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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

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
As the Fairies Take, So Shall You Receive

Until I  moved to this magical place first settled by the mythic Tuatha dé Danaan I, too, was a fairy agnostic.  But when the land energy is so potent and palpable my disbelief was easily suspended. So yeah, I believe and have also come to know.  Unlike the Doubting Disciple of the Christian gospel I don't need to have seen to believe.  It's enough to feel.  But once you do get the vibe the communication in my personal experience gets more direct. 

 

The nearest fairy sighting I've had was on a dark night as we crossed over the Bellavally Gap. It's wild moorland with the 'gap' between Cuilcagh and Slieve Anieran said to have been made when the Tuatha dé Dannaan's magical smith, Govannan, had a green cow (Bo Glas) of Paul Bunyanesque proportions ran amuck.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Beautiful Paga Square readers, I owe you an apology. I seem to have dropped off of the face of the earth for a few months, even though I never intended to. I have this odd quirk where I start feeling guilty and don’t know how to get back on the horse and that is what happened here. Back in October, things got a little heavy and stressful for me, and I took a little personal time, always intending to get back. Then, I forgot how to and despite returning to Pagan Square being a new year’s resolution, it’s half way through February before I finally did come back.

I’m sorry for disappearing on you without a word. I would love to promise it won’t happen again, but that would be a lie. I will promise, however, that now the first hurdle is taken, I will resume posting here, because this first post is the hardest for me. I hope to do regular scheduling again: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I never stopped blogging on my personal blog, so there is material enough to share with you guys.

I hope you will forgive me my human errors, and that you will enjoy the posts to come. A personal note to our wonderful host Anne (who shall be receiving an e-mail from me in a few minutes), thank you for reaching out and I apologize to you most of all.

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  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    It can be tough to overcome guilt -- glad you've made the first step!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Keeping Fit with the Tarot?

My friend and I were talking about fitness the other day. She's been wearing a 'FitBit,' and another friend of mine has been wearing  Nike FuelBand. I was contemplating investing in such a gizmo, as I'll be the first to admit I could take better care of myself than I do. These things are neat little gadgets and I'm sure they work for tracking, motivation, and encouragement . Mulling it over before sleep that night though, I started thinking about the tools that I already have. I've got a food tracker on my smartphone, I've got a pedometer, and I've got my Tarot. 

"How on Earth does the Tarot fit in with a keep fit plan," you might well ask? Before you chalk me up to being completely crazy (as opposed to just the 'way-out-there-crazy-but still-functional' type of crazy that I'll readily admit to being), hear me out. I thought I might be off my rocker, but I've played around with this for a few days now, and I've been very surprised by how well it works. 

While doing my morning meditations with the Tarot, I've started pulling a card as a 'living well' theme for the day. Sometimes it's a bit vague, and I put that down to me only starting to work with the cards in this manner. Sometimes it's uncannily appropriate. For example, yesterday I was thinking about starting to use my little set of kettle bells again, and I pulled the card, the Ten of Wands. Now, when I do Tarot readings, this card always makes me think of carrying burdens or there being too much weight on someone's shoulders. It stands to reason then that this was confirming that the kettle bells might be a good choice for that morning. 

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  • Charlie Rainbow Wolf
    Charlie Rainbow Wolf says #
    It's fun, yes? Today I drew the Devil. Wasn't sure how it fit at all... till my husband appeared with potato chips! I know it may
  • Meg Pauken
    Meg Pauken says #
    Can I just tell you how much I love this? I'm going to try it tomorrow!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Draugadrottin

Continuing with my exploration of the Names of Odin in alphabetical order, He doesn’t have many heiti, or by-names, beginning with the letter D.  However, the one we'll be discussing today is among my favorites of all of His names anyway because it tells us so much about the essence of who and what He is.  It is generally translated as meaning “Lord of the Dead.”  Lets break it down, though, and see if we can learn more from it than that.

The drottin part of the name means chieftain, or lord, and has a cognate in the Anglo-Saxon drihten. The particular connotation here is that of a military lord, the leader of a war band (from Proto-Germanic *druti). This implies the sort of kingship portrayed in Beowulf, for example; not necessarily a hereditary role, but one decreed by merit and ability, the man who is elevated to kingship because other men look to him and trust in his abilities, the ring giver and keeper of the web of oaths that tie a war band, a tribe, or a people together.

