Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

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

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Moon, Stars, and Questions

It’s always tricky, reconstructing ancient religious practices. We may or may not have reliable sources of information and from a distance of centuries, it’s hard to tell what really happened way back then. It’s especially tricky when the only written records we have were recorded by people who weren’t exactly friendly to our chosen culture, as I discussed in a recent guest post on a friend’s blog. This is the case with the ancient Minoans. Most of the mythology we know about from ancient Crete comes down to us from the Hellenic Greeks, who lived a thousand years after the collapse of Minoan civilization and whose male-centric culture held radically different values from the egalitarian Minoans.

So how can we connect with the spirituality of a people who lived so long ago and about whom we have little reliable information? We take what we have and build on it using our own experience of the numinous – the divine. This is one case in which we must simply say, if it works for you, then do it. But we must also remember that what works for one person may not be  satisfying for another, so respect for a diversity of views needs to hold high priority. My friend Nimue put this especially well in a recent blog post.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I like Asterion as the sky-bull/constellation Taurus. Have you tried seeking personal communication with Asterion yet? I know so
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    No, I haven't, mainly because I only recently came up with this correlation. I've been grappling with the identity of Asterion for

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Fireverse 6: Mythology is Subjective

Mythology is stories, and stories reflect the mind of the storyteller. We acknowledge that when we talk about how a given mythological tale reflects a culture and its level of scientific and social advancement. The individuals who told the stories also projected them through their own personal lenses, not only as members of their culture but as people with internal psychology.

One of the things I learned while writing Some Say Fire, in which I retold as much of the heathen lore as I could find along with original material inserted interstitially, is that it is impossible to write objective fiction about the gods no matter how hard I try. Even though I relate to the gods either as people with personalities or as nature, when I wrote fiction about them they inevitably turned into archetypes. For example, the ways that Fireverse Odin differs from traditional Odin all turned out to be about my real life deceased father. I didn't intend to do that. I didn't even realize that until after I had enough of a draft completed to show it to someone else and my critique partner pointed it out to me; I knew I had turned my problems over to my higher power by giving them to Loki, but I hadn't realized how much that distorted all the other characters in the story.

Only after I had dealt with those issues was I able to get past them and reach the real Odin. In mythology or fairy tale, the father figure is your father, the road is your path, and the mountain is whatever obstacle you yourself must overcome. Everything turns into dream symbolism.

This same phenomenon must surely have happened when the lore that we have received in written form was first written down. The lore contained in Snorri's Edda must therefore reflect Snorri the individual as much as it reflects the lore as he had heard it in his lifetime, and as much as it reflects his culture and the times he lived in.

Fireverse Odin turned into my father and Fireverse Loki my wounded inner child because those are the personal issues I needed to resolve through my creative writing. Snorri's Odin turned into Yahweh and his Loki turned into the Devil. As a Christian with recent heathen ancestors living in the time of conversion, watching his culture be destroyed by the very thing he most passionately believed in--the Church-- resolving the cognitive dissonance between his Christian beliefs and his love of the stories of his culture must have been his greatest psychological need.

The subjectivity of story, even mythology from an oral tradition, is something to keep in mind in interpreting the lore. Some of my fellow Asatruars treat the Eddas as if they were the word of the gods. The Eddas were written by men; men have human needs, including psychological needs. The storyteller shapes the story even if he tries not to.

Image: image from publicdomainpictures.net

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“Every divine word came into being through that which was thought by the heart and commanded by the tongue [of Ptah]. . . And so justice is done to him who does what is liked, and evil is done to him who does what is hated. And so life is given to the peaceful . . .” (Memphite Theology, from Frankfort, 1948)

If a good example is set by the leader, it will be effective for all eternity, and all his wisdom will become one with the eternity of the cycles. (The Wisdom of Ptah-Hotep, Jacq, 2004)

b2ap3_thumbnail_horussetf_20151213-163928_1.jpgI fear that in these volatile times we are too easily turned aside from the wisdom of ancient Egypt. Politics in America is never a tame beast, but the current season is fraught with demagoguery and hyperbole of a level I have not seen in my own lifetime.

