
     Most of us who are "white" have been raised with the
idea that our religious heritage is Christianity. We have
been taught in Sunday school that our story begins in the
Garden of Eden, leading eventually to the epic saga of the
Exodus and the conquest of Canaan, up to the birth of
Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel throughout the
world. We have been taught to identify with the "Chosen
People" of the Bible. In the traditional presentation of the
history of Western civilization, the story follows a similar
thread: civilization begins in Egypt. Then the focus shifts,
with the Exodus, to Israel. We learn of the Greek heroic
legends and the Golden Age of Pericles; perhaps noting in
passing Alexander's expansion of the Macedonian Empire.
Then the point-of-view shifts inevitably to Rome. We read
Caesar's Commentaries on the Gaulic Wars, follow the
twisted destinies of the imperial successions, and hail
Constantine for establishing Christianity as the state
religion. Singing "Onward Christian Soldiers," we march
throughout the empire with the legions of Rome (and later,
the Crusaders) to convert the recalcitrant "heathen" to the
revealed word of God.
     We all grew up with that perspective, taught to us by
who else? the official Ministry of Truth of Church and State.
However, some of us were blessed by the Goddess with
intellectual curiosity; we wanted to know more. And so we
continued our studies, far beyond what was being offered
in Sunday school or college. We have come to learn that
we are a conquered people, that those of us whose
ancestors were the Celtic tribes of Europe and also the
Saxons, Teutons, Norse, Normans, Angles, etc. were
conquered and enslaved by Julius Caesar and his imperial
successors. By his own count, Caesar murdered 1,192,000
of our men, women and children in his campaign of
"pacification" of Gaul. Our people were not the Romans,
and we owe no allegiance to Rome, nor to the culture
derived from that Empire. If we are to seek a cultural
identification, it can hardly be with our oppressors.
     Nor can our religious identification be with Judeo-
Christianity. Thehistory given in the Old Testament is an
account of how the "Chosen People" i.e. the Hebrews/Jews
establish a covenant with the Sky-Father Storm God
Jahveh, forge a national unity based on volumes of
obsessive laws, and invade the farming country of Canaan,
slaughtering its peaceful indigenous inhabitants.
Throughout, the main thrust is to clearly distinguish the
"Chosen People" from everybody else. That "everybody
else" includes all of us who are not Jewish. We Pagans
are "the other people."
     Christianity is conditional upon Judaism. The very
concept of a savior, a messiah which Jesus is purported to
be requires a belief in the Genesis story of The Fall, which
established the notion of "original sin," subsequently
inherited by all the descendants of Adam i.e., supposedly
the Semitic peoples. The symptom of this affliction is
specified in Genesis: shame of nakedness. Historical
accounts make it quite clear that non-Semitic peoples, such
as the Egyptians, Greeks, Africans, Polynesians or Celts
had no obsessive body modesty, and went cheerfully
naked whenever the occasion permitted. The idea of a
messiah is to redeem the victims of original sin. No sin, no
need of a redeemer. Thus Christianity in its central
premise is irrelevant to non-Semitic peoples.
     So it is entirely appropriate that we abandon both the
Roman culture of Western civilization and the Christianity
inflicted upon us after the Roman conquest. Does this
mean that we must recreate the culture and religion of our
ancestors as it was over 2,000 years ago? I think not. We
need not take up where we left off. If we are bold, and have
imagination, we may rather take up where we might have
been today if we had not been subjected to 2,000 years of
oppression. We may forge a mythological continuity to
account for how we have gotten from there to here, but we
need not be overconcerned about its "factuality." So let's
see what patterns from the ancient past we may
extrapolate into our present lives...
     One of our greatest strengths was our tribalism. We
were born into and grew up in communities where all
people were related by ties of kinship and committment.
We all had our place, and there were traditional roles we
could adopt. We were guided by custom, rather than ruled
by laws, and each tribe, each village, through the customs
of exogamy (marrying outside the clan), had various ties
with surrounding tribes as well. All the villages would come
together at the marketplace, and at the great seasonal
     Of course, the tribalism we cherished was also our
downfall. Intertribal rivalries and competition made it
almost impossible for us to unite in defense against an
imperial foe, and Rome just walked all over us. We still
struggle today with vestiges of this attitude: the
Republicans ("Party of the Republic") all cast their votes in
behalf of a single candidate, while the Democrats ("Party of
the People") tend to split votes among half a dozen
different candidates, and so lose elections.
     Still, if we can learn those hard lessons and overcome
our natural tendency towards factionalism, the
decentralized model of tribal communities is closer to our
hearts than the autocratic model of imperial Rome which
contemporary world politics aspires to emulate. Against the
Empire, we have always been members of the Rebel
Alliance. The key word is "alliance."
     Just as our political inclinations are shaped by our
primordial sense of tribalism, so does our natural religious
orientation reflect our origins. We claim the name of
Pagans "country dwellers;" people of the land. We honor
and revere Mother Nature, Mother Earth, and the gods,
goddesses and spirits of Nature. Our temples and
cathedrals are holy places and landforms: sacred groves,
caves, mountains, springs, etc. We celebrate the seasonal
festivals in the Wheel of the Year, and the phases of the
white Moon among the stars. We base our rites and rituals
not on exact replicas of what we know to have been
performed at Eleusis or Cornwall those millenia ago (for in
most cases we do not know exactly what our ancient
ancestors did) but upon a mythic interweaving,
incorporating those threads of the tapestry that have
survived with an artful reconstruction adapted to our
present needs. We have always been artists, and ritual is
a high and holy art form. We create as much as we
recreate, and this is appropriate, for our religion does not
lie in the rote repetition of dead and frozen forms, but in the
very essence of magical celebration. We know what feels
right, what empowers us, what fills our hearts. We are
constantly growing and evolving. I truly believe our
ancestors would feel as much at home in our modern
rituals as they did in their own time visiting a neighboring
village down the river. The essence of Pagan religion is,
after all, attunement with Nature; and when we return to
Her, our diversity of forms enhances our oneness of spirit.
As children of the same Mother, we discover true unity
through diversity.
     One of the key roles in any tribal society is that of the
Shaman. Such were (and are) healers, herbalists,
midwives, priest(esse)s, diviners, magicians, teachers and
psychopomps (spirit guides). The Shaman utilizes altered
states of consciousness to elicit psychic phenomena and
travel to and from the spirit realm, or Dreamtime. It is my
contention that those we call Witches were the tribal
Shamans of pre-Christian Europe. In seeking to reclaim, re-
establish and reassert our own cultural roots our own lost
legacy we have inevitably rediscovered Witchcraft, and its
rightful place in our society. Paganism is not a euphemism
for Witchcraft; "Pagan" refers to the entire cultural/religious
matrix of Nature-focused orientation. Witchcraft was not,
traditionally, a religion per se, but a practice, an art, a role
within the context of a Pagan community. While modern
Witchcraft has, in fact, evolved into a religion unto itself, it
retains a strong identification with its shamanic roots, and
aspires to once again serve that original function within the
greater community.
     So does it really matter whether modern Neo-
Paganism, or modern Witchcraft, can claim an unbroken
succession from those ancient times, before the Burning,
before the Conquest? Does it matter whether Gerald
Gardner made it all up, or whether we are even now making
it up as we go along? I think not. The essence is more
important than the form, and adopted children can belong
to a family just as much as the natural kids. The ancients
got their religion directly from Nature. As we do also, so
are we one with them.