The other half of the name, drauga, means the dead, but here again a particular type of dead person is implied.  In Germanic belief, the “ordinary” dead go to Helheim, where they are perhaps reunited with their loved ones and have a period of rest and rejuvenation prior to being reborn or going on about whatever work lies before them between lifetimes.  Some dead, in my belief, go to the abodes of the gods they have served during life if those connections are strong enough and if the god desires their continued service and companionship.  The Poetic Edda and Snorri’s Edda alike tell us that the battlefield dead are divided between Odin and Freyja, with Frejya getting first pick.  (Ladies first, after all.)

But the draugr (singular) is in a category all his own.  As depicted again and again in the Icelandic sagas, the draugar (plural) are “walkers” or “those who walk again after death.” 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_herculaneum-isis-temple.jpgBlest is the happy man
Who knows the Mysteries the gods ordain (Euripides)

It is a mystery – that we can be One and also separate, and likewise the gods.

It is a mystery – that we can have a solitary experience which then links us inextricably with others who have shared that same experience, or one like it.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


Canadians Take the Gold (Photo courtesy of The Guardian) 

Okay, so this is completely off the topic from what I usually post in this blog, but I am a proud Canadian, and like all Canadians, I watch when our team is at the gold medal hockey final.  It's kind of like Americans and the Superbowl.  I think it's a Canadian law or something.

Now, I admit that for a good deal of the game I was shaking my head in dismay.  The Americans played a much better game than we did for most of it.  They were much more aggressive and energetic and were just overall handling the puck better.  The Americans almost won the game when, with a minute and fifteen seconds left, Canada pulled the goalie for an extra attacker, and an inexperienced linesman interfered with one of her teammates, freeing up an American shot on goal into an empty net.  Perhaps it was an example of the manifestation of collective Will as thirty percent of Canada's population screamed, "No no NO!" and miraculously, the puck bounced off the post and the goal was averted.  But our ladies tied it up in the last five minutes, and then stole the gold in sudden death overtime!  I would hardly be considered a hockey expert, but I am Canadian, and so you learn about it whether you want to or not, and overall, this was one of the most exciting and tense games I've ever watched.  Here's the link if you want to see it.

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  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    And the boys did us proud too!
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Yes, congratulations indeed. I was a Landed Immigrant in Canada from 1971-1973. I was a company member with the Shakespeare Fest
  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    That strikes me as a uniquely, and perhaps iconic, Canadian story. Thanks so much for sharing it!

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Mary, Mary: Florence is Divine

Ten years ago, I traveled to Italy. I was a newly-minted Goddess girl, plus I’d just read The Da Vinci Code, so I spent the trip searching for the divine feminine hidden in plain sight. In Italy, I didn’t have to look very far; Mother Mary is, quite literally, represented on every street corner throughout Italy.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Sigh, I so love Florence, thanks for reminding me!
  • Jen McConnel
    Jen McConnel says #
    Of course! Thanks for commenting.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Risk of Invocation

Invoke (v.): To petition for support; to cite as authority; to conjure.

What does it mean to invoke?

The word "invoke" derives from the old Latin word vocare, meaning "to call" and is related to the word vox, meaning voice. 

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  • Shawn Bolvi-Singleton
    Shawn Bolvi-Singleton says #
    Something about which to think on a chilly Monday. Thank you for sharing this wisdom.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Shuffling the Deck, Part Two of Duality.

It would now be pertinent to address how a conceptual duality and a gendered duality could function simultaneously without one enveloping or overpowering the other. Regardless of how high an individual holds an intellectual concept, the individual is still bound to gender. How then can a conceptual duality that stresses balance of all things remain exclusively masculine in it’s metaphors? The short answer would be that the conceptual duality goes “beyond” gender, that the metaphors can potentially be applied to gendered concepts, but ultimately refer to concepts understood as antecedent to gendered concepts. While this answer is ambitious, as a reply to a question posed by a society that holds gender to be reverent and relevant, it falls flat and lacks the humanizing element so often craved in religious discourse. To maintain a conceptual duality that preserves gendered integrity, much like gender, a few different options are available.

