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According to my sources, Mother Berhta (otherwise known as Old Witch Winter and the Widdershins Polar Vortex) is angry because an insufficient number of people honored her on Bertha's Night this year.

The situation, admittedly, is complicated by the fact that exactly when Berhta's Night falls is a matter of dispute. According to some, Berhta's Night is Old Yule, Thirteenth Night (i.e. the Thirteenth Night after Midwinter's Eve). Some would say, Twenty-Sixth Night; some, Thirty-Ninth Night.

Date notwithstanding, most authorities are agreed on the correct manner of propitiation. This constitutes a festive Pancake Supper, with pancakes left at the doorstep for Mother B. herself.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As the sun set on February 1st, Pagans everywhere began their preparations to celebrate Imbolc. This is an Irish word meaning “in the belly”, because lambs would be developing “in the belly” of the ewes (female sheep) at this time, waiting to be born in the spring. It is a fire feast because now we can truly see that the sun is growing stronger in the winter skies, and the days are getting longer.

But February 1st through 2nd (note: Irish pagans see the day as starting at dust the prior evening) is also sacred to the Celtic goddess known as Brigid or Bride. (The Celts were the tribes of people who eventually became the Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Scots, Irish, and people of Brittany). Her name means “Exalted (mighty) One”, as well as “Bright Arrow”. She is often seen as 3 goddesses in one, known as a “triple goddess”, because she had mastery over three things: fire and smith-craft, hearth and home, and poetry – which was thought of as magical, and born from the “fire” of inspiration. She is a goddess of fire, but also of water.

This may surprise you, but it is often true: for something to thrive, it needs a little bit of it’s opposite. The warmth of the sun (fire) makes things grow, but it can’t do it without the rain (water). The fire goddess Brigid is also goddess of sacred wells where people would go for healings. So that the goddess would remember them and aid their health, people would tie strips of white cloths, called “clooties”, to the branches of the trees surrounding the wells. It is similar to the way some Christians light candles before a statue of a saint in church, to be a reminder that their help is needed.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I've been planning a post on how right-wing Christians have framed their attempts to impose their religion on everyone else as "religious liberty."  It's a clever bit of framing, although rather transparent.  However, Rev. Emily C. Heath has said it far better than I could:

How to Determine if Your Religious Liberty Is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions.

by Rev. Emily C. Heath*

 Just pick "A" or "B" for each question.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Hec
    Hec says #
    Mr. Ward, Sadly, I do not have a direct link. If you find one, would you please share? Thanks!
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    The answer is C. My religious liberty is at risk when the religion of others is being attacked. No matter how "right" the attac
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    This is wonderfully framed. Do you have a link to the original? I'd like to repost it directly on one of my blogs, so the audien

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_diver-and-fish.jpgBe not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This New Moon in Pisces on March 1st is remarkable for the fact that three planets — Mercury, Mars and Saturn — will be standing still in the sky (stationing retrograde or direct) within 24 hours of the New Moon moment. This will amplify the strength of those three planets in this chart, and in classical astrology, Mars and Saturn were considered the “malefic” planets — with good reason. Mars tends to deliver conflict and violence, while Saturn often brings restriction and loss. (But hey, at least Mercury’s going direct.) Both Mars and Saturn do, of course, have more beneficial manifestations — Mars can bring strength, passion and needed action, while Saturn can deliver earned material rewards and wisdom teachings. As always, an individual or focused group can do a lot to shape the energy of a chart towards growth and positive change, but en masse we tend to see the less conscious demonstrations of whatever the chart promises. Let’s look at how we can work with these planetary configurations at the New Moon to manifest wise and constructive action in the month ahead, because in the chart cast for Washington, DC, (which is predictive for the whole USA), Mars and Saturn — not to mention Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto — are kicking ass and taking names. 

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Mysterious Egypt: Cairo, Karnak, Luxor and the Valley of Queens

 My initial trip to sprawling Cairo with a group of UNMO (United Nations Military Officers) wives happened to coincide with the birthday of an influential Muslim saint, what a party! The souk, Khan- el Khalili, was a campground of hookah smoking, lamb chops broiling and camp stoves smoldering. Barefoot children dressed in dirty off–white galabiyas dashed in and out of the throngs of colorful Middle Eastern clad men and women. Eerie sounds of drum and flute filtered throughout the warm night as the thousands of Muslims gathered in the square. Canadian Reiki Master, writer and explorer me was expectant of the same scenario each future trip to Cairo.

