Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Modern Minoan Paganism: A How-To

When I first discovered the Pagan community, I never dreamed I'd end up as the facilitator for a new spiritual path, but here we are. Modern Minoan Paganism is a thing and a lot of us are doing it. So what, exactly, are we doing?

Like many Pagan traditions, there are no rules about what you must believe. Some of us are hard polytheists; some of us approach the Minoan deities from a psychological or symbolic perspective. All that really matters is that the connection works, however you make it. The central focus is the Minoan pantheon, the gods and goddesses of ancient Crete who are still very much alive today.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    In "Gods of the Runes" by Frank Joseph the author claims that each rune of the elder Futhark represents one of the Norse gods. Ha
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Linear B is not actually the Minoan alphabet. It's an adaptation of Linear A, which was the Minoan syllabary, used to write Mycena
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Yeah, 80 does sound like a bit much unless your talking about every mountain, river and island getting it's own deity. Have fun w
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Archaeologists continue to discover new Minoan sites all the time; there's some speculation that Crete was more heavily populated

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Step into the Fire

Step into the Fire

 

I got called out by my kid. And it was gut-wrenching. 

 

They’d embarked on an exploration of “family stories” they wanted to rewrite, the unspoken assumptions and unwritten rules of their upbringing. When they shared this their words were calm but direct. The unquestioning child was gone. A fully observant adult stood in their place.

 

Seeing myself and our family life through their eyes was….bracing. Scary. I had to face some uncomfortable truths, and found myself filled with a sense of loss and regret. I hadn’t been a perfect parent, and I wasn’t a perfect person. 

 

But this was a perfect chance to step into the fire.

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Substance Use, Background Noise, and Reenchanting the World

I’m drinking a beer as I write this.

That’s not a big deal. I’m not drunk and I don’t intend to have another. But I’m sitting at my local with a laptop, and I’m surrounded by a typical Friday afternoon crowd, which will swell considerably after 5:00.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Pilgrimage: Earth

Oxford Dictionaries defines "Pilgrimage" as a pilgrim's journey, or a religious journey or religious expedition. I have gone of several pilgrimages myself, self-described, most likely, but pilgrimages nonetheless. I ventured to Brittany in France and visited Carnac, with its row and rows of standing stones. I visited a number of off-the-beaten tracks places like "Merlin's Grave" (I am pretty sure he wasn't buried there), the Val-sans-retour, the Fountain of Barenton, the Forest of Broceliande, the odd Celto-Christian Church at Trehuerentec. All of these places were known to others, all of them had some history, a few of them had some authenticity.

Last year, at the OBOD Summer Gathering, I made the trip up Glastonbury Tor, indeed an effort and a pilgrimage all in one. To do ritual in a holy places makes the religious journey or religious expedition even more powerful, all the more memorable. The journeys are all the more memorable because they require a journey of distance, of effort, and of time.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Beards

Recently, a heathen US soldier was granted permission to wear a religious beard. This has sparked controversy in the heathen community.

The religious beard exemption in the US army was created for the benefit of Sikhs. Many Asatruars and other heathens think it's wrong for heathens to use this exemption because heathens don't have the kind of religion in which our gods require all their followers to follow commandments in order to achieve a proper afterlife. (In heathen lore, there is only one way into Valhalla, and that is to die in battle. Most of us are going to Hel. And that is not a bad place.) Asatru has no central authority, and so different groups and individuals vary in their practices. One group may wear beards while another group does not. Individuals may be given personal taboos not practiced by the rest of their community. The soldier in question is a member of Norskk, which is an organization within the Forn Sidr sect of heathenry, not Asatru. However, many Asatruars are asking in heathen forums whether they can also get religious beard exemptions, so I am attempting to address that here.

As it happens, I've been working on a new edition of my book Asatru For Beginners, in which I am rewriting a lot of the sections dealing with folkways such as wearing beards to account for the rise of modernism in the generation which passed since I first wrote my book in 2001. During the early part of the revival of heathenry, it was the heathen's task to reconstruct what was, to determine what the actual practices of ancient heathens were, based on "the lore" (written literature), archeology, surviving folk practices, etc. Many heathens went so far as to practice a living-history lifestyle. Some still do, but in recent years modernists have arisen whose task as a heathen is to fit what we already know of heathenry into modern life.

Wearing religious beards, clothing, weapons, and so forth are part of what we call the folkway. The folkway is a way of life based not on holy scriptures but on how our ancestors lived, and the folkway is just as important to traditionalist Asatruars as is the worship of our gods. The folkway is a combination of traditional practices that survived Christianity and were passed down continuously, such as maypole dancing, plus revived practices based on pre-Christian cultures, such as wearing beards. Lore-based folkways were reconstructed as part of the early reconstruction of Asatru. Different sects of heathenry were based on different cultures and time periods, so, the folkways of an Asatruar are different from the folkways of a Theodsman. Different groups within Asatru developed different folkways from each other. In the 20th century, most American Asatruars practiced both the religion and some sort of folkway. Recently, modernist sects have arisen which practice the religion without the folkway.

