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The Pagan as Professional Chaplain

Imagine the following scenarios…  

  • You have recently finished your education at Cherry Hill Seminary and you’ve been hired as a healthcare chaplain at a local hospital.  The Director of Pastoral Care turns to you and says, “Well, since you’re the newest chaplain you get to preach at our bi-annual memorial service for all who have passed away at the hospital since our last service.” 
  • You are sitting at an interview for a position as a staff chaplain at a prison.  The warden who is interviewing you says, “I expect my chaplain to be the pastor of the whole prison community.”
  • You get a call in the middle of the night.  A Catholic patient of yours is near death and the family can't find a priest to anoint the patient.  You've been asked by the nurse at their bedside to attend to them. 

Good advice for anyone interested in chaplaincy would be to suspend your sectarianism.  Institutional settings that have chaplains need their chaplains dedicated to interfaith ministry.   Chaplains need to be of service to all of those within their institutional setting. Suspending your sectarianism doesn’t mean sacrificing who you are as a minister, priest, or cleric.  It means being open to diversity and being able to embrace that diversity to be of service to others where you find them.  This means being strong in your own religious conviction.  Your identity as a Chaplain should flow from your theology and that theology should be expansive enough to embrace the needs of others both within and outside of your tradition.  Suspending your sectarianism means your agenda is one of service and compassion; and the person with whom the Chaplain serves sets the agenda. 

Does being a Chaplain mean I’ll have to do things I don’t want to do?  If you have no tolerance for the spiritual beliefs of others then you might be out of your comfort zone as a Chaplain; however, being a Chaplain doesn’t mean being someone you are not.  If someone asks you for something you do not feel comfortable doing, you should decline in such a way that protects their dignity as well as your own.  For example, if you’re a hospital Chaplain and a Christian patient asks for communion, you don’t have to hold Mass in their room but you could politely refer the request to another Chaplain or someone in the community.  It is how you handle the request that is important.  A Chaplain should be able to recognize what is going on inside themselves emotionally and spiritually and act in a professional manner. 

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  • Carol Kirk
    Carol Kirk says #
    Valerie Cole is my thesis chair, and David Oringderff is also on my committee. I'll be glad to share the thesis with you when it
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Very interesting topic. Who is your thesis advisor? I'd be interested in reading it. I'm a Gulf War veteran myself.
  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Carol... congratulations on your studies! That must have been a lot of hard work. What are you writing your thesis on? I imagin

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Three Knots

 

Dear readers I hope you'll forgive me for not posting as frequently to this blog as I would like to. I'm in the midst of finishing my next book, and have a heavy teaching and ritual schedule for the next several months. The blog post after this one will return to the topic of the mechanics of how rituals can be done from a distance. I did feel moved by a third degree initiation that just occurred this past weekend to quickly share a few thoughts.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Being Solitary Can Be Dangerous

Pagan activities with a group of people can draw strange looks and even the occasional nutter who wants to “save” everyone.  I have discovered that, sometimes, practicing your spirituality alone can lead others to think you are actually insane.  I suppose I should add this to the list of differences between Traditional Pagans and Solitaries.  It isn’t that we are crazier than Traditional Pagans (at least I don’t think so), it’s just that Solitaries seem to be more suspect than groups.

Perhaps when someone sees a group of people doing something out of the ordinary it is viewed as strange but nothing more than “a bunch of wackos”?  Perhaps when the same behavior is practiced by an individual it crosses the line into “crazy”?  Let me give an example.

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  • Witch Nikki Porras
    Witch Nikki Porras says #
    REALLY? I have been Solitary for too many years now, I do not feel safe in GROUPS....which might contain some negative people....(
  • aought
    aought says #
    Always the conundrum, I think that those of us on solitary paths realize that there is danger in being isolated. But, it's difficu
  • Neda Marin
    Neda Marin says #
    Haha I absolutely loved this post! I am still very new in terms of self acceptance and awareness in regards to my own path. While

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The next deity that I’m honoring from the atheist graveyard is Veles (#12) of the Slavic Pantheon.  Now I’ve written several posts about deities from this pantheon under different names and every time I write about them, I grow a little more in knowledge.  There is a lot of variety in names but with similar roles.  Before I’ve described this divinity as the bad guy, but he reminds me a little bit of Loki in that he isn’t necessarily the bad guy but he does take on the adversarial or trickster role.  It seems Christian influence made him appear worse than he really is.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Veles.jpg

