Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

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


Serenity... is the counterbalance to passion, which unchecked can lead to carelessness and recklessness. Pursuit of stillness, of harmony and balance serves as the bank to control the flow of passion to beautiful and natural ends. Someone in the embrace of tranquility cannot be moved by mere appeals to emotion or manipulation, but seeks to move in ways that are aligned to the pattern.

(Nicanthiel Hrafnhild in my book Visions of Vanaheim)

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Thanksgiving - Minoan Style

Thursday is the holiday of Thanksgiving where I live in the U.S. As these things go, it’s a relatively modern one, instituted in the nineteenth century to help bring the nation back together after the Civil War (and please, let’s set aside the horrid historical revisionism about the Pilgrims and the native North American nations for the moment – I’m aware that many people choose not to celebrate Thanksgiving because of this issue). But the concepts on which Thanksgiving is founded are ancient. Essentially, it is the American harvest festival. And some of us find sacredness in that fact.

Across the world and throughout time, virtually every agrarian society instituted some sort of religious festival to celebrate the completion of the harvest. In many cases, these celebrations included the honoring of the Ancestors, both those recently deceased and those long gone. The Minoans were no different from any other ancient culture in this regard.

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     In previous posts, we discussed places within the earthly realms which were seen as portals to the Celtic Otherworld. We have also begun an initial discussion of the names and attributes of the inhabitants of the Otherworld. In this post we will explore the nature and appearance of the Otherworld realms, as they are described in early Irish literature.

     We have some inkling of how the Continental Celts may have viewed the Otherworld in terms of where the souls of the dead were believed to travel. The graves of noble or important people were richly outfitted with clothes and jewelry, food and drink, tools and weapons, and even chariots - either for passage into the next life or for use therein. Classical reports state that the Celts appeared to have believed in the immortality of the soul, that our spirits inhabit another body after this one. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_227.jpgI was an animist before I was pagan.  From earliest childhood I had a sense that the world was alive, I could sense the spirits in the land around me.  I was a loner growing up and spent a lot of time outside, enthralled by the magic of the land, the wonder and beauty.  I loved the changes in weather - I still love walking in the rain - and the changes of seasons.  The outdoors, and some particular pockets of forest, were my solace during those years; in my teens I took up hiking and frequently went on ten-mile hikes, just to immerse myself in the woods and their mystery.  When I became pagan, I got my greatest spiritual charge out of doing ritual and magick outdoors, the Powers always felt more present there... and eventually I found my way to the Vanir, and felt drawn to Them as the Powers of the Land.

With my connection to nature, I was environmentally conscious from a young age.  This was back in the 1980s during the Reagan administration.  I used some of my allowance to donate money to Greenpeace.  I spent time cleaning up litter, I dutifully recycled before recycling was a convenient and popular option (I recycled before it was mainstream *hipster glasses*), and I lectured peers and adults about littering and not recycling; I got my elementary school to switch to using recycled paper after giving a speech on destruction of the forest.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_448px-Oregon_forest_and_mist.jpgFor each of the Vanic virtues, I plan on writing something on how Vanic pagans can better incorporate these virtues into their daily lives, living Vanatru.  So with the third virtue, Naturalism, here is a list of suggestions (not demands, I am not interested in telling people what to do) of activities to better express this virtue:

-Spend some time outside every day, even if just for 5-10 minutes.  (Spending a half-hour to an hour would be ideal, but not everyone can do ideal, for health reasons or other reasons.)  Look at the land around you.  Observe the weather.  Observe the changes of the land with the weather and the seasons.  If you are visually impaired, you can utilize your other senses - feel, touch, smell, listen.  (You can do this even if you're not visually impaired, doing things like holding a fallen leaf, smelling wildflowers, etc.)

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b2ap3_thumbnail_10647028_10152639569303232_2654539940423990677_n-e1409779680543-300x300.jpgI'm not sure that every coven unrelated to a specific tradition needs a "Book of Shadows." I probably wanted one for my coven because I have strange control issues. After finding a ritual structure that worked for our circle I wanted to get it all down on paper, and share it with everyone in our little group. For our group a BoS made perfect sense because we work the same way ritual to ritual.  

A BoS is not necessarily a rigid, never-changing book of instructions, but it often contains ideas that consistently work. If the quarter calls I'm using "work" why would I want to change them every month or so? I also think there's real power in repeating a ritual structure over and over again. It takes the guess work out of ritual and creates an atmosphere that lets the mind and spirit quickly ease into ritual mode. When my coven's opening chant starts I'm in "work mode" and instantly push outside concerns away.  

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  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven says #
    "Merry meet. Merry Party and merry meet again" - I don't know if that actually qualifies as a typo!

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Thanksgiving, an American Celebration

"Thanksgiving is celebrated as a family harvest celebration, and its origins are swept under the rug. Public schools of my era put up decorations of cutesy Pilgrims and Indians and indoctrinated children in the propaganda that Thanksgiving was a continuous celebration from the First Thanksgiving and had been celebrated the same way ever since, and that the First Thanksgiving was when the settlers had a great harvest and invited the happy, friendly natives to the feast."

That's a quote from my latest book, American Celebration. I decided to write this book for several reasons. One was because I decided to go in a more modernist direction in my personal path. I reached the point where I felt that heathenry had gotten enough reconstruction to have a firm foundation and it was time to build the rest of the house. Becoming a viable religion in modern times means we have to think about how we fit into modern culture. I wanted to spend more of my holidays with my family and friends who are part of my real life, and American secular holiday culture provides a framework for celebrating with friends and family of different faiths. 

Another reason I wrote this book is because I've heard all my life that the United States doesn't have a real culture like other countries do. It's not true. There are American folkways. I discovered things I never knew about my own country's customs while researching this book, which is new this year.

Another reason I wrote the book is because while I was running for office, one day a woman from another country who happened to be at a political event with her fellow asked me why Americans are always worshipping our flag. That got me to thinking, and I also wrote this book for foreigners who want to understand peculiar customs in the United States. 

I'll return to the story of my personal journey on my path in my next blog post.

Here's another quote from the entry on Thanksgiving in American Celebration:

"Thanksgiving as we know it today was created by Abraham Lincoln for the purpose of uniting the bitterly divided American people in the shadow of the Civil War. He created the mythology of Pilgrims and Indians feasting together as a model of how the North and the South ought to come together after the massive bloodshed which had just happened. In reaching back for a foundation myth that reflected a happier and shinier view of the real history of the colonization of America, he hoped to perpetuate a happier and shinier America in his present and the future."

Links to American Celebration:

Amazon (print edition): http://www.amazon.com/American-Celebration-Erin-Lale/dp/1304916138/ref=la_B004GLACQQ_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416415380&sr=1-2

Smashwords (ebook): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/400543

Barnes & Noble (ebook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/american-celebration-erin-lale/1118328548?ean=2940045599979 

American Celebration would make a great Yule gift.

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