Because the question of beards in the military is being framed as a question of how similar Asatruars are to Sikhs, let's talk about that. Sikhs grew from Indo-European roots, as did Asatruars. If one goes back far enough into history, there are some shared cultural tropes. Adult male Sikhs wear blades as part of their Sikh ways. Asatruars (regardless of gender) who practice the folkway wear weapons, typically blade weapons but other types are acceptable, to symbolize their free status in the community.

Another part of the folkway which is ancient and similar to Sikh practice is the prohibition against cutting the hair.  Sikhs of both genders do not cut their hair, and male Sikhs wear religious beards. In some traditionalist sects of Asatru, men wear religious beards, and women do not cut their hair. Unlike the Sikhs, in Asatru this is not a religious dictate in that it is not required to achieve a proper afterlife, because Asatru does not have that kind of religious dictate (the word of Odin in the Havamal is advice to humanity, not commandments.) Rather, in Asatru beards are a cultural tradition. While traditionalists might or might not practice that part of the folkway, modernists don't practice any part of the folkway.

There are exceptions to the no-cutting rule even among the most traditional groups in Asatru. Women can remove their facial hair and body hair. Professional warriors, including military, police, mercenaries, etc. retain warriors’ honor even if they cut their hair and shave their beards. The reason for this exception is because of Germanic mercenaries who served the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Germanic tribesmen who served Rome or Byzantium conformed to the standards of Roman soldiers and shaved their beards. They were considered to retain warrior's honor. The Germanic mercenaries had great admiration for the Roman Janissaries. Janissaries were slaves but had warriors’ honor. So there are both practical (they shaved their own beards) and theoretical (they counted warrior slaves as warriors rather than slaves) historical precedent for warriors shaving beards. Even in very traditionalist Asatru sects warriors are allowed to shave their beards. The soldier in question is a member of a heathen sect that looks to Norse sources only, not to Germanic sources, so his group does not acknowledge that exception.

The wearing of weapons, uncut hair, and religious beards in traditionalist Asatru all signify free status. Like most other ancient societies, the ancient heathens had a slave class. Short hair was a social signal of being a thrall or prostitute (this is the reason the cutting of Sif's hair in the lore story was told as a wrong that had to be made right); an iron collar signified the same. In modern society, slavery is illegal, and no one is actually a thrall, even among the Theodish where that word is used for a novice. However, there are people even in modern society who do not have free status. Prisoners of various kinds, including criminals in prison, prisoners of war, and the involuntarily hospitalized, are not required by religious obligations to wear weapons or religious beards or to refrain from cutting or shaving the hair, if they are required to be weaponless or beardless by those in power over them. Even among the most traditionalist, those who do not have free status are neither required nor entitled to have the markers of free status. This is not relevant to the case of the soldier, but has come up before when heathen prisoners request a religious accommodation to wear a beard.

Modernist sects do not practice the folkway, and some traditionalist sects do not practice this part of the folkway either. For those who do, wearing religious hair and beards is just as important as it is for members of other religions who wear religious hair and beards for cultural reasons. The majority of heathens would not say a soldier must have a beard, but that doesn't matter for purposes of determining if the soldier in question has a sincerely held belief, which is the standard that employers in the US adhere to for determining religious exemptions. There is no Asa-Pope, there is no one heathen organization that determines how all heathens must live, and there is not majority rule either. Each Asatru organization, kindred, or individual determines for themselves whether to adopt folkways and if so, which ones.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A garden altar

A garden altar

Having an outdoor altar is a lovely idea and gives you a magical focal point in the garden.  You can use it to leave offerings for the Fae or to deity but also as a focal point to sit outside and meditate in front of.  It can be as simple as a flat stone or piece of wood or something grander involving wood, stones, shells and even mirrors and statues.  Make sure whatever you place on the altar with the intent of leaving it out is biodegradable and won’t harm wildlife if they decide to take a nibble (or your pets).  I like to leave natural spells on my garden altar whilst the magic works.

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  • Rachel Patterson
    Rachel Patterson says #
    Thank you Deb :-)
  • Deb
    Deb says #
    You mentioned some great ideas for simple spells for the garden. I love my garden and keep several sacred areas throughout for si

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Beltane is a great Celtic festival although it's highly likely that it has its roots drawn down to a far longer distant past. My imagination has always been stirred by far earlier peoples.

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