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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs
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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Pick-a-Card for the Taurus New Moon on May 4 | Awaken Spirit Freedom Presence (REVEAL is within)

Everythin's a changin' all the time. I've been putting painting FIRST with the help of my coach, Jen DeTracey and I feel like a kid again. Now if only my hair was still red (or brown hehehe). Below is the fruit of my labour (cats and other animals painted on rustic wood slices of oak and sugar bush turned into jewelry plus a 4 card oracle spread so you can pick a card for the Taurus New Moon on May 4.

What feeds your soul?

Taurus New Moon: Pick a Card (from the spread in the photo)

Relax your breath.
Go within.
Ask a question (or not)
and then scroll down for this month's New Moon Reading.

*cards are from the lefty oracle and elfin ally oracle decks*
 

Taurus New Moon Card REVEAL
 

CARD 1: Guess poet
Mantra: I am present.
Affirmation: I dream the Divine in everything. The poet within wants to sing!
Element: Air

If this card appears in a reading It’s time to go more deeply into your current journal practice by branching out into another form of writing such as poetry, creative writing, automatic writing, non dominant hand printing, dream analysis, drama, song writing, to name a few. Take some time to sit quietly and gather your thoughts and then simply plunge in and start writing. Time yourself or set a word limit such as writing one hundred words a day, no more or no less. Working with this kind of restrictive format can help you ‘go with the flow’ so look out for poetry appearing like magick without much effort at all.

In my own life I spent a few weeks writing one hundred words a day and poetry just flowed out of me. It was so easy.
 
CARD 2:Seagull
Keyword: Freedom
Meaning: Be bold and daring in your approach.
Reversed: You are earthbound and not ready to move forward.

Affirmation: I am free.
Astrology: Cancer, Moon, Neptune, Pisces
Element: Water

Medicine: You embody the WIND, the AIR, our breath – pure and in the moment, free to BE.

Lore: She was in awe. Her ally, the Seagull, meant everything to her. He was freedom, joy, eternal flight, and to where, she didn't care.

I am free, you tell me over and over again until I hear your voice in my bones and I can fly – free, beautiful and loud!
 
CARD 3: Crazee Janice dancing as fast as she can
Mantra:
I ride the roller coaster.
Affirmation: I slow things down step-by-step.
Element: Spirit

If this card appears in a reading anything could happen! Things are going fast and so are you. Is it time to slow down yet? Can you manage it? Breathe…repeat. This too shall pass.

In my own life I have been on this sort of rollercoaster life ride before, especially during the early stages of menopause which also occurred during my astrological mid life transition. It’s called Uranus Opposition and it occurs for all of us around the age of forty. It was a ride I could NOT seem to get off! Crazee indeed. But I survived and even though I knew it was going to happen all I could do was to hang on. Sorry, no great advice to offer you, other than to get ready!
 
CARD 4: Kingfisher
Keyword: Awake
Meaning: You have a calling. What is it? Allow your inner compass to guide you to the answer.
Reversed: Noise and confusion disrupt your peace of mind.

Affirmation: I am cherished.
Astrology: Leo, Neptune, Pisces, Pluto, Saturn
Element: Earth, Fire, Water

Medicine: Your inventive ways invigorate and brighten our days.
Lore: She was fine, just fine, with all that was, will be, and is. With Kingfisher as her ally she could light up a room, and spark your heart ‘til it glowed.

“Always and forever we will be friends,” said this elf to her ally, the Kingfisher, for he brought her fish each day and she treated him to a rhyme and a prayer in return.
 
Sparkly Blessings!
Kathy Crabbe

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Bring Back the May Baskets!

Even if it’s not all spring sunshine where you are today, there’s no reason not to get in the lighthearted spirit of May Day and Beltane. I’ll never forget the first time I was gifted with a brightly colored, homemade May Day basket by a new neighbor in our development out in the country. All it had contained was a fun mixture of popcorn and jellybeans, but the fact that it had been crafted by hand, and dutifully delivered to each home in the neighborhood by a determined little girl warmed my heart. It got me thinking about the tradition, and how this simple act of kindness probably wasn’t practiced much anymore. I miss those more trusting times when we used to be able to trick-or-treat after dark in a rural setting and not worry, as well. If you are fortunate enough to be blessed with a nice neighbor, a cute cat, or anyone deserving of one of these old-fashioned treasures, then bring back the May baskets, I say.

MAY DAY BASKET FOR A NICE NEIGHBOR

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The Worst Maypole Dance I Ever Saw

To begin with, real Maypoles don't have streamers.

Oh, they may have ribbons: brightly-colored ones, along with the garlands of flowers and fresh greenery.

But “wrapping the Maypole,” now: that's a 19th century import from Bavaria—where the two highest points in any given town are usually the steeple and the Maypole—that educators loved because it was such a “pretty” custom. Ugh.

(In Bavaria, the streamer dance is performed as a show of skill. The point is not to wrap the maypole, but to wrap and then unwrap it. Now that shows prowess.)

