Series: The Erotic Pagans
Titles: Beltane Fires, Samhain Shadows, and Yuletide Temptation
Publisher: Naughty Nights Press...
As a product of the counterculture, I tend to mistrust and avoid institutions. I suspect this is a common attitude among “first generation” NeoPagans in the U.S. We found existing institutions, be they religious, educational, or governmental, to be oppressive, unfulfilling, and irrelevant to the conditions of the world in which we found ourselves.
Let’s face it: established religions such as Christianity in its many forms, were created and gained ascendency in other times and places. There was no threat of nuclear annihilation, no looming environmental degradation, no water shortage, no organ transplants, no vaccinations against such diseases as smallpox and polio. Those religions addressed the concerns of the peoples in other times and places. Further, few of these religious institutions adapted to changing circumstances. Nowadays some are trying to be more relevant, often by adopting practices, such as involving lay people in their rituals and dancing during worship.
In the years since Paganism has become visible, particularly in academia and interfaith, we have gained credibility in the wider world, and although we remain a religious minority, we have not done much in the way of establishing lasting institutions....
For this months shadow card, we find ourselves working with the Hierophant, being represented by the Teaching card from the Snowland Tarot.
In this particular card, we see an owl standing before an open book resting on a tree stump. His audience of forest animals seems attentive as he shares his wisdom while the snow gently falls around them.
After having spent a lovely weekend in Glastonbury with a dear friend, I noticed that there is a lot of focus on the triumvirate of Maiden, Mother and Crone. Walk into any shop and you will find this triple goddess littering shelves, books about these aspects and people talking about where they are in relation to Her....
The winter festival time can be stressful, even for Pagans. Some honor their family’s holiday traditions with a bit of discomfort. Others are caught up in the responsibilities of cooking, baking, gifting and visiting like everyone else.
Whatever you celebrate this time of year, tarot can help you make it more joyful, more inspiring and more fun.
All you need are the Four Aces....
(Artwork by Hannie Sarris).
"Keep this book in your own hand of write. Let brothers and Sisters copy what they will, but never let this book out of your hands, and never keep the writings of another, for if it be found in their hand of write, they may well be taken and tortured. Each should guard his own writings and destroy them whenever danger threatens. Learn as much as you may by heart, and when the danger is past, rewrite your book."...
Though my people are Methodists on one side and Baptists on the other, I was not raised in either church. I got formal religious training from a parochial Lutheran elementary school and my own intellectual curiosity. Friends and neighbors invited me to visit their churches with them and I sometimes did--giving me an interesting smattering of all kinds of ceremonies and observances. My grandmother sang in the choir of a small Methodist church and I sometimes went to church with her and my grandfather. I sat in the second row between him and a former mayor of our little town and I was very well-behaved. Of course.
I have never been christened or baptized because I grew up "unchurched," as we say in the South. One of the best parts of that sort of upbringing is that I don't carry around a load of anger or fear or resentment for my treatment at the hands of a monolithic institution like The Church. And I got to make macaroni picture frames in vacation bible school and I was a sure winner at the Sword Drill.
Can I get a Blessed Be?...
I've been meaning to get back to the "Ask Me About Odin" questions, since I have a few of them saved up. I spent most of November writing a book (which I am now about 40,000 words into--probably about halfway through the first draft) at the same time as I was trying to keep my little Etsy business going. Sadly, this didn't leave a lot of time for blogging. Things are still crazy-busy around here (now, after really awesome sales throughout the month of November, I need to work on getting some inventory back in my shop again, plus I am taking two online courses--more about that in another post, perhaps). But this landed in my inbox this morning and I figured, why not write a little something seasonal today?
“I keep hearing from different sources that Odin is the inspiration for Santa Claus, but I hear the same thing about Thor too. Which, if either, is it?”
Faerie Tea Party with Star Tea
A Story for the Whole Family
Once upon a time, two people went on a picnic. After a yummy meal, they noticed: They were falling in love! Mooning into each other's eyes, they wiled away the afternoon, talking about butterflies, truth, moonlight, the meaning of life, and other important topics....
With media and the Internet providing ready information and resources for new-fangled and sex-focused adaptations of Tantra, it is no wonder that many people giggle or perk up when they hear the word. And while many Western contrivances or Neo-Tantras focused on the erogenous may be ultimately beneficial in a world where negative ideas about bodies and body image issues abound, the truth is that there are charlatans out there under the guise of Tantra praying on people’s insecurities and self-doubts about what it means to be a powerful and unique incarnation in this world.
