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Blessings and Remembrance

     While today is traditionally a day of celebration, a day to toast the Irish and feast on corned beef and colcannon, my family takes a more serious approach. My husband and I are both of Irish descent, and yes, we'll cook our corned beef and pour the beer (not green, though...that's just weird) and play bagpipe music louder than usual, but we will do so not in honor of the venerable Saint Patrick, but instead in honor of the 'snakes' he drove out of Ireland: the Druids, the Priestesses, and the followers of the Old Ways that were murdered or driven from their homes.

     We remember and pay homage to the people who died for their faith, and the survivors who lived in terror, keeping their traditions in secret, so that today Pagans and Wiccans the world over can hold their heads up and proudly claim their places in the world. By all means, celebrate today as you have always done...please don't let me rain on your Saint Patrick's Day parade. (Ouch. That was a terrible pun. I humbly apologize.) In the midst of your celebrating, however, pause for a moment, and light a candle for the ones who came before, for the ones who fell, and the ones that continued on, despite all obstacles, so that we could be here today.

     Blessings to you on this All Snakes Day.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Well said. I'll hoist a glass of Irish beer in remembrance of all the Pagan Irish who died of Christian sins.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Creideamh a' Bhata Bhuidhe: The religion of the yellow stick. A Coll priest of former times was accustomed to drive recalcitrant natives to church by a smart application of his walking stick, those who yielded were thus said to come under “creideamh a' bhata bhuidhe.” Another version says Hector, son of Donald Maclean of Coll, was the one who applied the yellow stick. Hector was laird in 1715 and as the religion of the yellow stick was introduced into Rum in 1726, it is beyond dispute that Hector was the author, or propagator of it. He was dignified in appearance and stern in manners and could no doubt wield the yellow stick gracefully and with efficiency. - Dwelly's Illustrated Gaelic to English Dictionary

I was raised a Jehovah's Witness and forced by my parents to attend Kingdom Hall three times a week. So you'll understand if I confess a visceral reaction to the prospect of being beaten with a stick for the sake of piety. In fact, I still deliberately linger in bed on Sunday mornings, and it's been nearly thirty years since I had to attend a weekend service. But that's one of the lovely things about being Pagan, isn't it? We don't adhere to a rigid belief system, so we don't punish our members when they fail to think or do what such a system might dictate. Rather, the religious beliefs of Pagans are diverse, perhaps far more than members of mainstream religions. Around the circle at any given public ritual, we might have Dianic Wiccans, Celtic polytheists, Heathens and others, each nurturing an internal spiritual narrative unique to her needs.

Of course, that's precisely what faith is, an internal narrative about the way the universe works. In some religions, that narrative is externally prescribed, which helps to create unity among practitioners but also leaves them vulnerable to manipulation. In others, the individual is expected to function as his own guru, which helps to foster spiritual resilience but can leave him feeling isolated. However, in both cases, people of faith are receiving or creating sacred stories overlaid upon the unknown. No Christian actually knows if the serendipity in her life belongs to God or chance, no Wiccan is certain whether or not his magic is working, and no cartomancer can tell you why her efforts at divination are more than random but never wholly reliable.

Simply put, we tell stories to heaven, and sometimes we think heaven answers.

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  • Jose M
    Jose M says #
    Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!!
  • C.S. MacCath
    C.S. MacCath says #
    Thank you!
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is deeply thought-out and exquisitely expressed for its clarity. I can see why your writing has been nominated for so many a

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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I'm currently going through an emotionally painful time in my life, which includes plenty of tears, and I'm not ashamed or afraid to admit that. It has got me thinking about a lot more about my future, my place in this universe, and not only what my spiritual path means to me, but where it's headed. I foresee a lot of change this year in my life, and it scares me. Recently, while having one of my less formal 'morning chats' with one of the goddesses, I broke down and began to cry at the overwhelming pressure and fear.

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  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Bless you Peter. I too have known the despair you feel now. I am so glad you felt the arms of the divine power holding you through
  • Peter Beckley
    Peter Beckley says #
    Thank you, Carol.

