Advocating for Pagan Children in Public Schools by Aurora Lightbringer – from Patheos

Advocating for Pagan Children in Public Schools

via Bobby Sipes on the Religious Tolerance group on Facebook:

For those in the US and possibly other school systems who may have children struggling within religious biased systems. While primarily focused towards Pagan families it can perhaps offer some insights others could use to approach the school system in a rational way. I would also appreciate any thoughts others may have had when facing situations that challenge their kids within schools whether atheist, pagan, Christian, Muslim or any other faith. Looking for common ground here.

Aurora Lightbringer is an artist, author, and Pagan mom who wanted to create a series of books dedicated to young people growing up in Earth-centered faith traditions. She is a community leader who is a National Board Certified Teacher, volunteer, consultant to a non-profit and part of a leadership team of a Pagan circle. She recently published her first children’s book The Wheel of the Year (available on and is working with a committee to create PKIPS (Pagan Kids in Public Schools) which will be a resource for Pagan families navigating the public school system. To find out more and to read some of Aurora’s work for grown-ups, visit:

Reconsidering Hell


Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate.

Hell, as the temporary or eternal destination of a soul after this life is ended, has never been a part of my personal religious beliefs — not even when I was numbered among the Christians.  Whatever else awaits — or does not — the Divine of my understanding would not assign such a fate or entertain the existence of a place, state of being, or destination for maximizing suffering.

That said, I am, of course, aware of the role and lore of Hell in our culture.  I have read the Revelation of John, the Inferno of Dante, and the popular media of centuries.  I recognize a need and a role in religion for Judgment, for weighing the effects of a person’s actions over a lifetime for good or for ill.  I do not agree that such a Judgment requires an available penalty such as eternity in Hell.

When questioned about the Hereafter, I must honestly say that I do not know what happens to the soul of an individual when this life is over, when the soul passes through the Veil between this life and whatever lies beyond.  I am quite certain that no one else can speak with absolute confidence, either, because anyone here present and able to speak has not yet made that full transition. We rely on near-death experiences, dreams, stories, messages from Beyond, and beliefs in abundance — as well as firm faith in promises made and embraced.

The best we can manage is confidence that there is Something beyond the Veil — and we find comfort in knowing that Something as the Summerlands, Valhalla, Heaven, the Beyond, the Hereafter, or Paradise.  Its existence is consistent with threads and themes in religions around the world and throughout humankind.  I neither confirm nor deny its existence.  Instead, I encourage expecting peace and oneness with the Infinite and with all who have gone before as the dying approach and finally pass the Veil. In compassion, I can do no less.

Until now, I have denied the existence of Hell.

On the one hand, in seeking to bring about the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, we recognize the goal can, at best, be approximated this side of the Veil, and we can work toward it.  Hell, on the other hand, exists and is manifest in the here-and-now.  Hell on Earth is far more real than any hope of Heaven on Earth — and more so, as time goes on.  We have created Hell, and it shows no sign of disappearing.

And consignment of a soul to Hell does not seem to depend on the merits or actions of the individual during this lifetime.  Indeed, babies and small children are among the innocents most likely to suffer Hell’s torments without hope until an early demise or, worse, a continuing lifetime of pain inflicted not by a punitive God but by their parents, caregivers, peers, teachers, and other humans — sometimes in ignorance, sometimes in neglect, and often with intent.

Until we put as much of ourselves into creating Paradise, we can at least acknowledge the experience of Hell and reach out to free the souls therein to life on Earth.

Mysticism – the Divine Path – Part 1 | Dylan Morrison ~ The Prodigal Prophet

Mysticism – the Divine Path – Part 1 | Dylan Morrison ~ The Prodigal Prophet.


Mysticism as a word derives from the Mystery cults of Ancient Greece. Secret societies/cults promised to initiate the recruit into the ‘deeper Mysteries’ of the cosmos.

However the mystical experience itself can be traced back into the mists of time as an altered state of consciousness that somehow connects one with Ultimate Reality behind  the Universe.

Mysticism is, in its essence, an experience of such a connectedness and not primarily a belief in such a possibility. Hence it is rarely found within religious or spiritual groups of ‘believers’ who take their cue from sacred scriptures or holy writings rather than personal experience.

