Culture Blogs


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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_praybeads1_sm.jpgWhat makes you feel safe? What makes you feel tense and anxious? Does anything make you fear for you life? Most of us can answer that question, but how much sense does the answer make?

My mother was emotionally wounded by her relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic and cheated on her. When the feminist movement rose, she was primed for it.  I was raised to distrust  - and fear – men, which did nothing positive for my future relationships. My father’s abuse of me primed for fear of rape, and the ensuing divorce primed me to fear abandonment. I spent years in a chronic state of anxiety. Going out into the world always required an act of will. Some days I just couldn’t. My animals – horse, cats, dog – were my saving grace. My horse was why I left the house. He needed to be provided for, and the barn was a haven.

I was afraid of being catcalled, raped, having things come at me that I didn’t expect, loosing work (I had a housecleaning business) being audited, not being able to pay the bills, my boyfriend of the moment leaving me. Some of those things were under my control: ie the likelihood of my loosing work was reduced if I did a good job, the likelihood of being raped went down if I didn’t expose myself to certain situations (the reality of one never deserving to be raped is completely different from the statistical data about when and where it occurs), and I could spend less than I made. (generally I spent more. I had a HORSE.) Some things were not under my control: being catcalled, begin audited, and having unexpected things come at me (by definition).

But why fear some things but not others? I didn’t fear driving, and my likelihood of  being injured in a car accident was far higher than the likelihood that I would be audited, or raped (Are there statistics on catcalling in the 90s?) or even killed by fists or bunt object. I was not afraid of being shot - depsite the crime rate being higher back then than it is now. But then, we didn’t have the internet back then, and I didn’t own a TV.

Current brain science confirms that we are biased toward information that is negative. It is so basic to our biology that we don’t think about it. there are perfectly practical reasons for this. Nature is dangerous. It’s better for a clawless, furless primate to think that that rustle in the bushes is a leopard than to relax and ignore it, and  this trait work just as well when we are our own predators. But this trait is rotten for evaluating current actual threats. From the standpoint of human existence, we are barely off the savannah, but modern humans still have most of those instincts. This is generally a good thing. After all, when we get that feeling that something is wrong, we are well served to listen.

But it’s a bad thing when we use our fear to dictate what others should or should not do. Do as thou wilt, but harm none means that my rights end at your nose, and vice versa. There is no such thing as a right that forces others to do things for me, or that prevents others from doing as they please as long as they stay off my property and away from my person. Being afraid that my neighbor will do X (leaving aside for a moment the whole “attracting what you fear” thing) does not mean that I am morally justified in advocating for a law against X. First and foremost, I may be fearing a leopard, when its really a porcupine in the bushes, who would much rather be left alone.

Some things make us more afraid than we need to be based on how often the feared thing actually happens. I spent a lot of time ruminating on the things I feared. My brain made trenches with those thoughts that got deeper and deeper. Climbing out was hard. It became easier when I had a reason to climb out (my animals) and the comfort and reassurance of connection to deity. It also became easier when I learned to defend myself (ie a concrete action). External things can feed those fears. Media is an obvious example, but there are also likely to be people around us that wallow in such fears. My BIL is into prepping.* he talks often about society collapsing. As it happens, that was another thing I feared when I was in my teens (I read On The Beach and grew up during the cold war) and I had to get past that in order to function in the here and now. I can’t spend too much time chatting with him or he will draw me back into that fear.

Our biology biases us toward fear, but giving in to it is not a way to have a good life. I believe that the gods want better for us.

What do you fear? And how do you ease those fears? 

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Witches' History Month

If one were to pick a Witches' History Month, which month would it be?

To pose the question is to know the answer.

Obviously, Witches' History Month has to be October, right?

So, there it is. October = National Witches' History Month.

As we will, so mote it be.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    The cartoon reminds me that Gardner operated a Witchcraft Museum. Maybe someday it will return somewhere.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Magical and Healing Aloe Vera

With over three hundred species of aloe, the one simply called Aloe vera, meaning “true aloe,” is the most common. Aloe is a perennial plant with succulent leaves that can grow up to two feet long from a center base. If you are lucky, it will produce a spike of yellow or orange flowers. As a houseplant, it is commonly kept in the kitchen for first aid treatment of burns; just break off the end of a leaf and apply a little of the translucent gel. A yellow sap known as bitter aloe is exuded at the base of the leaves. Bitter aloe should never be used on the skin or ingested.

Well known for healing burns, aloe gel is also good for cuts, insect stings, acne, and other skin ailments. When used on burns and scalds, it helps prevent blisters and scarring. Also called medicine plant and healing plant, aloe has a long history of use that dates back thousands of years. It is believed to be the plant mentioned on a Sumerian tablet.

