"Jedi, druid and pagan weddings could be made legal across Britain under proposals from MPs, it was claimed last night. They want to change the law to allow humanist weddings, for couples who do not want a religious or civil marriage to express their commitment. But Tories say such an amendment would ‘dilute’ the institution of marriage by allowing other ‘ridiculous’ sects to marry couples."
PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
The constellation Draco (from the Greek Drakon, meaning dragon) is identified--funnily enough--with some dragons in Hellenic myth but not others. There are quite a few creatures, after all, who would qualify as a dragon in Hellenic myth. For a dragon or hydra not connected to the constellation, think of the one Kadmos vanquished, for example, or the one Apollon vanquished at Delphi, or even the dragon who guarded the Golden Fleece and was slain by Iásōn. In truth, only two dragons were associated with the myth in ancient times, most notably by Hyginus in his Astronomica: Drakon Hesperios, the Hesperian Dragon, and Drakon Gigantomakhios, the Gigantomachian Dragon.
When I met Reverend Jessica LaReau in an Intro to Wicca class taught by Reverend Peter Hertzberg of Northern Lakes Temple, I was struck by her kindness and generosity. In a comfortable room above Mimosa Bookstore in downtown Madison, the class worked from a text containing basic information found in witchcraft. As a newcomer, I hadn't received the book. Without prompting, Reverend Jessica, also of Northern Lakes Temple, offered her book to me. Later, the text "A Dedicant's Guide to 1st Degree Priesthood" would become a resource for any tree magick I decided to try. A few weeks later, the class hit on the topic of familiars. Being an Aries, I immediately decided that if others had familiars – and seemed rather content about having them – then I might as well have one, too. Not exactly an expert on the subject, I aimed question after question at Reverend Peter, who seemed to grow tight-lipped after a while. I liked Peter tremendously, and if there was an opportunity to banter with him, I'd pounce on it tout de suite. This afternoon, though, Peter seemed to dig in his heels, much as a spectacled mountain goat that would not be coaxed or pushed from his terrain. Patiently, Reverend Jessica explained that maybe my familiar would or had come with a specific purpose such as protection. Any preconceived notions I formed – and perhaps those notions would be shaped by Peter's answers – would possibly interfere with the reason behind the familiar's arrival....
Yesterday I did what I normally do in the afternoon- bring the laundry in from off the wash-line. I reach for a shirt, and there is a spider that has spun a delicate web between it and another shirt. Grabbing a small stick, I carefully pick it off its web and place it on a branch. See, I’m not scared of spiders.
Getting to the final bit of laundry, I unpeg a long black skirt off the line and drape it over my arm. Out the corner of my eye I notice something large and greyish rubbing against me. I think nothing of it. As I plop the skirt in the laundry basket, the greyish thing moves and realisation dawns.
There’s a shrill scream of some choice ‘French’ and I do the heebie-jeebie dance one naturally does when an eight-legged mammoth has rubbed up against you. Ok, I’m scared of spiders- but only when they are the size of dinner plates (I’m exaggerating, the size of saucers). However, I didn’t kill it. I just grabbed a big stick, and from an overstretched distance, flicked it off on to the ground… and then grabbed my laundry and ran for the door. However, the Gods were not done with me yet…...
So, I'm going to use this as an opportunity to address some misconceptions I see all the time in the online pagan community.
We'll start with Sunweaver's statement that:
Heracles was hugely popular and most Ancient Greeks would have known his story from Hesiod....
“Let’s hear it for the God
Let’s give the God a hand
Let’s hear it for the male
You know you gotta understand
Maybe he’s no Romeo
But he’s my loving deity
Whooa, whooa, whooa-oh
Let’s hear it for the God!”
You know what? I get it. Really I do. Goddesses are wonderful beings. Yes, they have been neglected and abused in the past and in some cases, still are. But. Let’s learn from that and not do the same thing to the Gods. One hears a lot about feminine deities…pictures, stories, poems, prayers, divination decks, etc. You can find Pagan/Polytheistic items with a goddess theme quite easily any more. Not so much for the masculine divinities. Often they are relegated to the sidelines, treated as a minor player, if mentioned at all. I get it. I did it too. But then Zeus came along…
It all started on Halloween 2007. I was continuing my study of the Gods using the idea of Gods of the Month Club. It is where you draw a god to study for a month. I drew Zeus. I wasn’t thrilled. In my mind, Zeus was firmly linked with the Roman Catholic god, the only difference being that Zeus had sex…a lot…and he didn’t seem picky about it either. I was raised Roman Catholic and painted all male divinities with the same broad, ugly brush. Yet I vowed to study whatever divinity came up and so I did. I spent that month studying and meditating on Zeus....
I'm pleased to announce that a friend of mine has launched a new blog for Israelis interested in Canaanite polytheism. The blog, called Canaan is Here, is written entirely in Hebrew by Israelis.
I have updated my previous post, Know Your Middle East Religions: Ancient and Modern Polytheists, to reflect this new addition.
