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Who, then, are the gods of the new pagans?

I would suggest that Two, at least, among Them are revealing Themselves to us even as you read these words.

Not through the mouths of prophets do they speak to us today, but through the hands of artists: a revelation not in words, but in shape and line and color.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Good stuff, Steve. I am also put off by the tendency of some who try to merge all Gods into "One God." Or all Goddesses into "On
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Greybeard. I'm not sure when Aunt Violet's reductionist dictum about all gods being one god, all goddesses being one godde
  • Anne Forrester
    Anne Forrester says #
    Great article Steve! I wish you had included some links to actual art. Here's a couple of paintings that are my take on the Red Go

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_bull-leaping-ring-before-2000-bc-phourni.jpg

 

Sometimes we think of Greek myth as a pre-patriarchal or less patriarchal alternative to the stories of the Bible. After all, Goddesses appear in Greek myths while they are nearly absent from the Bible. Right?

So far so good, but when we look more closely we can see that Greek myth enshrines patriarchal ideology just as surely as the Bible does.  We are so dazzled by the stories told by the Greeks that we designate them “the origin” of culture. We also have been taught that Greek myths contain “eternal archetypes” of the psyche. I hope the brief “deconstruction” of the myth of Ariadne which follows will begin to “deconstruct” these views as well. 

Ariadne is a pre-Greek word. The “ne” ending is not found in Greek. As the name is attributed to a princess in Greek myth, we might speculate that Ariadne could have been one of the names of the Goddess in ancient Crete. But in Greek myth Ariadne is cast in a drama in which she is a decidedly unattractive heroine. 

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    What is interesting to me is that myths that are so clearly anti-female as the ones about Pasiphae are not recognized as such, but
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    You have many good things to say, Carol. It would be nice sometimes if you could learn to say them without the inevitable misand
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    I don't read any misandry in "sometimes we think of Greek myth as a pre-patriarchal or less patriarchal alternative to the stories

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A Devotional Polytheist Meme

While interfaith discussion with neo-pagans is valuable, I'd personally like to see more discussion of our own traditions and religious praxis. So, I came up with a bunch of questions to get the ball rolling. I'm going to answer these over the course of this month via a series of posts here and anyone else who likes them is also free to participate. 

 

1. What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
PantheaCon Book Purchases

Although I’ve been trying to lighten up the bookshelves in my home by donating some books to Pagan libraries, loaning out many (which seldom seem to return home), and simply putting some books I’ve read “in circulation,” such as leaving them at my gym or giving them to someone else to read with no expectation of getting them back.  However, that doesn’t mean a bibliophile such as me has ceased buying books altogether.  In spite of limited funds for non-essentials, I do consider books to be essential to my life, so I still buy them, albeit much more selectively than I’ve done in the past.  I especially tend to purchase books of poetry, even more especially if I know the poet, and/or anthologies in which their work is published.  I feel strongly about supporting the arts as much as we can; this is one of my ways of supporting the arts.

I returned home from PantheaCon with only two new books; I restrained myself. 

One is Gus diZerega’s Fault Lines: The Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine.  I’ve been reading parts of earlier iterations of this work, and, having lived a life that fits into the title, I’m eager to read it when I don’t have plenty of reading piled up that pertains to projects I’m working on.  The cover is jarring, perhaps as it should be considering the subject matter, but it’s not appealing to me.  As they say, “you can’t tell a book by its cover.”

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_4149.jpg

 

I wrote this article to encourage us, as pagans, wiccans, polytheists, earth lovers, weirdoes, wanderers, and alternative folk to move beyond the sterile concepts of acceptance and equality. For many, being wholly accepted by the mass-produced mainstream becomes our goal. But why? Perhaps being equal to means being complacent to and abiding of habits and norms that are destroying species, lands, waterways, air quality, indigenous communities, traditions, and languages. Rather than hope to acquire the status of affluence and static commonality, sometimes we do greater service to our spirit by moving from comfort to challenging the perimeters of a “normal” existence.
-----

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

There are some things religious Pagans are not encouraged to talk about. Doubt is one of them. I believe that the Gods exist, that They are real entities, who rule over life and death, and who dictate the way we should behave through teachings found in mythology and ancient societies. I chose to follow the Hellenic Gods in Their teachings, not disregarding that there are other Gods, but recognizing my human shortcomings, I could never honor all of the Gods in the way They feel They are entitled to be worshipped. And so I leave the worship of the Norse Gods to the Asatruar, the worship of the Egyptian Gods to the Kemetics, etc. I have specialized, so to say, in the Hellenic Gods, but to me, all the Gods are real and worthy of respect.

 

I didn't grow up religious. My parents were raised in various denominations of Christianity, but they had both rejected it before I was even born. My parents do not disapprove of faith, but they discouraged it, regardless. I did not have an easy childhood, and by the time I was twelve, I was already searching for religion, longing to satisfy the need in myself I found to reach out to beings beyond my reach who could offer me something to hold on to. I investigated the common, major, religions and found them lacking. I can see the beauty in many of them now, but for my twelve year old self, they were passive and lacking in what I needed: structure, active Gods, and the focus on household worship.

 

I found Paganism and self-dedicated after a year and a day of reading and practicing. I was thirteen at the time, and while I did not believe in the God and Goddess I found int eh books, the concept drew me in enough to start performing the rites, to start celebreating the festivals and to find my peace there. It took me years until I truly believed in the Gods, at least four or five years of active practice. It wasn't something that happened overnight, but I did find myself looking back and thinking 'when did I start believing?'. For me, it wasn't a specific ritual, or a moment in time that cemented my faith. Once day, I realized that I believed, and that was that.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I agree that we have not become better. I believe that as long as we judge ourselves for practices that harm others and do not aut
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    I live in Greece and am Greek (citizen and in my heart) but the Greek pantheon as portrayed in the Greek myths (Hesiod, Homer, et.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Back in 2012, I wrote a long and detailed post about rape in ancient Hellenic mythology and culture that you might like to read. Y

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Interfaith Dialogue in a Polarized World

At PantheaCon, I ran into someone with whom I'd had a disagreement online. This point of contention was a hot-button issue for me, and my reaction to it had been too quick and strident. When I met the person in question, our meeting was cordial, and I don't even think he recognized me. I left things alone, but when we crossed paths a second time, I confronted the situation directly and apologized for being too blunt. Because my "hot button" had been pressed - inadvertently - I had barreled ahead without finding out more about his take on the situation.

After a 10- or 15-minute conversation, we parted ways, having interacted cordially, but not having addressed the issue upon which we disagreed. He mentioned that we should do so at some point, and I agreed. In honesty, I doubt either of us will change the other's mind, but do we really need to? It's fine to be open to learning about another person's perspective without feeling obligated to embrace it as our own.

Polarization

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  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Thanks for this helpful piece, Stifyn. Would you had been at the discussion in the CoG suite of "Wiccanate privilege" in interfai

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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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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  • 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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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....

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