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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Hellenismos, as a modern Recon Tradition, is young. It's only a decade or two old and while it's starting to get off of the ground and come together, there are a lot of issues which have not been worked out yet. I broached this in my post about suicide and I want to delve deeper into it today. There is a promise of greatness in Hellenismos, but unlike the slightly older Wicca and its younger cousin Neo-Wicca, Hellenismos can't function on a 'coven-by-coven'-basis. This means it needs a doctrine.

The definition of Paganism I use is the one from the Cauldron;

"A Pagan religion is a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and self-identifies as Pagan."


Emphasis on 'self-identifies'. If you feel your practice fits under the Pagan banner, you are free to call yourself Pagan. It's not a protected term like Wicca is, and Hellenismos should be. Above, I stated that Hellenismos can't function on a 'coven-by-coven'-basis. What I meant to say with that is that the few Hellenic organizations there are can, of course, function wonderfully on their own, but they will both be practicing something different; their own versions of Hellenismos which are, most likely, incompatible. They don't form a whole, a unified religion. They would practice on that 'coven-to-coven' basis which, in my opinion, does not work with a Recon tradition.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    And this, my dear, is why I can't be a true Recon: my experience with deities is not structured around how they were worshipped in
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    I completely understand, yet it's exactly that which draws me to Recon Traditions. Worshipping a pantheon instead of a specific De

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

When I first placed myself under the Pagan banner and started coming out, I had already gotten a good couple of coming outs about my sexuality under my belt. The process of tap-dancing around the subject, broaching it casually and then saying the actual word was not unknown to me. Not one to back down from any challenge, I have held some sort of presentation or talk about Paganism in front of my school classes since highschool. I was always more of a 'lets-get-this-over-with-so-we-can-all-go-back-to-our-lives'-kind of girl.

Because I have always been outspoken about my religion, I have lost the company of a good few I would have loved to call friends. Because of this, I tend to come out as a lesbian and a Pagan in the first five meetings with a person. That way, we both know the score and it saves me a lot of heartache. So far, people have been incredibly understanding about both. Highschool was a bit of a mess but mostly about the gay thing. The Pagan thing, they didn't understand, didn't know how to tease me with and thus ignored. When I got older, 99 percent of the reactions ranged from excited to intrigued. That one percent of negative feedback is completely neglectable to me.

I am incredibly sad to say that most flack I have ever gotten about my religious believes has come from the Pagan community itself. When I was Neo-Wiccan, I was 'fluffy', when I was a Technopagan, I was 'disrespecting nature' and 'angering the Goddess' for accepting technology in ritual. When I was a Hedge Witch, I 'didn't know enough about herbs' to be one. When I was an Eclectic Religious Witch, I was 'lazy' and 'a pick-and-choosing thief'. Now I'm Hellenic, I'm 'elitist' and 'in disrespect of nature' again. Honestly, I can't win. Whatever I do, for the majority of Pagans, I will never be 'Pagan enough'.

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  • Tammy
    Tammy says #
    I too get annoyed by being labeled. I am many things - Pagan, Wiccan, Catholic, Witch, and whatever else interests me. all that be
  • Brynn Sillyman
    Brynn Sillyman says #
    I created an account here just so I could comment on this article, which I saw on my FB feed. I'm glad you're saying this too! Me
  • Brynn Sillyman
    Brynn Sillyman says #
    (And after I post, I see one of these exact pagans I spoke of in the sidebar to the right with an article titled, "You're doing it

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Once upon a time, in the not so distant past, “you are not the boss of me” was muttered any time two or more of us were gathered together. Wicca had erupted into a new tradition every few days, Druids were behind every oak tree and the rise of the Recons made everyone proud and bristly with new knowledge of old matters. We ate the prolific casseroles of endless potluck feasts and we went to each other’s rituals when that was allowed.  Afterwards we’d gather with folks of our own trads and we’d compare circle castings and elemental pairings, and gossip about the size of the high priestess’s crown.

The same thing goes on still, of course. We each choose the path that is laid for us and we seek out a tradition—old or new—that seems to fit what we believe, really believe, down deep inside. We go through the Seeker stage to the Neophyte stage. We read all those simple 101 books and go to workshops and public rituals. We buy or make flowing gowns and tunics and sport a big pentacle from Spencer’s gifts. We learn to pronounce “Samhain” correctly and at some point we choose a tradition that really fits or we proudly declare ourselves Solitaries. If we are very lucky, we have a succession of good teachers. There may be a circle or coven or grove in which we learn the arts of leadership and we begin to teach the next generation of Earth-loving, opinionated folk who are not going to be bossed around.

Lately though I’ve noticed a change in our crabby and electronic world. Instead of quibbling about whether it’s proper to work within a circle or if one can stand in a lineaged Wiccan tradition while also being a Sumerian Recon, we’ve gotten awfully pissy about right and wrong and…correct.  No longer content to go our separate ways and merely gossip about those goofy (fill in the blank), we seem to expend rather a lot of electronic air in actually trying to convert each other.

