I’ve been putting off my research for comparative theology until now, hoping that my health would improve and make the thought of being in random public places tolerable. I’d been considering a trip to a coworker’s Christian church, as well as the Buddhist temple on the edge of Killeen. That being said, I’m tired of waiting to be healthy enough for travel; I’ve decided to explore some smaller, quirkier paths instead.
The paths I’ve decided to research are Jediism, Ár nDraíocht Féin (Neopagan Druidry), and the Missionary Church of Kopimism. I chose these groups for mixed reasons. Jediism just sounded interesting; I may be a Trekkie, but I like the idea that people can find spirituality in science fiction and fantasy genres. I’ve run across the ADF many times on blogs and sites I’ve visited, but I’ve never really looked into what they practice or stand for. Kopimism is a strange little Swedish church I ran across while googling randomness; I liked the philosophy I saw on Wikipedia, so I decided to dive further.
Right off the bat, I was intrigued to see how many of the items listed in the Jedi doctrine fit with my own beliefs. They’re reminiscent of the beliefs of Asatru as well, when it comes to protecting others, honor, and wise action. The Temple of the Jedi Order has an elaborate online system for training Novices, and my perusal of their sections made me want to actually follow through and complete them! For example, the first lesson in the Novice level is Myth, and it uses audio/video from Joseph Campbell interviews to discuss the importance of myth. Journaling is key, and I find a strong familiarity in that compared to my own Rainbow Year with the coven.
If I had never heard of Jedis or Star Wars, I might’ve thought this path to be a good fit for myself. The combination of pacifism and activism is well balanced, at least in theory. They talk about equality and protecting others on one hand, then emphasize cautious in over-action on the other. Don’t march off into a fight, choose your battles accordingly, etc. The Force is essentially the same as saying “the Universe”, as both are generally a term explaining the huge interconnected existence we live in. In a way, Jediism reflects parts of animism; you respect the earth, other creatures, and people as they are connected to you and deserving of positive treatment. A few random beliefs unique to Jediism include:
- Explicit rejection of torture, cruel/unusual punishment, and the death penalty – this isn’t commonly pinned down in religions, as personal views usually take precedent
- A focus on social and legal justice and equality, including equal rights for women, LGBTQ, and other religions – they distinctly mention the need for separation of church and state
- Teachings that focus on ideas both secular and spiritual in nature – for example, a Jedi is expected to be patient, understand their limitations, and guard peace in whatever way they can (helping others, using their skills wisely). There are Jedi who use the path as a secular guidance system, focusing on how to better themselves and society through being a good example and through good actions.
I have noticed in my research that they aren’t really ones to use ritual and ceremony for religious expression. They have sermons and meditations, as well as reciting parts of their doctrine or creed. In this way, they’re more similar to small church Christianity and Unitarian Universalism in the act of sharing thoughts and philosophies with the community but practicing most spiritual aspects internally or in private.
Ár nDraíocht Féin – http://www.adf.org
I’ve heard of ADF many times on blogs and forums over the years. Not being particularly drawn to Celtic or Welsh deities, though, I tend to scroll on by and look for whatever I’m actually seeking. That said, ADF is actually a very open pagan path, compared to the more strictly guided path I expected from druidry (old or new).
ADF beliefs encompass many of the usual pagan ideas: spirit is everywhere, religious freedom is a must, and we each hold the power to fix and change the world around us (as opposed to needing intermediaries or supplications to a god/goddess for assistance).
Certain religious/ritual practices are familiar-but-different. Rituals are held with open circles, which are sometimes used by other pagan paths like ours; however, the ADF primarily use open circles rather than using them for open rituals or special circumstances. Another familiar practice is the use of ritual liturgy and special words/prayers in ritual. ADF rituals have several groups they make offerings to, something that aligns with reconstructionist groups like Hellenismos more than with groups like Circle of the Midnight Rose. They offer to poetic inspiration, the Outdwellers (troublesome spirits, asked to leave), kindred, the gods, and so forth; in a way, it reads like an Asatru sumbel, toasting various beings and ancestors in honor of their assistance and ongoing blessings.
The most interesting thing I found with ADF is the inclusion of other pantheons. I’d always assumed (from my skimming online) that ADF rituals were always centered on the Gaelic/Welsh/Celtic pantheons. Instead, I’ve found that they allow for the worship of any pantheon; I ran across ADF-approved Hellenic rituals, calls to Zeus and the like. Wow! The core importance in ritual practice is to follow a basic ADF ritual format, rather than to worship specific deities.
It was weird to find a pagan path that rejects (or at least doesn’t use) the traditional four elements in ritual or beliefs. Instead of earth/air/fire/water, they recognize the three realms of sky, land, and sea. In a way, this is beautiful; it reflects the natural world almost better than the usual elements, as we can more easily see and experience those three realms (directly rather than symbolically). They also reflect scientific reality more directly as solid, liquid, and gas. I’ve heard people add plasma to make the four-element layout fit into scientific measures of reality, but they always seem a little forced.