I find that troubling. Some do it because they have discovered that putting sex on a spiritual menu under the pretext of an ancient tradition gives their wares or services credibility, and with that the justification for a price tag. The problem with this is that too many people, including some who would likely benefit from a much deeper understanding of Tantra, believe the superficial sexual practices offered to be the doorway to spiritual progress. In truth, these usually go no further than a freeing of libido—if that—and the cost on both material and subtle levels can be enormous.
But, yes, Tantra is about sex, and sex can help one on the spiritual path. It is just that Tantra is absolutely not about sex in a titillating, seductive, or even exploratory sense. It is about the whole of who we are, inclusive of our sexuality, dedicated to a process of liberation—and not just sexual liberation (although sex may be one vehicle for realization of the ultimate goal). I will write more about the heart of Tantra in other posts, but for now, I will offer that Tantra in its essential teachings, if we are to focus for a moment longer on sex, is strictly about sex as one tool among others capable of quickly moving us beyond internalized and deep-seated fears and oppressions arising from the external impositions, taboos and obstacles of society, culture and religion. And that, I offer, is a lot more than just a new way to attain orgasm....
The beginning of shopping season may be blurry, particularly for those whose traditions include portmanteau neologisms, but it's safe to say that it's in full swing as I write this on December 2. The convergence of the gifting culture and the end of the tax year in many locales also makes this the time when many charities make their year-end pitches. Likewise, this is when tax-free gifts to family members are often delivered, stocks bought and sold to maximize profit or minimize taxable gains, and people who participate in pre-tax health savings accounts and the like are making sure that they've spent everything they're required to.
So there's a lot of money on the move right now, a lot of energy flowing. I'd go so far as to say that December is to money what October is to the spirits of the dead: if you want to work with money, this is one of the best times to do so. Spells and prayers for abundance and prosperity, as well as workings and offerings which are released through the movement of money, are worth incorporating into one's practice at this time of year, when the secular cycles are so strong that they reveal the unseen powers which shape them.
When I read about holiday shopping madness, I liken it to someone who draws down a deity without training or preparation, insofar as the damage comes from a lack of respect for, and comprehension of, the powers involved. We presume that, because we invented money, that we understand and control it. Perhaps if we approached the "holiday season" with the same deference and study that some Wiccans apply to preparing for ritual possession, we'd all have a healthier relationship with the stuff....
The deciduous trees stand, bare and apparently lifeless through the winter months. The popular take on this, is that they are sleeping. It is a perspective which depends on paying no attention or thought to what the trees are really doing. Those bare branches are a misleading focus.
On November 22nd I had the honor of attending Andrea Arroyo’s opening reception for her Memories Interlaced exhibit. Above is the picture Andrea graciously took with me during her busy reception. I was honored to be standing next to a Goddess sister whose art has been featured in The New Yorker, The International Museum of Women, The Smithsonian and countless public exhibits. Her current exhibit, at The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Center, is free and open to the public until January 10th 2014.
Her featured Goddesses line the wall of the center with rich, warm colors that bring out the love within the cloths they are painted on. Andrea chose to paint Goddesses on cloths made by women from around the world. From delicate and powerful lace to an Indian prayer shawl— walking into her exhibit is a chance to be in sacred space with such Goddesses as Hathor and Sarasvati. You also have the opportunity to admire pieces from her Sacred Women series; paintings inspired by female characters from world sacred texts, and influenced by the outlines of sacred architecture.
It gives me hope as a woman who is working on my own ever-evolving Goddess art to see how far Andrea has come with hers. The world needs more art dedicated to the Divine Feminine! Andrea’s artwork creates a space to have conversations about the power and mystery of women, our divinity and strength—our Goddess selves. If you have the chance to visit NYC before January 10th, dance your way to the Goddess temple Andrea has created in Upper Manhattan and bring your sisters!
