So...um, Beyond Reason, my book about my path as a godspouse of Loki, is selling well.
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When the thede (tribe) of witches foregathers, as we did recently at this year's Midwest Grand Sabbat, we kindle (wood on wood, in the old way) the traditional Fire of Gathering.
The Fire burns continuously throughout the time of assembly. Everyone tends it; offerings are made to it daily. It roars at the very heart of the sabbat itself, and on our final morning together it is ritually extinguished. People take the ashes home with them when they leave.
Anyone who grows up in a traditional culture knows how to behave around a sacred fire—how it differs from a household fire, for instance—and doesn't have to be taught What You Do and What You Don't. For those of us who (alas) did not grow up in such a culture, how then does one impart these rules, the Does and Don'ts of sacred Fires, in a manner that doesn't devolve into learning boring lists of regulations?
Well, my friend and colleague Chris Moore came up with the perfect way to do it: you give people a metaphor.
Welcome back fellow Witches and Pagans! We hope you enjoyed your weekend! This week for Airy Monday we've brought you a whole gamut of stories featuring magic and religion in pop culture. Read on to learn how one self-defined "urban hipster" got involved with witchcraft, which popular villains were most successful, and how the animated series Steven Universe has developed some of the most complex protagonists in television. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!
The term Pop Culture Paganism has only shown up in the last few years. When I wrote Pop Culture Magick no one was using the term Pop Culture Pagan. Now the term is used by some people to describe their spiritual work and its distinct enough from Pop Culture Magic because not all pop culture Pagans practice magic or view it as an essential part of their spiritual work. That's not the only distinction however, between pop culture magic and pop culture Paganism. Pop Culture Paganism involves what I would consider to be a devotional approach to working with pop culture spirits. In other words, there is a recognition that the pop culture spirits are beings that the person wants to work with in a devotional manner, which could include prayers, offerings, and rituals done for purposes of honoring the spirit, as well as other activities that the pop culture spirits feel are appropriate. Given that we're dealing with a modern context those activities could include a different type of devotional behavior that's dependent on the pop culture media that the spirits show up in.
I consider myself both a pop culture Pagan and magician (in my next post I'll define what I think of as pop culture magic). In the context of being a pop culture Pagan, I find that there is a blending of magic into that Paganism, but that's because magic is an essential part of my spiritual work. In that context, let me share what my pop culture Pagan practice looks like. I work with the Dehara, which are based off Storm Constantine's Wraeththu series and are hermaphroditic deities. Each day I offer them a prayer of thanks for their presence in my life. Additionally I've integrated them into my magical work. For example, Thiede is the Dehar of Space and plays an integral role in my system of space/time magic. In addition, in Grimoire Kaimana, Storm laid out a wheel of the year associated with the Dehara, which can be worked with in terms of connecting with them. I've lately been looking into creating some correspondences around the Quabalistic Tree of life for the Dehara, as well as exploring some other alternatives to developing this particular spiritual path further. For me, this work is part of my spiritual work, a communion with spiritual beings that I feel a strong resonance with because of their nature and perspective that falls outside traditional gendered polarities. I'm not the only one to work with Dehara and what I've consistently found is that people involved in that path feel it fits them and that they fit it, which I think is an essential part of a spiritual calling....
Hoarfrost sparkled on the dark ground, reflecting harsh nearby ballfield lights that did not illuminate the tree-dotted lawn of the park. It was winter 2009. Local heathens of the Las Vegas area gathered to welcome a new baby, who was wrapped in a large fur blanket against the winter cold. The kindred sponsoring the event consisted of a core group of heathens among a larger a group of non-heathens in a Renaissance Faire guild, so, some of the people gathered there wore modern dress, some were in Renfaire or re-enactor garb, and some wore a mix of both.
The kindred’s godhi, or priest, was going to perform a baby blessing and naming ceremony. The godhi was having a bad time with a chronic health issue right then, and did not feel up to calling power, so he asked me to perform the blessing.
I was there as a community member, so I did not have any of my ritual stuff with me. I looked around for things I could use, and saw that there was a bottle of mead for toasting (sumbel) and blessing (blot.) The baby’s family’s sword was firmly stuck point first in the ground. I could work with that. That would be the conduit for the ancestor honor transfer. The ancestors were under the earth, and the sword was part in the earth and part above it. In heathenry, there are many different traditions about where the dead go and what they become after death, since heathenry draws on a vast time period and many different, although related, cultures. In many of the ancient cultures, there was no clear line between the grave mound and the elf mound, and that idea survives in the modern saying that the dead have gone to stay with the elves. An early story about the interior of a grave mound showed the dead fighting each other in endless war, very much like the Viking age depiction of Valhalla. So, the direction of the ancestors is down, in the earth.
I mentally tallied what was and was not essential among the things that were not there. I could do without a blotbolli (blessing bowl.) I would pour the mead from the horn directly onto the asperger. I had to have an asperger, a tool with which to sprinkle the blessing liquid on the baby. Many dark shapes of pine trees stood out against the stars. I would cut a pine branch, except that I did not have my ritual knife with me either. Years ago, when I had been asked to make a rune stick for a friend, I had pulled on an oak branch and a stick had snapped off in my hand, cleanly as if cut. I resolved to repeat this feat tonight.
I went to a pine tree, and caressed its needles. I spoke to it, and asked it for the use of its branch for the holy ritual. The branch snapped off in my hand.
We gathered together for the ritual. In an Asatru baby blessing, the mother has already given form to the child, body from body, and now it is time for the father to give to the child. I directed the baby’s father to place one hand on the hilt of his family sword, which was firmly stuck in the earth, and one hand on the baby. I narrated, “You are the link between your ancestors and your child. The might and main and the honor of the ancestors is coming up from the earth, through the sword, through you, and into your child.”
All those gathered there toasted the child with mead in the sumbel ritual. I asked the parents what they named their child. I poured mead over the asperger and blessed the child by his name in the names of the gods, the ancestors, and all wights (spirit beings) of good will. As we did not have a blotbolli to pour out to the land wight, I poured the rest of the bottle to the land wight. I returned the pine branch to the land. The ritual was done.
Image: graphic by Karen Arnold. via publicdomainpictures.net
Monday morning dawns bright and cheerful which doesn’t match my mood at all. After a rough night of sleep filled with pain, I only want more darkness and sleep to smooth out the rough edges. However, I’m a responsible adult (mostly) and have to be at work.
Somehow I have to smooth out the rough edges to get through my day. Coffee is not something which helps me. I’ve never liked it nor do I ever drink it. I have to find other things which will ease my grumpiness....
At the Summer Solstice it is said that the Oak King and Holly King do battle, and the God of the Waxing Year must give way to the King of the Waning Year. This is a Hinge, a moment of transition that drives the Wheel of the Year. At the Solstice, the Sun is at its peak, the fruitful earth is coming into its most delicious bounty. After this, we cross a tipping point, as the days grow shorter, and we move forward towards the harvest festivals.
For me it feels more intuitive that this transition comes as the solar transit of Cancer turns into Leo. The lunar month attending Cancer is the Oak Moon, hearkening to the Oak King of the growing, fertile, waxing season of the Year. The Oak King evokes the solar qualities of the divine masculine: strength, forthrightness, generosity; he holds the energy of divine kingship and warrior-ship. A sacred animal often associated with this lunation is the Horse, embodying the power and dignity of the Solar God. An animal fit best for open, sunlit plains, the horse has been associated with solar gods since the Greeks wrote of Phoebus driving a chariot of fiery stallions across the sky each day....