Kopimism is… interesting. The idea is that all knowledge should be freely copied and shared, allowing mankind to grow and flourish with the all-encompassing access to information. In a way, this idea matches the non-spiritual comments from Aaron Swartz (who posted copyrighted articles from journals so that the often tax-funded research would be accessible to those who paid for it). Now, Kopimi practices believe all restrictions on sharing are bad; laws about copyright and pirating are considered “sinful” as it were, because they infringe on this ideal of information for all.Another key part of Kopimism is the integration of science and religion. Some discuss the seasons as a reflection of the Kopimi (“copy me”) beliefs.
- Spring is creativity. New life is everywhere (the copying of genes into a new generation).
- Summer is copying. A seed grows into a plant, and that plant produces copies of itself in a multiplying number on and on. Fertility and sex are both tied to that process.
- Autumn is collaboration. Harvest is a way of working together, and so is the collaboration to create or complete projects.
- Winter is quality. It’s a time for reflection, as winter is a time when natural selection weeds out those strong enough to survive through until spring. It shows that only quality DNA will continue to be copied.
As you can see, these beliefs fit modern paganism quite easily; they also match the natural science of the seasons. I found a Kopimist Gospel, a PDF (freely shared, of course) covering the Kopimi ideals. For example, there are seven historical milestones: fire, language, culture, writing, the printing press, science, and the internet. Each served a purpose toward people being able to copy knowledge and move forward, growing as a species in the process. It’s a beautiful way to look at natural selection and human evolution. Look: “A child learns her first words by copying her parents, just like they once did with theirs. The language belongs to all and none, and that is what gives it value. The more a language is shared, the more valuable it becomes for those who share it. ” That totally makes sense!
In a way, Kopimism fits into any broader spiritual practice. While it stands as a religion on its own (at least in Sweden), it recognizes diversity in a way that allows for the adding of parts and rituals from other sources; there’s an entire section in the gospel and various forums on how “the swarm” (i.e. the majority of Kopimists) will accept or reject an addition with time and use/disuse, because religion is meant to change and grow with its practitioners. Now THAT I can stand by! There isn’t a bunch of complaining or arguing over the proper way to be a Kopimi, unlike the “witch wars” of modern paganism.
These paths are all interesting and unique in their own right, yet all three allow for a practitioner to be both a pagan (Wiccan, Hellenist, witch, etc.) and a member of these paths. Even atheists are welcome, in a fashion, if they feel the philosophies and practices of these paths fit their personal philosophies. None of these paths require an exact belief in deity; instead, they focus on self-discovery, growth, and community support.
There are plenty of similarities between Equitas Veneficii and the above paths. Seeking personal growth, helping others, and a focus on balance/equality fit in nicely with us all. The level of inclusiveness and community supported also matches between the above mentioned paths and EV trad. In ritual, we do differ; EV trad is very much a Wiccan-influenced witchcraft path, compared to the less ritual-heavy elements of Kopimism or Jediism. The ADF have more similarities in their ritual practices, as they hold rituals on the same days and for some of the same reasons as our tradition.
I’d like to explore these paths further over time. In my previous comparative theology research, I was able to use (or attempt) ritual aspects from my chosen paths. In a way, I’ve already done so with Kopimism. I’ve an avid believer in shared experiences and knowledge, so I research and (as they say it) “kopy” information regularly for my own growth and development. Technically, the act of researching and writing this essay (while copying and including the links to my sources) is a form of “kopyacting” or copying something with the intent to continue its existence and make it available to others.
If I were more interested in Star Wars, I’d sincerely consider studying toward apprenticeship within Jediism. While the church isn’t focused on the movies or franchise as a whole, I can’t get past the name and references without my inherent Trekkie bias causing me to wrinkle my nose. The path itself is wonderful, and I might consider revisiting it in the future. If you removed the words “Jedi” and “Force”, everything else was completely familiar and agreeable with my own beliefs and practices.
I might try creating a small ADF-style ritual. Having studied and tested out Asatru previously, the concept of offerings to ancestors and spirits throughout ritual isn’t new; in fact, the hardest part of potentially trying out ADF format is the removal of familiar pieces like the four elements and circle casting. There’s a balance to be struck in feeling like a ritual rather than creating a mild meditation with mead; you’d have to ensure the liturgy and ritual actions fit with whatever focus you’d chosen, in order to make the ritual a cohesive and complete ritual.
As a side note, I find myself more and more inclined to study and try out new practices. It feels like trying on a new outfit at the store. I may not buy it (or buy into the practices long term), but I get a good look at something new and possibly change other aspects of my own practices in the process (like deciding I love to accessorize with infinity scarves, even though I didn’t buy that gorgeous one from Earthbound make out of beads – maybe I prefer thin fabric instead). I’m also a bit of a knowledge dragon, hoarding away tidbits of information without any real expectation of it being directly useful to me, ever.
As I face an approaching move to Washington and the changes that entails, I find myself more focused on figuring out what I want with my life – be it emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually. I have a year to work on my path here, before time and distance make me a solitary practitioner of the EV trad. Reflecting on that, I’ve found the desire to return to the point I was teetering on previously, and then I’d like to follow through and seek second degree. Finally.
Growth and change are good!