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  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    Thanks for commenting! I admit I've had a hard time wading through all the information I've read about the Slavic Pantheon so I a
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thanks for writing about one of the Slavic Gods! Veles has not been viewed remotely as evil by any Rodnovery I have yet encounter
Pagan savings challenge, week twelve:  looking back

I called this post "looking back" because, scurrilous wag that I am, I wrote it a week later than the date it was posted.  Oh, the technology!

My week twelve savings:  $78, 15% ($12) of which I added today.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I've gotten a few messages about reincarnation and how--and if--it relates to Hellenism. Time to talk about it. The idea of reincarnation probably dates back to the Iron Age (so around 1200 BC.). It enters the Hellenic stream of thought and philosophy around the 6th century BC, although there is mention of the theoretical subject in pre-Socratic philosophy.

The ancient Hellenes most likely did not use the word 'reincarnation'; 'Metempsychosis' (μετεμψύχωσις) is a better word for the phenomenon they believed in. It is a philosophical term in the Hellenic language which refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. The notion that the human soul enters another body upon death, though unfamiliar in Hellenic religion, was widespread in Hellenic philosophy. The doctrine of transmigration is first associated with the Pythagoreans and Orphics and was later taught by Plato and Pindar. For the former groups, the soul retained its identity throughout its reincarnations; Plato indicated that souls do not remember their previous experiences. Although Herodotus claims that the Hellenes learned this idea from Egypt, most scholars do not believe it came either from Egypt or from India, but developed independently.

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Temperance, Thanks for discussing the topic of reincarnation, et cetera! As a Platonist, I really do believe in the transmigr

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Dubious Balance

For most of us on the East Coast, this has been a long, wintry season to be sure. And I’m certain we are not done with weather yet, March having come in like a wee lamb. We are ready–more than ready!–for spring to arrive in the hills and the hollow places.

I follow a path that teaches me that spring arrives with the snowdrops, in the dark drear beginnings of February. I have learned that spring is still a terribly changeable beast and filled with chaos and longing. When I observe the Vernal Equinox, it will be as mid-spring–just as the Winter Solstice is mid-winter–and I will know I am halfway to Summer, at Beltane.

Most likely, I will balance an egg tomorrow, for fun. And I have a funny package ready to send to my daughter and her beau, to celebrate the season. As you can see from the photo above, the hellebores that are commonly called Lenten roses are blooming in the yard. The daffodils are blindingly yellow this year and the crocus are larger and lusher than in years past. Some things need a long cold rest to do their best work.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Thanks, wild woman.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Just the words I needed to hear today.
Encountering the Monomyth

 

Today, we begin a discussion of the hero’s journey.

The hero’s journey—also called the hero’s quest—is a profound metaphor infusing each magickal and mundane path we take throughout our lives. The writer and comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell is credited for his work in identifying the common threads winding throughout world mythology and tradition and linking these under a common idea, which he called the monomyth: the “one story.” Campbell developed this idea of the monomyth after discovering that all of the world’s great cultures tend to tell the same stories, albeit with regional variations. To folklorists and mythologists, a “myth” is a story that a culture tells about its most sacred nature and origins. Thus the monomyth captures the story of humanity, retold over and over in a number of guises.

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  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    And I apologize for the typos above. Augh. Wrote this rather fast before dashing out the door-- that'll teach me!
  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker says #
    Thanks, Pegi, for your comments. I am aware of "Campbell criticism"-- I'm a college English professor and a trained folklorist. On
  • Pegi Eyers
    Pegi Eyers says #
    You need to know that there is a a huge critique of the "monomyth" that has been underway for some time. Now criticized as an over
The Prodea Cookbook: Good Food and Traditions from Paganistan's Oldest Coven

You won't find any eye of newt or toe of frog in this witches' kitchen. What you will find is a collection—more than three decades in the making—of seasonal and regional foods for celebration and mindful eating from the Land of Sky Waters: Cinnamon Wild Rice Pudding, Pesto delle Streghe (“the pesto of the witches”), and what may well be the world's oldest Yule recipe.