Certain documentation comes from 16th century BCE in the Ebers papyrus, the oldest written record on the use of medicinal plants in Egypt. In addition to healing, it was included in preparations to beautify the skin and protect it from the harsh, damaging desert climate. Aloe’s use in the embalming process earned it the name plant of immortality. Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90 CE) and naturalist Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) both extolled its merits in their writings.

Of course, like most medicinal plants, aloe was also used for magical purposes. In Mesopotamia and throughout the Middle East, it was believed to provide protection. Leaves were hung over doorways for this purpose and to ward off evil spirits. Aloe was also used for protection from accidents and a charm to bring good luck.

Position an aloe plant on a windowsill at the front of your house to dispel negative energy and attract good luck. If you live in a place where aloe can grow outside, plant it near your front door or set a potted plant outside for the summer. For protection, break off the end of a leaf and dab a little of the gel over each exterior doorway. For healing spells, place a little of the gel at the base of a green candle. For your esbat ritual, use the gel on a white candle or put the plant on your altar to draw on the power and wisdom of Luna.

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Dark Light

There's a phenomenon of pagan ritual that I've noticed again and again down through the years.

I'll call it the “dark light.”

The pagan calendar (day begins at sundown) and pagan schedules (most of us work day jobs) being what they are, we do a lot of our ritual at night. This means that we do much of our ritual by firelight.

Bonfires, candlelight, torchlight. Which is it to say that, by the usual electric-lit 21st century standards, there isn't very much light.

And yet consistently, again and again, as I think back to any given ritual, I find myself remembering more light than could possibly have been there.

But it's not just a matter of memory. In ritual, colors are brighter. Bodies, faces, things seem to glow as if from within, transfigured.

I think of the Grand Sabbat. Cross-legged up there on his altar, the Horned glows, I swear it. I swear it. He's lambent: the light comes from Him.

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  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Call me old fashioned. The taper candles are to hold for reading text or ritual script. I don't care if the newer members prefer
Stations of the Descent: A Call to Wiccan Artists

The truly puzzling thing is, there's no dearth of Wiccan artists out there.

That's what makes the absence all the more striking.

The story of the Lady's Descent into the Underworld is, arguably, Wicca's foundational myth.

Where, then, is the art depicting it?

It's a profoundly visual story. One could readily envision sequences of the Descent à la (if you'll pardon the comparison) Catholicism's Stations of the Cross.

Where are they?

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Here's a link with the text and analysis by Cei Serith: http://ceisiwrserith.com/wicca/legendofthedescent.htm I'll look forward t
  • Dominique Pierson
    Dominique Pierson says #
    I have a little etsy shop and I create pagan themed nichos/box shrines. This would be an interesting concept for a shrine/assembl
Mercury Retrograde In Aries (and How to Use Tarot to Survive and Thrive)

Several years ago, I made a post here on Pagan Square about the ins and outs of Mercury Retrograde. You can get the scoop at this link.

Mercury goes Retrograde March 22nd through April 15th in 2018 in fiery Aries. To recap my other blog post, Mercury is a trickster god that symbolizes communications of all types--including the technology associated with messages.

Aries is symbolized by The Ram, an impetuous, aggressive energy that heralds the first day of Spring--a time of fresh starts.

 

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In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Reviews a Book on a (Gasp!) Non-Pagan Subject

This is Not the Resurrection You're Looking For

 

Resurrecting Easter would be a better book if it knew what it wanted to be. Art history? A husband-wife travelogue? A mystery novel à la Da Vinci Code?

Unfortunately, it never manages to decide.

In it, Jesus Seminar rockstar John Dominic Crossan and his wife Sarah travel to the ends of Christendom to tell the story of the emergence of the iconography of the Resurrection. He writes, she takes the pictures.

This important topic has received surprisingly little attention from art historians. Apart from Anna Kartsonis' magisterial 1988 Anastasis: The Making of an Image, there are virtually no monographs on the subject. The Phaidon Press series of anthologies on the art of Holy Week—Last Supper, Crucifixion, and Descent (i.e. deposition from the cross)—does not, surprisingly, devote a volume to the art of the Resurrection. Somehow, when it comes to art history, it's always Nativity, never Pascha.

So I praise the Crossans for perceiving this lack and attempting to address it. It's a pity they couldn't do so more successfully.

Oh, they do manage to chronicle the emergence and development of Christendom's two major visual representations of the Resurrection, with some attention to various dead ends and roads-not-taken along the way. Unfortunately, the art-historical material is interspersed almost randomly with pointless tales from their travels, including local-color details about what time they caught the cab and what T-shirt the driver was wearing. The quest—and narrative—are driven by forced cliff-hanger questions about the iconography (“What happens to the universal resurrection tradition in Eastern Christianity during that same fateful period?”) that are meant to seem urgent but mostly fall flat.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I can go onto Bing images and type in resurrection to get a whole bunch of pictures. If I haven't run out of ink in my printer I

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