Why is this important and groundbreaking? The Holy Lands were holy long before monotheism, yet many fear that fundamentalist conservative monotheist religions have obliterated the ancient ways. It's true that the situation is difficult and often dire depending on the locale for the few people who honor the ancient deities and the ancient ways. But, nonetheless, it happens.
It is mind-blowingly beautiful to know that growth, beauty, and restoration continue in our world. And there are brave, gentle souls who quietly do the heavy lifting.
For spirit workers the hedge is the threshold, the boundary line between the city and the country, a doorway into what is wild, uncharted, and unknown. The hedgerow is both a real phenomena and a potent allegory-whenever land is/was cleared for settlement and agriculture a liminal hedge shows up-usually composed of plants that have medicinal and magical use but that do not do well under domesticated conditions. Hedges in the old European Neolithic settlements were full of dubious plants like Hawthorn-long associated with faeries and witches, and Elder-associated with healing but also with life/death/life cycles. The hedge is an allegory many of us have grown up with-crossing the hedge is choosing to transgress or transcend cultural norms and to chart one’s own path-usually into the wildwood.
I was thinking about the idea of the hedge earlier this week and wondering what does crossing the hedge look like today in the 21st century?
People seem to be enjoying the Odin questions that I"ve been answering here. I'm happy to keep this Q&A series going as long as folks have questions. Many of these things, while I've thought about them and internalized them, I've never actually broken down and analyzed for anyone else, so this is making me look at my experience and my practices and the way i interact with the Gods in new ways too and that's useful to praxis.
On that note, Liza asks:...
For the men of Ireland have again followed gentlidecht as it was at first before belief, before Patrick’s advent, save only that they have not worshipped idols. For the heathen had a lie and a good word, and this existeth not today. And every evil which the heathen used to do is done at this time in the land of Ériu, save only that the Irish do not worship idols. Howbeit they perpetrate wounding and theft and adultery and parricides and manslaughter, and the wrecking of churches and clerics, covetousness and perjury and lies and false judgment, and destruction of God’s church, draidecht, and gentlidecht, and dealing in charms, philters and enchantments and fidlanna.
—“Adomnán’s Second Vision” (c. 1096 CE), §15-16
The text above is from Whitley Stokes’ edition and translation of “Adomnán’s Second Vision,” which was published in 1891; few scholars, let alone everyday Pagans or polytheists, have paid much attention to it since then. Many modern Celtic Reconstructionist groups have been founded, and have created Irish and other Celtic neologisms as names for their polytheistic practices; but here is a thoroughly medieval Irish word for what the Christians understood to be the Paganism of ancient and medieval Ireland, still going strong (if their reports in this 11th-century text are to be given credence) after centuries of post-Patrician conversion: Gentlidecht. Stokes translates the word as, rather amusingly from a modern Pagan perspective, “heathenism” or “heathenry”…if only the Ásatrúars knew!...
"Daniel J. LaPlante, who is serving life behind bars for the 1987 murders of Patricia Gustafson and her two children in their Townsend home, has filed a federal lawsuit against the state Department of Correction claiming his religious rights are being violated by limitations to his Wicca faith."
Census data lead Pagan Federation to call for end to stereotypes (Chronicle Live)...
It has been over two months since I've written anything for Witches & Pagans. Looking back, it doesn't seem that long, but it's the truth. I've been on a journey, one that I hadn't planned on taking, and one that started as just an annoying, yet familiar pain. A problem I thought for sure I could handle, as long as I was strong, and just tried to push through.
Without boring you by explaining my medical history, I'm familiar with kidney stones. The first time, in 2011, I had them, I went to the emergency room, who readily pumped me full of drugs, told me to drink a lot of water, and wait to pass them. They passed. $4000+ to be told to drink more water.
In early March of this year, I got that familiar twinge in my back, and I was determined to not accumulate another $4000 of medical bills just to hear, "drink more water", so I drank a lot more water. The pain remained, steadily getting worse. I drank more water. I lost my appetite, and couldn't even keep food or water in my stomach. Then, on April 11th, I got really ill, not the kind of ill where you lay down in a dark room under blankets kind of ill. The kind of ill where your wife drags you to the car and races to the emergency room. I was in so much pain, and so sick that I passed out in the car.
Some of the best epics are not told in a single story, so therefor, I will kick off a mini series today: the labours of Hēraklēs. Hēraklēs (Ἡρακλῆς), from 'Hera' and kleos, 'glory', was born as Alkaios (Ἀλκαῖος) or Alkeidēs (Ἀλκείδης). He became on of the greatest of the divine heroes in Hellenic mythology, and was born the son of Zeus and Alkmene (Ἀλκμήνη), foster son of Amphitryon (Ἀμφιτρύων), king of Tiryns in Argolis. By Alkmene, he is the great-grandson of Perseus, and by Zeus, his half-brother. He is perhaps better known as Hercules, his Roman counterpart. In this first part, I will introduce Hēraklēs and describe his life up until the labours, and then tackle the labours one at a time in coming editions.