Plus tales and wisdom from living Midwest Pagan tradition, including a breathtaking repertoire of natural dyestocks for the most beautiful Ostara eggs ever.

The Authors: Poet, scholar, and storyteller Steven Posch emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality (or something) has become one of the Twin Cities' foremost men-in-black. Historian and ethicist Magenta Griffith fell in love with Minnehaha Falls at first sight, and has lived nearby ever since. (And yes, the name does come from Rocky Horror.)

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Spring has Sprung: Time to Reboot!

You know how sometimes you have a problem with your computer or some other electronic gizmo, and you can fix it by simply turning it off and on, or unplugging it and plugging it back in? Don’t you wish it was that easy to reboot our own lives? I know I do. Of course, life doesn’t exactly work like that. But there are times when it is easier to give the process a jump-start, and this is one of them.

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Dishwater Days: Clearing out the end  of Winter

Towards the very end of Winter, the weather suddenly turns darker. The days have been getting longer, so by early March, there is a lot more daylight. The weather is slowly warming up. There may even be signs of the approaching Spring in birds returning or buds developing on trees. But suddenly a cloudy day no longer has a white or pale gray sky. The clouds are brooding, bruise-colored, dark. The clouds that pour over the mountains on those days are not fluffy and soft. They look dirty, like mop water. I call these dishwater days, the late Winter days when the season has lost all its icy sparkle and it looks as though all the grime and soot from the past three months is being washed away.

Because as thick as the cloud cover is, the clouds get blown away by strong winds, after they dump whatever sleety snow-rain mix they carry, and the whole next day feels fresh and clean. The wind is bracing, not brutal. It suddenly seems easy to think about new possibilities, new ideas. The wind blows through our hair, through our thoughts, sweeps detritus away like a broom.

There is a reason that “spring cleaning” is a time-honored tradition, and that both Lent and Passover traditions codify dietary restrictions that effect a type of cleansing. With the first hints of Spring in the air, we feel the longing to finally cast off the heavy clothes of Winter, we want to throw open the windows and scrub the house down, put coats and boots away for another year. We are waking up from the long slumber of Winter and we want to get cleaned up and get out into the world.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_tightrope-walker-in-moon_20140319-010748_1.jpgThe chart of the Spring Equinox of 2014 is an intense, powerful chart that suggests a strong possibility of a sudden and profound awakening within the country. This chart influences the next three months — until the Summer Solstice — and is cast for Washington, DC, so is predictive for the entire USA.

This chart (find it here, and a bi-wheel with the USA chart here) speaks strongly of ideology run amok — not that we haven’t been seeing enough of that lately in the halls of government, especially here in Appalachia, where Republicans Gone Wild has been the theme recently, and the environment we all live in is paying for their extreme ideology (coal ash, anyone? A cocktail of mystery chemicals? Some tailings from mountain top removal?). I suspect that that there will be strong components of religion and environmentalism in the loud and heated discussions and clashes of ideas that seem inevitable this Spring, not to mention explosive events. We are walking the high wire during this time of the Uranus-Pluto square, and all our focus needs to be on getting to the other side, to a sustainable, life-affirming culture.  

But there’s a strong call to spirituality, ethics and evolution in this chart as well. The conjunction of Mercury and Neptune in Pisces is a magical one, with the magic strengthened by the trine from Jupiter. Mercury is in his detriment in Pisces, which is kind of like being at a party where you don’t know the other people, and you’re not sure you want to. But we can give him something useful to do by directing our minds towards creating visions of a better future using the oceanic awareness of Neptune and Pisces. This is a great opportunity to sharpen and strengthen our meditation and  visualization skills. Magically, work to connect with tutelary spirits should be well-supported. However, there is also a risk of getting lost in fantasy or embroiled in deception, so it’s important to stay grounded and to listen if trusted friends question our judgment.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Crazy-good, as always. Shoo, kitty, you rock this stuff!
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Thank you, Greybeard. Agreed!
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    You are right that its a time for people to wake up. I read today that use of wood for heating fuel has doubled in less than 10 y

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_isis-3.gifOnce upon a time in Egypt, back when the Nile was free to flood and recede, the harvest season (Shemu) was at its height about now. Planting would have happened in our late fall (Peret); the inundation would come again in mid- or late-summer (Akhet). Renenutet and Aset (Isis) were two of the goddesses who were honored during this season that most of us know as the vernal equinox.

