Pagan Paths


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Paths Blogs

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

Keeper of the Memories by Lady Haight Ashton

I often see transparent gossamer threads emanating from each person, connecting us together and binding us and our ancestral traditions together. Our Akashic memories from the past form patterns for the future. 

 

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Tarot Elements: The True Meaning of "The Star"

The Star of Tarot is a very watery, spiritual and high-vibration card, the only other one as supremely watery being the Ace of Cups. Predictably, both are among my top favorites.

It is also probably one of the most popular images of the Major Arcana, (particularly the Waite-Smith version, which I refer to) yet also one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted.

The Star is frequently interpreted with keywords like “hope”, “renewal” and “inspiration”. While inspiration may at least come closer than any other term to the true meaning, Arthur Edward Waite himself described the most commonly attributed interpretation of hope as “tawdry”.

Frankly, I have never understood how or where anyone ever got “hope” regarding the Star, even in my earliest days as a Tarot novice. It has been the repetitive insistence from countless Tarot teachers and “experts” that the Star means hope, combined with my repetitive intuitive suspicion that this can’t be correct, that led me into an extensive search and analysis of just what this card really means.

It was a great “I knew it!” moment when I finally read Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot and his explanation of the Star, especially his calling out of the old “hope trope”. It was an even more enthralling and enlightening moment when astronomy and chemistry played a part in validating what I understand to be the real meaning of this card. But we’ll get to that.

The Star, according to Waite, is Sephirah Binah of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life; the Great Mother who gives and who is supernal understanding. He says the mottoes of the card are “Waters of Life freely” and “Gifts of the Spirit”.

So, people very ironically misunderstand the card that is about understanding. A lot. Is there maybe a lesson or message here?

He describes the female figure in the card as expressing eternal youth and beauty. The number of the card is 17, which reduces to 8 - the symbol for infinity or, more poetically, eternity. There are also eight stars on the card, the large one in the middle being surrounded by seven others.

The number 8 – as a lemniscate or infinity symbol – appears on only two other cards of the Major Arcana: the Magician and Strength. I think there is a clue here and a relationship between these cards and the Star.

The Magician, who most basically represents manifestation, is pointing a wand towards the heavens and his finger down to Earth, representing “As Above, So Below”, as well as a conduit between the two planes.

The suggestion throughout is therefore the possession and communication of the Power and Gifts of the Spirit,” Waite says of the posture and action of the Magician. So there is that key phrase that directly ties the Magician to the Star.

Supernal means “pertaining to heaven or the sky” or “celestial”…the stars. The Magician bears another symbol of eternity – the ouroboros, or the serpent around his waist eating its own tail.

This is familiar to most as a conventional symbol of eternity, but here it indicates more especially the eternity of attainment in the spirit.” (A.E. Waite)

In Strength we see a young woman taming a lion with ease. The lemniscate floats above her head just as it does the Magician’s. What do these cards have in common that may be indicated by the presence of this symbol? She too has a similar additional symbol of eternity around her waist, like the Magician.

However, in Strength it is a vine of blossoming greenery tying her to the lion, at least in early printings of the deck. In later reproductions it is unfortunately not illustrated as joining her to the lion though this is significant. I believe it symbolizes, among other things, a natural link between humans and animals. Ultimately we are animals ourselves and Strength conveys the necessary control over certain baser animal instincts.

Waite elaborates however,

[These higher meanings] are intimated in a concealed manner by the chain of flowers, which signifies, among other many other things, the sweet yoke and the light burden of Divine Law, when it has been taken into the heart of hearts.”

The flower chain around her waist very curiously resembles the flowering boughs over the Magicians head, perhaps a further representation of the feminine spirit and understanding being poured down on him from Above?

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Burgeoning

It’s definite now: the light is stronger, the days are longer. Here in the northern hemisphere, winter is passing, and spring is coming on.

Where I live, in coastal Northern California, the very first wildflowers are the milk maids, and they are already gone now, faded to buttercups and hounds’ tongues and shooting stars: the survivals of what once was a landscape carpeted with flowers in the spring. European grasses have forcibly taken over our hills, but the native flowers yet persist.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    Of course! https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/an-atheopagan-rosary/
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    So glad you found a new path of employment, though I envy you your relationship with spring. Here in the upper Midwest we are stil
  • Carla Benejam
    Carla Benejam says #
    Mark, happy to hear about your new job! And reading your column made me want to add that the first wildflowers here on the "centra
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    Thank you! Yes, mustard is an early arrival here, too, but I was sticking to the native Californian wildflowers--should have menti
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    Good luck! I hope you get it.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Painting With Pan

Oh Pan, you have your ways. 

When it was time to figure out what Nathaniel and I were going to submit for PantheaCon 2019, we knew we wanted to do another dance-music-ritual experience - following in the footsteps of "Hekate at the Crossroads" (2017) and "Dreaming the Raven" (2014). I had just finished writing some pieces for an annual that will be published next year, and Pan had goated his way into that work. He was also showing up pretty much everywhere I looked.  I know what that meant, and so we submitted a presentation called "A Revel for Pan."

