Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

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

The Value of Taking a Moment of Stillness

Every day I make it a point to give myself a moment of stillness. That moment of stillness isn't a short moment either. It's as long as it needs to be. Usually it occurs shortly after I've had breakfast and before I've started my work day. I do it then because I'm still just waking up and its an optimum time to still myself before getting into whatever the day will involve. This moment of stillness is my meditation time. I do a series of meditation exercises, all of which lead me deeper and deeper into a state of stillness, which unfolds within it non-conceptual awareness.

Non-conceptual awareness is the experience of being without doing, judging, categorizing or filtering anything. You just are. The value of that experience is that it allows me to just be without stressing about anything I need to do. Sometimes in the process of doing that work, some emotions will come up or some thoughts will happen and I don't go out of my way to dismiss them. I just let them be as well, because I find in doing that it really brings my awareness to where I need to be, present with whatever is coming up that needs to be worked through, accepted, or otherwise processed.

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How Old is Art? And Does it Matter?

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Helena who liked to make drawings. She went off to kindergarten and on the first day of school, each child in her class was given crayons. When the time came for recess, Helena went out into the school yard and saw very large rocks that already had drawings on them. (She did not know yet that this was graffiti). She figured the rocks must be a very good place to make pictures, so she started drawing very large pictures on the rocks with her crayons. She didn’t realize what was happening when her teacher came up and began yelling at her. She was in very big trouble indeed.

As we can see from the perspective of my five year old self, that urge to leave a mark somewhere is fairly basic and perhaps even primal. In this article, I will be exploring how old that urge is and where it might come from.

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  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Lovely. Thanks for this!
  • Helena
    Helena says #
    Thanks so much Byron - just seeing this now. Yay Mercury Retrograde!

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As many in our community have pointed out, we know very little about the original practices of Druids and Pagan priestesses; the only extant writings we have are propaganda pieces by their conquerors, Roman historians and Catholic clerics. Ours is a "reconstructed religion" based on whatever clues we can glean from other traditions of Goddess and Nature worship, such as Hinduism, Shinto and Shamanism.  

But if even a fraction of what their detractors claim is true, then my 21st century Neopaganism - a benign blend of John Muir, Mists of Avalon, J.R.R. Tolkien, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson and Swami Vivekananda - has to be a kinder, gentler form of Mother Nature worship than that practiced by our ancient forbears. What's more, I feel that it is fitting and proper that it should be so. I may have lived back then, but I definitely live now. Thank God and Goddess that I can reconstruct my religion to suit my inner nature and the age in which I now find myself! 

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  • irene boyce
    irene boyce says #
    Hi Ted, I really enjoyed this post. Common sense with added humour. It is interesting that you should wish to retire to Glastonbu
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Irene, thank you for reaching out. In the Mists of Avalon chapter you quote, she mentions "the Shining Ones who had come there fro

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Art, Spirit, and Wonder

Greetings Pagan Blogosphere!

I am very happy and honored to be here on Pagan Square. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Helena Domenic, and I am a Pagan, an art historian, and an artist. I am one of the Elders of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, and I am also the creator of the Fellowship of the Fool Tarot deck, as well as a Lenormand deck that I am still working on. Some of the questions I seek to find an answer for are “How does one talk about the Ineffable? How have humans tried to express their beliefs and feelings about the divine through Art? Where does art become ritual? Where does ritual become art?”

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  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    It sounds like this will be a fascinating column, Helena. Hope you continue to post lots of pictures as well -- love both of these
Religious Freedom and Serving in the U.S. Military

There is a battle currently being fought right here on American soil. It isn't with guns or ships or planes, but with people and power dynamics. The current situation at the Great Lakes Naval Training facility is an indicator of this struggle--how and when does the U.S. military allow for the accommodation of religious freedom and expression for its service members.

On April 3, 2015 the commander of Naval Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill enacted a decision to cancel religious services being provided by civilian volunteer clergy on the installation. This decision affected seven minority religious groups, effectively dismantling a web of emotional and spiritual support for the trainees that walk through those gates. The decision was justified and cited to be in line with the naval instruction regulating the use of personnel for religious support by the commander of RTC: “In March of 2014 the RTC Command Religious Program (CRP) began a review of how best to respond to the religious needs of recruits at RTC and whether the command was following the guidance contained in U.S. Navy regulations, which sets a hierarchy for which spiritual leaders should be utilized: command chaplains, accredited uniformed volunteers, contract clergy, and then civilian volunteer, if needed.”[1]

A link to the Navy Times report on this can be found here: http://www.navytimes.com/story/military/2015/04/22/military-religious-freedom-foundation-mikey-weinstein-navy-boot-camp-recruit-training-command/26205131/ 

Several official responses to this decision have already been sent, including a letter from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL), claiming the violation of religious liberty rights on behalf of the trainees at RTC.

