Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

Specific paths such as Heathenism, blended traditions, polytheist reconstructionism, etc.

Vesta: Fresh Starts & the Sacred Flame

Today is a big day.  It marks one of the oldest, most celebrated and sacred events in the ancient Roman world: the date on which the Vestal priestesses renewed Vesta’s sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta in the heart of Rome.  

This event marked the first day of the Roman new year.  Renewing Vesta’s fire was a major civic and religious event, and a beloved tradition that spanned from the earliest days of the Temple in the  8th or 7th century BCE (when it was still a wooden structure, the first in the Forum) to the 4th century CE when the Temple was forcibly closed during a brutal policy of Christianization. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Nebamun-2.jpgMore than 50 ancient hieroglyphs depict birds: ibis, quail chick, hawk, vulture, duck, plover, goose, swallow, sparrow, cormorant, egret, ostrich, heron, flamingo, lapwing, hoopoe, guinea hen and falcon, plus variations on each of these.  It’s a veritable feast for modern bird lovers; tomb paintings like Nebamun hunting are still more delightful, showing the teeming color of life in the Nile marshes. 

Egyptian cosmology is closely tied to birds, too.  During Sep Tepi (sacred time), a bird of light flies out of the dark waters of Nun and lands on the primordial mound called the benben. This bird was thought to be an early form of Ra, and Herodotus thought the bennu was the phoenix of later Greek myth, the firebird which rises reborn from its own ashes. 

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A Lesson in Carrots and Sticks

Two Christmases ago, my husband gave me a lemon tree for my garden. Last month, after I spent a whole year waiting and watering and wringing my hands, it finally produced one full-grown lemon.

For awhile, the lemon looked more or less yellow, but I held off on picking it because it still had a blush of green on the underside. I had elaborate plans for it: I would give it as an offering to the Morrigan, my matron deity, and dry the skin for magical work. I would use the juice for some very special dish or drink--a sacred mojito, maybe! I dreamed and planned and admired my lemon until one day, it disappeared.

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In previous blogs, we've explored some of the basic aspects of Celtic cosmology - the existence of a sacred Otherworld (or worlds), probably conceived of as being connected with the Upper World and Lower World (as in many shamanic or traditional cultures). The inhabitants of those worlds - the Gods and Goddesses - known in Ireland as the Aes Síde or Tuatha Dé Danann - embodied a wide range of powers and attributes, depending upon location, era, and many other temporal and cultural factors.

What do we know, if anything, about how the ancient Celts constructed or performed ritual? This is quite a hot topic, of course - many will say 'We don't know anything at all, and to try and make any sort of theory or assumption is folly or wishful thinking." This attitude can be found both in academic circles and amongst practitioners, oddly enough, and in some cases this negative (and unfounded) stance can be used to either assert power over others, or serve as an obstacle to tackling complicated issues (academic or otherwise).

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Ritual Elements Part One - Re-enchanting The Air

I've recently finished co-teaching a six week class titled "Elements of Magic". It is one of the core pieces of magic taught in the Reclaiming Tradition. I use the term "core" rather than "beginning" or "basic" for specific reasons. You see, I hold that there's nothing particularly basic about this exploration and I find myself returning to it year after year as a teacher and, more importantly, as a student. It's the foundation of my personal practice, the actual ground on which I base my interactions within the temporal world.

So over the next few articles, I'm going to dive into, dig around under, imagine and re-imagine my relationships with these core forces that affect us all.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Thank you Irisanya. Shallow and deep breaths, indeed.
  • Irisanya
    Irisanya says #
    Beautiful. I find air in wind's shivers first thing in the morning. The deep breaths and the shallow breaths that punctuate my da
  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    Thank you for commenting Elizabeth. There are so many ways to work with air. I like what you say and it brings to mind the words "
  • Elizabeth Creely
    Elizabeth Creely says #
    Beautiful. As for how I work with Air: every day I open both my doors and welcome it into my house. It usually rushes in, knockin

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Light In My Heart

Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, when I was 30 I was finally mentally and physically healthy.  When the goddess Freya had claimed me for her Priestess when I was 20, she had appeared in her solar aspect. In my mind's eye, she always appeared as the white-hot light of the sun. That Light is all-love and all-life. Until I became healthy enough to reach it again, I had only experienced that Light once, during my initiation in 1989. Ten years later, I was ready to bring it inside myself.

Through writing fiction, I came up with the idea of picturing the Light and bringing that Light into my heart. After a character in my story did it, I did it, too. I pictured my hand, reached into the Light, and pushed it into my heart.

The last quote from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts:
 

     “I mentally reached out a hand into that shining consciousness of life-fire.  I reached.  I pulled. The light was within me.

     A grin spread over my face and I laughed out loud.  It worked!  The Light of my initiation all those years ago had been there all along.  I only needed a whole mind to reach it." 
 

That Light has been with me ever since. It is ecstatic. It's always there, pouring from my heart. Anytime I wish, I can temporarily fill my body with that light and experience the sun body, a state of religious ecstasy. Then I let the light go again, and Freya's Light radiates out to the world through me.

That’s the end of the story in my memoir; it ends with becoming healthy and whole and a vehicle for the light of my Goddess. But as with all stories that don’t end with death, life went on after the happily-ever-after. I've lived 16 more years since then, and I'll continue to share the story of my journey here in Gnosis Diary.

Freya is the Light in my heart.

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The Two Worlds of the Minoans

For us modern folks, it can be hard to understand the worldview of ancient people. They didn't know about outer space or the heliocentric view of the solar system, but they did their best to understand the world given the information they had at hand. In fact, the pre-Indo-European inhabitants of Europe didn't even think of the sky as a separate realm the way Indo-European cultures did. So what does that mean in terms of the way the Minoans viewed the cosmos?

You're probably familiar with the three-worlds cosmos that many pre-Christian Indo-European cultures had. The Norse version is especially popular, given that J.R.R. Tolkien adapted it for his own imaginary world. In the three-worlds view, the 'top' or upper world is the sky; the middle realm is the Earth and the area right above it where people and animals live; and the lower realm is beneath the Earth - the Underworld.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Bruno
    Bruno says #
    I´m pretty sure that it is comparable. Like in egyptian mythology, symbols are not what they seem to be...
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    For more information about the timing of Minoan civilization versus Greek civilization (and other cultures worldwide) please see t
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    The worldview to which I am referring predates the Orphics by a good millennium (the Minoans flourished ca 2500-1450 BCE) and is n
  • Bruno
    Bruno says #
    "The upper half of the sphere (...) is the daylight world we all share" This is not quite correct. Like in the Allegory of the Cav

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