Why I am a Canaanite Pagan and Witch

I have considered myself a Pagan and a Witch since I was at least 8 years old. Here's a little bit about my background, my spiritual search, why I am a Pagan, why a Witch, and now why Canaaite Pagan.


Why A Pagan?

I have had a spiritual sense ever since i was very small. My immediate family is rather anti-religion, so i was raised with no religious training or education, as well as little sense that any one religion was better than another. As a child I was drawn to Paganism because it honored the female and the feminine as sacred, something the monotheisms that dominate Western culture and much of the rest of the world do not do institutionally, with their male prophets and religious leaders. Females figure only peripherally, usually as subservient appendages of potent men. I was more or less a classical Greek Pagan, since that was the kind about which I knew most.

I read what i could, but all of it seemed tainted by an intolerant and misunderstanding Christian perspective. Knowing little of Hinduism and the other places in the world where people continue to practice their indigenous religions, by the early 1960s i assumed there were no more Pagans and began to search for an existing religion that i could stand. At first i read about Western religions, various flavors of Christianity, none of which were even tolerable except for the Unitarian-Universalists who had just joined forces at that time and were much more narrow than they are today. At least Judaism didn't have Christ, but there were many things about it that were unsatisfactory. Baha'i was appealing, but though its stated tenets included equality of males and females, i saw that in practice the leaders were still men.

Buddhism began to creep up on me. I had identified myself as a beatnik when i was in junior high, but the form most well known was Zen, beautiful in its own way, but too austere for me, an intense sensualist. In the mid-to late-60s Hinduism exploded into Western view, with its many off-shoots and some unfortunate manipulating pseudo-gurus taking advantage of ignorant Europeans and Americans. I could never take the role of obediant chela, and while the practices of Hatha Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness are very helpful, many other aspects of the religious culture held little appeal for me. I also explored Taoism, whose poetry and principles are lovely and unifiying, but in historical practice, sexist and elitist. At the same time i discovered Tibetan Buddhism, which i continue to study, with its rich language and imagery, and connections with indigenous Tibetan shamanism, paganism, and magic.


Why A Witch?

This may be a bit more difficult to explain. I always felt like an outsider in my own culture. While i did not deny my sexual nature, spending my days in conversations about boys, parties, and clothes was of no interest to me. These were the prevailing topics of 10 year old girls even in the late 1950s. I possess an intense intellectual curiosity and devour books and ideas, so i read voraciously, a habit i still have. I love art and enjoy immersing myself in the symbols and images, textures and colors of many ages and cultures, so i looked at art books, drew and painted, and haunted museums when i could. I collected the cards paint manufacturers make with their paint colors on them, and i used to play with them, each different color having a its own voice and personality. I am extremely moved by music on a very "gut" level, certain sonorities can bring me to tears, and i cannot resist moving to pronounced rhythms, so i played piano, especially Beethoven and Chopin, sang in the school chorus, and listened to recorded classical, jazz, and folk music. I acted out scenes in private and performed in children's theater during the summers. And finally, while i am not a "sporty" sort of person, nor interested in living in the wilderness, as a child i spent much time walking in the woods and wild places near my home, hours alone talking to plants and imagining i was in a different world than the pretentious suburb in which i lived.

I think these all contributed to my sense of myself as a Witch, someone who can appreciate and participate in their own culture but lives a bit on the edge of it, who can sense the other worlds layered with those most evident to people of limited consciousness, who can feel the life even in a stone and talk to plants, who experiments with cooking and chemistry to produce magic. For me there is always something magical in the world. It has nothing to do with "supernatural" and everything to do with the ultimate nature of reality.

By the late 1960s and early 1970s I found that there were other Witches, but I did not feel a great affinity for their traditions -- chiefly Traditional Wicca -- and continued on my own path. I spent the mid- to late-70s working on my B.A. and M.A., both multicultural and interdisciplinary. I eventually joined the larger Neopagan community in the early 1980s, by which time it was much more heterogeneous and heterodox. I became High Priestess of a very ideosyncratic non-traditional coven which celebrated with great childlike mystery and glee.