 

Firstly, an individuals personal identification of gender and the appeals of other genders shape our perspective on deity. Though some might scoff at the idea of prescribing not only a gender but also a sexuality to deity, if one understands the world around them through the medium of a body and interprets their experiences with one's identity, elements of hetero and homonormativity will ultimately play a role in how one understands and connects with deity. Further, one might argue that a sexual duality is superfluous when considering deity, but for the audience of Neo Paganism (and more specifically the Wiccan demographic), the roles of pleasure and reproduction are interwoven into the broader metaphor of nature and the world.  

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Pagans and voluntary poverty

A few weeks ago I wrote a post inspired by a conversation I had with an indebted Pagan, and one idea that came out of it -- that of a Pagan credit union -- really caught fire.  The level of interest made writing a follow-up post on your reactions to the idea of a Pagan credit union the next logical step.

Comments are a double-edged sword in the blogosphere, but I've learned a lot from the ones I have received here.  In pointing out what he or she thinks is the fatal flaw in any plan for Pagan financial infrastructure, Kveldrefr got me thinking about one of the underlying beliefs about Pagans, that they want to be poor:

"I would think that part of the issue regarding credit unions in particular is that many Pagans make a virtue of poverty, taking pride in their lack of concern for "material things." While anyone should be allowed to make such decisions for oneself, all too often those same individuals insist that others should share that attitude, and attack those who are successful.

"Until and unless the 'virtuous poverty' syndrome is dealt with, Paganism will not be able to mature in the ways you suggest, because it quite simply won't have the resources to do so. You can't pay mortgages for temples and hofs [sic] with piety and selling handmade soap."

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  • Mariah
    Mariah says #
    I am both poor & privileged- I work retail, but I have a bachelor's, and the social connections & cultural knowledge/capital of a
  • Dver
    Dver says #
    I wouldn't describe myself as voluntarily poor, but I fall somewhere between that and the usual materialistic approach in this cul
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Wow, so much to say in response. This is a very succinct post on such a complex issue and I support Alley's response, with some di

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
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My girl, Mary Magdalene

As eager as Old Christianity has been to paint Mary Magdalene as part of the oldest profession, New Christianity is equally eager to say that she’s totally legit.

I say the truth was probably somewhere in between.  I doubt she was a street walker but could she have been a temple priestess who wasn’t hung up being chaste?  Maybe.  It would make the fact that she seemed to be pretty educated plausible.  Plus the boys were probably jello that she was Jesus’ favorite so calling her a ho to take her down a peg isn’t exactly uncommon practice even in modern times.

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  • Linda Armstrong
    Linda Armstrong says #
    Thank you so much for this informative article; I really enjoyed it. Since I was a very small child, I have had two spiritual lea

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

My wife and I just returned from PantheaCon in San Jose. It was our first time attending the event, and we were very impressed. It's easy to find things to complain about, especially at an event this big, but one thing that impressed me is how few complaints I heard - at least about anything substantial.

Complaining can be a natural reaction to disappointment, frustration and other emotions; the lack of it spoke volumes to me in a couple of respects. For one thing, it indicated that the people who put on this convention really got it right. It was well organized, communication was clear (the map, list of events and daily updates from the "town crier" just outside the elevators were extremely well done. There just wasn't that much to complain about.

The lack of complaints also speaks to the tone set for the event in the workshops, rituals, classes, concerts and other activities. There was a sense of unity among a diverse collection of people. We were willing to celebrate our differences and learn from one another, eagerly and without prejudice.

Complaining is all about making one's feelings known - specifically, feelings of dissatisfaction. Sometimes, it's necessary, and some complaints can certainly be legitimate. But listening and learning are all about gathering information, and (barring an emergency), it's best to do as much of this as possible before complaining. Often, complaints turn out to be misplaced simply because we haven't taken the time to learn more about what's causing our dissatisfaction.

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  • Shauna Aura Knight
    Shauna Aura Knight says #
    It was great to meet you at Pantheacon. Thanks for posting this! I too hope to see more fruitful dialogue.
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I'm sorry to have missed you, as well. We'll definitely be back next year!
  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    Hey, I'm bummed I missed meeting you! Next time?

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