Hēraklēs was conceived by Zeus upon Alkmene, as He disguised Himself as her husband, returning early from war. Alkmene accepted Him in her bed gladly, as she was happy to see her husband again. When The real Amphitryon did return later that night, Alkmene realized what had happened, and told her husband. Amphitryon accepted her in his bed, regardless, and so she became pregnant with twins, one fathered by Zeus, and one by her mortal husband. In the words of Apollodorus:
"A Boston Children’s Hospital psychiatrist who became convinced his 16-year-old patient suffered from “evil spirits” and appointed himself as her spiritual mentor has been barred from practicing medicine, according to the state Board of Registration in Medicine. Raymond W. Kam gave the girl a cross to wear in exchange for a different, undisclosed religious symbol she had on; he also took her to church with him and let her stay at his home..."
Well-dressing in Derbyshire (This is Derbyshire)...
Title: Iduna and the Magic Apples
Writer: Marianna Mayer...
I've been reading a book about Dionysos that Dver picked up for me on her recent trip to the British Isles. I really wanted to like this book (I was even willing to ignore the fact that I found a minimum of three errors on every page I flipped to initially, some of them quite significant) because, hey, it's a book about Dionysos and I'm rather partial to the subject matter, in case you haven't noticed. Plus you never know what's going to introduce somebody to the god. I know a pretty devout mainad who discovered Dionysos through that episode of Xena: Warrior Princess where he's apparently doing Darkness from Legend cosplay. Seriously. It saddens me to say that this book is only marginally more accurate in its portrayal of the god. And the writing - oh so bad. So very, very bad. It deserves the Takei treatment, it's that bad. And the ideas are even worse.
For instance that being a Dionysian is all about living the rock and roll lifestyle 24/7. Woohoo! Several times I had to reassure myself that I wasn't reading a screed dashed off by Tommy Lee whilst on a coke-and-strippers binge. Except that I suspect Tommy can be a bit more eloquent than our author, even when typing the way he pilots boats.
Now look, I'm no prude. If you want me to prove it I'll compose a 10,000 line epic poem (in proper dactylic hexameter, no less) on the gargantuan size and heroic deeds of my penis. Hell, I may even write that thing anyway ......
Joseph Merlin Nichter’s recent blog post, The Unpopularity Contest, had an eerie familiarity to it. Even a few thousand miles across land and sea, it echoes recent events that have rocked South Africa’s own Pagan community. It would seem that being crowned Miss/Mr Unpopularity is not something unique to this country or that, but to Pagan communities in general.
We’ve all, at one stage or another, discussed our beliefs with a non-Pagan and the inevitable question/accusation has come up: are you a Satanist? At this point, and depending on how long you’ve been Pagan, you take a deep breath, roll your eyes and prattle off, “we don’t believe in Satan he is a Christian deity and we don’t worship him therefore we are not Satanists”. It’s the bog-standard response the majority of us go with, but here in South Africa, some of us have wondered just how well that has been working out for us.
With the recent discovery that the South African Police Service’s Occult-related Crime Unit was never disbanded, and the dramatic rise in national media sensationalism on alleged ‘Satanic crime’, some Pagans and the SA Pagan Rights Alliance decided that a fresh approach was needed.
Blue Ridge Beltane Festival May 17-19 (Newsleader.com)
"The Blue Ridge Beltane festival, a pagan and earth-based spirituality festival, is planned for May 17-19 at Stoney Creek Campground Resort. ... For the past 18 years, volunteers have been planning and producing the festival to create a gathering where people who subscribe to earth-based spirituality can celebrate and be themselves."
Being Wiccan at Northern Kentucky University (The Northerner Online)...
Over at Patheos, Sam Webster wrote a most engaging essay on the revival of the Pagan concept of sacrifice. The article starts with the traditional and ancient concept of animal sacrifice and continues on to more symbolic sacrifices such as invocations and acts of service. Naturally, it was the part about animal sacrifice that generated the most comments, many thoughtful and appreciative, and quite a few that were angry and accusatory.
It’s not a surprise that some people have a natural revulsion to the kind of blood sacrifice practiced in the religions of the ancient world, and in some branches Paganism and Afro-revival religions. We have little exposure to death in our industrial world, and what exposure we do have is from the media ie. news, film fiction, and video games. Last week’s episode of Game of Thrones concluded with a scene of violent and dishonorable death, and more than one person I know found it deeply disturbing and unnecessary. (For the record, so did I) I’m not sure how realistically GoT portrays a feudalistic society, but the version we see on HBO is certainly nasty and brutish.
And our industrial farming practices are no less horrendous. When the idea of animal sacrifice comes up, the miserable life of such animals may be the first thing that comes to mind. A visceral repulsion to keeping animals confined, and feeding them the wrong food while keeping them from anything resembling a descent life is – in my world – healthy....