And yet, with all its modern challenges, good leadership still emerges from the same principles it always has: personal integrity; honesty; honor of both one’s self and others; fairness; compassion and courage.

The Egyptians are said to have been a conservative society, not because they resembled anything in today’s civic life, but because they had experienced extremes of upheaval and knew their survival depended on maintaining the balance of Ma’at.

So it is that (to my knowledge) we have no records of protests and dissension left to us, though there surely must have been some at times. We do know that when the Egyptians threw off the oppressive religion of Akhenaten and reinstated the temples, they did everything they knew of to erase the memory of the Heretic from history.  They did not want his words lingering to re-introduce chaos into their recovered balance.

Since every word has power, since we are all gods speaking divine words, it behooves us to ponder what creative works we send out when we speak. For many in the blogosphere, words are particularly powerful, and we do well to heed the lesson of the Egyptians to moderate our speech into something truly effective.

How will you make your every word count today? What will be the first words you think, then speak, in the morning? And what will be your last words upon retiring for the night? Couch your waking hours in good speech, in medu netjer, sacred words that bring life, affirmation and truth to yourself and others. In this way you will “become one with the eternity of the cycles.”

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A Farewell to Ara

 

A Farewell to Ara: Moving Day

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A Different Drummer

Hello! My name is Jean Pagano and I am a Druid. I also go by the name “Drum”, so you may see me called by either one. I am a neo-pagan. I am honoured to have been asked to blog for this fine collection of writings.

I am a very long-time member of ADF and RDNA. RDNA is the oldest Druidic organisation born in America (circa 1963) and it has two tenets: a) Nature is Good; and b) Nature is very Good. As a neo-pagan, I think that everyone can agree on these two important and fundamental notions. In RDNA, we venerate the Earth Mother, Be’al, and a number of other deities. I am a Druid of the Third Order in RDNA and a priest.

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  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    Welcome! I look forward to reading your stuff!
Syrian Women, 1993, Palmyra, Temple of Ba'al and Fertility Goddesses

Sabeen and Miriam's Damascus, Syria home was a tiny minuscule brick block affair. Apple trees surrounded the perimeter and were covered in pink blossoms this March day. The aged neighbor had a few ancient olive trees in his front yard. They had a postage stamp size garden with plantings of peppermint, parsley, chicory, and sage. Peppermint tea was being brewed when I arrived, and delicious smells of stuffed green peppers wafted out of the minuscule kitchen. Deeply embraced, Alternate Agnes felt immediately at home.

The peppers were served with couscous made with parsley fresh from the garden. First, we ate and then we talked. I wanted to know about women’s rights in Syria and was told that Syria was under emergency law and that most constitutional laws had been suspended for women and all citizens. The system of government was non-democracy and women’s rights were meager, I deduced. Sabeen, beautiful in western dress of slacks and white shirt, told me they were Christian Arabs, and she had a university degree and was an elementary school teacher. She had attended Damascus University, and I learned that all universities and colleges were government-operated, but that other Arab nations had been applying to open private universities. I asked Sabeen if she had to pay for her education. She replied, “I paid only a very small portion as my marks were above average and I was a good student.” Mama Miriam, a large masculine looking woman, with a Roman nose nodded her head in affirmation. She spoke very little English, but was fluent in French, this country having been occupied by the French from the First World War until 1943.

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Surviving the Holidays...with Deadpool?