...
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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    I could not help laughing as I read this, thinking that anyone who tries to convert you probably doesn't try moe than once! Good p
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    You'd be surprised. :>)
  • Janet Boyer
    Janet Boyer says #
    Wonderful post, Byron!

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What Do You Call That?

This is part three of an arc of related ideas that can stand alone but would benefit from the additional context of the earlier posts. If you have not read the two previous blogs, I hope that you take time to read them. In this post I’ll explore the use of names and labels such as Pagan, Wiccan, etc.

 

Though it would be lovely to come up with some equivalent of Linnaean taxonomy (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) when it comes to the various magico-religious streams, I do not think that it is practical. Physical living things have relatively distinct boundaries whereas systems of culture that are passed from and through individuals and communities through non-genetic means have a high degree of form complexity and overlap. Moreover the overlapping domains of the magico-religious streams are not limited to nesting hierarchies of set and subset. Also, the Traditions of the magico-religious streams are anchored in more than just the physical plane and the rules of the other planes also apply. 

...
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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

First, I want to thank all the folks who have posted kind words about my starting this blog. It is deeply encouraging to be so warmly received. Thank you!

Before turn to my topic for this post, I wish to reflect on the interesting conversation about the use of the term ‘pagan’ in this, its uncapitalized form. I’ve given my opinion already, in that I feel it has no referent, and that it represents a distortion of the past, but for that please see the original post and its comments. What is interesting to me is that folks would defend its use. It was and is an insult, as common in use as the ’n-word’ was at a time. By naming ourselves ‘Pagan’ we proudly turn that opprobrium into an honorable name for a new and defiant religion, ours. . . . . .

So, then, what is ‘religion’? I’ll start by citing a not-bad version of the dictionary definition for religion: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion)

You will no doubt notice the primacy of ‘belief’ in this definition. Ritual also gets a mention, as does morality, but only as a optional quality.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Good thinking, Sam; in this day-and-age the words "religion" and "spirituality" have become so entangled that reasoned discourse s
  • Gareth Storm
    Gareth Storm says #
    Another fascinating thought experiment captured in little "black" pixels surrounded by "white" ones, showing us just how much gray

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Your Garden Could Use Some TLC

Some Pagans sure do like to get into everyone's business, don't they? Now that all the hubbub over who's a fat Pagan has died down (thank you any gods that will listen!), we're now onto who's a Pagan based upon which source materials they're referencing to find spiritual growth and their purpose in this world. Are you kidding me?

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Today is Lammas-tide, Lughnasadh, the festival of the grain harvest. Across the land, fields full of golden wheat, barley and numerous others have been growing tall, a feast for the eyes as they bend in the breeze, a feast for the birds, bees, mice and other creatures that run between the rows.

In centuries past, it would be entire communities who came out to help with the harvest, threshing, binding and preparing the crop to last them the winter. Fuel is needed for heat, nourishment and sustenance for livestock - without a successful harvest, a lean winter means walking the path between life and death.

These days, it's more the rumble of heavy-duty farming machinery at work that is heard as the harvest is gathered in - but it's no less valuable for that. Despite the knowledge that we can import food, fuel and whatever we need from other places, there's still the essential connection between us and the land as personified in the life of our fuel-stuffs. We celebrate it, we recognise and remember it. Children make corn-dollies, singers remember John Barleycorn.

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  • Hunter Liguore
    Hunter Liguore says #
    I ventured to make "corn" dollies from corn husks, only to realize that they are made from the wheat or barley. Amazing what can b

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

The unexpected death of a friend this week brought into sharp relief the differences between traditions around death and grief, not only between different communities but also between different generations. How we handle the dead and our sorrow shows a lot about our culture.

For the Anglo-Saxons, much of what we know of their material culture -- apart descriptions in poems and histories -- come from discovered burials. But burial wasn't always the norm. We have a magnificent pagan shipboard funeral of a king in the opening lines of Beowulf. For a long time people dismissed it as a rather fanciful thing.

...
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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    My condolences on your loss, Kate; I thank you for sharing your wisdom and reflections with our community.
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thanks so much, Anne. The power of community in bad times reflects the strength of its joy in good times. And the fluctuation betw
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Thank you, my dear. It's never easy, but the weight becomes more familiar as we age, alas. It's the first time I have felt 'away'

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I've returned today from performing a Handfasting with my partner - not unusual at this time of year. But this was our first on a beach.

Yes, this is Britain. Yes, we've just had semi-monsoon conditions for the last few months. Summer was rumoured to have been cancelled. So much could have gone wrong.

It was beautiful. Golden sands, blue sky, bright sun, lush green grasses and flowers on the path leading from the couple's home to the beach itself... everyone commented that you couldn't have wished for a better day.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Nota bene—I had planned to post this second part earlier in the week but have been drawn—lured!—down the tricky rabbit trails in our community. Some of you will understand this guilty pleasure: following link after link in a circuitous, riotous and ultimately informative research effort.

These are not issues exclusive to the Pagan/Heathen communities but—as with many other sticking points—it is writ large here. Sturm und drang—polished and deliberate language used as both weapon and shield. The bristling armed camps face each other across a wide gulf. After many months of observing, listening and analyzing, I did what any curious person would do. I went to the edge of that deep gap and simply looked in. It seemed the best way to understand the level of disconnect that I was encountering as I pondered the situations and the reactions to them.