 “You leave your reason at the border,” I was told by my Israeli travel consultant before departing on a comprehensive Egyptian tour a few months later.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagan Faith 1: Science v Religion?

I've been helping my oldest kid with her homework lately. Her grades are slipping a bit in science, which is normally her best subject. It's not a mystery why this is happening: she's in middle school and the work is getting harder, the concepts more complex. Her class is working on geology and evolution at the moment, so she's learning about continental drift, natural selection, DNA, fossils and mutation. She's working hard on it, and I'm glad. She has to work hard because there's a lot of material and it requires her to put real effort into understanding and applying it. It's hard because she's learning science, real science, and that's something you cant take for granted anymore.

We live in a very conservative congressional district. Our house is literally surrounded by churches of various kinds. My congressman is rabidly anti-immigrant and has sponsored fetal person-hood legislation; he obviously does not represent me or my values. While I do not hide my faith, I do not feel empowered to speak about it to my neighbors or the parents of my kids' friends. I accept all of that with more or less good grace. While I hate to use the phrase 'culture war' and give energy to that narrative, I feel the annoyance and discomfort that comes with being a member of a minority religion, when the majority culture is resentful of sharing space. So I put up with the clueless chirping about “having a blessed day” and puzzled inquiries into whether I'm Jewish, when replying “none” to inquiries about which church my family attends. And I fully admit, I still fall back on traditions I grew up with, putting up a Christmas tree and saying, “Merry Christmas” without discomfort, and let other people make whatever assumption they want. I have no desire to do a mini-interfaith negotiation with random neighbors and co-workers by wishing them “Happy Solstice, and have a blessed Yule.”

But given the demographics of where I live, and what feels like the constant push to include and privilege a Christianist thread in all public discourse, I was very relieved to see what my kid was struggling to learn. The science curriculum for her class listed the age of the Earth in millions of years, not thousands. It presented fossil and DNA evidence of human origins, and made no mention of ”teaching the controversy” or presenting “both sides” of an evolutionary “debate.” The teacher is not framing this in any way as “science versus religion”. There was no allusion that this might even be an issue: this is the curriculum, this is what my kids are learning. No mention was made of religion at all. This is how it should be. And I am so grateful this is so, knowing what other school districts are going through on the issue of how and even if this branch of science should be taught. I am grateful that I don't have to ring in on this issue with her school, or provide my own corrective lessons at home.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Elen - the Wild Spirit

She is with me - I can feel Her as soon as I step out the door.  She calls to me, she pulls me further away from the houses of humanity, deeper into the wilds; the windswept heath, the dark forest, the bright birch glades.  I smile and answer her call with a song in my heart, my footsteps getting lighter and lighter as I head out to meet Her. I walk taller, with more grace, my body flowing and moving without the restrictions that are usually placed upon it.  I feel an almost eldritch tingling in my blood - the awen is awakened.

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  • Jenn
    Jenn says #
    I love this so much!
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Beautiful. Thank you so much.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Paganicon 2014 will open this year with the (in)famous Rite of the Golden Calf.

The Rite was first created for a private festival in 1996 by Twin Cities liturgist Steven Posch. He recalls: “I'll never forget the faces as the procession with the Calf came through. At first, incredulity: Is this for real? Then dawning: This is it: the big one, the sin of sins. And then, abandon: Ohmigods, lemme at it! And they all came rushing in. It was wild, ecstatic: there were actually couples off in the woods afterward, just the way there should be.”

During the Rite, the Calf will be borne in festive Procession and Installed in a shrine in the Art Gallery. He will be accessible for acts of private devotion during Gallery Hours. A brief rite of public worship will take place daily at 12 noon.

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How do we make sense of loss, great loss, and everyday disappointment? Some would tell us that “everything has a purpose” or that whatever happens ”must be the will of God.”  I have found that these answers to questions raised by life as we know it often do more harm than good.  Yet they have a sticking power–we hear them all the time, sometimes even from other feminist seekers.