Why A Canaanite?

My family is Jewish in origin. It is not, however, religious, not having practiced for several generations. And to be perfectly frank, i think the current politics of Israel STINK! They are racist, small minded, and short sighted. I can understand the fear of terrorism, but the oppression and destruction the government inflicts on the Palestinians is intolerable, for they have at least as much right to live a free and full life there as the domineering Jews. By constantly denying the rights and livelihood of the Palestinians, the government feeds terrorists whose goal is to prevent a peaceful settlement. So the Israeli government is playing right along with them. And the dominant Ashkenazi culture even treats Jews badly if they are Sephardim, Mizrachim, and from other parts of the world, such as Ethiopia. Well, enough of this here. The Near Eastern peoples might benefit if they could all learn a little tolerance.

To me, one of the major goals of Neopaganism is integration of the various aspects of one’s being -- physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual -- including one’s ancestral heritage, although one is not required to follow the ancient religion of one’s antecedents. Eventually it seemed important to me to come to terms with my religious heritage, monotheistic and patriarchal though it is. Therefore, I began to explore Judaism to see what was in it to which I could relate. I learned that it is a religion with many wonderful songs and stories, and a heartening respect for education, and even marvelous mystical tales which honor the Earth and our connection with it. One does not, however, have to accept blindly its ways, for questioning authority is also one of the great traditions of Judaism. I discovered passionate and caring people among practicing or only slightly-lapsed Jews, many of whom also felt the need to create a Judaism without biases of "race," gender, or sexual preference, a Judaism which was more participatory and ecstatic, especially in the Jewish Renewal movement. A number of these people are among my Pagan and Witch acquaintances (JAPs [Jewish American Pagans] and Jewitches). I put "race" in quotes because there is only one human race; what are called "races" are ethnic traits, but ultimately we are all one.

I joined a Rosh Chodesh group lead by a woman rabbi who was trained as in the old days, by another rabbi, not in a rabbinical school. Rosh Chodesh is an ancient Jewish tradition of honoring the New Moon with singing and dancing, undoubtedly Pagan in origin, as the New Moon signals the beginning of the month in many Near Eastern calendars and it was a special day for offerings. Among modern Jewry, however, Rosh Chodesh had become a very minor or even non-celebrated holiday. It is one of the holidays being renewed by contemporary Jews, as well as upheld by Near Eastern Pagans.

I noticed that many Jewish holidays fell near Solstices and Equinoxes, and in studying them, it became apparent that they obviously had ancient Pagan origins, although these were either denied or clothed in pseudo-history.

The next logical step for me was to involve myself in the Paganism of the lands of my ancestors, and explore the ways of the ancient Canaanites, Phoenicians, and other Levantines. Several of the most important Neoplatonic philosophers were Levantine: Iamblichus of Chalcis and Porphyry of Tyre. And i suspect Levantine and Neoplatonic influence on what was to become the Qabalah. The character of the Canaanites -- as it emerges from history, archaeology, and even the writing of their enemies -- appeals to me greatly: more interested in exchange than war, willing to compromise to a point to maintain peace, and willing to defend themselves unflinchingly past that point; daring, creative, syncretic, intelligent, intense, ecstatic; neither followers nor leaders, but finding their own path through the known and unknown worlds.


A Canaanite in California? It's Logical:
The Left Coast is Like Lebanon

In addition, i live in California. Most holidays are celebrated as if we are in North Western Europe. This makes perfect sense if one lives in a typical temperate climate, but most of California is Mediterranean, from the arid south, much like the Sinai to the forested north, like Lebanon must once have been before most of the trees were cut down and the mountains deforested. Canaan and the Levant are at exactly the same latitude on the globe! The weather patterns are incredibly similar. Even the geography, with the narrow coast, coastal mountain range, central watered valley, and inland mountain range are the same (although the California mountains get higher).

