We're of the old religion, sired of Time ...
The following piece was written by Tony Kelly in the 1970s and given the title ‘Introduction’ and later ‘Sentiment’. It has appeared since both in print and on the Internet with the title ‘Book of Shadows’. It is no such thing. It was written to attract people who responded to its ‘sentiment’ in the hope that such people would help build The PAGAN MOVEMENT, but later Tony Kelly felt that it had attracted too many ‘consumers’ of such sentiment rather than active pagans, and therefore doubted its usefulness. It is republished here more for the record than anything else as it is the most well-known piece of writing from the Pagan Movement. Later pieces will explore the theology developed in the more demanding way that the Movement’s Ethos Group felt to be necessary.
We're of the old religion, sired of Time, and born of our beloved Earth Mother. For too long the people have trodden a stony path that goes only onward beneath a sky that goes only upward. The Horned God plays in a lonely glade for the people are scattered in this barren age and the winds carry his plaintive notes over deserted heaths and reedy moors and into the lonely grasses. Who knows now the ancient tongue of the Moon? And who speaks still with the Goddess? The magic of the land of Faerie and the old pagan gods have withered in the dragon's breath; the old ways of magic have slipped into the well of the past, and only the rocks now remember what the moon told us long ago, and what we learned from the trees and the voices of grasses and the scents of flowers.
We're pagans and we worship the pagan gods, and among the people there are witches yet who speak with the moon and dance with the Horned One. But a witch is a rare pagan in these days, deep and inscrutable, recognisable only by her own kind, by the light in her eyes and the lilt of her tongue, by the love in her breast and the magic in her hands, by the pads of her feet and by the things she knows. But there are pagans the world over who worship the Earth Mother and the Sun, the Rain God and the Rainbow Goddess, the Horned God of the forest and the Moon Goddess, people who have come to that dreaded pool on the lonely mountain road where the Hag labours for the coming dead, and people who have been with the Green Lady of the ferns and into the mists with the Tylwyth Teg. A pagan is one who worships the goddesses and gods of nature, whether by observation or by study, whether by love or by admiration, or whether in their sacred rites with the Moon or the great festivals of the Sun.
Many years ago, as the pale dawn of reason crept across the pagan sky, man grew out of believing in the gods. He has yet to grow out of disbelieving in them. He who puts riddles to the gods and asks them whether they are, or whether they are not, will earn himself only paradoxes, for the gods are not so divided, nor the magic lands that beckon through the mist. Does a mind exist? Ask her and she will tell you yes, but seek her out and she'll elude you. She is in every place and in no place and you'll see her works in all places but herself in none. Existence was the second-born from the Mother's womb and contains neither the first-born nor the unborn. Show us your mind and we'll show you the gods! No matter that you can't for we can't show you the gods. But come with us where we go and the Goddess herself will be our love and the God will call the tune. But a brass penny for your reason! For logic is a closed ring, and the child doesn't bring forth the Mother, nor the dream the dreamer. And what matter the wars of opposites to she who has fallen in love with the whirlwind or to the lover of the arching rainbow.
Tell us of the Goddess as you love her, and the gods who guide your works, and we'll listen with wonder, for to do less would be arrogant. But we'll do more, for the heart of man is aching for memories only half forgotten and the Old Ones only half unseen. We'll write the old myths as they were always written and we'll read them on the rocks and in the caves and in the deep of the greenwood's shade, and we'll read them in the rippling mountain streams and in the rustling of the leaves, and we'll see them in the storm clouds, and glimpse them in the evening mists. Our religion was born when the hills were born and comes to us ever new, from the buds as they open, from the flowers as they unfold, from the call of the owl in the darkness, and the rush of the river onward. The moods of the gods are as the wild scents, and there's no scent of the wild so lovely as their mingling. We would no more bring the differences of worship together than we would crowd each valley with the wild things of all valleys, for there is no mood of the Goddess more lovely than her mood where we find her, in her own land, among her own things that of old were dear to her there.
What need is there for a pagan movement since our religion has no teachings and we hear it in the wind and feel it in the stones and the Moon will dance with us as she will? There is a need. For long the Divider has been among our people and our tribes are now no more. The sons of the Sky Father have all but conquered nature, but they have poisoned her breast and the Mother is sad for the butterflies are dying and the night draws on. A curse shall lie on the conquerors, for they curse themselves, for they are nature too. They have stolen our magic and sold it to the mindbenders and the mindbenders tramp a maze that has no outlet for they fear to go down into the dark waters, and they fear the real for the One who stands on the path.
Where are the pagan shrines? And where do the people gather? Where is the magic made? And where are the Goddess and the Old Ones? Our shrines are in the fields and on the mountains, in the stars and in the wind, deep in the greenwood and on the algal rocks where two streams meet. But the shrines are deserted, and if we gathered in the arms of the Moon as we did of old, we would be stopped by the dead who now rule in the Goddess' land and claim rights of ownership on the Mother's breast, and make laws of division and frustration for us. We can no longer gather with our gods in a public place and the old rites of communion have been driven from the towns and cities ever deeper into the heath where barely a handful of heathens have remained to guard the old ways and enact the old rites. There is magic in the heath far from the cold grey society, and there are islands of magic hidden in the entrails of the metropolis behind closed doors, but the people are few and the barriers between us are formidable. For many, the old religion has become a dark way, obscure, and hidden in the protective bosom of the night. Thin fingers turn the pages of a book of shadows while the Sun seeks in vain his worshippers in the leafy glades.
