Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Coins for the Dead

I’ve begun training as a cremationist, and while it can feel overwhelming at times when faced with all the things I have to learn, I really enjoy it. I like how hands-on it is, and how the steps in the process utilize different skills and actions. Cremation is a deeply spiritual act to me. I physically care for the dead and participate in their transformation, assisting the Fire in releasing their spirits from their physical forms.

 

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Scattering Violets: A New Blog About Death Care and Funerary Traditions

For the past several months, I've found myself struggling with fresh ideas for Hob & Broom, my previous blog here on PaganSquare about hearth and home traditions. While my hearth cult is still a deeply important spiritual foundation for me, I felt that I'd exhausted all my resources for it and there was nothing left to write about. But I think it's closer to the truth to say that my interest has shifted, and has been shifting for quite some time.

 

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The Quickening: Imbolc and Related Holidays

We have been in the long dark for the past few months. Cold, snowy weather and the now-ever-present threat of serious disease have kept us inside our homes, bundled in cozy clothes and blankets, sipping our tea or coffee or hot cocoa. We’re expecting yet another snowstorm here in the eastern U.S., more to add to the snow that hasn’t left us from the last one. We yearn to step out into light and warmth, feel soft grass beneath our feet, but not yet. Still, the time of long light will come again. The days are already beginning to gradually unfurl like the fronds of a fern.

 

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Corn and Whiskey: Sacredness and Community Borne from the Earth

A significant portion of my family originated along the borderlands between Scotland and England, mostly in Northumberland and the Scottish Border. A number of them were reivers, opportunistic and clannish cattle- and sheep-thieving mafiosos of the Tudor and Stuart periods. When King James I of England (the VI of Scotland) wrestled them into submission, they migrated at his behest with other lowland Scots into Ulster, Ireland, before eventually immigrating to Turtle Island, settling in what we now call Western North Carolina. Once again, they dwelled in a borderland, a liminal space between the lands still freely occupied by Native peoples in the west and the European colonies in the east. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful region, with rolling ancient mountains and fertile valleys, carved through with rivers and creeks and patches of swamps. They lived in this area from the middle of the 18th century to the early 20th century. For much of this time, they were listed as farmers in tax and census records, like many other settlers of the area.

Corn Goddesses, Myths, and Traditions

Maize, what we Americans call corn (in Europe, corn can mean any grain), was a crucial and sacred crop to many Native tribes. As explained on the Native Languages website: “Corn played an important mythological role in many tribes as well-- in some cultures Corn was a respected deity, while in others, corn was a special gift to the people from the Creator or culture hero.” For the Cherokee, the Goddess Selu is the Corn Woman. She was the first woman Who came into being, and She was ultimately killed by Her twin sons, who feared Her power. Yet, as She died, She taught Her boys how to farm corn so that She could be reborn (“Selu, the Cherokee Corn Mother”). The Iroquois Corn Goddess is Onatah, Who with Her two sisters formed the Deohako, the “Life Supporters” -- more familiar to us settlers as the Three Sisters. In an Iroquois agricultural myth, Onatah was kidnapped and hidden underground, which caused a famine that only ended when She was liberated and returned (“Onatah, the Iroquois Spirit of the Corn”). In both myths, there is a theme of descent into the underworld -- through death in one, and being hidden in the other -- and a reemergence, which we see every year in the farming of maize.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Divination, Play, and Sacred Work

If you want to get the magical community riled up, tell us how divination tools often begin their existence as toys. You’ll see how we quickly split into two factions: one which vehemently denies this, and one which asserts the truth of it (with evidence that is often ignored and bypassed by the former faction). For the former set, I’ve sensed a root assumption at work that makes accepting the mundane, unserious origins of many divination forms so difficult, and even heretical. For them, play is inherently secular and unworthy of a sacred function. Divination, and anything else related to spirit work and religion, must be solemn and sober to have value and efficacy.

 

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  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Cunning Wife, I believe you are 100% correct. Just look at the 'Chessboard' of Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio, one of the 13 Treasures of T

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Pins and Needles and Nails

Generally speaking, pins, needles, and nails are protective elements in folk magic. They are one of the elements included in many British witch bottles, which function by drawing in malevolent magic and trap it. One source describes a witch doctor who recommended that a man “take a Bottle, and put his Wives Urine into it, together with Pins and Needles and Nails, and Cork them up,” first to be set on the fire to explode and then later buried in the yard to heal his wife from an illness (Saducismus triumphatus). In Appalachia, Scots-Irish settlers held onto these traditions and passed them down. Here, pins, needles, and nails can be used for protection, healing, divination, love magic, and cursing.

 

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Bealtaine is upon us once again, as the round of the year passes in due course. This is always a popular holiday, as people celebrate the arrival of warmer weather (in areas that see distinct weather shifts anyway) and renewed agricultural activity and activity in the natural world. Holidays at this time of year are celebrated by many different types of witches and pagans and may be called by several different names although my own focus is on Bealtaine, both as it was traditionally celebrated in Ireland as well as specific ways that I have personally adapted practices for myself. 

Bealtaine stood opposite Samhain on the calendar and in many ways represented opposite themes; where Samhain was a time of harvest and of the Dead, Bealtaine was a time of blessing and planting. It was on Bealtaine that the herds were sent out to their summer pastures, and in the old stories it was on this day that many important events occurred such as the Tuatha de Danann first arriving in Ireland. It is said that in ancient Ireland all fires were put out on the eve of Bealtaine and then the Druids would light a sacred fire at Tara which would be passed from hilltop to hilltop and home to home until all the fires were re-lit. (Wilde, 1991). Bealtaine is the beginning of summer and was the time that contracts were renewed, herds moved, and crops planted.

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