A Disparity of Value and the Virtue of Discord
Recently there has been a lot of discussion in pagan and polytheist writing and blogging of what one's religious "Work" should look like, where charity fits into things, and what "Mystery" is. These articles, blogs, and chattery entries included some rather interesting "challenges" leveled on various prominent Polytheists (who barked back appropriately..!), some important descriptions of what is and isn't Mystery, and so forth. As in most of the conflicts that arise in these discussions and in these various internet platforms, I find this one to be as useful and important as it is annoying and at times jaw-droppingly idiotic. As my interests at present are not in joining somebody else's battle -- the sides I would ally with have themselves reasonably well covered, I think -- nor casting a light of shame or condescension at those who I think are missing a great big point, I'm not going to link to the aforementioned discourses. Instead, I am going to use the overall conversation as a spring-board to kick into an examination of a thing that I think is at the crux of both sides of the issue. It is my belief that these conflicts, which I view as essential and also affirming of our collective religious developments attaining a certain structural integrity, demonstrate the central importance of the theme of comfort, and perceptions of comfort, versus its absence or apparent adversary -- discomfort -- and the places that they do or do not, should or should not, can and cannot sit in one's religious, spiritual, devotional, and social avenues....
December’s New Moon is a Vegas kind of Moon — big, bold, and dramatic. It heralds a holiday season of screaming headlines, explosive events and probably some wild parties, as well. The entertainment industry, issues of children and youth, especially education, and any kind of gambling, including the stock market, will be emphasized in the coming month here in the USA.
Let’s cover the basic astrology first. (Non-astrologers can skip this paragraph) The chart can be found here. Set for Washington, DC, it features the New Moon in Sagittarius in the 5th, with Sagittarius’ ruler, Jupiter, powerfully placed on the Ascendent in Cancer, the sign of its exaltation, opposing Venus, and widely opposing Pluto, as well. Uranus sits in the 10th house, adjacent to the Aries Point Midheaven, which is opposed by Mars. The Uranus-Pluto square is in full force, and the Sun-Moon conjunction plus Mercury are in a wide square to Neptune. There is a strong trine between Jupiter and Saturn, and between Uranus and the Sun-Moon. The New Moon falls in the fifth house, joined by Mercury and Saturn, and the fifth house rulers are Mars and Pluto. The houses and angles on this chart are specific to the USA, but much of what I say here will be applicable globally.
This is going to be an expansive month, a time when people will want to push the proverbial envelope, to try new things — but they’ll want to do that from a secure home base. There are indicators of self-indulgence, but that energy can also express itself as simply playing the social butterfly, or taking particular care with appearances. Ideally, social gatherings will revolve around something practical, protective and nurturing. Building something beautiful, creating structures of meaning, expanding to include others are all supported by this chart. It will be an inspirational time for artists, especially those whose natal placements have significant interactions with the New Moon chart....
The next divinity from the “God Graveyard” list is the very well documented Lithuanian Perkunas. He is very similar to Zeus and Jupiter. One website described him as a cross between Odin and Thor.
This month, I'm taking a break from my introductory series of posts (Gael Ùr, Cànan, Sgeul and Creideamh) to offer a transcript of the guest lecture I delivered this week at St. Francis Xavier University entitled An Introduction to Neo-Paganism for Non-Pagans. You can find a printable transcript and audio download of the lecture at http://csmaccath.com/itnp. As members of my community of faith, I invite your thoughts on the material. What would you have added? Subtracted? Where would your focus have been different? What are your thoughts on the areas of need I identified for the Neo-Pagan community?
As always, tapadh leibh airson a' leughadh, 's beannachd leibh,
(Thank you for reading, and bless you,)
By now I'm sure most Pagans who keep in the loop of such things know that Teo Bishop, who quickly gained fame in the Pagan community, has switched back over to Christianity. It wasn't done in secret, and if you read his blog, you get the sense that it wasn't a quick decision either. The issue I'd like to discuss, however, has very little to do with Teo's actual religious shift.
Most of us grew up listening to song lyrics that proclaimed a lack of satisfaction. Here in mid-life I find myself increasingly satisfied, peaceful and content, or hetep – a fitting mood for today’s annual holiday of Thanksgiving.
The word hetep was also used in the classic “offering formula,” a standardized epithet placed on stelae commemorating the dead, on tomb walls and numerous other inscriptions. The formula started with the phrase hetep-di-nesu, “a gift the king gives.” Since the king was the priest for all of Egypt, any offering was thought of as offered by the king, even if it was just you ordering up a monument for your mom and dad.
Here’s what hetep-di-nesu looks like:
And here’s a whole offering formula for a guy named Ky:
Translated, it means, a gift which the king gives to Osiris, lord of Djedu, lord of Abydos, he gives an offering of bread, beer, cattle, fowl, alabaster and linen and every good thing on which a god lives, for the spirit of the revered one, Ky.