Temple Osireion likes to celebrate this end of the season of Peret, the coming of spring, the flush of new life symbolized by eggs. Many ancients observed this week as the time that Aset gave birth to Horus. In fact, during our ceremony when we wave participants with a fan, it is in remembrance that Aset turned herself into a bird to stir Osiris back to life long enough for her to conceive.

Sham el Nessim is a very old Egyptian national holiday, but even in modern Egypt thousands of families, regardless of their religion, go to parks and the countryside to picnic, decorate eggs, take long walks, and, as the ancients said, “Sham el Nessim,” “sniff the breeze.” At our gathering, we decorate eggs with ancient Egyptian symbols like the ankh and eye of Horus. Everyone takes a sprig of spring onion after the ritual, breaks it open a little and smells it; this is to keep away the evil eye for the year to come - it’s especially important if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. And we also share lettuce and fish, more potent symbols of the land when it is rich, ripe and fertile.  

Sniff the breeze this week as the sun moves a bit higher in the sky. Although snow has fallen on much of the country, most of us are seeing beneath it the first bulbs and green shoots of spring. The air is indeed fresh with the scent of hope, new possibilities in the season ahead.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Nile_Delta_5.jpg

 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Welcoming Spring

In all my years, I've never wanted spring to come as much as this spring.  In a month, my son will turn a year old, but that's not the only thing driving my excitement.

It started in January; I purchased seeds, then more seeds, a raised bed, and different types of containers I intended to modify.  I hopped from one foot to the other awaiting news at the Molbak's information desk when they'd have certain plants in; two weeks ago, I chafed at not finding terra cotta pots at the local hardware store

Just as I engage in fall cleaning in anticipation of winter, my spring cleaning takes place mostly outside now.  And this year I've learned how to strap the baby to my back so I can get in five to ten minutes of gardening before one of us is tired.  Disability or no, I have major ambitions for our home, and it centers around the desire to work for the benefit of all around me, which includes the neighbors who live in our backyard

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Pact 

at thirteen I asked give me this

every day of my life

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Apparently the Egyptian Goddesses are trying to get my attention these days.

This week brings us the lovely frog goddess Heqet, whose message is:

"Fertility surrounds you in numerous forms. Open your eyes."

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
A Springtime Ceilidh

St. Patty's Day can be an odd time of year for we Irish Wiccans and Pagans. On the one hand, the attraction of all things Irish is strong. First there's that stirring fiddle music and the rumble of the drum. The food is mighty tasty, folks are feeling celebratory, and who doesn't like the color of bright, springy green? On the other, who wants to revere a man for driving the "snakes" out of Ireland, a.k.a. the Druids? There is still a spirited scholarly debate regarding how much damage St. Patrick actually did on his own versus the mythic qualities that surround him to this present day. This presents a quandary, but not one insurmountable. I believe that you can partake in festivities in your own way, honoring your Irish heritage. Perhaps this year is one of the most opportune times, when we have the Irish holiday falling within the same week as the Spring Equinox. If you do up a dinner party combining the two, with a focus on some of the more classic Celtic traditions– problem solved!

Take down your favorite celtic knotwork wall hanging and use it as a tablecloth. Hopefully it is nothing you mind cleaning a little spilled food or drink off of. Decorate the table with fresh cut spring flowers, such as daffodils. Invite about 4 to 6 others to join you and pull up a chair. For your menu, think Celtic-eclectic. This is your very own hybrid holiday, after-all.

Had it with tired old corned beef and cabbage? Give this tempting main course a try: 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Practice What You Preach!