From the beginning feminists in religion rejected “the God out there” who rules the world from a throne in heaven. Most of us have insisted that “God” is more “in” the world than “beyond” or “outside it.” However we have not always been consistent in our convictions. When feminists are confronted with untimely death or great evil or just not getting what we think we want, we can sometimes be overheard to wonder, “Why did God (or Goddess) let that happen?” This question is based in the assumption that God or Goddess is omnipotent and rules the world from outside it. This is the theological idea I intend to question today.

The “zero fallacy” is a term philosopher Charles Hartshorne used to explain the “theological mistake” known as divine omnipotence.  Hartshorne pointed out that if God is omnipotent, then God has “all” or “100%” of the power. If this is so, then human beings and all other beings have “zero” power.  But if we have zero power, then do we even exist?  It is hard to imagine what “existence” means if it is a quality attributed to beings with zero power to affect the world. In fact, if God has 100% of the power, then no being other than the divine being can be said to exist. This is what Hindus may mean when they say that the world is “maya” or illusion.

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    From a scientific perspective, as Neil deGrasse Tyson said; “We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chem

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Hi Folks!

 

In the spirit of my more successful posts, I would like to ask you if there's any topic you'd like me to research, based on "Pagan Music" or "Paganism in Classical Music." What would it be?  Would you like to see articles on archaic, pre-christian music and instruments, or would you prefer that I show you the darker side of Classical music?

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  • Peter Ringo
    Peter Ringo says #
    I don't think I was real clear. The gender nonconformity would need to be connected to spirituality in some way--as an attribute o
  • Candi
    Candi says #
    @Peter: Sure! For example, there are a number of works from the 18th century that involve a man or boy cross dressing in order to
  • Peter Ringo
    Peter Ringo says #
    The Balumain practice is awesome, but I'm looking for music literature--traditional songs and classical pieces that allude to gend

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Are you poor on purpose?

The reactions to my post voluntary poverty last week have one striking commonality:  we're talking about the voluntary poor, but no one has stepped forward to speak for the voluntary poor.  I am hoping the readers of PaganSquare can help me find at least one representative of this choice.

Do you presently know someone who is poor by choice, spiritual or otherwise?  Can you point them to this post or, if they're not a user of the internet, act as an intermediary?  Anyone interested can use this contact form.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The beautiful thing about Hellenism is that not only do we have a clear way to honor the Theoi, and incentive to do so, we also get to live in a world governed completely by the Gods. Hellenismos is special in that regards because it also largely matches up with science. To me--and many others with me--that is something very comforting. Now, as you are probably all aware, I live in a world full of Gods and Nymphs; for example, I take great strength in greeting Eos each morning as she paves the way for Helios, but there are many Gods who are, or who control, the cycle of day and night, and I would like to write out this cycle, if I may.

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  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Thank you, Jamie! It's good to see you have returned to my blog
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thanks again for recounting the lore! These are deities I honor regularly.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Meditations on Hávamál, 44-47
A few more verses in my ongoing translation of the Viking poem of gnomic wisdom --

 

44.
Veiztu, ef þú vin átt,
þann er þú vel trúir,
ok vill þú af hánum gótt geta,
geði skaltu við þann blanda
ok gjöfum skipta,
fara at finna oft.
You must know, if you would wish to have a friend
Who would be true to you
And from whom you would have good in exchange,
Share your thoughts with him,
And exchange gifts,
Fare often to find him.
 

The verses recognise the exchange that is necessary to feeding a good friendship. While the focus on gifts may seem a bit mercenary to modern readers, we have to take into consideration just how much gift giving has changed: we take it lightly because it is very easy to pick up something from a shop. In the Middle Ages, where survival was much more precarious, any surplus was precious. Giving it away showed great favour. Of course we understand the need to find a like mind with whom we can share our truths, hopes and fears. By such means do we knit relationships that last.
 