Here then is a reason for a Pagan Movement. We must create a society wherein everyone shall be free to worship the goddesses and gods of nature, and the relationship between a worshipper and her gods shall be sacred and inviolable.
It's not yet our business to press the law-makers with undivided endeavour to unmake the laws of repression and, with the Mother's love, it may never become our business for the stifling tides of dogmatism are at last already in ebb. Our first work and our greatest wish is to come together in our tribes and feel again the tribal currents flow. We're of the Earth, and sibs to all the children of wild nature, born long ago in the pregnant mud of the Sun-warmed pools; we were together then, and we were together in the rain forests long before that dark day when, forgetful of a Mother's love, we killed her earlier-born children and impoverished the genetic pool. The Red Child remembers yet the Ones who went before; the old Australians live still with the nature gods; in the wild paths of
the Old Ones still walk the land, and the White Child still has a foot on the old wiccan way. But Neanderthaler is no more and her magic faded as the Lli and the Archan burst their banks and the ocean flowed in to divide the Isle of Erin from the Land of the Blessed Goddess. India
Man looked with one eye on a two-faced god when he reached for the heavens and scorned the Earth which alone is our life and our provider and the bosom to which we have ever returned since the dawn of time. He who looks only to reason to plumb the unfathomable is a fool, for logic is an echo already implicit in the question and it has no voice of its own; but he is no greater fool than he who scorns logic or derides its impotence from afar but fears to engage in fair combat when he stands on his opponent's threshold. Don't turn your back on Reason, for his thrust is deadly; but confound him and he'll yield for his code of conduct is honourable. So here is more of the work of the Pagan Movement. Our lore has become encrusted over the ages with occult trivia and the empty vapourings of the lost. The occult arts are in a state of decadence; astrology is in a state of disrepute and fears to confront the statistician's sword; alien creeds oust our native arts and, being as little understood as our own forgotten arts, are just as futile for their lack of understanding, and more so for their unfamiliarity. Misunderstanding is rife. Disbelief is black on every horizon, and vampires abound on the blood of the credulous. Our work is to reject the trivial, the irrelevant and the erroneous, and to bring the lost children of the Earth Mother again into the court of the Sky Father where reason alone will avail. Belief is the deceit of the credulous; it has no place in the heart of a pagan.
But while we are sad for those who are bemused by Reason, we are deadened by those who see no further than his syllogisms as he turns the eternal wheel of the Great Tautology. We were not fashioned in the mathematician's computations, and we were old when the first alchymist was a child. We have walked in the magic forest, bewitched in the old Green Thinks; we have seen the cauldron and the one become many and the many in the one; we know the Silver Maid of the moonlight and the sounds of the cloven feet. We have heard the pipes on the twilight ferns, and we've seen the spells of the Enchantress, and time be stilled. We've been into eternal darkness where the Night Mare rides and ridden her to the edge of the abyss, and beyond, and we know the dark face of the Rising Sun..... Spin a spell of words and make a magic knot; spin it on a magic loom and spin it with the gods. Say it in the old chant and say it to the Goddess, and in her name. Say it to a dark well and breathe it on a stone..... There are no signposts on the untrod way, but we'll make our rituals together and bring them as our gifts to the Goddess and to the God in the great rites.
Here then is our work in the Pagan Movement; to make magic in the name of our gods, to share our magic where the gods would wish it, and to come together in the old ways in the festivals of birth, and life, of death and of taking back into the womb. We'll write the rituals that can be shared in the written word and tell of those that can't be written; and of those that can't be told, we'll take you with us where you'll learn them. We'll do all in our power to bring the people together, to teach those who would learn, and to learn from those who can teach. We will initiate groups, bring people into groups and groups to other groups in our devotion to the Goddess and the God of nature.
We'll collect the myths of the ages, of our people and of the people of other lands, and we'll study the books of the wise and we'll talk to the very young. And whatever a pagan needs in her study or her worship, it is our concern and the Movement's business to provide it. If you wish to go the whole way and form a coven, we'll help with that too though few there are who know what this means. But we can't make witches, or wizards. They're born. Nor can we make you a pagan soul; but we can help you to find your pagan soul if you've lost it, and that's almost everybody.
We are committed with the lone pagan on the sea shore, with he who worships in the fastness of the mountain range. We are committed with the wanderer, and equally with the prisoner, disinherited from the Mother's milk in the darkness of the industrial towns. We are committed too with the coven, with the dance in the ring in the arms of the moon, and with the great festivals of the sun and the gatherings of the people. We are committed to build our temples in the towns and in the wilderness, and to buy lands and streams to be shrines for the Goddess, and we'll replant the greenwood as it was of old, for love of the woodland stillness, and for love of our children's children.
When the streams flow clear and the winds blow pure and fragrant, when the sun never more rises unrenowned nor the moon ride in the skies unloved; when the stones tell of the Horned God and the greenwood grows deep to call back her own, then will our work be ended and the Pagan Movement will return to the beloved womb of the old religion, to the nature gods of paganism.
All love to the Green Lady
All power to the mighty Sun