Musings on compassion — by Aed Dubh

Hughby Aed Dubh

This is the first in a series of posts I’m digging out of my LJ archive because I think they have relevance here…

People are all exactly alike. There’s no such thing as a race and barely such a thing as an ethnic group. If we were dogs we’d be the same breed. George Bush and an Australian aborigine have fewer differences than a lhasa apso and a toy fox terrier. A Japanese raised in Riyadh would be an Arab. A Zulu raised in New Rochelle would be an orthodontist. I wish I could say I found this out by spending arctic nights on ice floes with Inuit elders and by sitting with tribal medicine men over fires made of human bones in Madagascar. But, actually, I found it out by sleeping around. People are the same, though their circumstances differ terribly.

– P. J. O’Rourke

Most dictionary entries trace the etymology of “compassion” to the Latin word compati, “sympathy”- com “together” + pati “suffer”. But it also seems to be a “loan-translation” from the Greek word sympatheia, which means essentially the same thing… although the root pathos means “feeling” in general as much as “suffer”. “Sympathy” in English first had a magical connotation, as in “sympathetic magic”, then gradually came to also mean “fellow feeling” and the like.

This bit of word-trivia has been a guide while I’ve been trying to come to grips with the concept of “compassion”, and what it means to me. It’s one of those words that are bandied about too often, with the definition changing to suit the user; portrayed as strength or weakness, virtue or vice by turns. So I’ve felt compelled to come up with a definition that works for me:

It is not an action in and of itself, but a state from which one acts, that can inform and animate ones actions. And of course, the lack of compassion can do the same.

For me, one of the most important manifestations of compassion is the acknowledgment of the humanity of other human beings. Most if not all of the greatest crimes of human history come from the denial of humanity in others. When we demonize another person or nationality, objectify another race or culture, this is where true evil comes in- not the grandiose Luciferian sort, or the alien Lovecraftian sort, but the brutal banality of Orwell’s 1984 or the ugly hysteria of Rwanda or the Sudan.

How often do you hear “those people just aren’t human” or “anyone who would do that is just an animal” or “He was a monster!”? We use these phrases and others to distance ourselves from others’ actions when we find those actions repugnant. We don’t like to think that the people who rape and murder and commit other atrocities are just as human as we are… much less vice versa. Not a comfortable thing, not at all.

More pernicious is when the non-compassionate mindset is used for the sake of profit or convenience. When factories re-locate to third-world countries because costs are lower there, and turn a blind eye to the horrible conditions in their factories.

This isn’t a strict guideline; no important choices are ever easy. Compassion does not tie our hands; it is not a weakness. We still must judge between actions and between people. Compassion is fundamentally a form of understanding. It’s important to remember that to understand is not (necessarily) to approve; that to explain is not to excuse. We can forgive without leaving ourselves vulnerable- “trust but verify” is a fine rule of thumb, as long as its cynicism is balanced by compassion.

Compassion is not a justification for universal pacifism. It is not a crutch, or an excuse for inaction. Sometimes it may be necessary to harm another human, even kill them, for the greater good. Adding compassion to the equation will not necessarily change that. In many cases, the action taken must be instinctive and decisive.

But the justification for such acts should never be “they were Moslem/Christian/Communist/Capitalist/
Black/White/etc. and therefore aren’t really people anyway.” And if the principle of compassion is added to the decision-making process that comes before the need for harmful action, perhaps the need for harmful action itself can be reduced.

Compassion also applies to positive actions- charity, mercy, hospitality, and the like. I think it is true that an act of generosity is as much for the benefit of the giver as of the recipient. But if that act is motivated by condescension or self-importance, or even worse by schadenfreude, it harms both the subject and the object. This is not a call for altruism- that’s a different and IMHO more contentious topic. But I think that compassion can provide the enlightenment for enlightened self-interest.

Like any guiding principle, compassion should not be the only think to rule one’s life. Extreme selflessness can be as bad as extreme selfishness. I believe in a dynamic balance in this as in all things. But compassion is an important touchstone nonetheless.

Compassion is one of the higher functions, like love, or creativity, or “common sense”- something that lifts us above the brute reactive mode, the fight-or-flight instinct, the herd impulses of fear and comfort. The new era dawning demands this sort of response- an emphasis on connection to compensate for the increasing plurality and disintermediation, an emphasis on personal responsibility to replace or at least supplement the fading standards of the hierarchical era.

Of course, like so many things, this a goal to strive for, and one that we all will fail to achieve at first. No, I’m not there yet myself- as in so many other things, I’ve only taken the first few baby steps on the path. But the recognition of the need for compassion, and the striving for it- it’s a good start.

* I do not deny the possibility of compassion for animals, or at least some of them. But that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms, and one I’m not going to address here.