45.
Ef þú átt annan,
þanns þú illa trúir,
vildu af hánum þó gótt geta,
fagrt skaltu við þann mæla
en flátt hyggja
ok gjalda lausung við lygi.
If you have such another one --
He you trust little --
Yet you wish to get goodwill from him, too,
Fair shall you be in speech with him
But cunning in thought
And repay his deceit with lies.
 

As the great military strategist Sun Tzu observed, it's best to keep friends close -- and enemies closer. The High One agrees that it's best not to tip your hand to those who wish you ill, but continue to speak pleasantly to them as long as possible in the hopes that you might glean something useful from their conversation or thoughts. Though they may also conceal their intentions, often enmity betrays itself in non-verbal ways, too.
 
 
46.
Það er enn of þann
er þú illa trúir
ok þér er grunr at hans geði,
hlæja skaltu við þeim
ok um hug mæla;
glík skulu gjöld gjöfum.
Thus ever further with the one of whom
He whom you trust ill
And about whom you have suspicious mind,
You should laugh with him
And speak around your thoughts;
For with like coin should you repay a gift.
 

More on dealing with those you do not trust. Working environments may offer the best modern analogue to the situation. We all have co-workers with whom we don't trust -- and who may return the favour. The verses suggest that is the wisest course -- repaying false coin with false coin -- but it rubs against our modern notions of directness and honesty. For most of us, that honesty has only social costs. Yet how many people find it easier to be polite to someone they dislike intensely than to plainly state their antipathy? We're not always as honest as we like to think we are.
 
47.
Ungr var ek forðum,
fór ek einn saman,
þá varð ek villr vega;
auðigr þóttumk,
er ek annan fann,
maðr er manns gaman.
Young was I once,
I traveled on my own,
When I found myself astray;
Rich I thought myself
When I found another soul --
A human is human pleasure.
 

While the poet uses the word 'maðr' it's clearly used in the general sense of a person, not gendered specifically. While many of us choose to cherish solitude, imagine a world like the vikings where being alone put your survival at risk. There is not simply the joy of companionship here, but the recognition of the interdependence of community. Consider too the uncertainty of travel without modern maps -- let alone the specifics of satellite navigation. To run across another human when you have traveled on your own for a considerable space of time -- even if you're young and hearty -- must surely be a welcome sight.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    More, more, more! And now I want you to record them all.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Oh, now there's an idea. With kantele music... Hmmmm....
You are a public face for Paganism at Conventions

I recently attended Convocation for the first time. I was having dinner one night at the restaurant and I talked with my waiter for a bit about the convention. She asked me if I thought that she and her co-worker would be accepted if they visited the vendor room to look around and I told her that I thought it would be fine (The vendor room was open to the public as far as I knew). I thought about that conversation later on and how in that moment I was a public face for Paganism. And how at any convention that is hosted in a space such as a hotel, all of us are public faces of Paganism, even if we don't realize we are. The public space we are in is not solely a Pagan space. It is shared space and the impressions we make on the hotel staff and other guests matter.

When I'm at an event or anywhere really, I behave the way I'd want other people to behave toward me. I'm courteous to the staff, acknowledge the work they are doing and do my best to be mindful of my behavior and how others might perceive it. Now it's true that I'm at a convention to have fun, but  I also want to make a good impression because the staff and guests will come away from those experiences with their own perceptions about Pagans. And likely they'll already have some assumptions and beliefs about us based on their own spiritual beliefs, etc. However I think that how we act in public is important.

When I spoke to that waiter, I was polite and friendly and answered her questions. I don't know what she believed or thought, but I did know she was curious and I also knew that what I said in that moment could make an impression. I think I made a positive impression because she seemed more comfortable afterwards with the idea of visiting the vendor room. Now I don't know if she and her co-worker did visit or what they thought, but I would like to think that by making a positive impression I did show her that Pagans aren't so strange or different and that we're worthy of being treated with consideration.

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  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I agree it's important to be cognizant of the impressions we make on others, whether we're representing ourselves, our beliefs or
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Having worked a number of jobs over the year where I was retail, I always remember how people treated me and make the effort in tu
  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    Thank you. I have seen this point made many times but you made it *without stigmatizing certain groups some Pagans try to distance

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
One-Minute Magick with Tarot

 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. The truth is, I have been really busy. That’s busy in a good way, with business, creativity, friends and family.

