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Culture Blogs

Popular subjects in contemporary Pagan culture and practice.

Category contains 2 blog entries contributed to teamblogs

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The First Thing to Know

During last week's blizzard here in the Twin Cities, we got five inches of orange snow.

Orange.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Magical Celtic Month of Willow

Following the wheel of the year through the Celtic tree calendar, April 15th begins the time of the willow tree and its ogham character Saille. While the tree calendar is a modern construct, it holds meaning because of the concepts it has come to symbolize and the significance it has for twenty-first century magic, ritual, and everyday life. 

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A Night in the Life of an Urban Coven

Ah, summer in Lake Country. There's no humidity like Midwestern humidity.

One steamy New Moon night in July 1984, we gather in Loring Park to greet the First Crescent, hoping for even a breath of air movement.

Alas, there is none.

We retire to my nearby deficiency compartment to continue. In the thick, airless humidity, we strip off and sit on the bare floorboards.

In the center of our circle stands the coven goddess: earthen, tall as a child of two years. There she rises: dancing, naked, smiling her mysterious smile. Of us all, only she looks cool.

We chant, savoring.

new is moon

moon are we

we are new

blessed be

The sweating jar passes from lap to lap, a lunar coolness. With sea-sponges, we wipe each other down with the cold water.

As the jar circles, we begin riffing off of our chant.

We are nude, I deadpan. There is no witchcraft without self-satire.

Laughing, Magenta points to the Goddess.

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Intimations of a Horned God: A Bronze la Tène Lamp, Circa 100 BCE

Open-form lamp with twisted handle and bull's head finial (bronze)

La Tène culture (3-1st c. BCE)

Switzerland

(Private collection)

 

By the light of this ancient Keltic lamp, the modern witch sees the shadow of the Horned God.

Look closely. What do you see?

With a little imagination, one may read this small (length: 9½") bronze lamp as a bull lying on his back: the lamp's bowl is the bull's body, its twisted handle and decorative finial the bull's neck and head.

Ex tauro, lux: from the bull, light.

Known as Lighber, the light-bearer, the god of the witches is understood by his votaries as the Enlightener, He Who Gives Understanding to his people, Wisdom to the Wise. Between His Horns burns the flame of illumination. If we read this god, Lord of the Beasts, as the collective body of all animal life on planet Earth, this understanding articulates the rise of consciousness, in which material existence gains self-awareness.

To the witch's eye, this ancient artifact embodies this understanding.

Although described in a recent auctioneer's catalog as an oil lamp, in all likelihood this lamp (given its Alpine origin) was fueled by animal fat instead, even—rather poignantly, one thinks—by tallow (beef fat).

From the bull, light.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Alas, Ill News in Pagandom

Alas, ill news in Pagandom.

To judge from his social media presence, it would seem that Holden Matthews—the domestic terrorist who recently torched three predominantly-black churches in Louisiana—is pagan, apparently of some folkish heathen variety.

If that doesn't make you angry, it should.

If that doesn't make you feel ashamed, it should.

Here are some entirely inadequate responses:

He's not a pagan/heathen.

That's not real paganism/heathenism.

[It doesn't involve me because] I'm pagan, not heathen.

[It doesn't involve me because] I'm heathen, but not folkish.

[It doesn't involve me because] I'm folkish, but not racist.

Who Matthews is in his own heart, we do not know. But we can be certain that refusal to take ownership of problems in our own community achieves nothing.

Some better responses:

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks, Carol. I've updated.
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    link no longer working
Local Gods, or: When at Home, Do As the Homos Do

The youngest warlock went to the eldest with a question.

When we go to another place, he said, It is upon us to honor the gods of that place, whether they be our gods or no.

Even so, said the eldest warlock.

And this is from the laws of hospitality, as guest-duty? asked the youngest.

They are the oldest laws of all, said the eldest.

If, then, one should go to the land of the Christians, is it upon us to honor even the god of the Christians? asked the youngest.

It is not, said the eldest.

How then is this not a breach of hospitality? asked the youngest.

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Are You Washed in the Blood of the Bull?  A Mithraic Anthem

Hey, every little pagan gayboy harbors a Mithraic fantasy or two, and I was no different from the rest.

As gods go, Mithras is as cute as they get, not to mention that he gets to ascend to heaven and handfast the Sun, who's not only cute, but hangs out butt-naked all the time. What's not to like? In the end, they even share a couch. (Go ahead, check out the vignettes if you don't believe me.) Plus, it's an all-male cult. That's pretty cool.

I wrote these lyrics back in the 80s as a send-up of the classic American hymn Are You Washed in the Blood (of the Lamb)? They do not faithfully portray actual Mithraic practice. The taurobolium (blood baptism) characterized the cultus of the Magna Mater, not that of Mithras. (No sane person would ever try to bring a live bull into the intimately close confines of your average Mithraeum, much less sacrifice one there.) Likewise, surviving iconography makes it quite clear that Mithras ≠ Sun.

So what follows is best regarded as a lark, not a serious addition to contemporary pagan hymnody.

Still, I like to think that it successfully captures something of the fraternal joy that must have characterized ancient (and, no doubt, modern) Mithraism. Does anybody seriously believe that, after the wine had gone around once or twice, the Brothers did not sing a good, rousing anthem or two together?

 

Do you shine for the Sun,

and does he shine for you?

 

Are You Washed in the Blood of the Bull?

A Mithraic Anthem

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ave Mithras Sol Invictus! Hey, they're still trying to figure out stuff about Mithraism. Thanks for sharing.

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