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

I live, work and play in sight of the Catskill Mountains. Although I've followed the Hudson River ever farther north in my life, always there were mountains. First there were the gentle Hudson Highlands, then the rocky faces of the Shawangunks, and then, finally the Catskills. It was those wooded peaks that made me finally love the Hudson Valley. I'm blessed to see the Catskills every day, whether glimpsed as I stretch for a peek from our driveway, or sprawling before me as I cross the bridge heading back home after work. They mark the days, the seasons, and I love them. This morning, as I drove home from the Farm Market across the river, my car fragrant with basil and my mind sorting out what to make with the tomatoes and zucchini I'd purchased, I reached the bridge and gasped. The mountains were...gone. Just not there, as if they'd been stolen away by the same villain who swiped the Moon in the movie Despicable Me. Where they usually could be found was only a smudgy gray haze.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post at my home blog entitled Acts of Faith http://mountainwomon.blogspot.com/2011/09/acts-of-faith.html . So often spirituality relies on faith as its foundation. After all, we can't know there's a Goddess, can we? We can't prove Her existence, can't touch Her, see or hear Her with our standard-issue eyes & ears. And yet, I've known there was Divine since the day after my older son was born 32 years ago. They laid him tummy down on my chest, and he managed to somehow raise his tiny head, and looked past my eyes into my soul. Yep, I know babies aren't really 'looking at' anything at a day old. I don't care; I know what happened that day, and first, that moment changed both our lives. Second, I knew at that moment there was a Divine Being. It would be years before I believed that Being gave a rat's patootie about humankind, and years before I would recognize the Divine as Goddess, but at that moment in time, there was no faith involved; I knew as surely as I know the mountains haven't really vanished. Humidity, fog, clouds have hidden them from my sight, but never my heart. 

We of the Goddess path share that knowing. This post's title is borrowed from Jade River's classic Dianic Wiccan book of the same name. To have a relationship with Goddess is to know that relationship is possible, to know that She is there in the rising Sun and waning Moon, in joy and grief, sex and celibacy, birth and death. But that doesn't mean any of us have to have that knowledge from the get-go. We develop it over time, by listening, looking, trusting and questioning, digging in the dirt, living our lives and praying. Perhaps your  journey will start with faith that later becomes that which you know and are.

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I have been focused on the art of surrender lately – I am deeply interested in what it takes for your average modern person to consciously live the Will of the Gods, what the difference is between partial and complete surrender (I have the sinking suspicion the latter feels like sitting between two stools, while the other feels like connected bliss) and what a contemporary mystic’s journey can be like…and in this case, how that journey begins.

When I was first exploring paganism and Reclaiming witchcraft (later coming to the Feri Tradition through Reclaiming) I hand-picked the Goddesses and Gods that I wanted to work with, calling to the energies which sparkled and sparked outside of me, just within the reach of my imagination. I found it intensely powerful to strike up my first Goddess relationship with Brighid, keeper of the forge of my heart. Over the years, I have worked with many Goddesses, as I have felt called…but the deepest relationships I have experienced with the Divine have emerged when I have trusted the Divine to choose me.

A few years back, in the midst of a small crisis of faith, I was feeling very disconnected from my spirituality and practice. I wouldn’t call it a dark night of the soul – it felt more like a gray apathy of the psyche. I discussed this feeling of spiritual disconnection with a trusted friend, and she suggested that I create an altar: barely decorated, with a white altar cloth and a bowl of salt water, she suggested I sit in front of this altar every night and ask to be contacted by gods, being open to Whomever wanted to come through and make contact. This idea intrigued me, as I had never before relinquished so much control of my spiritual connection with deity. It felt like a growing edge, and I love growing edges.

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  • Heather Freysdottir
    Heather Freysdottir says #
    I was god-stalked by Loki. Before He made His Holy Presence known, I wasn't heathen or familiar with Him (that I was aware of). He

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
My Pagan Theology

Yesterday was Walpurgisnacht, the night in which German witches are said to fly around on broomsticks and revel. Today is Beltane and my birthday. I was born in the early morning hours between Walpurgisnacht and Beltane, to a German mother and an Irish-German-American father  in the birth town of the Grim brothers. It makes me think that magic runs in my blood, and yet this is the first year in which I will dance the may pole.

It haven't even walked this pagan path for a full year and a day. I am still a new witchlet and yet I am practically watching my theology come together - like pieces rising from the ashes of a puzzle destroyed in the fire. When my previous Christian theology went up in flames I thought agnosticism was the best the world could offer me. The resurrection of belief has been more than an intellectual delight, it has been a breath of new life. To not only disbelieve the old things but to believe in new things. I believe again!