Several years ago I was facilitating a spiritual discussion group at the Yellow Springs Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  I was serving that congregation as their religious education director and one of the duties I took upon myself was leading this discussion group before we gathered for the weekly service.  There was a wonderful gentleman named Chuck who would often attend our discussions and sometimes attend the main service depending on the topic.  One Sunday morning after about a half hour of group discussion Chuck spoke up and addressed the small group of about eight or so at the spiritual discussion group with, “You folks talk about being opened minded and affirming of others yet in the course of this discussion you’ve insulted me several times.  I’m a Christian.  I’m a Fundamentalist.  I teach at a Baptist university, and I regularly attend a Baptist Church.  And I’m a Republican.  Some of you have used these terms like they’re swear words.”  After he spoke his mind there was a lot of back peddling.  Chuck attended these discussion groups because he valued the discussions and he attended the main service when he was able because he valued some of the topics presented.  On those occasions when I was able to preach at the fellowship he would often attend to hear me speak.  He was and is a good man.  He wasn’t the “enemy,” but he was someone who sought to understand others and dialogue for mutual understanding and respect.

But Chuck presented an important dilemma for Unitarian Universalism and also a dilemma that is pertinent to the Pagan community.  How can we advocate tolerance, acceptance and understanding while simultaneously causing alienation and marginalization?

Back in 2010 I attended a conference at Sojourners headquarters in Washington, DC.  Sojourners is an Evangelical Christian organization devoted primarily to social justice causes.  The conference I attended was focused on promoting education for collaborative faith based social justice programs and encouraged people to travel back to their local communities and organize faith based social justice programs.  The point of the training was to get conservative and liberal faith communities to talk to one another and focus on the social justice issues they can agree upon and work together to promote positive change.  When I returned to the Columbus, Ohio area I helped with some Immigration Reform events that were truly interfaith endeavors.  It was Immigration Reform that was a topic that could unite several very diverse faith groups together for common action.   It would have done no one any good to point fingers and shout, “Other.”  But together our small voices became a much louder voice.  I like to think we did some good by working together.  That training at Sojourners was a good opportunity for me and I value that experience.

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    Well said, and much needed, David. Thank you.
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is excellent, David, and of course it applies to all religious enclaves and all parties in a democracy. I had the same revel

Seven or eight years ago, I shocked a large group of my Pagan friends.  I was at a small festival in Oklahoma that happened to take place during St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  I was vending and teaching at this festival (as well as performing my first song) and knew most of the attendees very well.  As we were cleaning the dining hall after dinner, I invited everyone down to my vendor table to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a drink of Irish whiskey.  The look of horror on some of their faces was priceless.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Wonderful. I'll remember it and use it perhaps next year.
  • James Taylor
    James Taylor says #
    I literally laughed out loud at this. Thanks Carl, great post.

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Magical Marketing

Making my living with my magic, I am intrigued with marketing. Deep down, I understand marketing IS magic. We are now deeply immersed in the trend of elevator pitches and Tell-Them-In-One-Word. People spend only 15 seconds on a webpage, we are told, so tell your message fast!!!

I freak at this. I just can’t, and I know I don’t want to. I left science to become free, to follow my heart, not to become the slave of the marketing guru’s. AND, on a deeper level I can tell you they are wrong. Maybe they can help you earn big money. But they are not helping you do the work of your souls calling.

It is simply not how magic works. Magic is about raising energy and creating a field around a specific intention. Ha, you might think, cannot that intention be said in one word? Well, actually not. Because magic is also about aligning with how nature really works. And if there is something everyone agrees upon, from mystic to management prophet to priestess, it is that the world is complex, paradoxical, and full of miracles. So the unexpected truth is, that in order to create your dreams you need to be full of ambiguity!

An example. Ever heard of One Trait Breeding? It is used widely in our cattle industry. Say, someone wants chickens with more breast meat. Then in the breeding all the focus comes to this one trait. Researcher Temple Grandin came across the shocking results of this. She came to a farm where the roosters raped the hens, and if the hens refused the rooster simply murdered them. Temple was shocked, of course, and went to the farmer to ask if he had noticed this. He said: ‘yes, and it hurts me to see it, but you know that is just as it is among roosters and hens’. Temple researched this, and this is what she found: it USED TO BE not normal between roosters and hens. That changed when one trait breeding came in. Within not more than 5 years, the roosters became super macho to the point of being rapists and murderers.

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  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Enjoyed your article and agree with it - but would also like to point out how we overlook misspellings in advertising, nowadays.
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    As you say, common marketing wisdom tells us to be faster and more succinct. It's One Trait Breeding's offspring, but there are o

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