Which got accepted, meaning now we'd have to get into the grotto and get some work done. Yes, I tend to work in such a way that I present ideas - and if there's interest, then I put it into motion and start the actual planning. 

As I contemplated what the Revel would look, sound, and feel like, the vision of having a large painting as an altar piece kept poking at me like a set of persistent horns butting against my head. I looked around my studio for available panels to paint on, and was informed they were all "too small." Then a large 2'x2' panel that had had several unsuccessful attempts at a "Witch's Sabbat Ride" theme fell over. Not so subtle hint taken.

I contemplated full body renditions on this square hunk of wood - something along the lines of the Pan that I created for Jason Mankey (middle of the bottom row here). I thought about head and shoulder shots - but when I sat down to paint, I felt I needed to reject a square presentation and turn the panel into a diamond shape.  This made it very hard to stabilize on both my easel and desk, but it gave me the most amount of room to include his horns, and possibly include shoulders and a panpipe.  As I got to work, just the head was the message I got and that was more than enough. 

After I got the basics down, the expression that was needed nagged at me. What came to mind was a headstudy of Pan that I saw in a "Museums of the World" book, going back at least 20, if not 30+ years in my memory.  What I remember most was the eyes were oddly shaped with a unique expression, very fey and full of mischief.  I couldn't find that original image from my memory, but as it happens, Nathaniel has been known to take on that very same expression. AND I had photographic evidence of him looking just like that. He's actually the only person I've ever seen to pull it off - and every time he has done it, that memory would sail on by.  Strange how weird things are connected through time and space! 

I had also just freshly re-read "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins, so that added another layer to the image. There is a blending of a face emerging from leaves, taking physical form - as well as a sense of the invisible made visible - with a touch of Green Man feel. 

Perhaps though the trickiest part of all of this was figuring out how to have this heavy piece of diamond-oriented wood affixed to an altar in a hotel ballroom that was about to be filled with 300 people reveling.  With some help from friends, gaffer tape, a ballroom chair, and a sari - we managed to secure the painting in front of the stage - and it stayed put the entire revel! 

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  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer says #
    He's gorgeous and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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The Incredible, Elemental Egg

We are now between the time of Imbolc, when the fires in the belly quicken and hint at the coming rebirth, and Ostara, when that new birth of Spring occurs and the hibernating potential bursts forth in colorful blossoms and familiar bunnies and chicks.

Then there is the most familiar Egg: the supreme symbol of Ostara, Spring, new life and fertility. Yet it is so much more than that. Eggs have been painted, decorated, preserved, carved, crafted, offered, venerated and used as symbols and in rituals probably from the earliest days of humankind, certainly millennia before they came to be associated with the “borrowed” Easter of modern Christianity.

Eggs are the perfect symbol of life. They are literally life! All creatures begin as eggs in some form or another and all are composed of all four elements, which are perfectly represented by the parts of the egg: the shell is Earth, the membrane is Air, the white is Water, and the yolk is Fire.

It is easy to understand why so many different cosmologies and creation stories feature one or more “cosmic eggs” from which all beings, the world, indeed the whole universe are created. Several deities, such as Atargatis, are also believed to have been born from sacred eggs. Certain magical creatures are born from eggs under strange circumstances, such as the basilisk, which is hatched by a cockerel from a serpent’s egg.

There is the Greek Orphic Egg which hatched the first primordial being who created all the other gods, the Egyptian cosmic egg which birthed the sun god Ra, and the seven duck eggs hatched on the knee of the Finnish goddess Ilmatar, thus creating the various parts of the world.

Interestingly enough, the theory of the cosmic egg has a place in modern cosmological science. Current models suggest that over 13 billion years ago, the mass of all the universe was compressed into a singularity from which it expanded into its current state after the “Big Bang”. Could the Big Bang have been the moment of fertilization for the singular “egg”? The sparking action all life requires to ignite the potential contained in the seed which then expands and grows and even creates subsequent life?

More and more do quantum physics and other cutting-edge “modern” sciences begin to reflect, accept and even prove ideas that have existed in spirituality and mysticism since time immemorial; concepts that have been believed and perhaps truly known long before the advent of the tools and measuring devices mandated by science to verify the existence of anything.  

So how could the egg not be supremely sacred, and how could it not hold the key to the mysteries of all life and creation? Eggs contain life, potential for life, and they contain all the elements. So too then are the elements, from which everything is created, the keys to truth and understanding.

My kitchen altar is very simple and consists of a single candle, a very cute little plush cow with a tiny porcelain teacup and saucer, and a polished, egg-shaped onyx crystal resting in an egg cup. It serves as a focal point and constant reminder of all I have already said about eggs and then some. I can’t sing their praises enough! Particularly in the kitchen, where they are obviously most common. They are delicious, nutritious and wildly versatile.

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