Slick, clever, running both hot and cold, the talk (in person and on-line) surrounding some relatively simple questions of protocol belies the complexity of the times, the personalities and the issues involved.

The great scholar Gerda Lerner has often been my guide as I attempt to look through the lens/lenses of that construct we call “history.”  Her work has been instrumental in revealing the hidden roots of ostensibly modern problems.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Paganism is one of the most democratic of spiritualities, right? It allows each of us to maintain and explore our own relationship with deity, practice pretty much as we like, and generally find like-minded people to work with along the way.
Except that it's not that simple (of course). We like to think that it's all sweetness, light and friendship, but as with any human philosophy, there are speed-bumps on the road that we're travelling.
 
Something that I've been really coming up against in recent months is the issue of hierarchy. If Pagans can each hold their own method of worship, then why do we even need leaders? Perhaps rather naively, I used to assume that each person understood that following a spiritual path involved investigation, constant challenging of the self and their chosen Way - otherwise it'd be far simpler to just find one of those other faiths with a set doctrine and follow that (less thought and effort required all round).
 
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National Pagan Correctional Chaplains Association

Gandhi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world," and it has become my own personal mantra. It has been almost six years ago since I first sat across the table from Rev. Patrick McCollum in a roadside diner as he told me the story of how he became the first Wiccan chaplain for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He had a way of telling a story that kept me on the edge of my seat as he recounted the relentless onslaught of religious discrimination he personally experienced trying to provide religious services to Wiccan inmates.

I was shocked to hear that the first time he attempted to enter a prison to provide religious services he was spit on by a uniformed correctional officer. The frustrating irony was that it was institutional staff that had called him and asked for his help. Wiccan inmates had won a legal suit and the prison was required to provide them with religious accommodations, so officials requested that Patrick volunteer his time and money, make the long journey to their somewhat remote location to assist them. But when he did, they did everything they could to stop him.

He warned me about the various challenges of the mission, should I choose to accept it. But I had just moved back home after almost ten years in the United States Army, including a tour in Iraq. So I was more than confident, I was cocky. I remember Patrick saying he thought I had what it took to do services at Corcoran State Prison, I always took that as an enormous compliment and hoped I would someday live up to that impression.

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  • Jackie Moore
    Jackie Moore says #
    I love that I am the first to comment on this posting. I am jumping and shouting as I write this, as I think it is about time that
  • Jackie Moore
    Jackie Moore says #
    I said my son's only source of spiritual guidance was from a minister in Idaho. What I neglected to say was that he is a Wiccan Mi

Last time we looked at diagnosis of symptoms in Anglo-Saxon magic: now onto materials!

Once the culprit was identified it was essential to gather the materials for the charm. In most cases this meant herbs. Potions and poultices were the central part of charm remedies. One needed to remember the properties of all the herb, the best time for harvesting them, and the extent of the their interactions. Poems like the "Nine Herbs Charm" helped people memorize the properties of the most common healing herbs. In addition to herbs, there were bodily fluids like blood and spit and—well, other less charming substances.

Breath too proved an important component in charms, representing of course the substance of life itself. The church supplied additional helpful items such as communion wafers and holy water (though some church fathers might have frowned at their use in these charms).

More homey materials like milk and honey showed up in charms as well; honey is especially important because it is the basis of mead, the favorite drink of the Anglo-Saxons. Mead itself—along with wine and ale—provided a better tasting concoction with which to drink down the herbs. Of course if the herbs were made into a poultice or salve, you would need oil or wax to bind the materials together. Naturally, you would need bowls and other utensils to mix all the items together, and sometimes bandages to apply the mixture.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Brilliant, brilliant! It's just what I do--ah, well, with some exceptions. I'm working up my own (Appalachian) version of the Ni
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    Grand to hear that! I look forward to hearing a regional version of a classic. A living history is magic, one that will continue.

The charms of Anglo-Saxon England consisted of words, herbs and actions. The folks who lived in the period after the Roman era and before the Norman Invasion of 1066 believed that words had a magic of their own especially when spoken aloud, but that the application of the right herbs would help the healing processes along, too. Sometimes other actions were required to create the right atmosphere or to move bad luck along to someone else. All three techniques used together was simply magic.

Among the most common uses for magic was for healing. Lacking any kind of organized medical care system, they pieced together charms and poultices to take care of the common health problems. But they also used charms to protect, both themselves and their belongings. Chief amongst their property was cattle. The Anglo-Saxon word for "cattle" (feoh) is the same as the word for "wealth" which shows how important cattle were. Charms also came in handy to enhance good luck and increase one's bounty.

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  • Joseph Bloch
    Joseph Bloch says #
    At the risk of being pedantic, the Ango-Saxon for cattle and movable property is "feoh". "Fé" is the Old Norse version of the word
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    You're right, of course! I go back and forth between OE and ON so much, I slip up on words from time to time. Good to know I've go
  • mary widner
    mary widner says #
    i enjoy reading this

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