Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

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

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My First Course

by M. Macha NightMare - Back in an earlier incarnation of Cherry Hill Seminary, the late Judy Harrow and I were recruited to a new course offering called “Boundaries & Ethics in Pagan Pastoral Counseling” – yes, I dislike using the word ‘pastoral’ in a Pagan context because it’s a specifically Christian term relating to sheep and shepherds (“shepherds of men”; however, Judy convinced me that it was the term used for what she did as a member of professional counseling organizations).  Now Judy actually was a pastoral counselor by training, I, on the other hand, have never been one, nor do I have such aspirations.  This course is appropriate for anyone, Pagan or not, pastoral counselor or not.

I think this may have been CHS’s first online class, taught by the inestimable Cat Chapin-Bishop, Chair of the then-Pastoral Counseling Department.  This was during her previous career in counseling.  Our class had its own Yahoogroup for discussion, plus our weekly live online meeting held in a Yahoogroups chat.  This was prior to Moodle teaching programs.  As you can imagine, the chats were clunky and unreliable, with people getting bumped off and having to re-enter.

In any case, I found it to be really useful, addressing a topic that one doesn’t learn in the typical process of a Pagan training.  We discussed such issues as:

«    How much counsel coven or group leaders can reasonably provide (i.e., has adequate professional training);

«    Avoiding burnout;

«    Evaluating the counselee’s situation to determine if you (leader, HPs, whatever) can help or if and when to refer someone to professional therapists;

«    Researching local therapists, and even interviewing them, to see if they’d be sensitive to Pagan spiritualities (i.e., would they think it strange that anyone would consult the Tarot for guidance or do they think it’s is the work of the devil);

«    Researching and reviewing the ethics statements of various helping professions (i.e., American Counseling Association and the like);

«    Ultimately, writing our own personal statement of ethics, which may or may not be like others’ statements of ethics.

This last had the most value to me.  These things are not usually taught as part of Pagan religious training.  And it’s not essential for you to articulate a formal statement of ethics if you’re not the person whom troubled members consult.  However, it is important to review one’s own ethical principles once in a while.

In fact, one significant product engendered by that course is “Spiritual Counseling and Wiccan Clergy: not psychotherapy in disguise,” which remains available to the public among the archival treasures on the Proteus Coven website, founded by Judy Harrow and colleagues and thankfully still available to anyone online.

Cat’s solicitation to take this course recruited both Judy and me in the development of Cherry Hill [Pagan] Seminary.  Sadly, Judy is gone now, but I’m still kickin’.  Drop by to see how you can help and to see what’s being offered.

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  • Wes Isley
    Wes Isley says #
    I'll be taking an ethics course this summer at Cherry Hill and looking forward to it. I just completed a chaplaincy internship at

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Sharing Experiences

Just like other religious communities, Pagans experience births and deaths, pains and joys — the full range of human experience. Every week at Cherry Hill Seminary we hear comments like these:

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Spring’s Flowering: Baba Yaga and the Gift of the Winter Hag

For the past 6 months or so, I have been hosting a weekly Goddess Meditation at my healing centre. Using the beautiful and insightful Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marashinsky (gorgeous artwork by Hrana Janto) has quickly become a touchstone in the week for many of us who gather on a Wednesday afternoon to see which Goddess will present Herself to us and listen to what She has to say of where we are or what we may need address at this particular time in our lives. It has been an interesting process to observe which Goddesses appear and to see a pattern emerge. There have been times when we have had a slew of challenging Crone Goddesses and the past couple of weeks seen such a trend. But this is not a surprise. These are challenging times for many of us and, though these Goddesses can be a bit unnerving, they reflect a connection to the inner resolve and inner strength that can help see us through. 

Recently, Baba Yaga (Russian/Slavic) came to join us in the meditation circle. Baba Yaga, who rides in a mortar and lives in a cottage that runs through the forest on chicken legs, is certainly one of those Goddesses to make you sit up and take notice. Perhaps the best known of Her tales is the story of Vasilisa, a Cinderella-type tale.