There is no argument that this decision is in fact a violation of religious liberty rights, but many are asking why the Navy would go to such lengths to deny minority faith groups the resources already in place for expression of their faith. I believe we are on a speeding train heading toward a cliff on this particular issue, and if it is not addressed quickly we will see very ugly consequences.

First and foremost, a discussion needs to be had on the purpose of military chaplains in uniform. I would like to borrow a statement from Ed Waggoner as it concerns a growing trend in chaplain dynamics: “U.S. military chaplaincies are at a crossroad. The bedrock rationale for the existence of chaplaincies is to provide for the free exercise of religion by rank-and-file military personnel. For the first time in their history, a significant contingent of endorsers and chaplains has recanted its professional responsibility to care for all personnel. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are entitled to all military benefits, including services provided through the chaplaincies. Chaplains volunteer for military careers of just such service. Unfortunately, some theologically and socially conservative Christian groups now cast themselves as victims of coercion and invert pastoral priorities: they insist that the military protect their religiously motivated refusal to serve all personnel. The chaplaincies are at serious risk of becoming strongholds of religiously defended discrimination rather than generous religious and moral service.”[2]  

Let’s dissect that statement for a moment. Military chaplaincy has been a centrally authorized function since 1775. It can be argued that the socially acceptable form of religious expression was overwhelmingly Abrahamic in nature, and Christian in particular. But as we have seen in the last half a century, alternative forms of spirituality and religious expression have become more mainstream and the U.S. military is a volunteer force of individuals pulled from American society. I feel Mr. Waggoner’s statement is apt (though a bit limited in scope) that the chaplain’s primary function is the support of all military personnel and their emotional and spiritual needs. Now, execution is an entirely different matter. In the civilian world, if your primary care specialist deems you need to see an orthopedist for example, they refer you to someone who deals with that. They don’t tell you you’re wrong for needing orthopedic treatment and try to convince you there is something else going on. This is how chaplaincy is also supposed to work. If a chaplain cannot meet the spiritual needs of a military service member, it falls on that chaplain to make the proper referral to someone who can. Hence, the introduction of civilian lay leaders and volunteers. These programs are essential for complimenting the spiritual outreach and effectiveness of the chaplain corps and actually work against the very argument most chaplains have about performing spiritual practices that are in direct violation of their personal beliefs. Cancelling the services at RTC is not only a clear violation of religious liberties for the trainees, but it puts undue stress on the staff to provide additional support they are either not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to provide. Additionally, we are setting the stage for a rise in possible suicide cases as well as drop outs due to stress and lack of emotional support. I cannot stand by the decision made by RTC, and as of now I do not see a functional reason for why it was made. 

For the resources I used in this post and additional material on military chaplaincy: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0ByAY6igmY7VRfjlUbEFrdHlLNU9CNnh0Nnp2blBtYUJ4cHNfS2xxRk90R0gydXBLMUY2LTQ&usp=sharing 

 

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Walking the Path

As the wheel of the year turns and takes us with it, our lives are interwoven in the constant death-rebirth-renewal cycle. I watch as new spring leaves are starting to awaken around me and I pause to tie these themes into the deeper meanings of my life.

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Sumer Is Icumen In

I thought I'd get the jump on Beltane and talk about everyone's favourite May Day song (even if you're not on Summer Isle) as it is a great piece of history. 'Sumer is icumen in' also known as the 'cuckoo song' embodies that glorious sense of happiness that the first real warm days offer us. Here in the north we still can't quite believe that summer is a-coming, which makes me want to sing it even more.

This is the earliest secular song recorded in English in the Middle Ages and appears in a 13th century manuscript along with a Latin version. Here's the original lyrics:

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  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    Thanks for this. It's one of my favorite May songs, too. I've taught it many, many places around the country. I think the dir
  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity says #
    That sounds wonderful. If it helps any, early English is simpler than modern English which has even more influences. Blessed Belta

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