PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Divining The Lines

This post started as notes in preparation for a talk I was planning for the seers group in my tradition. I decided to share it with some modifications to make it more broadly applicable. The following points are offered to encourage mindfulness and dialogue regarding the ethics and best practices for divination, oracular work, and allied disciplines. They do not cover all possible situations and differences in applications or doctrines, so change and adapt what is here to match your needs. I think that it is important for your sake and the sake of those lives that you touch to be clear on your ethical guidelines if you offer readings or oracular sessions of any kind. If you do not agree with any or all of these suggestions, I hope you will work to create your own or consider these a template that you can adjust.

1.   Ethics & Morals

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Celebrating the Summer Migrants

According to the internet, ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ is a quote that can be attributed to Aristotle. The connection between summer and swallows is clearly a longstanding one. British swallows winter in South Africa. Or, arguably, South African swallows come to the UK to breed. There are many other birds whose migration to the UK at this time of year is part of the coming of summer.

Swifts, swallows and house martins aren’t always easy to tell apart in flight, and at twilight when they hunt for insects, telling them apart from bats can also be tricky. It’s the way the hunter is obliged to follow their prey through the air that means insect eating birds and bats are similar. There’s a rather (accidentally) amusing poem by D.H. Lawrence in which the poet is rather upset that his birds turn out to be bats. You can read that here - https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44574/bat

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Where Witches Dance: Some Thoughts on the Name 'Paganistan'

 “...and to the republic where witches dance...”

 

When, back in the mid-80s, I coined the name “Paganistan” as a term for the Twin Cities pagan community, it was with tongue firmly in cheek. No one is more surprised than I am that it actually seems to have caught on.

The word itself is a partial loan-translation of the hybrid Arabic-Persian Kafiristan, “land of the pagans,” the name given to the wild mountainous region of northeastern Afghanistan (“land of the Afghans”), which as late as the 1890s was still home to some of history's very last Indo-European-speakers to practice their ancient polytheist tribal religions.

(In a major land-grab in 1896, the Emir of Kabul declared jihad against the fierce mountain Kafirs, and in the end rifles and bullets won out over spears and arrows: the area was forcibly Islamized and renamed Nuristan, “land of light.” Saved by the Durand line, however, the Kalasha, the last culturally-intact Kafiristanis, numbering some 4000, still—in what is now northwestern Pakistan—worship their ancient gods with wine, dance, and animal sacrifice. Long may they live and flourish.)

The name Paganistan first saw print in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a year later when Jim "Moon Dog" Runnels was quoted as referring to the Twin Cities as the “capital of Paganistan.”

That's how we became the first named community of modern pagan times.

The name spread with the rise of internet paganism, notably through the publication of our resident anthropologist Murphy Pizza's 1994 Paganistan: Contemporary Pagan Community in Minnesota's Twin Cities, and—latterly—through the present blog.

After thirty-some years of Paganistan, it remains a sorrow to me that the name's derivation from us, and not from the Land, marks it as a non-Indigenous—and, in this sense, an imposed—name.

But this would be valid grounds for critique only if the term were to be used in a triumphalist, or supercessionist, manner: which, of course, it never is. No one, much less myself, would propose that we replace an Indigenous name, Minnesota (“sky water”) with a non-Indigenous Paganistan. Paganistan is the pagan name for this place as home to the local community. It's the Twin Cities' Craft name. That's all.

Of course, we do have our own flag (Witch's Hat Tower, gray, on a blue, yellow and green field) and our own “national” anthem (no, I didn't pen it myself). But that's all by the by, offspring of the infinitely playful cauldron of creativity that is local Paganry.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Heathen Symbol or Hate Symbol?

Resources for the disambiguation of Heathen symbols vs. hate symbols. TW: discussion of racism

This is a resources and links page for how to tell the difference between a religious symbol being used by heathens and a hate symbol being used by neonazis or white supremacists. There are several different symbol guides linked from this page. Using the various symbol guides requires more than looking up a suspect symbol; it also requires taking context into account. For example, once while screening applications I ran across the version of Othala with wolves attached to the lower legs of the symbol. The first time I saw this symbol, I wondered: is it the footed Othala used by Nazis or is it just the regular Othala but with wolves? I used a reverse image search (the Chrome extension) to find the origin of the symbol, and found the page of the artist who designed it. The page had many pagan and heathen artworks, none of which looked like neonazi or white supremacist symbols. The artist's statement on his website was an unobjectionable, pretty standard pagan statement. I concluded the Othala-with-wolves symbol's resemblance to the footed Othala was just a coincidence. The context provided by the artist's other artworks and artist statement helped me interpret that image.

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The Blessing of the Ships: A Minoan celebration

Minoan culture centered on the island of Crete, which lies in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Greece. The Minoans were a seagoing people: they fished, they traded, and they traveled in boats and ships. So it makes sense that they would have incorporated these major facets of their lives into their spiritual practice.

We don't know for certain what the Minoans did to bless ships before a voyage. But tidbits that made it through the Bronze Age collapse and ended up in the works of later writers, combined with archaeoastronomy research, suggest that the Minoan sailing season had a definite beginning and ending: the heliacal rising of the Pleiades in May and the acronychal rising of that constellation in October or November.* This makes sense, given that the winds during the wintertime would have made sailing in that era quite hazardous (not that it's a whole lot easier today, but at least we have modern gadgetry and gas-powered engines to help).

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Beltane's Flower: In Appreciation of Ian Anderson's 'Cup of Wonder'

If the modern Beltane has an anthem, it must surely be Ian (“Jethro Tull”) Anderson's Cup of Wonder.

When I first heard the song in 1977, it came as something of a revelation, managing (in what is surely the cultural and aesthetic touchstone of the New Paganisms) to sound both ancient and modern simultaneously. Of course, at the time we took it entirely for granted. Youthful arrogance has a beauty all its own.

If you haven't heard Cup of Wonder before, it's well worth a listen. If—like me—you haven't heard it recently, let me recommend a revisit. While very much of its own time, Anderson's sight remains true, his vision crisp, and his truth as deep as it ever was.

Wishing you joy of Beltane and a Merry May.

 

Cup of Wonder

 


May I make my fond excuses for the lateness of the hour,

but we accept your invitation, and would bring you Beltane's flower;

for the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track,

and those who ancient lines did "ley" will heed the song that calls them back:

 


Pass the cup, and pass the Lady,

pass the plate to all who hunger;

pass the wit of ancient wisdom,

pass the Cup of Crimson Wonder.

 

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