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  • Tiffany Lazic
    Tiffany Lazic says #
    Warm greetings, new blogger :-) I share a fascination with Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged home! Glad you enjoyed the piece. I sa
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    How nice of you to respond. I look forward to more posting and more reading on this site. What fun!
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    I have always enjoyed reading about Baba Yaga ever since I first encountered her as a young child in my Jack and Jill magazine. In

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Opinion Piece: Privilege

**Disclaimer** I write on many topics, and focus on maintaining an objective stance whenever possible. This is an opinion piece detailing my experiences and feelings from events over the last few months. You don’t have to agree. I do however expect respectful dialogue if there is any on this subject.

I struggle at times to put into words the feelings and experiences I have as a Pagan chaplain moving in the interfaith environment. Or, more recently, as a Pagan existing in East Tennessee. I find when I have conversations with others who understand what it means to be marginalized in some way—either by race or gender or faith or some other qualifier—the necessity of articulating the struggle falls away and there is a moment of just “getting it.” These are not the people who really need to read the things I write about, but invariably they probably are, and I love you for it.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you for this post. I am a chaplain at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. PSR is a historically christian seminary but

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The Healing Hearth

Continuing with my first post’s examination of the significance of the hearth in a home, we’ll look at the lore regarding the healing and protective powers of the hearth, its fire, and an important hearth implement, the chimney hook. Unless cited otherwise, the information below comes from Claude Lecouteux’s excellent book on household lore, The Tradition of Household Spirits.

Before we can appreciate ancient and medieval European traditions of healing, it’s important to understand what ancient and medieval Europeans believed about the nature of illness. In Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: the Middle Ages, it’s stated that:

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Visit with the Asynjur

A Visit with the Asynjur: Frigga’s Handmaidens

I have been delving deeper into seeking out lesser-known goddesses for this little project of mine, and decided that the Asynjur, also known as the Handmaidens of the Norse Goddess Frigga were certainly deserving of attention. I began to try and read through Snorri Sturluson and the Eddas as my first source for Norse lore, however it because abundantly clear that something was probably missing. Anyone who has tried to view these ancient writings with a modern eye can discern that most of these stories were re-told by Christian monks with an eye to selling them as pre-cursors to Christianity. Naturally, preserving the stories of female characters was not at the forefront of their minds. I do not consider myself Asatru, nor do I consider myself a reconstructionist of any kind, so I will apologize in advance for any unintended offenses I may make in my own re-interpretation of these Goddesses. I have a love for deities whose stories are not fully known or told, and as such, I am also open to UPG. As I create my own images of the Goddesses, please know I do so with utter respect and love for the cultures from which they came.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    For further study on the Handmaidens, I recommend Norse Goddess Magic by Alice Karlsdottir. That's a new edition of the book previ
  • Helena
    Helena says #
    Thank you!
  • d Kate dooley
    d Kate dooley says #
    I you offer prints, I want them for my ritual space.
  • d Kate dooley
    d Kate dooley says #
    This makes me so happy. I love your work. I wrote book for Frigga and the Handmaidens and have been their devotee for sixteen year
  • Helena
    Helena says #
    Thank you so much! I will definitely check out your blog. And I will definitely let you know about prints. Finding time to make t

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Charm for Weaving

Weaving has long been a winter activity. As the last vestiges of the cold hang on hereabouts, the thought of spring still seems distant. But friends have been sharing pictures of their new lambs so it's coming nonetheless. The whole cycle from wool to woven begins again.

There has long been an association of magic with weaving. While dismissed as 'women's work' often, its intricacies inspire wonder at its mysteries. If you don't know how to do a thing, the process can look like magic. Indeed the association goes back to the Moirai, the Parcae, the Norns and even Macbeth's three witches. The threads they weave, measure and cut -- how do they affect our fates? And what are the incantations they mutter over the threads?

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