For 3 years, I have been wandering cluelessly in and out of such thing as paganism.
The urged picked up again this spring (when I found out about PantheaCon a day before).
Soon I realized I should write about this as a Chinese book.
First, I am only talking about western paganism. That is the path I’m seeking.
Second, let’s look at the available resources on western paganism in Taiwan (or Chinese information).
Alternative religion is never an idea that occurs to people. Buddhism and Christianity are pervasive in Taiwan, but never called to me. The closest idea we have are fantasy games & novels, tarot cards, and religious scams.
So the only way to satisfy my affinity with the elementals are through RPG games, with mythology through novels and movies, with faeries through children’s books, and not much of spirituality.
As I research on Celtic faerie faith and nature-based spirituality, I started Googling in Chinese too. The information is scarce. There are tons of discussion on tarot, but that’s another area. Others are divination and spell-heavy, which speaks too much of the supernatural. Most Googling just turn up information on games and animations. Almost nothing connected to practical everyday life or even spirituality.
There are a few self-proclaimed witches that seems to be in good practice, although few. All of those I came across call themselves witches, but seem to focus on skills more than theological or spiritual work.
The spiritual section of bookstores are filled with subjects like Bhuddism, tarot, astrology and divination, cosmology, past life and some new age hard subjects. Nothing close to goddess religion, earth-based spirituality, paganism, or even Wicca; not to mention Druidry — that only exists in Diablo and WoW.
Greek, Scandinavian and Celtic mythology can be found in classic literature sections of course, but are never imagined applicable to everyday lives in Taiwan. It’s no surprise, since those deities are so far far far away!
Chinese medicine, Chinese health and healing like qigong and herbal medicine are ubiquitous, but do not imply spiritual beliefs or western influences.
As for local faiths: considering how rich and expansive Chinese mythology is, not many gods are applied to modern spirituality. Many deities worshipped today are human-turned gods, with strong connection to some kind of function: good business, good test results, good lover. Ancestry connection is very strong too of course. For many people, they teach goodness. But from my point of view, they are more functional and gift-granting than spiritual. I’m not going to give too many general ideas, because my family is not very religious and are not involved in local faiths when I was young, so I probably don’t present a fair view on local Chinese deities and spiritual practices.
But anyway, western earth-based spirituality doesn’t really exist in Taiwan. People can accept after life, divination, power of crystals, but witches? Rituals and ecstasy dance? Casting the circle and calling in elements? Cities of the faeries? People would be genuinely concerned you’ve fallen into cultish scam or becoming delusional. I’d say this partially reflects our ignorance towards the aboriginal peoples on our own island too, who practice animism and shamanism not unlike aboriginals of the rest of the world.
So these are the reasons to introduce neo-paganism: because people are not aware of them at all!
To increase awareness is my call to add to the diversity in Taiwanese culture. Tear down those stereotypes and discrimination formed purely out of ignorance!
And to be fair, witches, healers, spiritual souls and environmental activists are emerging in enormous speed in Taiwan. Many has already working with the same calling, and some working to connect traditional practice with neo-paganism. It’s just that the stories, ideas and practices are not obvious in print yet to enable acceptance and conversation.
I didn’t expect this piece to be so long. Oops! So the next article will really be about my book’s message, framework, and scope.