A recent article about our long long legal battle with the Town of Catskill pointed out
“the views and practices of their organization (the Maetreum of Cybele) vary widely from those of many “Pagan” and other minority religious groups”
This is true and it occurs to me a lot of misunderstandings actually surround that basic statement that should be discussed. I was the principle founder of what we call the Cybeline Revival and it does differ in many respects from most of the category it is lumped in with, neo-Paganism. First of all it is a theology based on historic research that tries to re create the basis of the Mother Goddess traditions of the ancient world. It is not about “the craft” as so many modern neo-Pagan groups are. That is not to say our priestesses are not skilled in the craft, most of us are. Rather that witchcraft is not the focus of what we do, what we believe and how we practice.
We are not reconstructionists. We started off with the history we had readily available, primarily the practices common in Greece and Rome during the classical period and our Season of the Tree celebration does reconstruct much of the body of ritual done in Rome as the Meglamensia as a celebration of that. Our goal, from the start, was to restore Mother Goddess theology and practices as if they had not been interrupted for some 1600 years by the attempt to erase us from history by the Catholic church. In order to do that we had to dig deeply into the prior Mother Goddess traditions stretching far back into pre-history, extract the essence and build from that. It is an ongoing process that although I started, is being continued by some of our younger priestesses, one of whom is pursuing that as the basis of her Doctorate.
We are not “Dianics”. Living in a patriarchy and coming from a history where the priestesses were required to be female bodied many confuse us with Dianic practice. Unlike Dianics, we encourage men to participate in our rituals, share our lives and undergo our Mysteries. Yes, we are decidedly pro woman, feminists and about female empowerment but we also acknowledge the historic fact that every single Mother Goddess tradition had transsexual priestesses as well as non-transsexual women priestesses. Dianics can be quite opposed to this fact. Dianics do not allow men to participate in their rituals.
And let's be frank, we are NOT Wiccan. Modern Pagan practices are often confused with Wicca as established by Gardner and later Alex Sanders. I won't get into my own opinions of that practice today which frequently has little in common with it's own rather late to the party roots and is quickly becoming a generic term rather than a specific one. Wicca depends on “the craft” at it's roots and if it has an actual theology, I have failed to find it because it was reclaimed for the most part from European folk magic and middle ages ceremonial magic that arose as opposition to the Catholic church. The so called rede came directly from Alister Crowley, the self styled most evil man in the world. The so called law of three fold return to discourage so called left hand path work (dark magic) is a hold over of the carrot and stick theology of Christianity and based in fear that the quite old association of cursing and witchcraft not be revisited upon them. And finally, in the original Wicca, one had to be initiated into a coven and there was no such thing as solo practice and self initiation, ideas introduced by Scott Cunningham.
The Cybeline Revival is unique in modern Paganism. We are basically monotheistic which I would argue Christianity never was. We re-introduced the ancient practice of Pagan monasticism, but just as in the ancient times not a cloistered monasticism, but very much a part of the world. One does not seek the priestesshood in our tradition as some sort of spiritual merit badge but rather a life long commitment to service towards others so our congregants are just as important in their own right as the priestesses. We don't serve up answers because we believe the Goddess is eminent in all so we teach people to awaken the Goddess within themselves. That means you have to do the work yourself, we just help you do so. Not a recipe for those who were raised in a world that encourages instant gratification to flock to us so we expect our growth to be slow. We believe in balance in the world, in spirituality, in all things so there is a place for light work as well as dark and a time and place for both.
Many Pagan writers have talked about the things that are at the root of our theology, we practice it.