But what exactly do I believe? Teo Bishop put together a great list of pagan beliefs in his post Crowdsourcing Pagan Theology.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Those of you who have been visiting this blog for a while are most likely aware I have a pretty Reconstructionistic approach to Reconstructionism. I came to Hellenismos from a Neo-Wiccan/Eclectic Religious Witchcraft path and have never been subject to the restrictions religion seems to have brought to those who came here through Christianity or other major religions. Because of this, I have no qualms in surrendering part of my autonomy to serve the Theoi (and other Gods, before my progression into Hellenismos). Today I want to talk about finding the balance between yourself and your Deities, a balance that is different for everyone.

Depending on your Tradition (and I'm just going to assume that since you're reading this, you have allowed the Gods in your life), you will describe your relationship with the Gods in a myriad of ways; work with, commune with, meet with, talk with, worship, appease, etc. I serve. I worship, too, and I appease. Sometimes, I talk to the Theoi, but above all, I serve.

Funnily enough, I'm not a submissive person. I'm a caring person, true, and I will gladly put others ahead of myself, but I do that from a place of personal strength and confidence. I choose to put others' needs ahead of my own at times, but I claim my own space and rights when I need to. I have boundaries that no one ever crosses, unless I allow them. I learned to do this the hard way, when I was still a child. Yet, when it comes to the Theoi (and other Gods before Them), I seem to be completely without boundaries.

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  • John Halstead
    John Halstead says #
    "Who am I to go against His wishes ...?" You are a beautiful and incredible human being is who you are. Who is he to say you ha
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Cross-reply between here and http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/the-role-of-faith-and-hubris-in-paganism Thank you for

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Chosen Belief

One of the things that I value about being a Pagan, is that my religion welcomes knowledge that comes from science. The research of astronomers and of archaeologists figures in my meditations and in my spiritual and magickal practice. I'm also happy that we have been called the people of the library rather than the people of the book. I have access to the myths, the stories, and doctrines of more cultures and ages than my spiritual ancestors could have imagined. I'm extremely grateful for the abundance of teachings that this represents as it gives great depth and breadth to whatever spiritual, magical, or religious work that I undertake. However there is a cost and a challenge that comes with every gift. With greater knowledge comes the possibility of greater doubt. Without a single book or body of teachings identified as the preeminent source of truth, there can be a weakening of the power of belief.

 

On the longest night of the year, science tells me the Sun will rise again and that the days will grow longer. On the longest night of the year, the myths that I hold true tell me that our actions determine our relationship to the Sun. When I see the glorious Moon shining in its fullness, I see a Divine light and I see a large rock held in the dance of gravity. When I look at the attributes and stories of a Deity across the lines of cultures and time periods, I see the lines of soft and hard polytheism grow blurry in a syncretic mist. I think you can find your own examples for the experience this dynamic in your life. This is not a blog about faith in the normal sense of the word. Nor is it a blog about belief in the normal sense of the word. The concern that I'd like to raise, is that one of the primary fuels of magick is belief.  The knowledge that we have in the modern world can interfere with the process by which we create the power of belief. As it is, we live in a culture that discourages a belief in the power of magick so we already have one obstacle to overcome. And though I believe that more knowledge can result in more power and more effective practices, I also know that it can create emotional, cognitive, and spiritual dissonance.

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  • Maggi Setti
    Maggi Setti says #
    The dissonance and paradox here of meaning being multi-fold is both the bane and beauty of our religion. It holds the wonder and

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A cross-post this week, if I may - between here at my first blog 'home', and the wonderfully eclectic 'Witches & Pagans' site (because if you can't 'moonlight' as a Pagan, then who can?).

I am very aware that I haven't written anything at either location for a couple of weeks. I could give excuses - ultimately, the days have flown past and life has been more important. I'm sure we all know how that goes. Instead, take a wander with me, if you will.

Regular readers know that one of my favourite places for inspiration is as I walk the dog across the hilltop where I live. This evening I wandered the streets, looking out at the fierce clouds parting after an intense rain and thunder-storm just a few hours ago, the remnants of a rainbow, and the slightly 'stunned' feeling of a normal, modern, country village after a violent and unavoidable incident of Nature. The grass is rich and green, the snails appear to have made a small bypass across the path outside one particular row of houses, and the occasional early bat is swooping overhead.

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