Nope; when it comes to Maypoles, the real thing is a real, live tree, fresh-cut that morning and borne rejoicing from the woods (the original magic here is to bring home the vitality of the Wild) by the young folks of the village, who probably did a little early-morning rejoicing of their own in the woods. You lop off all the branches except the ones at the very top, deck it with the flowers and greenery that you gathered in the woods, and set it up as the centerpiece of the May Day merriment.

(In the Rites of May, the Maypole presides only over the Day festivities, the centerpiece of the Night revels being, of course, the Fire of Nine Woods.)

Real Maypole dances don't have anything to do with streamers. They're ring dances performed around the Maypole.

The worst Maypole dance that I ever saw—fortunately I was a musician that year and hence not criminally liable—was perpetrated by an enthusiastic crew with lots of Wiccan training under their cinctures, each one just brimming with magical Intent.

Unfortunately, they all had different Intents.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    And thank Goddess for greenhouses! How the ancestors would have loved them.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Some years we have to make do with box and holly. Oh, well. In Scandinavia, the "May Stang" goes up at Midsummer's. All paganism i
  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn says #
    Great piece on traditional Beltane. Now only if I lived in a place where flowers and greenery might be gathered on May first. At l
'The Union of the Gods Renews the World'

Paganistan was born from an act of love.

Beltane 1976. For the first time, on May Eve the Minnesota Church of the Wicca (MCoW) selects, by lot, a woman and a man who, while the rest dance and sing to raise the power, retire to the May bower to enact the Great Marriage of the Gods.

It was the making of our community.

We've enacted the rite ever since. This year marks the 43th annual May Marriage, the local community's oldest ongoing tradition. It's a record that any New Pagan community could envy.

The tradition is currently carried by the Wiccan Church of Minnesota, MCoW's daughter organization, but has worked its way out into the community at large. “The Union of the Gods renews the world,” wrote local priestess Hillary Pell (herself a May Queen emerita) in 1998.

Last year, winter lingered late. A freak mid-April blizzard paralyzed growth and, two weeks later, there was still nary a sign of Spring to be seen.

In the dusk of May Eve, we kindled the Beltane Fire. Our newest member led her partner off to the May bower. As they made love, we sang and danced the sacred dances.

Now, whether or not it had anything to do with what we—or they—did that night, I don't claim to know. (I rather doubt it.) But this much I can tell you.

By the next day, there was green everywhere. Overnight, the buds had broken. Between the setting and the rising of the “ithyphallic adolescent Sun” (to quote Feraferia's Fred Adams), Spring—in amazing chloroplast explosion—had sprung.

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Title: American Witch

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Does Modern Skyclad Actually Derive from Christianity?

Posch, you've lost it. Are you actually saying that skyclad in the modern Craft derives from Christianity?

Well, yes: yes I am. At least in part.

Modern ritual nudity is a cord plaited from many strands, among them Christian thought and iconography. Among these strands, we may number the following:

Naturism. The period between the First and Second World Wars saw a massive rise in movements advocating cultural alternatives, the logic being: obviously the old ways aren't working; let's try something new. Modern Nudism/Naturism first arose in Germany, and spread rapidly.

The Heroic Nudity of Antiquity. The art of antiquity is replete with naked gods and heroes, which of course reentered European consciousness in a big way during the Renaissance. It's fully possible that the heroic nudity of Classical antiquity has its ultimate roots in the martial nudity of the ancient Indo-Europeans, and that the tradition of Greco-Roman heroic nudity is thus genetically akin both to the naked warriors of the Keltic world, and to the ascetic nudity of the jinas and gymnosophers of the Indian Subcontinent (as “spirit warriors”), from which, of course, the term “skyclad” itself derives.

Folk Magic. As Ron Hutton discusses in his seminal essay “A Modest Look at Ritual Nudity,” nakedness figures prominently in European folk magic, a function, essentially, of inversion: raising power by doing things backwards. Witches being quintessential magic workers, ergo naked witches.

Renaissance Art. The iconography of the naked witch first arose among Renaissance print-makers. The Renaissance saw the rise of print-making, the first modern art-form that regular people could afford and, as we all know, nudity sells. Classically-derived nudity was already big in Renaissance art, and it was the Renaissance, not the Middle Ages, which saw the worst of the Great Persecution. If the witch is popular, and nudity is popular, the naked witch has got to be a winning combination.

The Renaissance's naked witch has deeper roots, however. With the rise of the concept of the Witch's Sabbat in the 15th and 16th centuries, print-makers quickly adopted the inverted world of the Sabbat, in which nudity figured prominently, as a favorite motif. Although there is as of yet no definitive study of the development of the Sabbat motif in art, to my eyes it clearly derives from Medieval precedents: the Last Judgment and the fate of the Damned in Hell.

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  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    The idea of "Edenic" nudity carried forward into some heretical Christian movements, such as the Brethren of the Free Spirit and o

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