 

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Pagan savings challenge, week eight:  negative savings

My brother once likened debt to a negative savings account.  It's a good analogy:  debt is money you've spent before you saved it, and both will accumulate interest if arranged through a formal financial institution.  Of course, with debt the interest is being paid to someone else.

Paying off debt is a valid way to meet the Pagan savings challenge.  It could take the form of simply using the weekly savings amount to pay off a bill faster, or the money could be allowed to build over the year and used all at once for that purpose.  Either way, it strengthens the discipline of building energy through saving money.

My week eight savings:  $36, 22% ($8) of which I added today.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Dear Dr. Dever,

Firstly, a word of thanks and appreciation for your work over the years, and in particular for Did God Have A Wife? To speak only for myself, the book has shaped my own thought and understanding of my ancestral traditions, and for this you have my deep and lasting gratitude.

Anent Wife, though, I would like to point out to you an irony which I suspect has heretofore escaped your attention. To this not-altogether-objective reader, it is striking how closely your denunciations of the excesses of contemporary Goddess worship and feminist spirituality—which is, in fact, modern folk religion—resemble the Deuteronomic and Priestly hostility toward the folk religion of their own time. I find it curious that, from the position of your own academic orthodoxy, your sympathy for folk—and in particular, women’s—religion apparently extends to ancient women, but not to your contemporaries. Plus ça change….

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I've long been mystified by academia's general disinterest in the new pagan religions. As a historian of religion myself, I would
  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    That's a shame. Though there are certainly valid critiques to be made of Goddess/feminist spirituality, I think it best if they we
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    My thoroughly un-nuanced reading of Frymer-Kensky is that she's an ideologue with a monotheist ax to grind, whose work is academic

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

How do you say “pagan” in Pagan?

“Pagan”, of course, is how one says “pagan” in Cowan; it’s a name bestowed on us by outsiders. We're certainly not the first people in history to take a name bestowed in scorn and to wear it with pride, nor, we may be sure, will we be the last. But ultimately it’s an outside-looking-in (or etic) name, rooted in someone else’s perspective and thought.

The question then arises: what is our inside-looking-out (or emic) name for ourselves? What is our term of self-description rooted in the internal logic of our own worldview?

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Business as if human beings mattered more than profit

Capitalism seems invulnerable today not because anyone likes it, informed decent people do not, but because it is hard to imagine a realistic alternative. State socialism failed, and failed in a horrible way.  Going back to the land is impossible for more than a relative few of us.  Markets work better than explicit controls and markets seem inevitably to generate capitalism.  We seem trapped. 

But markets are not as predictable as economists claim and most economists confuse their theoretical categories with the real world of men and women. Consider the Mondragon cooperatives   in the Basque country of northern Spain. In September, 2012, I had the opportunity to visit these cooperatives in September of 2012 as part of an annual study group organized by the Praxis Peace Institute.  Given all that I had heard, I felt that while I could not easily afford to go financially, I could not afford not to go intellectually. 

Here is why.

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  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    Intriguing analysis. It seems to me you've put your finger on a weakness of corporate capitalism as practiced in the United States
Pagan Culture and Experience: Definitions and Practice

Who gets the right to define you? To label you? Is that right solely your own, or does it belong in some measure to the culture with which you identify? I've considered this question for a long time, and I've concluded that there's no easy answer.

I've long been an advocate for the principle of self-identification: If you choose to identify yourself in specific terms, who are others to challenge it? But things really aren't that simple, are they? What about frauds who have ulterior motives for adopting a label? What about people who don't really understand what the label means?

A Huffington Post article titled "Striking Photos Challenge The Way We See Blackness" recently explored the idea of self-identification in terms of race. The writer interviewed several individuals from diverse backgrounds who identified as black, postulating that "Blackness must be recognized as something other than just skin color and specific physical attributes."

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  • Samaire Provost
    Samaire Provost says #
    Nope, not at all awkward, Steve
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    Not awkward at all, Samaire. I'm sitting right across the table from you!
  • Samaire Provost
    Samaire Provost says #
    Well isn't this an awkward meeting

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