Why celebrate the frigid northern snows and barren landscape of, say, Germany in December, when all around us the grass has become a bright green carpet, the small number of deciduous trees are bursting into bud, and the roses are fragrantly blooming? It makes NO SENSE to me! If we are truly practicing a "Nature religion," an "Earth religion," what the *#@&% are we doing celebrating seasons we DON'T have??? Here is another reason for me to be Canaanite. While this is not the reason my Canaanite friends celebrate in Minnesota and New Jersey, it is one more additional possible reason for people who live in places like Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, at least. I know some of them have snow, but so do the mountains of Lebanon, where they have ski resorts. The climate in none of these places is the typical 4-season temperate climate of Europe nor the American Midwest or Northeast. If you live in a Mediterranean, semi-arid, or arid climate, adapting aspects of Canaanite paganism is worth considering.


I am not an Apostate!
I practice no Apostasy!

Since i've never been of any other religion, and nearly always been a Pagan and Witch, I am not a lost sheep!!! There is no fold to try to draw me into!!! This is what i've always been, as long as i have studied and practiced any religion or spiritual form. I am my own shepherd, so to speak. Ultimately, i am more mystic, i suppose, as some visitors to the Temple here have pointed out in some of the wonderful e-mail i have exchanged with them. I guess i am something of a non-theistic monistic pantheist. Then again, one friend has called me a poly-atheist and another has called me an atheo-pagan.


What does all this have to do with
YOU the Visitor?

What if you are not a Pagan or Witch? If you have stayed here this long, here are a few more ways you might be able to relate to the material presented here.

Of course, Christianity has its roots in the ancient Near East. The earliest Christian church differed little from Judaism except for the belief that Yeheshuah (Jesus is its Greek form), a Jew by birth, was the Messiah. Paul changed that after the Romans had wiped out the original leaders of the church, such as Jesus’s brother "James," because Jewish law was so demanding with its food restrictions, for example, and, ugh, male circumcision (especially painful for adults) -- and that made it hard for Paul to acquire a following. He made the rules more lenient so the Pagan Gentiles had an easier time converting. The early church originally included both male and female religious officiants, but women were prohibited from holding this role after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity has not been able to throw off all vestiges of its Near Eastern origin, however, being tied to the story of death and resurrection which is such a common theme in Ancient Near Eastern Pagan mythology. Thus, information on the Ancient Middle East is valuable to people whose religious heritage is Christian.

Islam, too, is a Near Eastern religion, being closely related to Judaism as a legalistic as well as spiritual institution. Medieval Islam valued education and learning much more than medieval Christianity, and encouraged study and experimentation in a variety of fields, such as mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry, to which all humans owe Islamic culture a great debt. The Arabic scholars preserved ancient Greek manuscripts, which the Christian institutions in Europe had destroyed. Much ancient magical belief is embedded in the traditional practices of people in Islamic cultures, although little is overt in Quranic literature. Islamic magic was an important source for European magicians, as scholars began translating manuscripts from Arabic into Spanish and Latin the thirteenth century. Traditions of music and dance also preserve the ancient ecstatic traditions, finding continuity in Sufism and so-called "belly" dance.

There are Levantine connections to Egyptian and Mesopotamian politics, economics, religion, and magic. And although the actual proof is tenuous, there is even the possibility of a link to the South Asian subcontinent. Certainly the Phoenicians traded with India for silk and spices and other luxury goods; being eclectic, they likely borrowed some ideas and practices -- it is documented that the Hellenistic Egyptians, with whom the Levantines enjoyed great commerce and some of whom were of Levantine origin, were familiar with Buddhism. Ultimately, this site has, i hope, something in it for nearly everyone, or at least quite a few.



For a complete list of and links to all the rooms in this Temple:
THE TEMPLE DIRECTORY

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