Ah, the holiday season: time of joyous family togetherness, or, if you’re like me, a time for anxiety and generally trying to hide and become one with the wallpaper.  I love my family but they make my brain revert into a horribly awkward teenager for some reason.  Consequently, I feel the need to gird myself a bit in order to face them and being the nerd I am I often turn to pop culture magick for a boost.  A few weeks ago I became the proud owner of a Deadpool ugly xmas sweatshirt and joked over on facebook that I’d use it in a spell to help me make it through the holidays.  Of course that got me thinking about how I might do just that.b2ap3_thumbnail_Deadpool.JPG

In previous writings I’ve advised people not to try and work with characters like Deadpool due to their incredibly unpredictable nature.  For most pop culture workings it is easiest to work with characters that are relatively straightforward and predictable.  You can pretty much always rely on a character like Spock to help you find a logical solution to a problem or for a character like Steve Rogers help you stand up to bullies.  No brainers, really.  It’s far more challenging to work with a character whose actions are difficult to predict.  You never really know what chaotic characters like the Joker, Delirium, or Deadpool are going to do.  Sometimes they’re pretty decent people, other times they kill or maim everyone in the room - you just never know. While it’s difficult to work with unpredictable, chaotic characters, it is possible.  There are two keys to working with unpredictable characters: version control and guidelines they will actually follow.

Regular readers of mine will recognize that version control is something I talk about a lot in regards to pop culture magick.  In this context, version control is simply figuring out which of the many existing iterations of a character you want to work with in this instance.  There are a lot of different versions of Deadpool out there in the world and their behavior can be radically different.  For example, the Deadpool you get in the Posehn/Duggan era comics is rather different than the one in the Ultimate Spiderman cartoon series (much less murder in the latter than the former).  For a straightforward character I recommend finding whatever version of that character’s personality best suits the working you’re trying to do and using it.  For a less predictable character I have to amend that to: find the version of the character that you know best and that you think might actually listen to you.  In order to work with an unpredictable character sanely you have to know it very well; well enough to understand their motivations and use those motivations in order to get it to do what you want and nothing you don’t want.  That is easier said than done.  For all that I know the Deadpool of saturday morning cartoons is likely to be easier to work with than the comic Deadpool, I don’t watch those cartoons and thus don’t know that Deadpool well enough to hope to predict his actions.  Thus, even though he’s a lot more dangerous, I could only ever work with the comic Deadpool because he’s the one I know best (though I’ve got several years worth of comic Deadpools to choose from, oy vey).

The second key to working with unpredictable characters is by far the most difficult to figure out: guidelines they will actually follow.  By their very nature, chaotic characters don’t like rules.  This is where really understanding the version of the character you’re working with is invaluable.  The only way to figure out how to phrase your working guidelines in a way the character will actually follow is to know that character inside and out.  I can’t see successfully working with this type of character if you’ve only got a casual connection with them.  To get a chaotic character to walk the path you want them to you need to phrase your goals in a way that will make them the character’s goals as well.  Use the thoughts and motivations you know the character already has in order to make them want your goals to happen in the way you want them to happen.  In my “Holidays with Deadpool” thought experiment my guidelines would have to include things like no harming anyone and keeping all snark non-verbal and confined astrally to not spill over onto my hapless relatives.  In order to get his compliance I need to figure out why Deadpool would ever want to be confined to those rules?  I know from the comics that Deadpool has a fairly well developed sense of morality and is pretty big on protecting the innocent, particularly children; he may be insane but Deadpool is a good guy at heart.  He is also incredibly playful, so I know that if I can make fulfilling my goals a game that he can win, Deadpool will toe the line.  Therefore, in order to get Deadpool to help me navigate the holidays while keeping to my rules I have to explain my goal is to maintain the happiness of my family and to make sure that strife doesn’t make my adorable little nieces cry.  As a bonus, he would get points for each time he prevents me from feeling bad without alerting my relatives to his presence or making them think I’m nuts.  If he gets enough points by the end of the night he’ll get an extra offering.  Use your knowledge of unpredictable characters’ thoughts, motives, and backstory in order to get them to want what you want and you should be ok.

Working with unpredictable characters is a calculated risk because you cannot guarantee they’ll behave themselves.  I would only recommend doing so if you really, really know the character well and have a deep enough connection with them that you feel comfortable with what you know they might do in a given situation.  With a firm grasp of the version of the character you want to work with and confidence in guidelines you believe the character will actually follow even someone like Deadpool can help make your holidays a bit brighter.  Do your spellwork safely. Happy Holidays!

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