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Material Simplicity, Part One

The question of whether or not it is necessary for a Pagan monastic to live a life of scarcity is an interesting one. Most monastic traditions, founded within faiths where spiritual transcendence is often emphasized over physical indulgence, stress an ascetic approach to the material world: simple clothing, a very basic diet, few if any luxuries and a marked lack of personal possessions beyond whatever one needs to perform day to day duties. (As for celibacy, I’ve discussed that elsewhere.) While clothing, food and luxuries are often as dependent on one’s environment and physical health as on one’s financial means, not owning a lot of stuff has seems to be a more unsettling idea to many Pagans than, say, wearing only simple, comfortable garments or abstaining from sugary foods or alcohol. At least, that’s my impression from talking to others and hearing their reactions to the news that I am attempting to live a monastic life.

After all, we live in a dominant culture which tells us every day and in a hundred insidious ways that we are our stuff — and it’s hard to undo that conditioning. And let’s be honest, at first glance being a Pagan seems to be all about the paraphernalia — statues, jewelry, altar items, books, magical tools, herbs, incense, oils, T-shirts with a wind-blown goddess posing under the full moon with a pair of wolves…you get the idea. (I still don’t understand the ginormous pentacles I’ve seen cropping up in occult stores within the last few years, though. Wearing a religious symbol larger than your foot seems a bit much.) Also, as there are gods of wealth in our various pantheons and a high emphasis on property and inheritance in some traditions, some might believe that it would be ungrateful to turn our backs on Their blessings and selfish to deny those things to our heirs, as well as silly to downplay all the hard work which earned that new car and five-bedroom house. And because it is so strongly linked with notions of extreme self-denial, accurately or otherwise, monasticism in general has even been called “un-Pagan” by those who feel that it has no place in a religious milieu where the physical world is viewed as every bit as sacred as the intangible one.

Read the original article at: Twilight and Fire

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